‘Godzilla’ director Gareth Edwards set to direct first ‘Star Wars’ spinoff film for 2016

After the opening weekend of “Godzilla,” it seemed to be a given that Gareth Edwards would be offered further big-budget blockbuster work. I just didn't expect it to be so fast, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed that he would move from one dream job to another.

As Edwards said in the press release that was just sent out, “Ever since I saw 'Star Wars,' I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited and honored to go on this mission with Lucasfilm.”

Yes, Edwards is the man steering the first stand-alone “Star Wars” film. With a script by Gary Whitta, the film is already dated for December 16, 2016. There is no word yet as to which of the hundreds of possible characters will anchor the film, but at this point, the exciting thing here is that they're going to be able to make something that can have its own identity.

Look, JJ Abrams has an amazing task ahead of him, and I'm sure he's pinching himself, but there's something slightly terrifying about making “Episode VII” because of the expectations that are already being heaped on them. After all, this is the return of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and it has to pick up and carry on story threads that have been part of our lives for 30 years. That's a humbling proposition. I really dug the “Force For Change” video he released yesterday, and that weird practical effect alien we glimpsed in it, but the pressure has got to be monumental.

Gary Whitta and Gareth Edwards, on the other hand, get to have fun. Pure, unfettered fun. They are the first filmmakers who are going to get to open up the toybox that is “Star Wars” on the bigscreen and simply dive in to play. It's an intoxicating prospect, and I envy both of them.

The thing is, Edwards earned this. One of the things that was evident at the after-party for the “Godzilla” premiere is that Toho was not just relieved but positively ecstatic to see how the film came out. I would imagine they still wake up in cold sweats thinking about how close the Emmerich film came to permanently destroying their single most iconic creations. What Edwards and the entire “Godzilla” creative team did so well was they made him feel like the true King of Monsters again. They looked at everything, every incarnation of who he has been over the years, and they went out of their way to tell a new story that still felt like it respected the entire legacy. That is no easy feat.

Whitta's been busting ass trying to get big-canvass movies made over the last handful of years, and in particular, his work on “Akira” was driven by a very clear love of the source material as well as a sort of fearlessness about how to try to make it something new. I'm not sure it ever had the right director onboard, but it was a clear indication that he also respects the power of iconography and that he approaches these things as a fan and as a professional, a balancing act that not everyone can pull off.

You put these two guys together, you give them the keys to the single richest fictional universe on film, and you tell them to open it up and set the template for how other filmmakers will get to come in and play afterwards?

I couldn't be more excited for “Star Wars: Dawn Of Lobot.” Bring it on.

“Star Wars: Episode VII” arrives in theaters December 18, 2015, and a new age begins.