Hints of noir in the title of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars film
Larry Kasdan is a noir aficionado and his screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back takes elements of 1940s hardboiled detective pictures — particularly the dialogue — and transfers the action to a galaxy far, far away. There’s also the downbeat ending of course. As such, Empire is the most noirish Star Wars movie to date. But for how long? Rian Johnson has made neo-noir and tech-noir, and The Last Jedi is a noir title to die for.
The word “last” implies a finality of sorts. This may seem odd for the middle part of a trilogy, but not really. If Episode VII’s awakening suggested a rebirth of both hope (Rey) and its antithesis (Kylo Ren), then there must be a coming to terms with what that means before the final chapter. There must be a reckoning in The Last Jedi.
As time passes, things are lost to it. The passing of the Jedi? Surely not. The next generation has got to be ready to accept the passing of the torch (or indeed lightsaber). There’s also the idea of resilience built into it. The notion of making a last stand — outcome yet to be determined — which is more in keeping with the western. Think Rio Bravo. Of course then you have a neo-western such as The Last Picture Show, where there is a feeling of melancholy at the passing of a way of life. We’ve come full circle in moments.
The Last Seduction. The Last Good Kiss. Where sex joins the murder game you certainly get your noir. Rian Johnson’s kickass debut Brick channels Dashiell Hammett through the corridors of high school — easy steps from sex to death. His screenplay has teenagers speaking the stylised language of a Maltese Falcon. Looper was just as confidently stylised, but in different ways. It sheds some of the external trappings of noir, yet delivers a classic noir story. The narrative circularity strengthens this idea: events are doomed to occur and they always will; like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill, destined never to reach the top.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in The Last Jedi or how much noir Rian Johnson is bringing to the Star Wars table, but I can’t wait to find out.