Where Does Star Wars Go After The Force Awakens?

Episode VIII Needs To Be Something Different

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens needed to be the greatest fan film ever made in order to resuscitate the franchise after the misfires of George Lucas’ prequels – and J.J. Abrams is the reason it succeeds in those terms. The director has seen his previously middling career surge into the stratosphere, largely as a result of fan-based projects. Alias is essentially an homage to Nikita; Fringe is an homage to The X Files; Super 8 is an homage to 1980s Steven Spielberg movies, such as ET: The Extraterrestrial; and Mission Impossible III, Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness are self-explanatory. His most original work thus far is probably Lost, and even that borrows heavily from a range of mystery and conspiracy-based series.

For Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the ultimate expression of fandom. But, now that he has used that fan-adoration to get the job beautifully done, we need something different – to ensure that this new trilogy doesn’t become simply a companion piece, but rather a real furthering of the franchise. That’s where Rian Johnson comes in.

Johnson is by no means a highly experienced director. He only has three feature-length films under his belt, along with three short films and four episodes of television shows. But, his work is very different to that of J.J. Abrams. While the projects of Abrams, since 2000, are almost entirely homage, Johnson doffs his cap to genre in very specific ways, while creating original work. This means that, having established the necessary tone and narrative beats with J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII, Johnson’s Episode VIII can really whisk us off on a brand new adventure, while maintaining the necessary reverence to the past.