While excitement about the upcoming new “Star Wars” movies has been high, the excitement level for movie geeks just hit an all-time high. Disney just announced that they have named the writer and director for “Star Wars Episode VIII” and that man is Rian Johnson. While common movie fans, and many “Star Wars” fanboys, might have no idea who Johnson is, this was a huge and important hiring and proves that “Star Wars” is serious about the upcoming movies in the franchise.
The first movie, “Star Wars Episode VII” will see JJ Abrams direct the film. Abrams brought the “Star Trek” franchise back from the dead and made it very popular for the first time in many years. Fans hope he can do the same with the “Star Wars” franchise. Next up, Disney hired “Chronicle” filmmaker Josh Trank and “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards to direct two of the spin-off films. That was exciting. Hiring Rian Johnson just moves this entire franchise up another level.
Johnson’s first film was a major success story for Johnson in 2005. That movie was “Brick,” starring Joseph Gordon Levitt in a Noir type mystery film that took place in a local high school setting. Much like the classic Film Noir efforts, all the characters spoke in a special lingo and there was a murder mystery, femme fatales and more. It went to Sundance and won a Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision. It was a fantastic movie and showed a director with a lot of guts and a huge future in the business.
Johnson followed up in 2008 with a con movie called “The Brothers Bloom.” The film starred Mark Ruffalo and Adrian Brody as brothers who started pulling tricks and cons after becoming orphaned as children. The movie is a “one last con” styled story as they set their eyes on a rich eccentric woman played by Rachel Weisz. While not up to the level of “Brick,” the movie was still entertaining and well made. It also caught the eye of Vince Gilligan, who hired Johnson to direct three episodes of the popular AMC series “Breaking Bad.”
In 2012, Johnson returned with one of the best sci-fi movies to hit theaters in a long time with “Looper.” The film reunited Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who starred as Joe, a Looper in Kansas City in 2044. He works as an assassin, someone who kills people sent back in time so he can kill the targets and eliminate the bodies 30 years before they disappeared. Almost all Loopers are sent back in time for their younger selves to kill, at which point they retire and wait for their day to come. When Bruce Willis’ Joe is sent back in time, the younger Joe can’t pull the trigger and they set out to find a way to change the future outcome. It was one of the most creative and interesting time travel movies ever made.