Not only is it a true honour to be asked to direct a Star Wars film, given how huge the franchise has become and how many films are being added to this universe each year, but it’s also a of a demanding task.
With Disney and other big bosses to impress, plus loyal fans of all ages internationally, the director tackling the next Star Wars has expectations to meet. One of the criticisms Star Wars: The Force Awakens met was that the movie played it relatively safe. So how can a director take gambles with a new instalment of the franchise, while also keeping fans and audiences happy?
Rian Johnson (pictured below) is the guy taking on Episode VIII, The Last Jedi. All of his films are vastly different from each other yet at the same time uniquely his. We’re hoping his signature style remains integrated within the next episode. Here’s why.
His mastery of genre
Johnson has nailed several major genres throughout his career. Brick (2005) is a high school murder mystery starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Brothers Bloom (2008) is a quirky musical caper with Rachel Weisz and 2012's Looper is an acclaimed time-travel sci-fi thriller starring both Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.
If you ask any person in the world to name a science-fiction film, the majority of people are bound to answer Star Wars. Being a globally recognised sci-fi, Episode VIII needs to tick a lot of boxes. So who better than someone who has a reputation for nailing genre?
Star Wars is more than a sci-fi though: it’s a science-fiction space opera, a family feud, a love story and an epic fairy-tale. We’re sure Rian Johnson has got this covered.
His love of a dark tone
All of Johnson's films share a sad, quite dark, moody atmosphere. In Brick, Gordon-Levitt's character Brendan Frye is a lonely teen, desperate to unravel clues to his ex-girlfriend’s murderer.
In The Brothers Bloom, Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen Bloom (Mark Ruffalo) perform a variety of comedic cons, but there are instances of emotional pain for the brothers.
Lastly, the protagonists in Looper have both faced traumatic pasts: the murder of Willis' character's wife plays an important role in the time travel crossover with his younger self (played by Gordon-Levitt).
Even though Star Wars may seem shiny on the outside, characters have faced emotional ordeals in previous episodes. After his student Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turned to the dark side and took innocent lives (RIP Han), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is facing some kind of emotional turmoil.
By the same token Rey (Daisy Ridley) is struggling with her Jedi capabilities and even Luke himself believes it's time for "the Jedi to end."
On closer inspection, the characters in Rian Johnson’s previous films have more in common with the characters in Star Wars than previously thought.
His penchant for twists and turns
No spoilers, but Johnson's movies are also full of red herrings and often end up going down unexpected paths with hidden reveals and twists. Furthermore characters are not always 100% good guys or bad guys, meaning the line between good and evil is often blurred.
Johnson’s trait of not fully revealing his characters' true intentions fits perfectly with Star Wars. After The Force Awakens, the Internet was full of theories suggesting Kylo Ren isn’t completely evil and after the title for Episode VIII was revealed, the Internet was just as quick to suggest that Luke may have deviated from the light side of the force.
Despite critics stating that some reveals in Star Wars are predictable, the films are full of twists such as the classic Darth Vader/Luke reveal, and Leia and Luke being twins. Johnson’s ability to create character ambiguity and twists sits well with this franchise.
Ok so this one isn’t necessarily a style choice, but Gordon-Levitt has appeared in all of the director's films so far (his role in The Brothers Bloom was an uncredited cameo). Therefore we’re hoping JGL appears in Episode VIII in some shape or form.
The Force Awakens had a few hidden cameos such as Daniel Craig playing a Stormtrooper and Simon Pegg as scrap dealer Unkar Plutt, so even if Gordon-Levitt does make his way into Star Wars, his recognisable face might not be all that distinguishable.
We’re sure the powers of the Internet will be able to confirm where he appears in The Last Jedi if this cameo is confirmed.
Not too long to wait now: the movie is released on 14th December.
Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.