'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Won't Be Overly Dark

Rian Johnson spills one or two beans about the follow-up to 'The Force Awakens.'

With the release of the follow-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens less than a year away, it's time to start slowly ratcheting up anticipation for the movie. But what can writer and director Rian Johnson say about Star Wars: Episode VIII without revealing too much?

Talking to USA Today, Johnson did confirm at least one piece of speculation that fans have had for months: Luke Skywalker will be at the heart of the new movie, with his relationship with Rey being particularly important.

Daisy Ridley's character met the one remaining Jedi at the end of Force Awakens, "both not knowing what's going to happen and also having a lot of expectations in her head about how this is going to go," said the writer/director. "It very much feels like what we all go through in adolescence, the dawning of this new chapter of our lives." Overall, he added, there'll be a focus on the inner lives of the new characters introduced in 2015's The Force Awakens. "I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn't just mean information or backstory," Johnston teased.

Perhaps more surprising is Johnson's assertion that, despite earlier claims, Episode VIII won't be overly dark. "I want it to be a blast and to be funny and to be a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were." So much for those who expected Episode VIII to be as dark as — or darker than  —  The Empire Strikes Back.

And about that whole Episode VIII thing … Johnson confirmed that the movie has a title. Indeed, it's apparently had a title all along. "It was in the very first draft I wrote," teased the director, who was hired for the job back in 2014. Quick! Restart those speculation engines!