The Star Wars franchise is an unparalleled achievement in cinema, but many believe that it didn’t truly knock it out of the park until the arrival of The Empire Strikes Back. The movie deepened the stakes beyond measure and, for a genre defined by heroic victory, made us believe that the heroes could lose. We got Han Solo’s most dastardly line, the introduction of Lando Calrissian and, of course, the paternal reveal that shook the galaxy. Rian Johnson is helming The Last Jedi, sequel to The Force Awakens, and a great many are expecting big things. His cinematic influences for the film hint strongly at a movie firmly rooted in gravitas and mortal stakes—and a little bit of Hitchcock, just for good measure.
For a movie that many demand be dark in tone, Johnson, who’s writing and directing, is truly the best pick. His Blade Runner-inspired time-hopping hit Looper gave the strongest evidence of his talents in the sci-fi realm. Now he looks to classic war film Twelve O’Clock High, Three Outlaw Samurai and Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief to texture the Star Wars universe. He recently explained these choices in an interview with Empire magazine:
Twelve O’Clock High was a big touchstone, for the feel and look of the aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots. Three Outlaw Samurai for the feel of the sword-fighting, and the general sense of pulpy fun. And To Catch A Thief was a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur.
Further evidence of his influences was collected by The Telegraph, where he shared that his film will be a classic war film like Bridge Over The River Kwai. The movies Johnson has listed hint heavily towards a truly taxing film emotionally. Sounds a lot like he’s going for an Empire Strikes Back feel.
Our speculation? Johnson likely wants to shock the audience and make them feel a sense of disbelief similar to Darth Vader’s reveal. The idea that Rey is Luke’s daughter is too obvious, and too predictable. Endemic to the Star Wars franchise is the idea of switching sides. Perhaps audiences will be faced with a full reversal, with Daisy Ridley’s Rey becoming seduced by the Dark Side. This would be followed by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) beginning his punishing journey to the Light. One can only speculate, but if Johnson wishes to capture the magic of the twist, he will have to go full-monty unexpected.
Regardless, with all the classic cinema references, we have the opposite of a “bad feeling about this.”