In just over two months, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will premiere in theaters, but that’s hardly the only project in a galaxy far, far away that’s in the public eye. This year Rian Johnson was busy filming the highly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VIII, which will continue the story of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren. The rumor mill has been relatively quiet, but interesting tidbits have recently popped up. Mark Hamill teased an “elaborate” special effects sequence for Luke Skywalker, and Lupita Nyong’o did not film her Maz Kanata scenes until after Johnson was in the editing bay.
Obviously, the actors have a responsibility to keep the film’s secrets under lock and key, but they do have the freedom to discuss certain aspects of Star Wars 8 at this point in time. A frequent topic of discussion over the past few months has been the film’s tone, with John Boyega mentioning multiple times that Episode VIII is darker than its predecessor. Adam Driver made some headlines a few weeks back when he commented on the matter, seemingly comparing the upcoming movie to The Empire Strikes Back. Now, he’s taken the time to clarify is previous statement.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, the topic of Star Wars came up and Driver explained how his words may have been misconstrued. You can read his original quote from September below:
“It’s great. It’s similar to how The Empire Strikes Back has a different tone. For that people always go “oooh, it’s dark” but I don’t know that it necessarily is. It’s just different in tone in a way that I think is great and necessary but also very clear. He (Rian Johnson) trusts [that] his audience is ready for nuance and ambiguity. He’s not dumbing anything down for someone and that’s really fun to play.”
Though he didn’t say that Episode VIII would mirror the tone of Empire, some fans took it that way. Driver appeared to have implied Star Wars 8 will merely have a different tone when compared to The Force Awakens, just like the tones of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were varied. He claims that is the case in his comments to Vanity Fair:
“What I said was the tone of it was different, I didn’t say that it was gonna be in the vein of [it]—I was using it as an example, so poor example. Next time I should say—I’m trying to think of another sequel to a movie that’s good. When I read the script, it was not what I expected, in the best of ways.”
Johnson’s Star Wars 8 screenplay has been the subject of much praise, dating back to when Force Awakens had just started its theatrical run. Driver in particular has spoken very highly of the script, commending it for its “nuance and ambiguity” and revealing Johnson taught him new things about Kylo Ren he hadn’t previously considered. That actor has expressed how he lucked out with Star Wars being his big franchise role, in part because of the directors he’s worked with have a “specific vision.” It remains to be seen what Johnson’s take on the universe is, but it sounds compelling and intriguing so far.
Given that The Force Awakens and Episode VIII are helmed by different directors, it makes sense for the tones of the two to be a bit different. As a filmmaker, Johnson has his own style and sensibilities that are separate from those of J.J. Abrams. Looking at Looper and Johnson’s episodes of Breaking Bad, it’d be easy to say that Star Wars 8 will be dark, but as Oscar Isaac said during the spring the film is “not really dark.” Since Episode VIII is the middle chapter of a larger three act narrative, it’s going to be a bit more serious, yet it will maintain the sense of fun Star Wars is so associated with. It’s important to remember that Empire Strikes Back had plenty of comedic moments to balance the more dire sequences.
Fans will get a better idea of what Johnson has in store when Star Wars 8 marketing heats up, but that won’t be for a while. Lucasfilm’s top priority now is Rogue One, and viewers shouldn’t expect them to start promoting Episode VIII until the spinoff has already had its day at the multiplex. Still, that time will be here before you know it, and once again moviegoers will be analyzing each and every frame of a trailer for clues.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.