Lucasfilm is rumored to have hired Looper writer-director Rian Johnson to write and direct Star Wars Episode 8, and also provide a story treatment for the ninth episode in the series. This follows news that two of the spin-off Star Wars films will be directed by Chronicle‘s Josh Trank and Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards, with ex-game journalist and Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta providing the script for Edwards' film. Other reports are saying Johnson may also write and direct the ninth film in the series, although this should be made clear once an official statement is made.
These upcoming Star Wars films, in other words, are in good hands. While the announced talent has been interesting for a while, the addition of Johnson adds another layer of excitement to the middle film in the new upcoming trilogy. Johnson has proven, more than once, that he has a keen hand when it comes to genre films and seems unafraid to play with the tropes and expected plot twists of even well-trodden ground.
Johnson's Brick was a brilliant and often-overlooked noir film that took place in high school, complete with a teenaged gumshoe, femme fatale and drug kingpin. The cast was smart, and gave us our first look at how good Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be when given a first-rate script, and the ability to poke fun at how self-important teenagers can be by putting them in the middle of a real-life murder mystery was inspired. It's a funny, angry, intense film that sits on the screen like a lead weight.
Johnson has also directed an episode of Terriers, already a cult classic, and three episodes of Breaking Bad, including the classic episodes "Fly" and "Ozymandias" just to cement his reputation of touching some of the best material out there.
Looper was another genre film, this time a science-fiction movie that explored time travel, and once again it played with genre conventions. The movie was firmly about the people inside it, even if the logic of time travel shown in the movie was a bit hard to stomach.
If you've seen Looper you know how good it is, and if you haven't the less said about it, the better. But it's rare that you have a movie with Bruce Willis and stacks of gold that can bring out an emotional reaction in the viewer.
This body of work isn't extensive, but it shows a man who isn't scared to jump into these very set genres and turn them into his playthings. Johnson subverts your expectations in these films while still delivering enough of what you want to keep fans happy. That's a thin line to walk, but each film or television episode is just as beautiful as it is well-written ... which is quite the feat since he writes so much of his own material.
If you asked me to name five writers or directors to tackle Star Wars it's doubtful that Johnson would be on the list, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. This is some of the best Star Wars news we've gotten in some time, and it's also worth noting that this potentially frees up J.J. Abrams to work on the previously-announced Portal film.
Johnson has linked the following film clip from The Right Stuff on his Twitter account less than an hour ago.