So it’s been announced that the director of the new Disney Star Wars film after J.J. Abrams’s retool will be Rian Johnson. If you’re like me, unable to see anywhere near as many movies as you’d like unless their Netflixed, the name may not ring a bell. But if you truly are like me, I really encourage you to do what I just did: watch Johnson’s 2005 big screen debut Brick.
Why? Because this guy does genre the right way. By knowing it, loving it, and not being afraid to twist it into a tightrope walk between the hilarious and the homage.
Brick is a warm, wet kiss to film noir—set in a high school. Or a high school’s social structure to be more precise. And that makes it a film-loving, thinking HS student’s dream.
Film noir is a beast of a genre. When it’s great, it’s a sublime masterpiece like Maltese Falcon. When it’s not, it’s a crass theme park ride like Sin City. It all comes down to taste, respect, love, and style. Retrained style, not pastiche. It’s about the cake, not the frosting.
Rian’s (I’m using his first name because I dig this dude so much) deft hand is all over every frame. Most of the time is so damn subtle it’s almost subliminal. But then there are the sight gags. They happen so naturally and without telegraphed fanfare that you aren’t sure you were supposed to find what happened funny until you find yourself doing that self-conscious ‘I was the only kid in my high school to laugh at The Fault in Our Stars‘ glottal flip that passes for laughter among the young and nihilistic.
This dude was made for a genre flick like Star Wars. He clearly knows what makes a genre work, great, and fun for jaded modern audiences. I am counting on my bro Ri to do it for Star Wars too.
J.J. Abrams is certain to do a much needed course correction for the beloved franchise (a la Star Trek), but I am predicting (hoping) Johnson will be able to steer it even closer to the key genre element which John Gruber pointed out was a critically important thing in the first three (SW, TESB, ROTJ), and so desperately missing in the second three (whose titles I simply will not cite): camaraderie.
Think these guys:
Best part? I haven’t even gotten to RJ’s next two films The Brothers Bloom (2008) and Looper (2012) yet. As with Brick, he was both writer and director for those two films—just as he is to be for SW Episode VIII. And he’s reportedly doing a treatment for Episode IX, and who knows where that could lead. If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, he’s also the director of the Ozymandias episode (Season 5/Episode 14, which many, including me, consider one of the very best of the series).
Yeah, this one:
If you like Joss Whedon, but wouldn’t mind turning the ‘broad comedy’ dial down just a tad, you’ll love Rian Johnson.
And finally, this quote from RianMan bodes well. Really well:
“My favorite sci-fi always uses its hook to amplify some bigger theme or idea
– some emotional thrust.”
Story first. Style second. I like that.
– D.P. Knudten @ COLLABORATOR creative