By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 20, 2014 at 2:41PM
Let's say you're Disney. And let's say you buy Lucasfilm for a few truckloads of money, knowing that you've just purchased "Star Wars," one of the biggest franchises of all time. How big? The merchandise alone generated $3 billion dollars in 2011. And that was without any movies in theaters. Now, there are two ways you could exploit your new property: just take the logo and brand and crank out a bunch of junk in a variety of mediums and watch the money flow, even if the fanboys are pissed. Or you make careful decisions ensuring the longevity of the franchise for years and years. Disney is clearly doing the latter.
The bombshell news has dropped today that Rian Johnson ("Looper," "Brick") is going to a galaxy far, far away, and will write and direct "Star Wars: Episode: VIII" and write the treatment for "Star Wars: Episode IX." And we couldn't be more excited. Johnson has proved himself to be one of the smartest genre filmmakers going right now, breaking out with the noir "Brick," taking a detour with "The Brothers Bloom" and delivering the steampunk beauty of "Looper." He knows his way around sci-fi, but more key, he brings fresh ideas to tired conventions, and the thought of him being able to work in the universe of "Star Wars" for two big sequels is pretty terrific. We're sure he's pumped, too.
However, back in 2012, Johnson told us he'd rather create original projects than take on existing comic books, existing franchises or adaptations. "There's no dream project," he said. "My dream is to come up with another movie, and be able to make it. I'm realizing that that's the only way I can work. Every single movie that gets made is a miracle. But knock on wood, I've been able to get these things made, and it's not going to last forever. So as long as I've got this little window where I'm able to make these things, I'm just gonna keep making original stuff, and see how long I can get away with it."
Clearly the draw of "Star Wars" is too strong (and this was before new "Star Wars" films were even a "dream" possibility). Though if he is writing it, it's certainly going to be much more original than your average fantasy sci-fi adaptation. One assumes and hopes, at least (it'll be interesting to see how close he's adhering to the treatments George Lucas wrote when the new trilogy was first announced).
And kudos to Disney for going with smart filmmakers rather than Marvel's route of less-inspired directors working off templates. The mouse house has snared J.J. Abrams for 'Episode 7,' while rounding up Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla") and Josh Trank ("Fantastic Four") for the as-of-now still-unrevealed spinoffs. These are guys who may not be household names, but have inspired visions for genre material. Even this writer, perhaps the most resistant and ready-to-be-proven-wrong about the upcoming sequels, is starting to get excited about the talent being assembled. Let us know your thoughts below. [Deadline/THR]