Fanboys like myself are already drooling over the prospect of more Star Wars films being made, but who out there could have imagined that someone like Rian Johnson could take the reigns for Episodes VIII and IX?
That’s the rumor (now somewhat confirmed by Johnson on Twitter with a vague video clip from The Right Stuff, making it clear that he understands the monumental challenge he’s taking on – see the Tweet below) coming from Deadline and a flurry of other media sources already counting it as fact.
Rian Johnson is best known for the film Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, but he’s also got a solid track record of more indie leaning fare, including Brick (also starring JGL) and The Brothers Bloom, as well as directing some of the more notable episodes of Breaking Bad (which isn’t easy when nearly every episode is exemplary), including “Fly” and “Ozymandias”.
So, basically, Star Wars is back in the hands of an indie film maker. Yes, George Lucas was essentially that when he first took us to a galaxy far, far away back in 1977. And he technically retained that title throughout his film making career, when you realize that each of the films were made under Lucasfilm, his production company, and only distributed by 20th Century Fox all these years, bowing to no outside studio system pressure. Yes, he may have been a billion-dollar film and merchandising indie auteur with massive budgets, top notch visual effects teams, and production and marketing crews that spanned the globe, but he was independent in the simplest definition of the term nonetheless.
What does this mean for the future of Star Wars, with Johnson taking on the final two thirds of the latest trilogy? Yes, it probably means that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play a character at some point, but it also means that Star Wars has the chance to not only return to theaters as the gold standard in popcorn-munching blockbuster movie fun, but it might also gain a bit more smarts, subtlety, and next generation charm, while still harkening back to the classics we love. The announcement of JJ Abrams as the director of Episode VII already had me excited for the future of Star Wars (lens flares and all), but this has me excited for a whole new set of reasons… because I have no idea what to expect (other than JGL) from the future of Star Wars. And while that might be concerning to some, it’s thrilling to me. Yes, it will still be an action figure selling machine, but unlike the prequels, I have the hope that it will become something more.
Now for the elephant in the room: This essentially means that JJ Abrams is in this for one film and done. This may have been the plan from the very start, but it’s hard to imagine that Abrams will step completely away from the next trilogy that he’s laid the groundwork for. According to rumors, Johnson is set to write and direct both Episodes VIII and IX, but you can be sure that it won’t be done in a vacuum. Disney and Lucasfilm proper will have their say on the direction of all things Star Wars. And for coherency’s sake, I hope that Abrams will stay on as at least an executive producer for the remainder of the trilogy. Considering that Paramount has already handed over the reigns to the next Star Trek film to Abram’s pal Roberto Orci, it leaves Abrams free to pursue other projects, of which there never seems to be a shortage of these days, all touting the Bad Robot logo.
What do you think? Is Star Wars heading in the right direction with Rian Johnson?