Yesterday, Star Wars: Episode VIII writer-director Rian Johnson provided a brief detail about how the upcoming sequel will explore the relationship between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). Today, he’s provided a few more tidbits to USA Today.
If you’re looking for a darker middle chapter a la Empire Strikes Back, you won’t find it with Episode VIII. “I want it to be a blast and to be funny and to be a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were.” That’s not to say that there won’t be darkness in Episode VIII (hell, Force Awakens kills Han Solo), but Johnson is looking to remain more tonally consistent with other films in the saga rather than just go dark because Empire was dark.
Johnson also says that the new movie will delve into the new heroes not by digging into their backstories (that’s what novels and comics are for!), but by presenting them with new challenges. “I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory,” Johnson says. “Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now — let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.”
When it comes to Rey specifically, Johnson says that Episode VIII will deepen the familial themes that were introduced in Force Awakens:
“It very much feels like what we all go through in adolescence, the dawning of this new chapter of our lives.” The director adds that the deepening of familial themes in Episode VIII is “a huge part of especially Rey’s character, something that was a really powerful part of her setup and something I really wanted to dig into with this.”
I’m not sure if that means we’ll find out who Rey’s parents are, but at the very least, it sounds like there could be a surrogate father-daughter bond between Luke, and perhaps for Luke, a second chance at properly teaching the ways of the Jedi to a young student.
As for Luke, Johnson sees him as the emotional entry point for the story. Johnson thinks “What’s going on with Luke Skywalker?” is the essential question at the heart of the new film. “I’m approaching it with a take that I hope feels honest and real and is going to be interesting to folks and make sense.”
That’s incredibly exciting. Hamill’s always carried the dramatic burden of the series. While we care about all of the characters, he’s the one whose arc is beset with doubt and growth. The emotional heart of Return of the Jedi is Luke trying to find a way to save his father without becoming him. It’s good stuff, and I’m eager to see how Hamill tackles this new phase in Luke’s life.
Finally, if you’re wondering about the title, Johnson knows what it is, but he’s not telling yet. “It was in the very first draft I wrote,” he says. But we’ll just have to wait to find out what it is.
Star Wars: Episode VIII opens December 15th.