Rian Johnson has explained the structural parallels between his upcoming film, Star Wars: Episode VIII -- The Last Jedi, and Irvin Kershner's Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. The Star Wars sequel trilogy officially launched with J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens two years ago, and although the movie was critically acclaimed and had broken virtually every box office record, it was criticized for relying heavily on concepts and plot points from George Lucas' original 1977 Star Wars film (later subtitled A New Hope).
Abrams addressed the fan criticism as well as the parallels between his film and that of Lucas' original 1977 flick shortly after The Force Awakens hit theaters in December 2015. He justified the similarities by saying they were necessary to remind people of what Star Wars once was (prior to Lucas' prequel trilogy), while also laying the foundation for the new trilogy so that Johnson and Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow could break off with their own stories. Still, some fans were concerned that the similarities would continue with The Last Jedi borrowing heavily from The Empire Strikes Back.
Related: Every Star Wars 8 EW Reveal
As part of EW's Star Wars: The Last Jedi cover story, Rian Johnson said that there are certain structural parallels between his film and The Empire Strikes Back, but also that Episode VIII is vastly different compared to the original trilogy's second installment.
“I just tried to kind of ignore that aspect of it and have the story take the shape that it needed to. But look, Rey is off in a remote location with a Jedi master, and the Resistance is in a tough spot, and we’re intercutting those stories. By its very nature, there are some structural parallels. But these are new characters, they’re dealing with new things, and that ultimately is what defines the movie. So I think that’s going to be unique.”
Johnson notes that there are two distinct similarities between The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back. Rey training with Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To of course resembles Luke training with Yoda on Dagobah, and the Resistance suffering their first major blow after losing Starkiller Base parallels the Empire scrambling after losing the Death Star. Aside from those two points, it appears that The Last Jedi tells an original tale.
This isn't the first time that Johnson has addressed these concerns. At D23 Expo 2017 last month, the director explained that The Last Jedi would share some resemblance with The Empire Strikes Back since both movies are middle chapters in their respective trilogies, but he had also stated that the movie has more in common with Richard Marquand's Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi than anything else. Overall, it seems that The Last Jedi will very much be it's own film, with only certain, seemingly unavoidable closeness to Empire.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019