Many fans looked at Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a pseudo remake of Star Wars: A New Hope. While I'll never agree with that sentiment, it's certainly a comparison that makes Star Wars: Episode VIII massively important. If you're someone who felt like the last film hit the same notes as A New Hope, then you're likely hoping that Episode VIII is as great as Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back was to redeem the series for you. If you're someone like me, who thinks The Force Awakens has been unfairly judged by others, you're hoping that Episode VIII is so remarkable that it shuts the naysayers and nonbelievers up.
According to Adam Driver, who plays the complex villain Kylo Ren in this new Star Wars trilogy, director Rian Johnson is bringing the goods in a huge way. Johnson has a small but potent resumé. His three previous features (Brick, Brothers Bloom, and Looper) have all scored positively with critics, and he also directed a few episodes of AMC's wildly-beloved series Breaking Bad. Star Wars: Episode VIII will mark Johnson's ascension from smaller, more intimate films, to major studio tentpoles and, luckily for him, they're letting the filmmaker use one of his most potent weapons: His pen.
See, Johnson wrote all of his previous features, and Lucasfilm has called upon the director to do the same for Star Wars: Episode VIII- which is a huge vote of confidence. In fact, they love his work so much that he's even written the treatment for Episode IX despite the fact that he's not even directing it!
In an age where most Hollywood blockbusters are written practically by committee, with anywhere from two to seven writers on a given film, it's kind of a huge deal that Johnson's name stands alone as "THE Writer of Star Wars: Episode VIII." And unlike Michael Arndt, who would've had a similar notch on his belt had his script for Episode VII been used, Johnson's script was the only one used for Episode VIII- as evidenced by the fact that the film has already been shot and is now well into the post-production cycle of its life. This means that this next Star Wars movie will be the first of the newly relaunched Disney/Lucasfilm series to NOT undergo massive rewrites.
Clearly, the folks over at Lucasfilm love Johnson. And they're not alone...
Here's what Driver told The Daily Beast during an interview, while promoting Martin Scorsese's Silence, about his Star Wars: Episode VIII writer-director:
"He’s a brilliant filmmaker. And he wrote the script also, and he understands the importance of ambiguity and nuance. He wrote something that I think is remarkable."
That's probably music to the ears for Disney's detractors, who have complained that their Marvel and Star Wars films so far have been too busy pandering to their audiences, and spoon-feeding them simple stories that are laden with nostalgia to actually make a film that challenges them. Driver tends to stick to smaller, more high-minded films like Inside Llewyn Davis, Lincoln, and Midnight Special, so he knows a thing or two about nuanced storytelling and ideas that are left ambiguous enough for the audience to have to ponder their own meanings and interpretations.
If Star Wars: Episode VIII is destined to be the Empire Strikes Back of this new trilogy, then it certainly sounds like it's in the right hands.