Rian Johnson Doesn't Need Star Wars

While many fans consider Star Wars: The Last Jedi to be the most divisive entry into the Star Wars franchise, there are quite a few things all fans agree on. One widely held belief is that the film took the saga in unexpected directions, with some audiences appreciating the fresh perspective for the series while others were disappointed that they were deprived of things they had hoped to see. Another commonality is that, more than three years after the release of the film, fans are still passionately talking about it, as some fans continue to praise its accomplishments as others continue to personally attack Johnson for "ruining" the series. Knowing that progressing with an entire trilogy of announced films means committing to more years of endless toxicity being spewed at him, it's clear that Lucasfilm and Star Wars have a lot more to lose if Johnson doesn't move forward with his trilogy than Johnson has to lose, as he's proven with multiple projects just how ambitious and inventive of a filmmaker he is and shouldn't feel beholden to the galaxy far, far away.

Lucasfilm knew just how talented Johnson was when they enlisted him not only to direct the second film in the sequel trilogy, but also by offering him the opportunity to develop a standalone trilogy of Star Wars films, which were announced before The Last Jedi was even released. No details about these projects have been teased, so it's unknown what such a trilogy could explore. Johnson himself has only made tenuous claims about that project's development, leading us to wonder how much time he's invested into a series of films that wouldn't directly connect to any other corner of the saga.

Both standalone Star Wars films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story, were -- by nature -- forced to tie into the overall Skywalker Saga. It's possible that whatever stories Johnson would tell would be constrained to fit into a specific point in the franchise's timeline, potentially hindering its potential. However, it's also possible he'll have complete creative freedom, which would leave fans to wonder why such stories would have to exist in the franchise in the first place.

As proven with his sci-fi, time-traveling adventure Looper, Johnson demonstrated early in his career that he had quite a few ambitious ideas about the future, which is what made fans so excited for his take on Star Wars. In that earlier film, members of organized crime send victims from the future into the past, where a "looper" can kill and dispose of bodies. Complications arise when a looper fails to kill his future self, with the film leaning into neo-noir themes, all of which were amplified with the inclusion of science fiction. Between Looper and The Last Jedi, audiences can see that Johnson knows just how to tap into familiar concepts and reimagine them in unexpected ways, with the creation of his own sci-fi series allowing him to establish that entire world without any expectations from audiences.

Johnson's The Last Jedi follow-up, Knives Out, featured an all-star cast, yet Star Wars fans were only cautiously optimistic about the affair; if the film underperformed, critics would likely attempt to use that as "proof" of his filmmaking shortcomings. Luckily, the film was both a critical and financial success, sitting at 97% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and going on to earn $311.4 million on an estimated budget of $40 million. Knives Out even earned Johnson an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, ultimately paving the way for the announcement of a sequel, which he is currently developing.

With the filmmaker being harassed by Star Wars fans on a daily basis -- even while not actively developing stories for that franchise -- the production schedule of a Knives Out sequel and then the first entry into a Star Wars trilogy means a commitment to at least five years of more active trolling from the toxic corners of the fandom. None of the anger directed at him hasn't seemed to faze or slow down Johnson, but it's more likely that the only way to get the harassment to slow down is to distance himself from the series, if he so wishes.

It's obvious that Johnson has a limitless number of opportunities to pursue any type of storytelling, and while The Last Jedi fans would surely be disappointed to be denied his adventures set in the series, the fact that Lucasfilm hasn't championed their planned partnership in the years since it was announced would surely be disheartening for a filmmaker. In the meantime, they have announced Patty Jenkins, Taika Waititi, and Kevin Feige were all developing films for the franchise, which has already sparked speculation that the relationship between the studio and the filmmaker might be quietly dissolving. With every update about the franchise's future, fans can't help but revert back to wonderment about the status of the planned project.

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Another possible path forward is that, if Lucasfilm has a change of heart about wanting him to develop an entire trilogy, he could possibly do a guest spot on one of the many live-action Star Wars series. After all, Johnson is no stranger to the small screen, having directed some of the most lauded installments in the praised Breaking Bad. The studio seems to be focusing more on TV series anyway, with the commitment to developing a limited series potentially being less of an obligation on everyone's part.

Whatever the future holds for Johnson, his career is likely only just getting started, with no real shortage in sight for storytelling opportunities, none of which require him to tell those stories in the galaxy far, far away, no matter how much that might disappoint his fans.