LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Director Rian Johnson attends the "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" Photocall at Kings Cross Station on December 17, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Movies - TV
Rian Johnson Handles Nostalgia Better Than Almost Any Other Hollywood Filmmaker
While Quentin Tarantino is touted for emulating his favorite movies, Rian Johnson is praised and condemned in equal parts for the nostalgia in his films. Johnson’s nostalgia is different from Tarantino’s, and the filmmaker often rebels against genre tropes, subverting expectations and forcing audiences to reconcile their nostalgia with his film’s more challenging elements.
The Starting Point
Johnson is open about the nostalgia present in his films, but he doesn’t want that to be the end of the conversation. The filmmaker explained, "[Nostalgia is] an interesting place to start, but […] The challenge has to be, What can I do to it? How do I […] shake the audience a bit […] with the intent of getting back to the initial pleasure that the genre tried to offer.”
Making the Old New
Johnson approaches nostalgia creatively, and his first film “Brick” mixes a detective noir with a high school drama. Johnson explained the purpose of the mashup, saying “all that emotional upheaval […] is less of an easy question to answer than 'what if X plus Y happened?' So one is subtext and the other is structure that lets me dig into […] amplifying reality.”
Meta Storytelling
Johnson’s next film, “The Brothers Bloom” is an ode to and deconstruction of con man capers on its surface but on a deeper level, it’s a meta-commentary on storytelling and surprising audiences. The film’s central premise is that perfection in life and storytelling is impossible, mirroring Johnson’s approach to mashing up genres and subverting expectations.
Poking Holes
Although not Johnson’s next film, “The Last Jedi,” continues Johnson’s exploration of the limits of storytelling while subverting the narrative of the hero genre by forcing audiences to confront what happens when our heroes fail us. In the end, Johnson empowers audiences to be their own heroes, placing the core themes of “Star Wars” in a new light.