Rian Johnson, director of the award winning sci-fi crime drama Looper (2012), has been revealed as the Star Wars franchise’s next directorial Jedi Master. Disney/Lucasfilm announced Johnson to be the director of at least Episode VIII of the Star Wars franchise. It is also rumored in Hollywood circles that the one-time indie director is set to direct Episode IX, but Hollywood Reporter reports that he has only been asked to write up a treatment. The much-anticipated reboot of the franchise, Episode VII, helmed by J.J.Abrams, is busy being filmed in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, a sure indication that Tatooine will make an appearance in the next film.
Disney/Lucasfilm has been busy lining up new projects for the beloved franchise. Rumors abounded in May over a leaked list of spin-off projects that included treatments of Boba-Fett, Han Solo, and the Rebel Alliance. Gareth Edwards’ recent Godzilla (2014) reboot impressed Lucasfilm so much they hired him to direct a Star Wars spin-off, although it is unclear which one will be produced first, or whether the leaked list is even accurate. At the same time, the studio announced that Gary Whitta, the writer for Book of Eli (2010), will write the screenplay. Fans are hoping the mercenary Boba-Fett gets the first attention.
Speculation is rife among Star Wars fans as to what kind of director Rian Johnson will be. Audiences already know the fast-paced action style and epic cinematography of J.J. Abrams. When the Star Wars reboot appears in December of 2015, fans can expect to return to the epic universe of intergalactic battles in grand style. The choice of Rian Johnson by Lucasfilm as Jedi-Master for Episode VIII suggests a less epic strategy for the studio in the reboot’s sequel.
Rian Johnson is best known for his off-beat, textured characters and complex story-telling. His directorial debut was the teen crime noir drama Brick (2005) starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a low budget indie film that surprised audiences with its heart-felt, complex characters, even villians, and quick, suspenseful editing. The movie assured his fame in indie circles and got the attention of Hollywood. His next, Brothers Bloom (2008), appeared to move into territory the young director always wanted to roam: complex, interwoven storytelling, tight shots and intricate environments that draw the audience through a maze of possibilities. The Brothers Bloom also showed Johnson’s flair for jargon heavy dialogue that rises to the level of off-beat poetry and makes the world he’s created seem all the more real. Looper (2012), starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Hewitt, showed many of the same traits as Brothers Bloom, but in a sci-fi setting. Johnson returned to his love of narrative complexities and rich dialogue that added texture to the world but showed his growing maturity with Hollywood in the movie’s well-paced action. Sci-fi audiences were delighted that a new director was breathing fresh life into what had been a well-worn genre. For Star Wars fans who thrive on detail-driven story-lines and rich, textured environments, Lucasfilm could probably not have chosen a better director.
Given that Jedi Master Rian Johnson has been a long time fan of the complex and lavish Star Wars universe himself, Star Wars fandom will certainly hope that he brings the same love of elaborate texturing that he has shown in his previous films to Episode VIII.
By Steve Killings