It must not be too easy being Rian Johnson right these days. The acclaimed director of films like Brick and Looper and in my opinion, the best episode of Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias”, landed a dream job and got to direct a Star Wars movie. Not just any Star Wars movie, but the eighth episode in the core saga. The hype was certainly real as all eyes turned to this film, which was expected to be a dark and serious look at the franchise that would answer the questions set up by JJ Abrams in The Force Awakens. Before the release of the films, fans were buzzing thanks to positive word of mouth from the studio heads and Johnson getting the go-ahead to spearhead a new trilogy with new characters. But then the unthinkable happened.
The Last Jedi proved to be extremely divided with the fanbase. Go on any Star Wars post on the official Facebook page or any other online forum and you’ll see some pretty venomous comments directed towards the film and the director. Mark Hamill himself, the actor who portrayed Luke Skywalker, had some choice words about the direction of his character, which can be explored in the fascinating documentary The Director and the Jedi. People were out for blood and were calling for Johnson’s head. Requests for a franchise boycott emerged in the wake of the film’s release, with various justifications for such a call to action ranging from the characters to the story.
Johnson himself bore the brunt of a lot of online harassment after the release of the film, along with Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in the film. Tran notably left social media due to the threats and bullying she got. Johnson would take a break from Star Wars to go on to direct the much smaller film Knives Out, which is due out this fall and made its way onto our top most anticipated films of 2019.
Then the rumour mill started up again. Word was that Lucasfilm wasn’t happy with Johnson anymore and axed his trilogy. This rumour came from SuperBroMovies, so already you know that was a pretty valid source (if you didn’t catch that via text, that was sarcasm). The story took off, with many people basking in the light knowing that Johnson would never helm a Star Wars movie again. Only it proved to be bogus and Johnson himself dismissed the rumour on Twitter.
No matter your thoughts on The Last Jedi, maybe you loved it, maybe you hated it, you must admit that people like Rian Johnson have taken a lot of crap for being passionate about their craft. When it came to The Last Jedi, Johnson basically had carte blanche and wanted to make an unexpected movie. In that regard, I’d say he succeeded. Do I agree with everything he did? Goodness no. But to harass and bully someone online for their work isn’t going to help anyone either and should not be condoned. Simply stating your two cents and moving on is adequate enough, threatening an artist for what they’ve done is simply cruel.
Johnson has been given the keys to tell his own stories now without having them clash with the legacy characters. He’ll create something new from scratch and shape it how he sees fit. He won’t have to worry about being true to any characters as these characters will not exist yet. Considering that he’s still powering through this, despite all the attacks and hate he’s gotten online, he wants to give fans more Star Wars. He’s literally walking through muddy trenches right now just to deliver the package to the fans. Does he have to do this? Nope, he can easily back out of the project, say thanks but no thanks and get on with his life and not have to put up with all the harassment. But he’s not letting the hate get to him. I’m sure he has days where it does, but it’s not stopping him from working on his craft, nor should he let it.
There,s been a lot of word about what Rian’s working on, what his thoughts are for nine and the future. He’s pretty okay with JJ Abrams (Episode IX‘s director, returning after directing The Force Awakens) retconning some of the big moments he crafted in The Last Jedi as he understands that each director should be given the chance to do what they want when there isn’t an established structure to follow. Personally, I hope JJ doesn’t retcon too much if he decides to do that. Doesn’t matter if I like everything or not, but retcons have a tendency to cheapen some moments upon rewatch.
Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there doesn’t seem to have been a set plan for the sequel trilogy, so there was no desired end goal for the studio. While this left plenty of artist freedom, it did mean that the directors were also working fairly independently from one and other. Now that IX is coming out later this year, Rian just wants to sit back for the end of the trilogy and watch it as a fan, rather than as an employee. That’s before he gets back to working on his own set of films that is. Hopefully, for that trilogy and the upcoming Benioff and Weiss franchise, there’ll be a clear and planned beginning, middle and end to the arcs as opposed to winging it on the fly.
We should be happy that Johnson will be staying in a galaxy far, far away to deliver more Star Wars cause what worked in The Last Jedi worked really well. There’s no doubt he’s a talented director and now he gets his own playground to tell his own stories. I may just offer one piece of feedback and that is to keep the “your mother” jokes out of Star Wars going forward. Star Wars: Episode IX hits the big screen this December. While you wait for that, why not check out our pieces on Spielberg’s misguided war and what’s up with Bond 25?