'Star Wars Episode VIII': Rian Johnson to take over from J.J. Abrams

Director Rian Johnson speaks during the news conference for the film

Director Rian Johnson speaks during the news conference for the film "Looper" at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival September 6, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET

As Emperor Palpatine famously said, “Let the hate flow through you.” Followed by (and I’m paraphrasing here) “muhahahahaha!”

Deadline.com and TheWrap.com created a great disturbance in the force of Star Wars fandom on Friday, reporting that Looper writer-director Rian Johnson will be scripting and helming Star Wars: Episode VIII, taking the Bantha reins from Episode VII director and co-writer J. J. Abrams.

(Deadline reports Johnson will also write and direct Episode IX, but The Wrap’s sources insist he’ll only be writing a treatment for the last film in the new trilogy.)

If the report is true, it means Abrams has already decided not to stick with Star Wars beyond one movie, though presumably he’d still be producing in some capacity.

Looper, a cerebral time-travel thriller starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was a divisive film. It got great critical reviews after making its premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, but I know plenty of sci-fi fans who have a major hate-on for this flick. Maybe because of its wonky time travel theories, or because Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks absolutely nothing like a young Bruce Willis (prosthetics and eyebrow pencil be damned), or because they simply thought it was kind of stupid.

I, for one, welcome the young time lord Johnson to the rebel alliance. If you’ll pardon the massively mixed Simpsons/Doctor Who/Star Wars reference.

Abrams, as both a lifelong Star Wars nerd and a director of many big-budget special effects spectacles, is exactly the right guy to get the ball rolling, and to make the film that will bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and the new trilogy.

But the Disney-owned Lucasfilm has shown a refreshing amount of confidence in young, smart directors, with Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards and Chronicle’s Josh Trank being tapped to direct the spinoff films that will release between the main trilogy movies.

Johnson has proven he knows how to do sci-fi with a grounded, smart, human vibe, and that’s what this new generation of Star Wars needs. And let’s not forget the original trilogy was directed by a young, scrawny guy named George Lucas, who at the time had very little experience under his belt. (Much later when he did have experience and money and power, he made the prequel trilogy. Bleah.)

My only hesitation with this news – which again, has yet to be officially confirmed by Disney/Lucasfilm as of this writing – is that there’s no mention of Lawrence Kasdan’s involvement. Kasdan is co-writing Episode VII with Abrams (after Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt bowed out), which has helped soothe fans’ apprehension, as he was one of the minds behind the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Still, it’s an encouraging and fascinating development as we get ready to embrace a new era of Star Wars movies. And if nothing else, consider this: at least there won’t be an overabundance of lens flare in Episode VIII. Suck, that would.

Twitter: @stevetilley

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca

 


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