[This article contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens]
Star Wars: The Force Awakens undeniably brought the Star Wars saga back to the forefront of modern science-fiction cinema. Disney and director J.J. Abrams’ calculated move to maintain secrecy and release only pertinent information worked wonders on the movie-going public, rocketing the film to the third spot on the all-time world box office list. In spite of TFA’s success, though, the latest Star Wars saga wasn’t without its critics.
Some fans claimed the remake was too much of a rehash of A New Hope, while others felt the director shouldn’t have sacrificed Han Solo for the film’s big emotional moment. Abrams refuted many of those claims, but does admit that The Force Awakens wasn’t a perfect film.
In an interview with /Film for his upcoming production 10 Cloverfield Lane, the director was asked about his choice to have Leia give new recruit Rey a hug, rather than embracing her old friend and Han Solo’s long-time companion, Chewbacca. Abrams explained the scene, although relatively minor in the scope of the film, didn’t play out the way he’d intended. The director explains more about his choices:
“My thinking at the time was that Chewbacca, despite the pain he was feeling, was focused on trying to save Finn and getting him taken care of. So I tried to have Chewbacca go off with him and focus on Rey, and then have Rey find Leia and Leia find Rey. The idea being that both of them being strong with the Force and never having met, would know about each other — that Leia would have been told about her beyond what we saw onscreen and Rey of course would have learned about Leia. And that reunion would be a meeting and a reunion all in one, and a sort of commiseration of their mutual loss.”
Some have seen the move by Leia as disrespectful to Chewie and even insensitive. Others have found it to be a sign of Rey’s deeper connection to Leia, Luke and her potential bloodline, which is also entirely possible. Yet the director felt the shot’s varied interpretations are mostly misunderstandings, due to his blocking choices. Showing Chewbacca scrambling to get Finn to the infirmary would have removed much of the ambiguity from the scene, as Abrams elucidates:
“Had Chewbacca not been where he was, you probably wouldn’t have thought of it. But because he was right there, passed by Leia, it felt almost like a slight, which was definitely not the intention.”
Admittedly, if Abrams had filmed the sequence with Chewbacca clearly occupied with young Finn’s safety, it would have clarified his intentions for the shot. Even so, the director, who had a primary role in scripting and developing the film, still has Rey seek out Leia and vice versa. His comment may explain away some of the mystery, but there’s no doubt the characters hugging in the first place would raise eyebrows. Also, The Resistance’s choice to send a rebel neophyte to find Luke Skywalker, arguably one of the most important figures in the galaxy, at least to the neo-rebellion, deepens fan suspicions as to her connection to that lineage.
Although Lucasfilm and Abrams won’t admit to it, clearly they knew what they were doing. Their desire to tease connections, and perhaps even lace The Force Awakens with red herrings, is understandable though. Keeping fans guessing about Rey’s heritage, Ben Solo’s downfall, and Luke’s role in the galaxy post-Return of the Jedi only deepens the intrigue surrounding the film’s central questions before the answers are revealed in Episodes 8 and 9.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be on Blu-ray April 5, 2016; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.