Rian Johnson was great before the Last Jedi

This week, after seeing Justice League this past weekend, I was going to write a post about what I didn’t like about it. However, I couldn’t decide what to specifically write about: Do I write about how the film copied The Avengers but left out a crucial part – having a charming villain? Do I write about how Barry Allen had a bunch of “jokes,” but all the punchlines stem from the fact that he’s written as autistic? Or do I write about how unnecessary the infighting in the second act was?

The point is, none of it. I have a lot to say and, at the same time, not very much. Justice League was a mediocre movie, and I’ve moved on. What I’m looking forward to now is the year’s last major blockbuster – Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

A couple of months ago, a commenter on my post about my personal ranking of the Christopher Nolan filmography if I would ever consider doing any more ranking posts, and in response, I listed a few directors I would be interested in ranking. The director had to be one I liked, but couldn’t have too many movies or too few movies. I couldn’t do a ranking for someone like Patty Jenkins who has two movies, and I probably wouldn’t do a ranking for Martin Scorsese’s 23 movies. The four directors I mentioned were Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright, and Rian Johnson. I wrote this without doing all of my research, I knew these directors each had fewer than ten films, but I forgot that, at the time, Rian Johnson only had three films. With the release of The Last Jedi, he will have four.

Now, there is a debate to be had about how much a young director like Johnson will have over a gargantuan blockbuster franchise like Star Wars. Edgar Wright left Ant-Man and Phil Lord and Christopher Millerwere fired from the Han Solo movie because they didn’t quite get along with the studio, whose influence on the franchise seems to govern each director. So, while The Last Jedi might not feel like the rest of Rian Johnson’s movies, it’s a big moment for his career.

What’s more, Rian Johnson was selected to launch a new Star Wars trilogy, separate from the main Skywalker story. He will write and direct the first movie in this trilogy, and aside from his supervision, it’s not exactly certain what he’ll be doing for the other two movies. This, more than anything else, shows that, at the very least, the people at Disney and Lucasfilm seem to think The Last Jedi is a good movie.

 

Now, I can hardly make a substantial ranking out of Rian Johnson’s three movies, but with the impending release of The Last Jedi, I thought it was a good time to honor them.

Brick

You’ve probably never seen a movie quite like Brick before. The film takes the aesthetic of a 1940’s noir and applies it to a high school setting. It stars Joseph-Gordon Levitt just at the start of his career, playing the gumshoes-detective type as he gets tangled up in the conspiracies of the high school drug trade.

This movie is 100% style. It looks and feels like a noir. It’s hard to convey how perfectly the dialogue resembles that of classic 1940’s detective movies. JGL does a great job delivering these lines in such a way that reminds you of Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon. Check out this video which explains Brick‘s style better than I could. There’s only so much I can say other than telling you to go watch it and

The Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom is about as quirky and fun as movies get outside of Wes Anderson or the Coen Brothers. It’s about two brothers – Bloom, played by Adrien Brody and Stephen, played by the illustrious Mark Ruffalo – who work as con men. When Bloom wants out, Stephen talks him into one last con – take an eccentric, shut-in, heiress – played by Rachel Weisz – and swindle her for millions of dollars.

I just watched this movie recently and I was surprised by its heart, its humor, and its Joseph-Gordon Levitt cameo. All the characters are vibrant and delightful. The ending is fulfilling. It’s a blast. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re waiting for your favorite quirky director.

Looper

You’ve probably heard of this one. To date, it’s Johnson’s best-known project, and if we’re entirely honest, probably the one that got him the job for The Last Jedi. And I think at least part of what made it so great is how unique it was. It’s not frequently enough that Hollywood sees an entirely original sci-fi screenplay that isn’t adapted from a book or part of a franchise. And it didn’t beg to be turned into some giant franchise either; its ending was satisfying, and (is this a spoiler?) didn’t put considerations for a sequel before providing the right kind of ending.

The worldbuilding in this movie is really impressive. Looper is centered by a really neat concept; that the mafia of the future sends people it needs killed back in time. And how, you’d eventually send one of the assassins back to get killed by their past self. But the movie doesn’t get carried away with trying to adhere so much to strict time travel rules and just focuses on making an interesting story.

Breaking Bad

Rian 1

Well, this is tough. I went a long time without writing a post about one of my favorite sitcoms – Seinfeld – and I still haven’t written one about my absolute favorite comedy show – Community. (Does Community qualify as a sitcom? It’s hard to tell.) Now, you might think before I wrote that post, “Oh, maybe this guy’s never seen Seinfeld, that’s why he’s never written about it.” Well, now’s a perfect time for a confession. I’ve only seen the first season of Breaking Bad (so far). Looking at Rian Johnson’s filmography, I can see that he directed “Fly,” which from what I’ve heard is a neat little bottle episode where Walt and Jesse are locked in the RV, or “Ozymandias,” an episode which might have won an Emmy or three. I’m not 100% sure, but that’s probably right. “Ozymandias” is a probably a great episode, I think. My point is, think about these episodes. They were directed by the acclaimed Rian Johnson. I don’t know anything more about these episodes, but I know enough about these episodes to give them a shoutout in my Rian Johnson post. They’re great, I think? They’re probably amazing, because Rian Johnson’s a bit of a visionary. Which brings me to the point of this article: watch Rian Johnson’s movies, because he’s superb.

I’ll end this post with a prediction: The Last Jedi will be just as good as The Force Awakens, and Joseph-Gordon Levitt will have a cameo. Go see Last Jedi, and try to appreciate small directors like Rian Johnson.

 

UPDATE: A QUICK RANKING OF RIAN JOHNSON’S FILMS

Okay so Star Wars: the Last Jedi came out a few months ago and I’ve finally decided to update this post. First and foremost, let me say that I was RIGHT about two things: 1) Joseph Gordon Levitt had a cameo and 2) it was a great movie (Don’t @ me). But, let me set out to do what I set up to do in this post in the first place – rank Johnsons’s movies. From best to least-amazing, here is my subjective ranking:

  1. Brick
  2. Star Wars: the Last Jedi
  3. Looper
  4. The Brothers Bloom

Again, if you haven’t seen any of these movies, check them out. They’re wonderful.

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