– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has hit theaters, and fans have had a chance to see what Rian Johnson’s vision was on screen. While a lot of fans truly seem to be split on the end result, one fear seems to have taken a backseat — this isn’t a retread of The Empire Strikes Back.

From the get-go, as a second chapter in a trilogy, audiences were expecting a darker story, and given the trail that Empire blazed for sequels back in the day, it was an understandable expectation.

LRM had a chance to attend a press junket for the film, and while there, Johnson was asked whether or not Empire served as a visual inspiration for The Last Jedi. Here’s what Johnson said:

“But I mean, I think Empire is, you know, I think it’s just the most beautiful – I mean all the films are beautiful – I think for my just tastes, I think the cinematography in Empire is the most gorgeous of the whole series. And so Steve and I looked at the lighting in that it’s also kind of the most – it’s pretty daring in terms of how dark they were willing to go with some of it – literally dark, and how gorgeous they went with some of the choices they made with the shaping of the lighting.

“But then in terms of like an actual visual aesthetic I made a choice very early on that I thought, well, I can either try and kind of copy my idea of what the original movies did, which was much more of kind of a formal, the camera didn’t move a ton and it was a much more formal type visual aesthetic, or I realized, you know, we’re going to take visual cues lighting wise and design wise from, you know, the previous movies, but I need to just shoot this movie the way that I would shoot a movie, because at the end of the day, if I’m not engaged with it, and I’m not trying to tell the story the way that really makes me excited, then it’s not going to be up there on the screen. So I kind of cut myself loose camera movement wise and shot wise from trying to imitate the past and just try to tell the story as excitingly as I could up on the screen.”

While audiences could certainly point to certain visual aspects that seem inspired by The Empire Strikes Back (like the salt planet invasion), we have to side with Johnson on this one. The Last Jedi is a film that completely stands on its own in terms of the filmmaking. While Johnson does his best to make the film feel tangible, the actual filmmaking remains very much his own — a film that’s ultimately a much more visually dynamic experience.

What do you think of Johnson’s comments? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.