[Update: Deadline is now confirming that J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII. Their source, though again unnamed, claims, "It's a done deal with J.J.," and also confirms that it was between Abrams and Argo director Ben Affleck. Hollywood Reporter and Variety also claim that Abrams is finalizing a deal. We are still waiting on an on-the-record confirmation from Disney or Abrams about this breaking story.]
After months of speculation, Disney seems to have finally settled on a director for Star Wars: Episode VII, probably the most anticipated in the world. Who did they get to reinvigorate a flagship science-fiction franchise whose popularity had waned in the years previous? They got someone who's already done it before: J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, will be the first person besides George Lucas to direct the first live-action, theatrically-released Star Wars movie since Richard Marquand released Return of the Jedi in 1983.
The news comes from The Wrap, which pointed out that Abrams – one of many directors supposedly being offered the gig by Disney – had denied his involvement to Entertainment Weekly back in November. The Wrap's scoop comes from "an individual with knowledge of the production," and was not an official announcement from Disney. As such, it must be treated as a rumor until Disney confirms one way or the other.
Would Abrams make a good Star Wars movie? We can certainly think of worse directors for the job. Abrams has a good handle on characters, witty dialogue and inventive storylines, and his fast-and-loose portrayal of the "science" part of "science-fiction" would have an even better home in the Star Wars universe than Gene Roddenberry's quasi-realistic Star Trek films. The Wrap claims that J.J. Abrams and Ben Affleck were both up for the gig, but that Abrams won out. Affleck's Star Wars would have been a very exciting prospect, but also wouldn't have really fit in with his established persona as a director of gritty, realistic human drama.
With a scoop this size, we expect to hear back from Disney or Abrams pretty soon.