- "The second film is where we start zooming in on the characters and getting to the heart of them, challenging them, and pushing them deeper."
- ―Rian Johnson
Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi, marketed as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is the upcoming second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The film was written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman, along with executive producer J.J. Abrams. The film sees the return of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis. New cast members include Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran.
The Last Jedi begins immediately after the events of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, set thirty years after the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy. It continues the story of Rey and her discovery of the exiled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, along with the story of the war between General Leia Organa's Resistance and the First Order.
- "This is not going to go the way you think."
- ―Luke Skywalker
In Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.
- "Rian [Johnson] is definitely going to places and investigating things that haven't really been done in the 'Star Wars' universe. For me, it's so fun getting to explore different things that I wouldn't have expected in this universe. In some ways it feels like we're making an independent film. Certain things we get to play with – this kind of intimacy that we get to find – it's special. It's been really fun."
- ―Oscar Isaac
Unofficial reports claimed in November 2012 that Lawrence Kasdan—who originally wrote the screenplays for both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi—and Simon Kinberg would divide writing responsibilities for Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX, and both would co-produce all three films of the upcoming sequel trilogy. However, in February 2013, Disney confirmed that Kasdan and Kinberg were working on standalone films, not saga films. On June 20, 2014, a spokesperson for director Rian Johnson confirmed that he would write and direct Episode VIII, as well as pen a story treatment for Episode IX. Ram Bergman, Johnson's frequent collaborator, was also confirmed to be brought onto the project as a producer, working alongside Kathleen Kennedy.
As Lucasfilm had not developed a story beyond that of The Force Awakens, Johnson was allowed to develop his own story based on access to the script as well as footage screened for him by The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. (Abrams's friend Greg Grunberg claimed that Abrams was so impressed by the script that he regretted not directing it himself.) According to Johnson, "I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters—let's see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them." .... "I started by writing the names of each of the characters, and thinking, 'What's the hardest thing they could be faced with?'" While writing, Johnson regularly met with the Lucasfilm Story Group and members of the cast to share ideas and drafts of the script. John Boyega later told Vogue that the script was "darker" than the one for The Force Awakens. To prepare for Episode VIII, Johnson and crew screened select classic films such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Gunga Din, Letter Never Sent, Sahara, Three Outlaw Samurai, To Catch a Thief and Twelve O'Clock High.
Preliminary filming took place in September 2015 on Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of mainland Ireland. The island stands in for the planet Ahch-To, which first appeared at the end of The Force Awakens, but is featured prominently in The Last Jedi; Production design was inspired by the real-world elements of Skellig Michael. This sequence was filmed with IMAX cameras. Before leaving, the crew donated €10,000 to the ferry service that had transported them to-and-from the island.
Production officially began in England in February 2016, under the working title of "Space Bear." Many of the same crewmembers from Episode VII returned. From March 9-16, production took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, followed by a return to Ireland for twelve weeks in County Cork. Johnson took a lot of the behind the scenes photographs himself, and also shot a brief bit of content for Episode IX. Carrie Fisher worked with Johnson on some of the dialogue, in sessions that he described as "stream-of-consciousness ad-lib." Per a suggestion from Fisher, several of the film's characters wear jewelry of some type. Hamill was surprised by the changes in his character, and had to forumulate a personal backstory for the character so as to play the character effectively. In an interview with Polygon, Hamill described the security measures on set: "You get your pages in the morning, and they take them from you as you walk so they can shred them before it somehow leaks. You have security lines you have to walk through, both to and from set. And, not to mention, you have to wear these big monk hoods to protect your costume from drones." By June 2016, filming was "in the home stretch." Principal photography wrapped on July 22, 2016.
Johnson began editing on August 15, 2016. Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016, though she had completed her work on the film before her death. Bob Iger later confirmed that her character's storyline in the film would not be altered from what was shot and that her character would not be recreated digitally. On September 21, Johnson revealed that post-production was complete.
During a concert with the Young Musician's Foundation Debut Orchestra on February 9, 2013, composer John Williams voiced his desire to write the musical scores for all three films of the sequel trilogy. Star Wars Insider 144 implied that he would score the entire "new Star Wars trilogy," but Lucasfilm clarified that he had only been confirmed for Episode VII at the time. At a Tanglewood concert in August 2016, Williams confirmed he was scheduled to start scoring Episode VIII "in the next few weeks." Williams began recording the score in December 2016, which was expected to be completed by March or April 2017. In May 2017, however, members of the film's cast attended a recording session for the score. The film's soundtrack is slated for release in physical form on December 15, 2017, the same date as the film's theatrical premiere.
Disney chairman Bob Iger originally announced the release date for Episode VIII of May 26, 2017, forty years and one day after the release of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, though the release date was later pushed back to December 15, 2017. Rian Johnson first publically discussed the film in a panel at Celebration Europe. The film's title, The Last Jedi, was announced on January 23, 2017. The title announcement was accompanied with a release of a logo for the film featuring the Star Wars logo in red rather than its traditional logo. This coloring change, previously seen with Return of the Jedi and with "Brothers" and "Revenge," installments of Star Wars: The Clone Wars focused on Darth Maul, led some to speculate that the film's creators may be hinting at dark events within the film. The title's announcement also launched a frenzy of online speculation in regard to the identity of the "last Jedi," with some noting that the term "Jedi" can be used plurally. (Foreign translations also had the title as plural.) However, Rian Johnson later said that it refers specifically to Luke Skywalker.
Footage of The Last Jedi was shared with Disney shareholders in March 2017, including a look at the beginning of the film, which happens immediately following the ending of The Force Awakens. Disney CEO Bob Iger, having seen the film, referred to it as a "perfect chapter" in the saga, stating, "I can promise you it's worth the wait." On April 11, Hamill and Ridley appeared on Good Morning America to promote the Force for Change charity; One of the three rewards will be a trip for two to the premiere of The Last Jedi. Cast and crew featured in a Last Jedi panel at Celebration Orlando. At the end of the panel, Johnson debuted a teaser poster and teaser trailer. The film was featured in the May 2017 issue of Vanity Fair (for which the cast and crew were photographed on-set by Annie Leibovitz) and both the August and December 2017 issues of Entertainment Weekly. Johnson and the cast again appeared at July's D23, during which a behind-the-scenes featurette was released. In the lead-up to release, cast members made various media appearances to promote the film; Laura Dern appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dern and Daisy Ridley in Elle, Dern and Kelly Marie Tran in TIME and Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac in Esquire.
The theatrical trailer and poster debuted on October 9, 2017 during Monday Night Football, after which tickets went on sale. Johnson advised spoiler-weary fans to avoid the trailer. On October 24, USA Today published an exclusive behind-the-scenes video. A TV spot known as "Awake" debuted during the November 1 broadcast of the World Series. Behind-the-scenes content is being shown before theatrical screenings of other Disney movies. The official Star Wars Tumblr is holding a contest in which fan art will be showcased at the film's world premiere, which will be held on December 8, 2017.
The film's product line debuted on September 1, 2017, known as Force Friday II; Target launched its Force Friday campaign early with a video centered around Rey and female fans. Like with The Force Awakens, the months leading up to the debut of The Last Jedi saw the release of several novels, short stories, comics, reference books, and activity books known collectively as Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The media, written and created by several different authors, cover various topics related to The Last Jedi as well as other aspects of the Star Wars universe. Lucasfilm arranged licensing tie-ins with Ample Hills, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Cargo Cosmetics, Christian Louboutin, Dole, General Mills, Nissan, Philips, rag & bone, Samsung, Verizon and Vizio. Disney added The Last Jedi-themed content to its Star Tours: The Adventures Continue ride, including the new planet Crait. The video game Star Wars Battlefront II features sequel trilogy characters as they appear in The Last Jedi. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes introduced The Last Jedi characters and material. LEGO released an online minigame, "The Last Jedi" 360 Experience. The UK's Royal Mail released a series of The Last Jedi-themed postal stamps. Toy merchandise includes many plush toys based around the porg creatures introduced in the film, as well as various action figures, including action figures of porgs.
The film topped polls from both Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes as the most anticipated film of 2017. It generated the highest level of film discussion on social media for late 2017, and analysts expected a $200 million opening.
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Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi on Wikipedia
- #500 Live: Rian Johnson / Top 5 Films of FS Era. filmspotting.net (August 1, 2014). Retrieved on September 26, 2014.
- Rian Johnson (Looper) Talks with Terry Gilliam (The Zero Theorem) for The Talkhouse Film Podcast (Part 1). thetalkhouse.com (September 18, 2014). Retrieved on September 26, 2014.