Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens has finally been dethroned from its number one spot at the box office, and yet the anticipation could not possibly be higher for the next entry in the (main) Star Wars saga.
While we all look forward to the upcoming secondary film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Episode VIII is obviously a bigger deal. While we all get more and more excited, I decided to delve deeper into why there's not much too worry about with Episode VIII.
Out with the old, in with the new
While there weren't many, the few haters of The Force Awakens were quick to point out that its plot was essentially A New Hope on repeat. Obviously this wasn't some lazily done flaw, it was an intentional move to play it safe in luring in both new and old fans while sneaking in the new characters and arcs.
With the establishment of new characters and a new storyline in place, the field is now wide open to shed repeating storylines and delve into new territory. I'm certain there will be some similarities to Empire in its tone, but one can only assume that now that they have us hooked in it's time to be different.
On top of this, the overall love for the new characters (sans Phasma) has made it certain that their overall evolution and arcs will be a fascinating thing to see past their origin story.
The Return of Luke Skywalker
The Force Awakens's memorable ending was a promise of things to come. Finn was most likely left in a coma, and (more importantly) Luke Skywalker did appear, clad in all white, with two shots... and no lines.
Abrams explains this brief but important appearance:
“Larry and I had a bunch of thoughts of where certain things could go and we shared those things with Rian Johnson, who’s directing VIII. He had things that he came up with where he asked if it was possible if we could make some adjustments with what we were doing at the end, most of which we did — there were just a couple that didn’t feel right, so he made adjustments — but it was just collaboration. We’re all fans and friends and supporters of each other, and there’s been no one cheerleading and supporting louder and more consistently than Rian on this, and I feel that I am grateful that I now get to take that position for him.” (Collider)
This makes it certain that Luke being on that island, with no lines, is a promise of something bigger to come in VIII. Will he be VIII's "Empire Rhyme" as a teacher such a Yoda, or will he refuse? Will Rey's lightsaber be green, or blue? Perhaps neither! It's easy to see that Luke finally getting some much deserved screen time is what everyone is talking about more and more in the build up to The Force Awakens's follow up.
The casting of Gugu Mbatha-Raw
It's no secret that the hottest story around Hollywood right now is the lack of diversity in films of all facets. Be it blockbuster, art house, or somewhere in between, there is a lack of a non-caucasian, male presence. The team behind Episode VIII and The Force Awakens has already begun to ensure that this isn't the case for the future of Star Wars.
With John Boyega already winning over fans as Finn, Rian Johnson has casted the mostly unknown Gugu Mbatha-Raw to play a new female lead. With the given short list of names for who was up for the role (Tatiana Maslany, Gina Rodriquez, and Olivia Cooke) it is very apparent whatever the role is, it's going to be an important one.
Mbatha-Raw most recently was in the incredibly underrated Beyond the Lights and art-house darling Belle. Her acclaimed performances in both make it all the more exciting for her debut in the world of Star Wars.
Benecio Del Toro as the Villain
As talented and eclectic as he is, Benicio del Toro has yet to receive a mainstream iconic role. His pop-up performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, while entertaining, did not bear a ton of weight in the story.
His show-stopping performance in Sicario mostly went unnoticed at awards season this year. With Rian Johnson casting him as the main villain, anticipation could not be higher for del Toro.
Johnson often creates well developed characters with deep emotional losses and flaws as motivation. While he hasn't yet had the opportunity to make a major villain, the stage could not be better set for Episode VIII.
Snoke is clearly the new big baddie of the saga — and Kylo, while memorable, is best in small doses. With a new villain needed to step into the spotlight, del Toro is sure to knock it out of the park.
The Work of Rian Johnson
Johnson is currently in the top crop of best young directors out there. His work in Looper, Brick, and Brothers Bloom, as well as with TV series Breaking Bad and Terriers, is nothing short of unique and special.
His camera work is visually spectacular, often achieving stylistic and elegant compositions expressed at their best in Looper and an episode of Breaking Bad titled 'Fly.' Like many master filmmakers before him, Johnson writes his own scripts. Often depicting dark, noir-ish underworlds and themes, he has quickly developed his own distinctive style for both story and visual.
Adding him into the second act of the new trilogy is a match made in heaven. With Boyega already hinting that the film is going to be "much darker," Rian Johnson is sure to have crafted a story that can potentially rival (dare I say it) The Empire Strikes Back.
Well, I hope this didn't send you all off the rails and searching Fandango for when tickets will be on sale.
What are you most excited about for Episode VIII? Let me know in the comments! And follow me here or on Twitter if you'd like...that'd be swell!