Star Wars Episode VIII – Cinematic reference points

Note: this is an expanded version of a segment of an article about all the Episode VIII comments at the Star Wars celebration Event 2016.

Arguably the most revealing comment about the upcoming instalment of the Star Wars saga franchise was the cinematic reference points mentioned by the director.

This article discusses what these might mean for the film by speculating which elements might have been of interest to director Rian Johnson and why.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Help us Colonel Nicholson, you’re our only hope.

The first of two World War Two films mentioned is a must-see for Star Wars fans, if only for a view of Sir Alec Guinness displaying all his finest acting credentials in the role for which he won his first and only Best Actor Academy Award – Colonel Nicholson.

These included two World War II films: ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘Twelve O’Clock High’. Both of these films involve tension due to an individual with control/seniority issues and may point to a psychological struggle for one of the characters in VIII.

Here’s an extended trailer to whet your appetite.

Twelve O’Clock High

Why did the chicken cross the road? To see Gregory Peck.

‘Twelve O’Clock High’ is the tale of young American General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) who takes charge of a small bomber group in England, galvanising their morale and turning them into a proud and successful unit despite initial pushback.

There are themes here similar to ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, with a sole army man enthusing a depressed team to achieve a greater goal. Whether that theme is being an inspiration point for VIII is open to debate – perhaps instead they used it as a reference point for some realistic dogfight sequences.

I can see a lot of Gregory Peck in Oscar Isaac’s character Poe Dameron and would personally love to see a bit more character development on that front.

Three Outlaw Samurai

Aren’t you a little short to be a samurai?

Also mentioned was Japanese ‘Three Outlaw Samurai’. This was an interesting film to bring up. 

Hideo Gosha’s 1964 samurai battle film has been reissued and restored by Criterion so can be picked up and enjoyed in its best quality. This film will likely influence the fighting style seen in VIII, with plenty of location shots of samurai battles that would serve as a perfect reference point for some large-scale battles involving teams of Jedi.

How much would everyone love to see Luke and Rey as a two-person team slashing their way through an army of men trained up by Kylo Ren?

Check out the trailer here:

Letter Never Sent

Letter Never Sent screenshot

‘Letter Never Sent’ is a Soviet survival drama about a team of geologists being isolated by a forest fire. 

Transposing the plot to the Star Wars universe, perhaps Rey and Luke are isolated together on Skellig Island for longer than they planned and Luke is going to show off some Ray Mears survival skills. 

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched – Johnson stated that they filmed a lot of the film on mainland Ireland after the Skellig island shoot had finished. This would help create a vaster planet than achievable if the shoot remained solely on the small tourist attraction.

Trailer below:


It’s always nice to speculate at this stage exactly what will appear in the film. It’s 17 months away and it is impossible to work out exactly what we will see.

Watching the four films discussed here may give you an insight into the themes of VIII but nothing more.

There is a great weekend of entertainment to be had by watching them though!

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