There is an enormous amount of excitement building for the next installment of Star Wars. Yet, I am excited for another movie written and directed by Rian Johnson. Luckily, these two things are not exclusive.
Here is why you should be excited about Johnson directing the next Star Wars film.
Originality of Vision
Rian Johnson began with small independent shorts until he scraped enough money together for a feature. His first film, Brick, was a $500,000 low budget homage to film-noir detective stories set in a modern high school. The film won eleven awards including Sundance’s Special Jury Prize for “originality of vision.”
He went on to direct one of the best con men films, The Brothers Bloom. Johnson’s budget jumped up to working with $20 million and included locations around the world. After that, he directed a science-fiction crime-drama, Looper, with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a budget of $30 million.
So how did he make that jump from $30 million to a franchise film that has the potential of being in the $300,000 million budget range?
His film-making skills aren’t dependent on budget or scale of the production. Johnson has the creative leadership to work all the elements together to tell a visual tale built on a solid foundation of story and acting performances.
“Everything I learned how to do right came from making movies with my friends in high school with a DV camera. All those same basic principles apply. That is where you learn visual storytelling. That’s where you learn to plan your shots and know what you want when you show up on set. It’s when you learn to get people to work with you and learn to win people over to convince them to what you are trying to do and that it is worth showing up on the weekend to do it.” – Rian Johnson in Brick’s Making of Documentary by L Jean Schwartz
While a great deal of the decision-making about the franchise will be dictated by the Disney overlords, it is the little moments of character and acting that will make it a more cohesive film. The ability to get a better performance out of an actor of any caliber is a skill that requires finesse. Johnson has proven this skill with working with first-time actors in Brick as well as with veteran actors in Looper.
He Can Work Within A Franchise
Toward the end of Season 3 of Breaking Bad, Johnson joined the team for the first of three episodes he would direct over the course of the series. Unlike with his past films, he was only the director and not the writer as well.
The three episodes are well recognized by fans of the series; Fly, Fifty-One, and Ozymandias. Johnson won a Director’s Guild of America award for Fifty-One and the screenwriter for Ozymandias won an Emmy.
“Visually, what they’ve been doing is not that far afield from my visual style. But you also do cater it to what the show needs and what the show is because you’re there to serve the show. You just have a great piece of writing and a style you’re a fan of, and you just try to serve that the best you can. That’s something that’s actually really fun for me.” – Rian Johnson interview with IndyWire’s Alison Willmore
He is able to make both critics and fans happy while enjoying playing in someone else’s sandbox. This is not an easy feat as it requires effort and skill to be both accommodating as well as talented.
Vision + Skill + Enthusiasm = ‘The Last Jedi’
Johnson’s resume may not be long, but it is outstanding. His skillset, artistic talent, and love of the medium far outweigh his lack of experience with big budget features. He may end up being the best decision Disney has made since hiring James Gunn to helm Guardians of the Galaxy.
Image of Rian Johnson with minor edits courtesy of Gage Skidmore