Shortly after Star Wars: The Force Awakens set the box office ablaze and earned critical acclaim, Lucasfilm moved forth on the sequel, Star Wars: Episode VIII. Director Rian Johnson has been rolling his cameras since February 2016 and is currently halfway through production. There are still plenty of intriguing sequences left to film, as stars Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver all recently arrived in Ireland (the site for the planet Ahch-To) with Johnson to shoot some scenes for the new film.
Fans can't wait to watch the next steps of Rey's journey, but the young heroine is hardly the only returning character viewers are eager to see more of. For instance, John Boyega won many people over with his heartfelt and ernest portrayal of Finn, a First Order stormtrooper who defects and joins the Resistance. The actor is very excited about Star Wars 8 and previously described the followup as "much darker" when compared to its predecessor. In a new interview, Boyega reiterated that statement, while also teasing a movie larger in scope than Force Awakens.
While at the Cannes Film Festival, Boyega talked with Variety, and of course the topic of Star Wars came up. Asked what it was like working with Johnson after J.J. Abrams directed Episode VII, Boyega praised the Looper filmmaker and briefly touched on what his version of the galaxy far, far away entails:
"It’s very easy. Rian Johnson is great. It’s a different take, darker, bigger. Someone will say: “How do you get bigger than ‘Force Awakens?'” But it’s crazy."
If Force Awakens was modeled to mirror A New Hope, it stands reason to believe that The Empire Strikes Back will be emulated in some capacity during Episode VIII. While fans are hopeful Star Wars 8 won't simply repeat basic story beats and go off into new territory, some tonal similarities between the two would be expected. After all, this is the middle chapter of a trilogy, and those tend to be the darkest installments, showing the heroes at their lowest points before they rally to overcome the obstacles in the finale. Johnson, known for his gut-wrenching episodes of Breaking Bad, could be the perfect choice for this kind of material. Many involved with the franchise have praised his Episode VIII screenplay, so it sounds like he's on the right track.
One of the more noteworthy aspects of Force Awakens was that it did not really plant the seeds for a romance between any of the new leads. Fans were quick to picture a relationship between Finn and Rey - or possibly Finn and Poe Dameron - but for now everybody's just friends. That could be changing in Episode VIII, as Boyega touched upon a potential love story in the sequel trilogy:
"Yes, Finn and Rey – they’re just friends. Finn is a stormtrooper, so he doesn’t really know what’s going on. So the romance thing is something that’s going to be interesting in the next installment. It’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go."
What Boyega means by that is anyone's guess, as he obviously did not elaborate. Back before the Star Wars 8 cast was announced, it was reported that actresses were conducting screen tests with Boyega as a means of auditioning for a new role. Based on the information available, it would appear that this part in question went to newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, though it's never been revealed who she is playing. Plausibly, Tran's character is someone Finn meets and takes a liking to, opening the door for a romance. Considering that's true, it'll be interesting to see how their dynamic unfolds and how it's different from Star Wars loves of the past.
All in all, Episode VIII sounds like it's going to be a strong entry in the Star Wars series, building off of the exciting foundation established in Force Awakens. Going "bigger" doesn't always equate to a product that's "better," but the expansive Star Wars universe is a realm where that approach could lead to thrilling results. Given all that's set to take place in this film, it wouldn't seem right if it was a light-hearted affair. Humor has always been part of the franchise's backbone (including Empire), but the pieces in place suggest Star Wars 8 will be a darker movie covering serious themes, making it a different animal than Force Awakens.
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.