With Rogue One in the rear view mirror so to speak, many fans have turned their attention to Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. The upcoming Star Wars chapter was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who is undoubtedly one of the most talented filmmakers in the business at the moment. He recently did an interview with Empire magazine in which his upcoming sequel to 2015’s The Force Awakens was naturally touched upon. When asked to name three non-Star Wars films that he watched to prepare for The Last Jedi, Johnson says:
“Twelve O’Clock High was a big touchstone, for the feel and look of the aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots. Three Outlaw Samurai for the feel of the sword-fighting, and the general sense of pulpy fun. And To Catch A Thief was a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur.”
There are a couple of interesting things to note about the three films that Johnson cites. For starters, they’re all roughly from the same era as some of the films George Lucas has cited as influences on Star Wars. Twelve O’Clock High is the oldest of the bunch and was released in 1949 with To Catch A Thief and Three Outlaw Samurai releasing in 1955 and 1964, respectively. More intriguing though is that all three seem to pertain to how he wanted to film the movie considering he specifies how each of the films influenced The Last Jedi. From a story standpoint Johnson doesn’t reveal anything which isn’t surprising, after all, the first trailer hasn’t even released so it’s unlikely anyone involved in the production will comment directly or hint at any plot points yet.
As the interview continues, Johnson also discusses what the experience has been like to write and direct such a massive film which is pretty interesting as Johnson made a name for himself writing and directing much smaller films in comparison, like Brick and Looper. From the sounds of it, doing the shoot on Skellig Michael prior to principal photography benefited Johnson as he was able to get his feet wet with a stripped down, smaller guerilla kind of film crew which made the film seem less daunting of a task than it might when you pull back and look at the film as a whole. Specifically, Johnson says:
“Our first day of shooting was actually several months before principal photography began: we had three days on Skellig Michael island. So not only was it day one of Star Wars on this incredible natural location, but because the island was so inaccessible it was a very stripped-down, run-and-gun crew. Pretty much the perfect start to the whole adventure.”
Lastly, Johnson did comment briefly on the writing process though he doesn’t reveal much as he stays away from anything remotely story related focusing on the mechanics instead. He says:
“I found myself constantly wanting to push modern idioms into the dialogue, and sometimes that can work, but you have to be very careful. If you go too far you can break that Star Wars spell. The other challenge is the tech talk, which has to be simultaneously complex enough to sound real and conceptually simple enough to follow. The original films were brilliant at that.”
What that statement does accomplish, is that it reassures us that the saga is in good hands. Though Johnson won’t be directing Episode IX, he will be writing the script so it’s nice to see how closely he pays attention to the little details. It’s obviously good to limit the use of any modern day idioms in a sci-fi, fantasy movie as they typically pull audiences out of the movie and ruin the immersion of the experience. More importantly though is that he seems really tuned into the universe pointing out one of the subtle details of original films that help give them their charm – that being that the tech talk sounds complex and convincing as well as easy to understand.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is currently in the editing process according to Johnson, and John Williams has begun scoring parts of the film. The Last Jedi is set to hit theaters on December 15 later this year and considering Disney’s recent track record with Star Wars films, it’s should be a worthy entry in the saga.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm