J.J. Abrams believes some fans panned 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' because they felt "threatened" by the strong female stars.

J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams

The 51-year-old filmmaker will return to the franchise after he helmed 2015's acclaimed 'The Force Awakens', in the place of Colin Trevorrow who was let go due to "differing visions for the project".

The director feels that the film was criticised by people who felt intimidated by the increased number of female characters, including the late Carrie Fisher [Princess Leia], Daisy Ridley [Rey], Kelly Marie Tran [Rose Tico], Laura Dern [Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo ] and Gwendoline Christie [Captain Phasma], and the fact they were "outspoken" and "tough".

Abrams told IndieWire: "Their problem isn't Star Wars, their problem is being threatened.

"Star Wars is a big galaxy, and you can sort of find almost anything you want to in 'Star Wars'. If you are someone who feels threatened by women and needs to lash out against them, you can probably find an enemy in 'Star Wars'.

"You can probably look at the first movie that George [Lucas] did and say that Leia [Carrie Fisher] was too outspoken, or she was too tough.

"Anyone who wants to find a problem with anything can find the problem. The internet seems to be made for that."

Abrams will helm 'Episode IX' but says previous criticism won't impact on his work on the next instalment of the blockbuster sci-fi franchise.

He said: "Not in the least. Certainly something I discovered early on in the 'Star Wars' world, is that you're going to have an incredibly passionate and vocal fanbase, and they're all going to have a lot of specific opinions."

Announcing his return, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement on Starwars.com: "With 'The Force Awakens', J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy."

Announcing Trevorrow's departure, they said: "Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part ways on 'Star Wars: Episode IX'. Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon."