Rian Johnson Says Luke Skywalker Is the ‘Emotional Entry Point’ of ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’

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Like the official subtitle, plot details for Star Wars: Episode VIII are still unknown…well, mostly. We do know that it picks up right where The Force Awakens left off and that most of our favorite characters from J.J. Abrams’ film will return. Now that we've turned our calendars over to 2017, the sequel is just 11 months away from hitting theaters, which means we’re about to learn a whole lot about Episode VIII — starting with some new story info from director Rian Johnson.

While speaking with USA Today, Johnson shared a handful of Episode VIII plot details — revealing enough to shed some light on where he’s taking the characters in the Star Wars sequel, but vague enough to make sure he doesn’t break his top secret blood oath with Lucasfilm (that’s how contracts work, right?).

Despite what you may have heard about the film’s tone, Johnson says he really wanted to make sure Episode VIII is a “blast,” a sequel that’s “funny” and “a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were.” That said, his sequel will spend time getting to know the new characters — Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe — on a deeper level:

I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory. Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now — let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.

For Rey, a big part of that is what happens after she finds Luke at the end of The Force Awakens. Johnson says Rey has “a lot of expectations in her head about how this is going to go,” and describes her journey as “like what we all go through in adolescence, the dawning of this new chapter of our lives.” What about the big mystery surrounding Rey’s family history? Johnson says it “was a really powerful part of her setup and something I really wanted to dig into.”

The director goes on to explain that Mark Hamill’s OT hero is the “emotional entry point” for Episode VIII, which will explore what Luke Skywalker’s been going through. Johnson says, “I’m approaching it with a take that I hope feels honest and real and is going to be interesting to folks and make sense.” We hope so, too.

Finally, about that title…Turns out, Johnson’s known the title of Episode VIII for a long time now:

It was in the very first draft I wrote.

…But he’s not spilling the beans just yet.

Star Wars: Episode VIII hits theaters on December 15.

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