When JJ Abrams was named director of the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, it only came as a surprise to observers because the American film-maker had previously been in charge of the rival Star Trek film series. Few questioned the Mission: Impossible III director's credentials to relaunch the saga because he had a proven track record as a big-budget movie-maker.
Since then we've seen Godzilla's
Yet somehow, Johnson's reported appointment to Episode VIII – he will also pen a treatment for the follow-up – comes out of the blue. This is a film-maker whose previous movies have been leftfield joys rather than mainstream box-office big beasts. His debut, 2005's Brick, is a sort-of Raymond Chandleresque high school detective movie, Edwards ingeniously spotting that the goldfish bowl intensity of cooler-than-thou teenage existence perfectly mirrors the stylised swagger of classic film noir.
Looper, from 2012, is a brooding time-travel thinkpiece which achieves the rare feat of creating a vision of post-superpower future America as cut through with verisimilitude as anything in Blade Runner. Made for just
In many ways, the closest parallel for Disney's appointment might be
What kind of movie might Johnson's Episode VIII turn out to be? All we really know is that this will be the point at which the iconic trio from Lucas's original trilogy,
The temptation is to hope that Johnson can take the saga into darker and more cerebral territory, though we should perhaps not expect anything too radical. While this new wave of Star Wars films are being built from new and exciting materials, the final mould within which they are placed will remain fixed. Disney learned from the shock of seeing Pixar's creator-driven CGI animated movies overtake its own formulaic hand-drawn musicals at the 1990s box office that employing bland hack film-makers ultimately leads to dead ends. But that does not mean the studio is about to give a maverick director like Johnson the full keys to its
It is Abrams who will build the new Star Wars mould, which looks likely to draw on the old-school style of the original trilogy while jettisoning the computerised effects and insipid interplanetary vistas of the later prequels. In many ways it is Edwards and Trank who will have the greater leeway to move the saga into genuinely fresh territory, since their spin-off movies need not impact on the main story being told.
Yet Johnson's appointment should be welcomed nonetheless. Fans have often wondered what Return of the Jedi might have looked like if Lucas had succeeded in his efforts to convince one
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