‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’ Director Rian Johnson Talks About Practical Effects and More

By August 17, 2014
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Rian Johnson is my favorite working director right now. I’ve loved every single one of his films, from 2005’s neo-noir Brick, to the con man movie The Brothers Bloom, to the time travel action flick Looper, and his TV work is pretty damn impressive also: he helmed what I consider to be the best episode of “Breaking Bad,” which is also (in my mind) one of the best episodes of television in history. I’m still overjoyed for him that he’ll be writing and directing Star Wars: Episode VIII (and maybe Episode IX, too). While his track record has proven that I’ll likely continue to enjoy all of the original projects he does, the fact that he’ll be able to play in such a huge sandbox and gain massive international recognition from the project means that he’ll probably be able to get some movies made after he’s finished in a galaxy far, far away that he never otherwise would have been able to complete.

Johnson appeared on the Girls in Hoodies podcast (via /Film), and while he still hasn’t revealed anything major about the project – not surprising, considering Abrams’ Episode VII is still shrouded in secrecy (although perhaps not quite so secret anymore) –  Johnson did speak a little about his feelings during pre-production:

It’s boring to talk about, because the only thing I can really say is I’m just happy. But I don’t have the terror I expected I would, at least not yet. I’m sure I will at some point.

He also mentioned that the pressure isn’t as bad as it could be:

And coming at the time it does where, like if there’d been no Star Wars movies since Return of the Jedi there’d be a lot more pressure. But the fact we’ve had the prequels, we’ve had the TV shows, we’ve had Angry Birds Star Wars — I play it all the time!

And not too surprisingly, he’s been on the set of Episode VII:

…they’re shooting in London, which is why i just was in London, for reals. But yeah, I think I’m definitely going to go back. Visiting a set you’re not working on, though, I always feel kind of uncomfortable. Not because anyone makes you feel uncomfortable at all, but if you do’t have a job on the set, its a really strange place to be. But if there’s any set in the world to be on…

Spoken like a true director. And while J.J. Abrams revealed a giant X-wing in one of his Force for Change videos, Johnson speaks about the practical effects and the building of the sets that he’s witnessed so far:

They’re doing so much practical building for this one, its awesome. They’re doing it all right, yeah…I think people are coming back around [to practical effects] yeah, it seems like there’s a gravity pulling us back towards it…I think more and more people are hitting a critical mass as far as the CG-driven action scene lending itself towards a very specific type of action film, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick, and I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it. I do wonder, kids are growing up watching those and that’s the thing they love now. So I don’t know if it’s a generational thing.

The fact that Abrams is doing so much to highlight the practical effects in this movie will set a good example for Johnson and the other directors moving forward in the Star Wars universe, because one of the main complaints about the prequel trilogy is that everything looks too CG-driven and not tactile like the original trilogy. Lucas was pioneering some green screen technology at the time, so I’ll give him credit as an innovator, but the resulting prequels didn’t feel (to me, and many others) like the true Star Wars films that we grew up with. Hearing that technology has advanced even further, but that these guys are going back to basics with practical effects? That’s music to my ears.

What do you think?

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.