After the heat J.J. Abrams took from some Star Wars faithful over similarities between The Force Awakens and its classic predecessor, A New Hope, anticipation over how closely next month’s The Last Jedi might adhere to the form of the first film trilogy is understandably high.
But in a bit of reflection that may come as a relief to fans clamoring for a film that will imaginatively expand the Star Wars canon, director Rian Johnson stops short of describing his treatment of The Last Jedi as any type of “homage” to those landmark earlier movies.
Talking with SciFiNow as part of an in-depth look at The Last Jedi’s development process, Johnson said he’s aware of the fine line that separates respect for all that’s sacrosanct in George Lucas’ universe, and slavish devotion that stifles the creation of new lore.
“It’s very interesting, the idea of the inescapable draw of nostalgia, because it’s there and it’s impossible to deny the emotional reaction that I have walking onto the interior of the Falcon,” he told the U.K.-based magazine for its latest issue.
“I guess I’d be hesitant to use the word ‘homage’ because that makes it sound like it’s just kind of turning the crank and replaying an old tune because we all like it. But telling a story that brings new things and pushes everything forward in an interesting way, that is in this world that we all recognise, there’s something very powerful about that.”
Some fans gave Abrams the business for hewing closely in The Force Awakens to some of the same story beats first brought forward in A New Hope.
“I can understand that someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!’ We inherited Star Wars. The story of history repeating itself was, I believe, an obvious and intentional thing, “ he told The Hollywood Reporter last year.
But when it comes to Johnson’s approach with the new film, even the cast of The Last Jedi is enthusiastic about the creative freedom he appears to be bringing to every aspect of the production — a freedom that signifies a remarkable degree of flexibility for a movie of such magnitude.
“[W]hen I sat down with Rian, who had written the script, I was amazed that he didn’t hesitate to explore changes in the story,” series newcomer Benicio del Toro told SciFiNow. “…So when I saw Rian was really open to first of all listen and then to engage in conversation and to make decisions quick, I was like: ‘Wow, is this for real?’”
Will it all be enough to placate fans who want an Episode V’s worth of all-new Star Wars canon? We’ll know soon. The Last Jedi releases in theaters on December 15.