J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens ultimately accomplished its main objective in bringing the Star Wars franchise back to the forefront of the pop culture zeitgeist. The saga's seventh episode received the best reviews in the series since 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and broke nearly every box office record in the book. Still, for all its accolades and adoration from fans across the globe, some felt that Star Wars 7 borrowed a little too much from its beloved predecessors and played like a cover song version of 1977's A New Hope - a decision that Abrams said was deliberate.
For the most part, moviegoers were able to accept the obvious similarities and familiar story beats since the film set up an exciting future with new characters like Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. Should Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII end up being another original trilogy redux, people won't be as forgiving. From the beginning, Lucasfilm's creative team has maintained that the upcoming installments of the sequel trilogy will break new ground, a prospect that excites series star Oscar Isaac.
The actor, who will reprise his role as ace pilot Poe Dameron in Star Wars 8, spoke with the LA Times to promote this summer's X-Men: Apocalypse. Of course, the topic of a galaxy far, far away came up, and Isaac essentially echoed previous statements from veteran Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan, who said that Johnson is going to "make some weird thing" that's "not going to be like anything you've seen in Star Wars":
"I would agree with [Kasdan]. Rian is definitely going to places and investigating things that haven’t really been done in the 'Star Wars' universe. For me, it’s so fun getting to explore different things that I wouldn’t have expected in this universe. In some ways it feels like we’re making an independent film. Certain things we get to play with – this kind of intimacy that we get to find – it's special. It’s been really fun."
Since details about Episode VIII are being kept under lock and key, it's difficult to say at this juncture what Johnson has in store. Though, what little bits have come out could provide some clues. Set photos taken from the movie's Dubrovnik, Croatia location highlighted a setting that hasn't been seen in a prior Star Wars movie, and rumors about Laura Dern's mystery character suggest that the film will dive into a morally grey area (as opposed to purely being good vs. evil). The canon material has established that General Leia Organa has many political opponents within the New Republic (including the upcoming novel Bloodline), so it would only make sense for the films to run with that concept at some point - especially as the galaxy deals with the destruction of the Hosnian system in Force Awakens.
Isaac's comments are certainly encouraging for viewers - even those who loved Star Wars 7. If enthusiasm for new franchise installments is to remain high, then it's paramount for the filmmakers to go off in fresh directions. The universe is an expansive place where anything is possible; there's no reason why history has to repeat itself (regardless of how poetic it may seem). The excitement surrounding new Star Wars movies stems from that, allowing the next generation of directors to play in the sandbox and let their imagination run wild. It was justifiable in Episode VII's case to play it safe and ease audiences in to the new era, but now that everything's been set up, it's time to forge a different path.
Fortunately, Johnson is a director capable of doing just that. He's impressed several with his work in television (Breaking Bad) and film (Looper), showing that he's a creative talent with a unique voice. Couple his adeptness behind-the-camera with the constant raves about his screenplay (Abrams wishes he could direct it himself), it sounds like the Star Wars franchise is in great hands moving forward and fans will be treated to something truly extraordinary December 2017.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: LA Times