Rian Johnson’s four year journey with The Last Jedi has come to an end now that film has been released on home video and digital download. While many fans’ eyes have moved on to next month’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, we can only imagine the feeling of something you’ve been putting your whole heart into for the better part of four years just abruptly coming to a halt. For Johnson that feeling will not linger for long as he is set to begin telling a new story in the Star Wars galaxy, creating a brand new trilogy that departs from the Skywalker saga – and that journey begins now.
The canvas is blank, no longer handcuffed by a six film legacy and Skywalker canon connectivity, the leash is off for Rian Johnson. He has three movies to explore a galaxy that has the potential for so many new stories to be told. A couple of months ago a friend who had spoken with Johnson asked the director about his new trilogy and told me that Johnson admitted he had not delved into it yet.
Now in a recent interview at the SXSW film festival via LA Times it appears he and his longtime producer Ram Bergman have begun letting the idea wheels churn:
the duo find themselves back at the beginning: brainstorming ideas for the new “Star Wars” trilogy Johnson is tasked with writing and directing for Lucasfilm.
If we learned anything about Rian Johnson’s creative process, it’s that he asks questions to find his story:
- “Why is Luke Skywalker on this island?
- “What brought him to that place?”
- “What would be the hardest thing for Rey to hear in this moment (about her parents)?”
The questions continue for Johnson, but this time it’s so much bigger, it’s not about existing characters now, it’s quite literally about Star Wars itself!
“It’s fun because it’s kind of thinking, ‘Okay, outside of the Skywalker story and outside of the recognizable iconography, what is this? What is “Star Wars?”‘ Or what do we need to retain from that, to pull forward for it to still be ‘Star Wars’ — and what can we leave behind?” Johnson explained.
Johnson will no doubt want to maintain some level of familiarity, to remind us we are still experiencing a Star Wars movie, and it sounds like he will walk that line to find the perfect balance between the foundation of Star Wars and launching it into a brand new unfamiliar story and adventure.
Johnson fully recognizes that Star Wars needs to keep creating and moving forward, and not rely on the “greatest hits” forever, or it will become nothing more than a nostalgia act. If Star Wars is to remain relevant, fresh, and in “the now”, then it needs to say goodbye to the Skywalkers (for now) and take on new challenges, new stories, new adventures, with new characters – and Johnson appears to completely understand that.
“They’re all the big questions that need to be thought of. And even the ones that we don’t know the answers to are things we need to figure out if ‘Star Wars’ is going to be vital and alive moving forward and not just be a waxworks. We’re going to have to figure out how to tell vital new stories.”
Whether you liked it or not, nobody can deny the passion, heart, and max-effort Rian Johnson put into creating The Last Jedi. If you haven’t yet, I would recommend watching the documentary The Director and the Jedi which came with the home release of the film – it truly showed how deeply he cared about making it. A franchise in its fifth decade of existence could easily hand their projects to someone who will give you a popcorn movie that nets big box office gains by simply relying on the name of the brand alone, but thankfully Star Wars is special – and it is why it will always stand above the rest for its fans that love it and cherish it so much, and Kathleen Kennedy understands that and doesn’t take it for granted.
Rian Johnson appears to have his finger on the pulse – ready to take us on a brand new adventure, ready to tell us a brand new story, ready to help make sure Star Wars remains what it deserves to be – fun, fresh, and vital. Star Wars should always be the franchise that sets new trends and sets the bar, and the only way it can still be that is by looking forward, not behind, and Rian Johnson appears ready to take us there.
The full interview can be found here.
“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”