Both The Last Jedi and the news that Rian Johnson will pen a brand-new Star Wars trilogy turn five this year. Although the fervor and discourse around Johnson’s controversial installment in the sequel trilogy has not died down, the new trilogy has yet to materialize. Have the fandom wars tanked this trilogy, or do Rian Johnson fans have reason to stay hopeful?
According to an interview with Empire magazine, all is not lost! Johnson claims that he and Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy still discuss the trilogy often and that it is very much something that both parties are interested in. The holdup, according to Johnson, is scheduling. Johnson’s sleeper hit “Knives Out” was such a critical and consumer darling that Netflix commissioned two sequels, on which Johnson is hard at work. “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” premieres on the streaming service this December. “Knives Out” was both written and directed by Johnson, undoubtedly a labor-intensive project, and with expectations sky-high for the sequel, Johnson has no time to spare for the galaxy far, far away.
Kathleen Kennedy confirmed Johnson’s story at Star Wars Celebration this year, citing very busy schedules as the reason for the delay and affirming her love for Rian Johnson. Besides Johnson’s own commitments, Disney has been trying to stagger and delay its own schedule of Star Wars content. Ever since Solo bombed just six months after The Last Jedi released, Disney has (wisely) tried to spread out its new Star Wars content to allow people time to enjoy it. With the “Andor” series only weeks away and the smash hit “the Mandalorian” set to return early next year, followed by the eagerly-anticipated Ahsoka series, Disney’s plate is rather full as well. It seems despite some segments of the fandom eager to see both Kennedy and Johnson disappear, both of them aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
From the beginning of Disney’s aquisition of Lucasfilm, certain very vocal groups of fans have been proclaiming–loudly–that Star Wars was irrevocably ruined. That cry was reinvigorated upon the release of Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which offered a radical new vision of both beloved character Luke Skywalker and the Force itself. The movie was criticized for hinting at a romance between Rey and Kylo Ren as well as expanding what the Force can do (and who has access to it). But besides making some groups angry, Johnson’s story also brought legions of new fans into the fold, particularly women who felt that they were being given the storylines and representations they had been denied for so long. The “Reylo” group (Rey + Kylo) of fans quickly banded together and became a powerful force in the fandom, helping each other financially in times of strife, running fundraisers for charitable causes, and producing thousands of pages of fanfiction, some of which have become bestselling novels. Not every Reylo is the same of course, but many credit Johnson for igniting (or reigniting) their passion for Star Wars.
Five years out, people are still talking about The Last Jedi. For me, it’s an homage to the Star Wars universe as well as a total reinvention of that universe. It opened so many doors of exploration (that TROS failed to go through) that could provide rich and powerful new directions for Star Wars. It is very much not a re-tread of the original trilogy–which is what some people love about it and some people hate about it. If you want your Star Wars to stay exactly the same as it was when you were a child, then TLJ is not for you. But if you’re interested in growing with the saga and exploring new themes and ideas that expand the universe, it’s a pretty amazing addition to the canon. Johnson says he’s even more proud of it now than he was five years ago, and I personally feel it’s aged very well. It’s not a perfect film by any means (I could have done without the entire Canto Bight sequence) but it made me critically engage with the themes and ideas of Star Wars in a way that few other pieces of Star Wars media has.
On the whole, I love Rian Johnson’s vision, compassion, and curiosity for the people and places of the Star Wars universe, and I would love the chance to experience an entire trilogy guided by that vision. In Hollywood, some projects never find the right combination of time, talent, and money. Many promising films fall to the wayside, and that is still very much a possibility with the Johnson trilogy. But this latest interview of Johnson gives me hope, and as The Last Jedi taught us, “hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you see it, you’d never make it through the night.”
That phrase has seen me through many a dark night, and the idea that Johnson may create more Star Wars will get me through many more.