Rian Johnson Talks STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII; Praises the Use of Practical Effects on EPISODE VII

by     Posted 128 days ago

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Have you had enough of all the Star Wars: Episode VII news today?  Well, you’re in luck because now we’re going to focus on Star Wars: Episode VIII!  There’s been talk of a Star Wars trilogy film hitting theaters every other year with a Star Wars spinoff movie in between, so if that really does pan out, Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII could be heading towards a 2017 release.  Three years may seem like a lot, but when you’ve got to write, direct and then take a film of this magnitude through post-production, the time is going to fly by fast.

Johnson has talked about taking the gig a little bit since being hired back in June, but not to the extent he just did in a new podcast.  Hit the jump to find out what Johnson had to say about jumping into the Star Wars universe, his thoughts on practical versus digital effects and more.

looper-movie-image-rian-johnson-joseph-gordon-levitt-set-photoJust before the 35-minute mark of the Girls in Hoodies podcast (via /Film), one of the hosts just jumps right in and suggests that being responsible for a film like Star Wars: Episode VIII must be a daunting thing.  Johnson responds:

“Yeah, but the most surprising thing is just how not scary and how much fun … It’s boring to talk about because the only thing I can really say is I’m just happy.  But I don’t have the terror that I kind of expected I would, at least not yet.  I’m sure I will at some point.”

From there one of the hosts suggests that Johnson might not have to answer to the “old powers” because there’s “more air” to the situation.  Johnson then notes:

“Yeah, I think that’s true.  And coming at the time it does where we’ve – like if there’d been no Star Wars movies since Return of the Jedi, there’d be a lot more pressure, but the fact we’ve had them, we’ve had the prequels, we’ve had the TV shows, we’ve had Angry Birds Star Wars … I play it all the time!”

The group also discusses Johnson’s experience visiting the Star Wars: Episode VII set in London.  He highlights:

“I think a little bit. Right now they’re shooting in London, which is why actually I was in London, for reals … Yeah, I think I’m definitely gonna go back.  Visiting a set that you’re not working on though, I always feel kind of uncomfortable, not because anyone makes you feel uncomfortable at all, but just like, if you don’t have a job on the set, the set is a really strange place to be on.”

star-wars-episode-7-x-wing-jj-abramsThat’s when the clip of J.J. Abrams with the X-Wing comes up and Johnson chimes in with this:

“They’re doing so much practical building for this one.  It’s awesome.  They’re doing it all right, yeah … I think people are coming back around to [practical effects], yeah, it feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back towards it … I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.  I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it, but the thing is, I do wonder because I think kids are growing up watching those and that’s the thing that they love now so I don’t know whether it is a generational thing, and it could be.”

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  • SomeGuy

    Whoa, I just imagined a world in which we haven’t had Star Wars since Return of the Jedi.

    • bigfrog

      It’s a shame that world doesn’t exist.

  • MJ

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if after this new trilogy was complete, they go back and produce a new Ep 1, 2 and 3, and pretend the Lucas versions never existed?

    • Redjester

      Or better yet, they pull a Star Trek and create an alternate timeline where Jar Jar Binks’ entire species went extinct millenia earlier and all that is left is the admittedly cool Gungan city.

      • Georce Johnson

        The rest of the Gungans weren’t bad at all. They hated Jar Jar. Banished his ass and wanted to kill him for coming back.

  • Melissa Brookes

    I liked what I saw of Looper so I am interested in what he will do I guess…

    • mattinacan

      what you saw of it? get watching! one of the best movies of 2012.

      • Raptor Jesus

        It had maybe my favorite line of dialogue from any movie, ever:

        ‘I’m from the future. You should go to China’.

  • Melissa Brookes

    I know this is off topic but JJ looks like he is 23 and he is almost 50!!!

    • R0yBatty

      Whoa, easy there Melissa, he’s hitched up.

  • mattinacan

    Rian Johnson is on a completely higher level than JJ. Episode VIII will likely be vastly superior to whatever JJ puts out.

    • Ryan Marsh Thunder Fairweather

      Agreed 100%. I am anticipating episode 8 far more than 7.

    • SomeGuy

      They’re trying to emulate ‘Empire Strikes Back’, a sequel better than an already good first film.

      • mattinacan

        i’m just hoping we have a good first film, i don’t like the trek movies so i am a bit worried. honestly i haven’t liked a JJ movie since MI:3, and that was mostly bc of Hoffman.

      • mbmarquis69

        Even with their many flaws, JJ’s Star Trek movies have Star Wars DNA throughout. They are briskly paced, just like Star Wars, they are action oriented, just like Star Wars, and the dialogue is snappy, just like Star Wars. I imagine that kind of film with the practical sets and the locations we’ve seen so far from the Ep. VII production and it’s going to look and feel a lot like Star Wars. The only thing I worry about is the script.

    • Aquartertoseven

      I dunno, JJ did Mission Impossible 3 and the 2009 Star Trek, two really great films, better than Johnson’s Looper (haven’t seen Brick yet, that’s supposed to be good). And they were two consistent films whereas Looper was a film of 2 halves, the first being much, much better than the second.

      • mattinacan

        you lost me at better than Looper. JJ’s not even in the same ballpark.

    • Christopher Sims

      I think Looper is great too but I really enjoy JJ’s movies. Star Trek always kinda sucked to me, more of a Star Wars guy, and his reboot really made me interested in that world. I thought his MI:3 was great, I really love the movie but I am a Cruise, Hoffman, Rhames, and Pegg fan. I think Johnson had a lot of freedom in Looper as it was his film, an unexplored franchise. JJ, on the other hand, is the master at making great movies in existing franchises, which he will do again with Star Wars, especially since he loves it so much. I think it will be interesting to see Episode VII, and interesting to see Johnson’s take on the franchise. Exciting time to be a film fan. Exciting time to be Star Wars fan.

  • Alan Stowe

    Each individual Prequel had more practical effects in it than the entire old trilogy. ILM has discussed this before. I’m so sick of this band wagoned myth coming up.

    Most special effects discussions I hear are such so uninformed typically. Obviously the result of zero research, regurgitating others words and riding the socially acceptable band wagon. Oh, let’s trash CGI because we’ve seen a couple films use it incorrectly. Meanwhile plenty of directors know how to integrate it seamlessly. For every 10 TMNT/Gi Joe quality films theres a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or District 9. Not to mention the directors that know how to REALLY integrate effective CG like Fincher. Let’s also not bring up that had Lucas not shot the prequels as he did, they would have cost absurdly more. Has anyone even looked at the budgets for them? A third what these Transformers and super hero flicks cost even though they had more effect shots volumetrically. That’s the result of economical film making. And good and bad aside, the 9 years the prequel films were coming out was a much more pioneering era. The prequels were responsible for a TON of new effects practices that made a lot of other major franchises possible. I get peoples beef with the writing and acting, but Jesus, when people just go off on effects because of some off hand remark they heard someone say once, its just infuriating. Its INSANELY insulting to a ton of brilliant and ground breaking CG artists.

    STOP perpetuating myths and do some RESEARCH.

    • Aquartertoseven

      But the amount of CGI dwarfed the practical effects; nearly every scene was blue screened, the Senate, Jedi Temple, the Arena, Mustafar, Kashyyyk, it was all so fake. Whereas Hoth for example was a real place, just with an AT-AT or snowspeeder added.

      • Alan Stowe

        See budget for why that had to happen.

      • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

        Really? I never noticed! Seriously though, do you have any idea how much would have ballooned the budget to build those sets? Also, Mustafar? LOL, do you really wanted them to shoot inside a volcano? Regarding the Jedi Temple, I’m not so sure about how much was there and how much wasn’t but you have to realise that the cost of shooting Revenge of the Sith alone would have been prohibitive to do so on location. The Arena, in fact, was shot on location and compositing with miniatures. Tatooine was on location. Also Naboo and some indoors from Coruscant. If you think about it, Lucas used CGI where he needed, not unlike The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and Thor, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and the new Star Trek movies. I mean, Thor and The Lord of the Rings (not to mention The Hobbit) employed the same techniques to create the environments you see there. Yes, you see how much did they shoot on location on New Zealand but when you realise that all the interiors of Gondor and most of the outdoor shots inside the walls of Minas Tirith and Fangorn and then the Black Forest, Dale, the Dwarf City and so on. And Thor, you had the whole of Asgard and Jotunheim and I never, ever heard a criticism about “too much CGI there”. Neither they did for Sin City and 300.

      • Aquartertoseven

        I knew someone would say that but I have a point; nothing was real. Sure, shooting inside a volcano would’ve been impossible, but the others had little reason to be fake. The Jedi Temple was completely blue screened, they could’ve at least had something real there, and the droids were even fake, look at Ep 3 in particular, Obi Wan can’t see anything, he’s just swinging his lightsaber around and happens to be hitting them. I’ve seen images showing that the arena was all blue screened. I guess the biggest problem is how unimmersive and clearly fake the CGI was, unlike LOTR. That’s why you never hear criticisms about Sin City, 300 and Thor, because the CGI worked.

      • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

        Well, I knew people who never imagined that the clone army was entirely CGI. In fact, I think the problem was not the CGI per se: Sin City’s backgrounds were obviously (a middle cost) CGI and Thor’s final fight on Bifrost were too (not obvious for some failures but for it’s impossibility) but the difference was, for me, the acting. Some of the dramatic scenes that worked on the prequel trilogy made me forgot the CGI on the background, like the Jedi killing and the Anakin/Obi-Wan fight on Mustafar. But on the rest of the movies the acting was uninspired, especially on Ep. II. I think I’m on the few people who can find the new trilogy enjoyable on the same level the original was (maybe because I saw them almost at the same time… original trilogy first) but the acting was, indeed, one of the weak links. Lucas should have put more effort on the acting or let someone else direct them (like Ep. V and VI) but thus, the CGI was the least of its problems. Look for Thor, for instance: with Brannagh directing you knew you would have, at least, competent acting, but you got two stellar performances from the main leads (Thor and Loki) that made you forget all the CGI on the back. Same thing with Sin City but I will give the merits more to the brilliance of the dialogues and the inherent talent of its cast than Rodriguez’s and Miller’s directing.

      • Aquartertoseven

        The CGI in Thor wasn’t as bland as the prequels though, it didn’t look like a matte painting. Sin City too, the visuals weren’t bland, they were the opposite.

      • Aquartertoseven

        The CGI in Thor wasn’t as bland as the prequels though, it didn’t look like a matte painting. Sin City too, the visuals weren’t bland, they were the opposite.

      • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

        I didn’t mean it was bland but that it was impossible to be real so it HAD to be CGI but you didn’t care because the acting was awesome. Also, it was over 10 years beyond the prequels so no possible comparison there (I watched it as a kid and thought the CGI was awesome). Sin City had very obvious CG backgrounds (but intentionally, most likely) but it didn’t took you away from the movie because there was great acting too beyond the atmosphere. Bottom line: it was the acting that killed the prequels, not the CGI.

      • Aquartertoseven

        LOTR was as long ago and it still looks amazing.

        ” Sin City had very obvious CG backgrounds (but intentionally, most likely)”

        You think?

      • Aquartertoseven

        LOTR was as long ago and it still looks amazing.

        ” Sin City had very obvious CG backgrounds (but intentionally, most likely)”

        You think?

      • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

        I didn’t mean it was bland but that it was impossible to be real so it HAD to be CGI but you didn’t care because the acting was awesome. Also, it was over 10 years beyond the prequels so no possible comparison there (I watched it as a kid and thought the CGI was awesome). Sin City had very obvious CG backgrounds (but intentionally, most likely) but it didn’t took you away from the movie because there was great acting too beyond the atmosphere. Bottom line: it was the acting that killed the prequels, not the CGI.

      • Alan Stowe

        The cg in Lord of the Rings was 1) made possible by ILMs work on the prequels (WETA has said that) and 2) buried in filters. Filters hide imperfections. The prequels tried to maintain the crisp lighting of the originals and did not rely on filters. Also, all the movies you referenced came out after and, again, were made possible because of the prequels. Rodriquez had a set visit during the first or second and that was how he figured out he could even do Sin City.

      • Aquartertoseven

        Only Episode 1 was filmed before LOTR, what exactly was made possible? What not to do?

      • Alan Stowe

        Glad you asked in such a dismissive, uninformed troll like way. Makes this more fun.

        First mo-capped cgi creature (you’re welcome LOTR), wrote first programs managing digitally created clothes as separate objects ON a cg body rather than simply part of them (you’re welcome LOTR), first “flocking” programs used for populating digital battle fields in realistically randomized ways (you’re welcome LOTR)… there were SO many break throughs made on that film. There were articles about it and its covered extensively in the special features.

      • Aquartertoseven

        It was a joke, calm down.

        LOTR still could’ve been the same in terms of CGI, you never know.

      • Aquartertoseven

        I knew someone would say that but I have a point; nothing was real. Sure, shooting inside a volcano would’ve been impossible, but the others had little reason to be fake. The Jedi Temple was completely blue screened, they could’ve at least had something real there, and the droids were even fake, look at Ep 3 in particular, Obi Wan can’t see anything, he’s just swinging his lightsaber around and happens to be hitting them. I’ve seen images showing that the arena was all blue screened. I guess the biggest problem is how unimmersive and clearly fake the CGI was, unlike LOTR. That’s why you never hear criticisms about Sin City, 300 and Thor, because the CGI worked.

  • Darth Kaos

    Could someone PLEASE leave a link, of the OFFICIAL NOTICE stating Rian Johnson has been hired to direct any SW movie. I don’t want a link like the story above….not rumor…not suggestion….but an OFFICIAL WORD FROM LUCASFILM! that he is indeed involved.

    • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

      That was official news a long ago. Look for it on this very site.

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