Well, this is both shocking and truly amazing: "Looper" writer-director Rian Johnson, known for his esoteric, often existential low-budget genre movies, has been handed the keys to the biggest franchise in the galaxy. That's right: he's going to write and direct "Star Wars: Episode VIII" and write the treatment for the ninth film as well (early reports, from Deadline, that he would write and direct both, have been debunked by The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap). While Johnson didn't comment on the news, he did post a clip from "The Right Stuff" that perfectly captures his state of mind.
This is a really great move by Disney and Lucasfilm. Johnson is a ridiculously talented director, having only directed three very small films: the high school-set film noir "Brick," the crime caper comedy "The Brothers Bloom," and the slightly larger time travel thriller "Looper" (starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), which was Johnson's biggest box office hit to date and had the largest budget. With that film Johnson proved himself to be a filmmaker who could handle complicated visual effects while putting the story front and center. It's a wonderful, dizzyingly clever film and if anyone wants to know why our excitement for the "Star Wars" franchise just spiked, all they need to do is watch it.
With this announcement, Disney is clearing up some dangling question marks for the franchise: namely, would Abrams return to the franchise after completing work on "Star Wars: Episode VII," which is currently filming around the world. The answer: no, no he is not. (We have a feeling that Johnson may still be swayed to direct the ninth film, even if he's not officially attached right now.) Johnson joins the ranks of the recently assembled "Star Wars" dream team, which now includes "Godzilla" filmmaker Gareth Edwards and "Chronicle" director Josh Trank, who have both been contracted to helm one of the stand alone "spin-off" movies that will exist in between canonical installments.
Honestly, this is an absolutely wonderful sign of the franchise heading in the right direction, with clear leadership and a commitment to creative excellence. This is very good news, indeed.
"Star Wars: Episode VII," which features original stars Harrison "I Broke My Leg!" Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, along with new cast members John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o, Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, and Domhall Gleeson (who we saw at a party the other night and just said: "I'm really excited about 'Star Wars!'"), will be released on December 18th, 2015.