You can argue the point, but Star Wars has never had a director like Rian Johnson. Sorry George Lucas, sorry J.J. Abrams, sorry Irvin Kershner, Johnson is simply on another artistic level. Johnson, the man behind the lens on the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi, is one of the most creative directors working today.
In 2005, Johnson won the Sundance Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision for his daylight noir, Brick. It was an incredible debut. Johnson changed the look of film noir by setting his story at a modern Los Angeles high school and eschewing the genre's traditional elements. It's now considered a cult classic.
Johnson followed up Brick with The Brothers Bloom (2008) and Looper in 2012. Looper, a sci-fi western about time traveling hit men, may have been the film that got the director on the Star Wars short list. It's full of the original concepts, weapons, and ideas that make good science-fiction.
That brings us to 2017 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Johnson wrote the script and directed the film, and that should make any sci-fi fan very excited. It all starts with the script and having Rian Johnson on the credit gives The Last Jedi instant credibility. Personally, I would be excited for any Rian Johnson movie being released in 2017. But, he's making a Star Wars movie! What!? It would be like handing the keys to the Millennium Falcon to Stanley Kubrick in 1977.
Here's Johnson talking to Ridley Scott on The Talkhouse podcast about his passion for Star Wars:
"...It's the most fun I've ever had writing. It's just joyous. But also for me personally, I grew up not just watching those movies but playing with those toys, so as a little kid, the first movies I was making in my head were set in this world. A big part of it is that direct connection, almost like an automatic jacking back into childhood in a weird way."
Now that we've confirmed the writer/director is an incredible, once-in-a-generation talent, let's take a closer look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Cloaked in secrecy, the Star Wars franchise has always been great at keeping lids on prospective leaks. True to form, not much is known about The Last Jedi (thankfully). Let's delve into what we do know, while staying away from any true spoilers.
First, here's the trailer for the film if it somehow missed your orbit:
Background and New Characters
The Last Jedi is Episode VIII of the Star Wars canon. It's a direct sequel to The Force Awakens (2015). That film ended with the death of Han Solo and the destruction of Starkiller Base, the planet-exploding weapon that made the Death Star look like a jawbreaker. It also saw Supreme Leader Snoke summoning Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to complete his training and Rey (Daisy Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on the island Ahch-To where she returns his lightsaber to him.
The Last Jedi may begin with the two young enemies training. The trailer shows Rey still on Ahch-To with a lightsaber. The title, "The Last Jedi," likely refers to Luke Skywalker or Rey. It's an ominous label, and the new trailer only upped fan speculation that The Last Jedi could be the darkest Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Like Empire, The Last Jedi is the second film of a trilogy. And, like Empire, it will likely reveal a main character's mysterious lineage. Is Rey a Skywalker, a Kenobi, a (gasp) Palpatine?
While Rey trains with Luke, Kylo Ren will finish his own training with Snoke, the powerful alien we only saw in hologram form in The Force Awakens. Snoke (voiced by Andy Serkis) is expected to have a much larger role in The Last Jedi. Ren will have to come to grips with killing his father, something that's sure to make his emotionally fragile mind that much more so.
Elsewhere, Finn (John Boyega) will go on an undercover mission with a new character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), that will take them inside the First Order. Their storyline will also show off an amazing new casino city called Canto Bright. Boyega posted this photo of the two on set, seemingly undercover:
A third training plotline will also be important. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) will take another pilot under his wing: Rose's sister, Paige (Veronica Ngo). And, finally, the two biggest name additions to the cast will bring significant characters to life in The Last Jedi. Benicio Del Toro will play a “shady character of unclear allegiances," according to Johnson. His name is reportedly "DJ" and Del Toro has described him as a "villain," but seemed to walk that description back in other interviews. Lastly, Laura Dern will play Vice Admiral Holdo, a high-ranking Resistance officer. She may help fill the shoes of the recently departed Carrie Fisher in future films. Fisher will appear as Princess Leia in The Last Jedi in her final role (her daughter, Billie Lourde, will also have a small role).
Losing Carrie Fisher
Star Wars fans everywhere mourned the loss of Fisher, who died in December of 2016. She was earmarked to play an important role as Princess Leia in both Episodes VIII and IX (scheduled for release in 2019). She did film many of her scenes before passing away, but her death obviously had an enormous effect on the production. Mark Hamill talked about it with the Vancouver Sun recently:
"She was irreplaceable. There can never be a proper reunion anymore. It's tragic. I hate that it adds an air of melancholy to the film because it doesn't deserve it. I know for a fact she would obviously want us to be having fun. She was all about laughter and enjoying the moment. We're all sort of having this communal period of grief. In a way, it sort of reflects the movies themselves, which were about triumphs and tragedies."
We don't know too many specifics regarding Leia's role in The Last Jedi, but she'll obviously be mourning Han and dealing with the aftermath of her family patricide. Oscar Isaac also revealed she and Poe may have a mother/son dynamic developing. Poe is set to become more of a leader in the Resistance and Leia is the one urging him on.
More New Characters and Cameos
In addition to Rose and Paige Tico, Vice Admiral Holdo, and whatever sketchy character Benicio Del Toro plays, there are some other (smaller) new characters worth mentioning as well. Force Friday II launches today and the event will unveil the first look at a bunch of new Star Wars droids, aliens, and other characters. Sure, they'll be in toy form, but you get the picture. Here's a look at BB-9E, the enemy version of BB-8, as well as the Elite Praetorian Guard, who will protect Supreme Leader Snoke.
Undoubtedly the cutest new creatures to grace the Star Wars universe are the Porgs (inset right). Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo shed some light on the new fluff balls in an interview with StarWars.com.
“Porgs are native to Ahch-To, and can be found dwelling along the cliffs of the island where Luke and Rey are. In many ways, they’re the Star Wars version of puffins. They build nests. They can fly. Their babies are called porglets."
And we've got one more new creature to show you. The Caretakers (below) are solemn, monk-like aliens who live on Ahch-To and have for thousands of years. Played by actors in suits (like the old days) they're intelligent, all female, and amphibious with large, froggy bodies and thin legs. They also speak in their own language.
John Boyega also confirmed Prince Harry, Prince William, and Tom Hardy were all on The Last Jedi set, news that was leaked beforehand, causing massive cameo rumors to gain steam. There's no confirmation the princes and Hardy were there as anything more than guests, but, considering all the cameos in The Force Awakens, it seems safe to assume some very famous people will be hidden behind helmets in Episode VIII.
"I’ve had enough with those secrets." Boyega said about the royal cameos. "They came on set. They were there. I’m sick of hiding it. I think it was leaked, anyway. There were images. Every time I get asked, I have to dodge it. I’m tired of dodging it. They were there. Tom Hardy was there too.”
The Last Jedi, like most Star Wars movies, will introduce some dazzling new spaceships and vehicles to the universe. Below is Snoke's massive 60 kilometer-long Mega Star Destroyer, Supremacy (left) and Kylo Ren will have a new toy as he'll pilot his own ship for the first time: the TIE Silencer (right).
The other new craft worth mentioning is the AT-M6 which looks a lot like the famed AT-AT, except it drags its knuckles like a gorilla.
More Cool Stuff
- Game of Thrones fans should be happy to hear The Last Jedi will feature more Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Johnson told EW:
"Gwendoline Christie is one of my favorite people, and you get to see her in action which I think is going to be really fun. That character is just so damn cool looking. Like, okay, let’s see what we can do with her. Let’s put her in action and see what happens."
The trailer previews the silver stormtrooper leading an attack, and Boyega has also confirmed he has a showdown with her.
- Disney’s big D23 convention previewed a bunch of new alien characters you can check out in the video below.
- One character who may be returning to Star Wars in a depressed state-of-mind is Chewbacca, who should be mourning his best friend and co-pilot, Han Solo. However, his new friendship with Rey may help temper the loss. Johnson talked a little about this with EW:
“Chewie’s doing all right. It’s tough. It was obviously a big loss for him, but, you know, he’s Chewie. He’s resilient... He’s got broad Wookiee shoulders, and he also has a new mission. He’s got Rey, and she’s someone that Han, to a certain extent, handed the keys to. So I think that that helps.”
- Another character from The Force Awakens will reportedly see a reduced role in The Last Jedi. Maz Katana, the CGI spiritual advisor played by Lupita Nyong'o, won't be onscreen as much, something most fans will likely cheer. She was the closest thing to Jar Jar Binks in TFA. Johnson told EW:
“She has a smaller part in this than she has in The Force Awakens, but it’s a really fun part, and Lupita is so awesome. I’m just happy I got to work with her."
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15, 2017.