Months before The Last Jedi opens in cinemas, Disney felt confident enough to hand a new director the keys to its future.
His name is Rian Johnson, a forty-something geek with an eye for sci-fi and a childhood love for the franchise.
On his CV: one decent experimental first movie called Brick, one studio flop called The Brothers Bloom and one rare and exciting piece of science fiction called Looper.
The latest made me, the journalist, a big fan of Johnson’s work.
But even though I knew there were more out there like me, I never thought Disney would be among them.
So much so, that it booked Johnson to helm a new trilogy for what is one of the most profitable film franchises of all time.
Evidently, they thought the Force was strong in this middle-age padawan. He was the droid they were looking for.
Now that we got all the quirky references out of the way, we can focus on what led Disney, Lucasfilm and the ruthless empire of “Kathleen Kennedy and Co” to put their trust in a rebel.
As great-a-film as Looper is, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same person, I highly doubt it made Kennedy jump from her throne, turn to Johnson and hoot: “Fire at will, commander!”
No, I believe what happened was rather related to a recent disturbance in the force, which saw not one, not two, not three, but four directors either jump ship or being forced off the plank.
Josh Trank, Colin Trevorrow and the duo Chris Miller and Phil Lord were all supposed to direct Star wars films, but none of them did.
Rumour has it, Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan, the galaxy’s two supreme leaders, have a specific creative vision for the franchise and you’re either in, or you’re kicked out.
This, as I once wrote, has left the franchise in darkness, and even led to veterans like Ron Howard and JJ Abrams having to step in and make sure the rebels wouldn’t blow up the Death Star.
But among the rubble, Johnson managed to fight for creative control, settle his alleged disputed with some of the more ancient cast and secure three more films under his sole supervision.
Good news for fans, who feared Star Wars could be heading to a more dangerous path than the Jawa route of Tatooine.
What this likely means is that, instead of having a writer’s room supervised by Kennedy and Kasdan, the next trilogy will be crafted by Johnson himself.
For us outside Lucasfilm’s test screenings, it is yet unclear whether the vision Johnson has for the franchise is any good, but reports have shown that the director has challenged the force with The Last Jedi and got away with it.
Personally, I believe in Rian Johnson. My biggest fear is not that he destroys the galaxy, but that he lets himself be corrupted by the dark side of the force.
As with most mass-produced franchises, Star Wars tends to waste great independent filmmakers, in my opinion. How many more movies can one watch about laser-sword priests fighting evil in space without losing patience?
I would much rather see Johnson apply his fanboy love to more personal projects, original screenwriting or even, maybe, a TV drama.
In the absence of that, and accepting the fact that Johnson will hence forward be known as “Director of Jedis”, I believe he could be the right man for the job.
By introducing gray jedis – half good, half evil – he is defying the rules of the galaxy. By making us question the nature of Luke Skywalker, he is exploring unknown territory. For the trilogy, I would like to see him leave the Skywalker family tree behind entirely.
Help us Rian Johnson, you’re our only hope.