Rian Johnson To Helm Episode VIII, Gareth Edwards, Felicity Jones to anchor Star Wars: Rogue One.
Huge news today in the Star Wars Universe. It was announced this afternoon that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be directed by Rian Johnson. Johnson is best known for directing the Joseph Gordon-Levitt cult thriller Brick, the underrated caper Brothers Bloom and beloved Sci-Fi thriller Looper. He’ll replace J.J. Abrams who helmed Star Wars: The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII). The film will be released, MAY 26, 2017. It’s rumored Johnson will also directed Episode IX. It was also announced that Godzilla director Gareth Edwards will helm the first Star Wars ‘standalone’ film which’ll be called Star Wars: Rogue One. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything) will star in .Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (Cinderella, About a Boy, Antz) will write the film.
Now that we’ve got the news, we brought in our resident Jedi Master, Daniel Cohen to react to all the Star Wars news.
I love that we barely get Star Wars news. I don’t want to know anything. For crying out loud, can I please go into a franchise movie for once in my life and not know the entire plot? (See Avengers: Age of Ultron trailers). Once in a while though, Star Wars news will drop, and that happened today with the reveal of the first stand-alone Star Wars film, now titled Rogue One. I’m sure everyone and their mother will have theories about how this means Darth Vader is coming back to life, Boba Fett is Salacious Crumb’s father, some random character in book 74 from the expanded universe is coming into the series, or heaven knows what else. I have a lot of thoughts on the spin-off films in general, but we’ll get to that. I want to focus quickly on the other news that dropped – Rian Johnson officially writing and directing Episode VIII.
Rian Johnson and Episode VIII
This is awesome. Let’s assume The Force Awakens is as good as we all think it’s going to be. I’m as big a J.J. Abrams fan as they come, and even though based on our assumption he delivered a great Star Wars movie, I’m fine with him being one and done. Abrams is a guy who gets cold feet on projects, and I’m glad this decision was made a while ago. Good. We know for sure he’s not coming back, so now they can build off the momentum and go right into the next movie. As far as Rian Johnson goes, Looper was one of my favorite movies of 2012. This guy is a fantastic talent and the perfect writer/director to continue the Star Wars story. Can’t wait for this one on May 26th 2017, but let’s focus on The Force Awakens first.
My Overall Thoughts On Spin-Offs And Other Star Wars Non Sense
When it was first announced that Disney would be doing spin-off films in between the primary Episode years, I groaned really loudly. I’m a massive Star Wars fan, but a selfish Star Wars fan. I care about the movies. That’s it. I understand there’s a cartoon series on right now, as well as comic books and novels, and whatever other side crap they claim “will be in continuity.” I don’t give a shit. I’m a movie guy. Just make great Star Wars movies. I’m telling you right now, the moment I go into a Star Wars movie and I’m expected to know previous information that was in a TV show or comic book to understand the basic plot or a character’s motivation, I’m done with Star Wars. I’m dead serious. I will not give them my money. To me, that’s wrong. You can’t expect a moviegoer to do homework for a film, unless it’s a sequel to a previous film. Seeing as how these spin-offs are movies, unfortunately I have to acknowledge them.
My biggest problem with doing Star Wars spin-off films is two fold: One, it’s overload. I’m not saying it’s solely a cash grab as I’m sure Disney will get good talent for these films, but it makes Star Wars less special. One Star Wars film a year just doesn’t feel right.
My bigger issue though is it sounds like a lot of these films will focus on the past. That really pisses me off. It seems inevitable that movies about Boba Fett, Yoda, and a young Han Solo are on the way. Didn’t we ruin Boba Fett’s past enough? I honestly don’t even like the character anymore. The allure of Boba Fett was that he was a mysterious bad ass who talked back to Darth Vader. Now I know he’s nothing but a whiney clone. Come on! And I know the level of writing for these spin-offs will be better than George Lucas, but for crying out loud, isn’t it better we leave Han Solo’s past a mystery? As much as I love the X-Men films, what was the worst one? X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I don’t want to know Wolverine’s past! Do I really need to see how Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon in a card game against Lando? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
At the end of the day though, I’m open-minded. If it’s a good movie, I’ll be happy. That leads us into the spin-off news we got today.
Forgetting all my baggage about spin-offs, I just can’t get jacked up about this project, even though we know very little. First of all there’s the director, Gareth Edwards. For those who don’t know, Edwards directed last year’s Godzilla reboot, which I detested with a burning passion. If there’s any way to make a Star Wars film boring, I’m sure Gareth Edwards can find a way. Ugh.
With a title like Rogue One, the film could certainly focus on the Squadron that was formed after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Luke and Wedge were a big part of that, although I doubt the film will involve them. It could mean a film about a Rogue Squadron that’s way into the future. If that’s the case, I could get on board with this. I’m much more interested in a character we don’t know yet. If it takes place during the time of the original trilogy, we’ll just be dancing around previous events, which I have no interest in doing. “Oh my God, they mentioned Luke. Ooooooooooooooo.” No thanks.
The initial rumors for this film were that it would involve a group of bounty hunters who are tasked with stealing the plans for the first Death Star. I pray to the force that’s not what this is, because that sounds atrocious. Focus on the future. Move forward. Don’t dance around little side stories that took place during the original movies. I don’t need to see a film that shows the back of Vader’s cape. Don’t play fan service. MOVE FORWARD.
The Future Is Difficult To See
As I mentioned, I’ll give the spin-offs a chance. If they’re good movies, that’s great. I understand why Disney is making them. Hollywood is a business. Go ahead and do all these spin offs and side material. Appease the people who care about the outside crap like cartoon shows and comic books by telling them “Oh yeah, it’s all continuity, sure thing.” As long as the Star Wars movies with the word “Episode” after the title are great, that’s all I care about. With J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson on board, they’re off to a great start on that front.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.