A critical and commercial success, J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens accomplished its mission in bringing the galaxy far, far away back to the forefront of popular culture. The film was praised for recapturing the magic of the beloved original trilogy (perhaps too much of it) and establishing strong new characters that'll carry the franchise for years to come. Somehow, it managed to (relatively) live up to the hype and set the stage for an exciting future that fans can't wait to see continue. And Lucasfilm isn't wasting any time.
Director Rian Johnson started rolling the cameras on Star Wars: Episode VIII when Force Awakens was nearing the conclusion of its record-shattering box office run, and principal photography has been chugging along ever since. Johnson's hiring generated much enthusiasm amongst viewers, since he's proven to be a talented helmsman in both television (Breaking Bad) and film (Looper). According to star Adam Driver, that feeling is warranted, since he feels the series is in strong hands.
Speaking with EW to promote his latest film, Midnight Special, Driver was of course asked about what the upcoming Star Wars film has in store. Joking that the Resistance and First Order are "still at war," Driver went on to praise Johnson's vision and his ability to fit into what Abrams laid the foundation for:
“Their temperaments are different. I feel like there was so many moving pieces in the first one – just trying to solve it and set the vocabulary for what it was. There’s a lot of that anxiety is gone, because people have developed a language. I think it’s more of a testament to Rian coming into something very established and making it [his own]. I can’t wait to get on set, just because he’s so unassuming and intelligent and approachable. The script they’ve come up with is really great.”
Driver brings up an interesting point, in that one of Abrams' objectives on The Force Awakens was to establish a tone for the modern interpretation of the Star Wars saga and figure out how they were going to achieve that. Obviously, the earlier films served as a guide, but the new ones had to reflect 21st century society and filmmaking techniques. Finding the right "voice" for the series moving forward was of paramount importance, and since many of the cast and crew from Episode VII are returning for Star Wars 8, the sensibilities used for The Force Awakens should carry over. It's great to hear that Johnson, though stylistically a different director than Abrams, is seeing eye-to-eye with the studio. Even better is that he can still put his unique stamp on the material, which will help Episode VIII differentiate from its predecessor.
The man behind Kylo Ren also becomes the latest person to rave about Johnson's screenplay, following his co-star Daisy Ridley and Abrams. With The Force Awakens being as good as it was, there's arguably even more pressure on Star Wars 8 to keep the forward momentum going and continue the story in a rewarding manner. Lucasfilm has assembled a talented group of people behind and in front of the camera, so the odds are they'll make Episode VIII worth the wait.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.