During the Future Filmmakers panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe, Episode VIII director Rian Johnson confirmed Episode VIII will begin where The Force Awakens ended.
When the beginning of the Episode VIII shoot was announced in February, it was speculated based on the shot director Rian Johnson showed us that VIII would pick up right where The Force Awakens ended: on the island planet, with Rey holding out Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber to the inscrutable Jedi Master.
During the Future Filmmakers panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe earlier today, Johnson confirmed VIII will begin right where The Force Awakens ends (via Star Wars UK). This means, for the first time in Star Wars film history, there will be no time jump between Episodes.
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This does not necessarily mean the beginning of VIII will open on Rey and Luke, however. Unless VIII completely breaks with Star Wars tradition, the opening crawl and scene will take place in outer space. After the star field, the camera could pan down to the island planet where Rey and Luke are, or it could show another event happening simultaneously somewhere else. For example, the First Order could somehow have managed to track the Millennium Falcon to Luke’s location and are awaiting above the planet’s surface for the order to attack. Another intriguing possibility for a beginning is a scene showing Kylo Ren arriving at Supreme Leader Snoke’s stronghold to undergo healing and training in the dark side. Their meeting would make a fitting bookend to the last scene in The Force Awakens, with Rey arriving at the Jedi steps to, presumably, begin a journey of Jedi training and self-discovery with Luke.
Picking up Episode VIII where The Force Awakens left off, either right from the last moment on the island planet or transitioning to that point later, is challenging. Somehow, Rian Johnson has to continue a scene that never had a proper conclusion, without making it feel repetitive. He also has to make sure that continuation lives up to the expectations built up in the previous film. What will Luke say? Will he take the lightsaber or reject it? Every decision made stylistically, visually, and in dialogue will contribute to the scene feeling either epic or awkward. The latter is a fine line to straddle, but the payoff if it is navigated successfully will be incredible.
Stay tuned to Dork Side as we continue to report and analyze the news out of Star Wars Celebration Europe.