Considering that ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is possibly THE most anticipated movie of the year and is now less than 12 months off, it would be surprising that we’ve seen no set photos, much less footage to give us a clue what to expect from ‘Star Wars’ Episode VIII. WOULD be, save for the fact that this IS ‘Star Wars’ Episode VIII and these films are kept tightly under wraps until right before their release and in a deviation from the norm, that’s exactly how fans like it.
Add to everything the fact that Rian Johnson is a fairly unknown director, with just two small indie films, ‘Brick’ and ‘The Brothers Bloom’, one bigger budget action flick, ‘Looper’ and episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ to his credit. This isn’t much upon which to form an opinion regarding his “style.”
But Johnson has opened up about three films that influenced his take on the ‘Star Wars’ universe– and they aren’t ‘A New Hope’, ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’.
“Twelve O’Clock High was a big touchstone, for the feel and look of the aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots. Three Outlaw Samurai for the feel of the sword-fighting, and the general sense of pulpy fun. And To Catch A Thief was a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur.”
‘Twelve O’Clock High’ was a 1949 war film, directed by Henry King with Gregory Peck in the lead. The film won two Academy Awards, for Dean Jagger – Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Thomas T. Moulton – Best Sound Recording. The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 1998 for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. Johnson noted the film for its aerial combat scenes, surely a tease at another classic X-Wing/Tie Fighter dog fight. Expect hotshot pilot Poe Dameron to show off more of his famed skills.
Hideo Gosha’s ‘Three Outlaw Samurai’ from 1964 is the tale of three ronin hired to rescue the daughter of a corrupt magistrate, who has been kidnapped by persecuted villagers. The film has been compared to the works of Kurosawa and has been praised for its subtle examination of society and honor. It wouldn’t be ‘Star Wars’ without a lightsabre duel. Johnson’s reference to “pulpy fun” hints that this particular fight may be a bit grittier than what we’ve seen in the past, which makes sense considering that Rey is expected to be a fledgling Jedi-in-training and Kylo Ren has already been shown to be a scrappy, self-made Sith Lord.
Best known among these is ‘To Catch A Thief’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. This glamorous 1955 film– Kelly’s last for Hitchcock– won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Robert Burks and in 2002, was selected by the American Film Institute as part of its ‘100 Years, 100 Passions’ collection. ‘Star Wars’ has never been particularly romantic. (Feel free to disagree.) It should be interesting to see how Johnson uses ‘To Catch A Thief’ to inject a bit more of that into the mythos.
‘The Last Jedi’ has completed filming and Johnson and his crew are deep into post-production– John Williams has begun writing the score.
Do Johnson’s selections make you curious to see how his take on ‘Star Wars’ pans out?
Directed by Rian Johnson, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Billie Lourd, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Lupita Nyong’o, Warwick Davis, Gareth Edwards, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Jimmy Vee opens on December 15, 2017.