Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Still Needs To Happen (Even After Divisive The Last Jedi)

rian johnson star wars the last jedi

Image via Lucasfilm

Star Wars Celebration brought a lot of happy news for fans, from old faces returning to new ventures; the franchise is expanding its horizons. While the much-awaited Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew, and The Acolyte drew attention, the news of three new movies came as a pleasant surprise.

However, with that announcement, a giant shadow was cast over Rian Johnson’s planned trilogy that was supposed to follow up on the sequels.

The filmmaker’s name, when taken in the context of Star Wars, brings polarizing responses. The director helmed The Last Jedi, the second installment in the sequel trilogy following J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens. Disney had such high confidence in Episode VIII that the studio greenlit Johnson’s pitch for three features before it hit theaters.

But, The Last Jedi brought some highly divisive comments from fans. In contrast, it performed exponentially well on the critical front. Many despised it for mishandling the originals legacy, whereas others liked the progressive approach to the franchise’s intergalactic storytelling.

However, with the new announcements, the Knives Out director is nowhere to be seen. Even after the lasting divide that The Last Jedi brought among the fandom, Johnson’s trilogy needs to happen. He’s proven he is the right person for the job, from avoiding conformism to taking the risk of progression in a fandom-centric property. Disney must restore him at some point, and here are some reasons why.

Star Wars Needs Fresh Stories

Star Wars‘ Disney Plus productions have expanded the galaxy, but the stories remain limited to previous arcs. The narrative heavily relies on the groundwork George Lucas’ films laid and is often adapted from the Expanded Universe, which is not part of the official canon. And since most recent stories are set within the limitations of previously built eras, they only can be so innovative.

After the sequels, which marked the end of the Skywalker Saga, there was a need for new faces, new characters, and arcs that could extend beyond the established galaxy. They need to divulge from callbacks to any previous material and ensure that the continuity sets itself on the path of a new legacy.

Rian Johnson’s planned trilogy hinted at exploring corners of the galaxy that have yet to be touched upon. While the essence and vibe of Star Wars would have always felt, the films would not just be about the old and new characters crossing over. Instead, they were supposed to continue the new layout Johnson left traces of in The Last Jedi. Remember the kid who uses Force to grab a broomstick? That was just a glimpse of what the future could entail.

The three newly-announced films comprise only one fresh narrative apart from the previous ventures. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Ms. Marvel) will helm a story set after The Rise of Skywalker, ushering in the era of the New Jedi Order. The other two, to be directed by James Mangold and Dave Filoni – though original films – will take place in the historical lore.

Though Obaid-Chinoy’s film is taking fans to a new era, there is still a need for the follow-ups to detach from other periods in the continuity. Thus, telling such a story that doesn’t bind it to the previous nine movies or any other television production set in the franchise would need several new characters, new subplots, and an altered tone. Rian Johnson is the ablest director to execute that vision.

Rian Johnson Defied Conformism

With the direction Rian Johnson took in The Last Jedi, he hinted at his intentions to sway away from the conformism of the Skywalker Saga. He risked Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker taking a backseat in the impending war against First Order, which was a bold move. He further takes Kylo Ren’s struggle with the Force to a darker path as he surprisingly kills Snoke, leaving his identity a mystery. And instead of giving Rey a history, Johnson established her to have no significant past, allowing a “nobody” to find her destiny through the Force.

All of these plotlines were unconventional. Every single sequence in the film was met with a divisive response. However, the backlash wasn’t exactly attributed to an uninteresting narrative, but to unexpected turns that didn’t pan out well with the audience.

The Force Awakens had already disappointed fans with Mark Hamill’s absence. Hence, at the juncture of The Last Jedi, they expected a more prominent and heroic role for their favorite Jedi. Still, the director strategically catered to the progression of the saga, focusing on the newly developing characters while accurately adhering to the elements from the previous six films. It did deliver on the aspects of good vs. evil, hyperspace battles, and the idea of a defeat for the good side in an unconventional way.

Instead, the film took a risk by shaking up the narrative to a more considerable extent. It delivered something that inherited the old regime and pours out possibilities for a new one, and the distance from such conformism is what a new saga needs.

Rian Johnson Allowed Characters to Progress

The best part about The Last Jedi is that it allowed several new characters to progress and find their place in the sequels.

After the first film, Finn goes deeper into the gritty side of the war against the First Order. From espionage missions to infiltration, he submerges himself in Republic’s cause and eventually takes up arms against Ren’s forces, concluding with him risking his life for the Republic.

Tired of escaping battles against the First Order, Poe Dameron steps up in what makes up for an exciting opening sequence in The Last Jedi. Later, he learns to be a better leader, achieving far greater maturity since the character’s portrayal in The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Resistance. Also taking center stage is Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico in The Last Jedi. She anchors herself and Finn as they share motives and goals throughout the film.

And then, Rey, a nobody, finds her place in the Force and moves up a ladder in her unorthodox training as a Jedi.

Johnson also gave Luke Skywalker an individualistic approach. He is not the chosen one or the great Jedi he once was. Luke has grown disdainful from his experiences as a teacher. He follows a path resembling Obi-Wan’s in the originals, and it’s only later that he realizes his role in the ongoing war; making one last attempt at redeeming himself. The Last Jedi delved into his fears and the fatalistic aspects of his experiences as a Jedi master.

Indeed, it didn’t find its place among the audience, and even Hamill wasn’t confident about his character’s sudden change. However, Johnson allowed all characters to grow further since The Force Awakens, and offered them a desirable course to take on the final film. However, Disney’s attempts to salvage the audience’s approval after The Last Jedi in The Rise of Skywalker resulted in somewhat of a collapse.

Given Johnson gets his due as the next directorial leader of Star Wars, this is something we’d love to watch taking a better visual shape in his trilogy.

The Last Jedi Works, And So Could Be Johnson’s Planned Trilogy

The Last Jedi is a film that has most recently started getting its due praise. Similar to the responses to George Lucas’ prequels, the film has gained a following and fans’ positive reactions half a decade after its release. It’s not just how it deals with character arcs that make it fitting. Johnson has done a fantastic job with visual effects and sequence choreography, the use of colors, and directing some of the finest action scenes.

The convincing performances of the cast, each offering a devastating angle of their respective characters, is spectacular. It just proves that Johnson understands the franchise and can deal with complex ensembles and continuing storylines.

The film further gives a new definition to the Force, which, for years, has remained a mysterious myth. The Last Jedi ends on what was first considered a weak sequence. After learning of the legend of Luke Skywalker, a boy uses the Force to pick up a broom and gaze into space. The scene implies the more fierce presence of Force in the galaxy, and that its role is far more significant than just armament. It truly keeps balance in the universe, and hints at an aim to extend beyond the Skywalker Saga.

Overall, The Last Jedi works. The movie is beautifully made, and the unpredictability becomes its strength at the right moments. Even though some areas do not fall along the lines of the franchise’s previous entries, the film is full of passion, and Johnson’s only attempt at the saga so far is admirable. From hereon, it’s a matter of opportunity to continue on the path he left behind.

It’s Time To Let Go of Emotional Engagement

The vast difference in The Last Jedi’s audience score and critical response has much to do with emotional entanglements. Even on a personal note, every reference to Darth Vader feels so wonderfully nostalgic and exhilarating, but The Last Jedi tread upon a different road.

The nostalgia was there, but different to expectations. While fans wanted Luke Skywalker to make a heroic return, he instead appears in projection through the Force. Leia was confined primarily to the hideouts, and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo had already met his demise in the previous film. In his attempt to focus mainly on new characters, Johnson made others take a backseat in his enthralling adventure, which the fans couldn’t praise or appreciate.

Now that the Skywalker Saga has ended – even though on a divisive note — it’s probably time to let go of those entanglements and have new stories engulf the galaxy. It was this idea that Johnson’s planned trilogy was based on. Disney’s MandoVerse will eventually end with Dave Filoni’s upcoming big screen crossover, leaving the door open for plenty of new stories.

Rian Johnson May Find Perfect Balance in Shaping Up New Star Wars Era

Rian Johnson has directed a movie in the franchise, and seen how fans and critics react to his ideas. Since it was a sequel, he knows how characters can advance across multiple stories brought to life through numerous productions. Furthermore, over the past few years, Disney has already shelved several productions that were to be helmed by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, Kevin Feige, and Patty Jenkins, while there’s just one direct follow-up to the Skywalker Saga in the works.

Johnson is the ideal candidate to take Star Wars ahead from thereon. He has experience with the studio, is familiar with the characters, and loves the IP. With new ideas, he can better represent the franchise. With several old stories culminating and Disney Plus bridging the gaps between, Star Wars should create a genuinely original evolution. The Last Jedi may have been a misfire in many eyes, but it doesn’t mean Johnson’s next trilogy will be.

Will Rian Johnson’s Trilogy Happen?

In an interview, Kathleen Kennedy said that the ball is in Rian’s court; meaning it’s on him to pitch for his trilogy to the studio for approval, but it’s unlikely Disney will sanction another trilogy simultaneously. Moreover, Johnson is tied to a third Knives Out for Netflix after the success of Glass Onion, which earned him a second Academy Award nomination.

Even if Johnson decides to return to Star Wars again, it may be some time before he sets things in motion and begins to bring his drafts and screenplays to life. Still, there is no harm in maintaining a little hope.

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