Rian Johnson pitched his idea for Star Wars: The Last Jedi as being the "training" portion of Lucasfilm's Star Wars sequel trilogy. J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens successfully brought back the characters from George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy while also laying the foundation for a new trilogy, and a new series of characters and stories, to flourish. But, when Johnson's Episode VIII came along, many of those stories were tossed aside.
A number of questions audiences had after seeing The Force Awakens remain unanswered, and several plot points that were established in that film took different turns than what many people expected. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just as it's not necessarily a good thing either. What The Last Jedi does is push the boundaries of what makes a Star Wars movie and takes bold steps in establishing a future that sets itself apart from past films, from the traditional Star Wars legacy that fans have come to know and love. And much of that was laid out in Johnson's pitch to Lucasfilm.
In an interview with /Film, Rian Johnson says he described his vision for Star Wars: Episode VIII to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy as being the "training" portion of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, which was long before Abrams' Episode VII even hit theaters.
“...After Kathy asked me if I’d be interested in [Episode VIII], we had a series of conversations, and basically, my pitch was the first movie is like the introduction, the second movie is training. And by ‘training,’ I mean we take each of these characters and we really test their mettle. So I said that would be my approach to it, it’s a very character-based approach where we just start with each one of these characters we care about and figure out what the hardest next step is for each of them. So having that trailhead to go from, it was also nice because it gives you a direction as opposed to just having a big cloud of childhood fantasies, of ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to see the Falcon do this or that?’ that you could get lost in, it wasn’t like that…once I actually started doing the work, I found that it felt really comfortable. And then all the childhood fantasy stuff is just fuel for the fire.”
Johnson has repeatedly discussed his objective for pushing the characters (and actors) to their limits. The Last Jedi was less about the story, and about advancing the narrative forward, and more about deconstructing the characters and their motives. That's why Rey and Kylo Ren's (Force-powered) relationship was explored in-depth (until it was seemingly kiboshed by Luke), as well as Luke's reluctance to join the Resistance and open himself up to the Force.
What's interesting is that while Johnson had a specific idea laid out for his saga episode, his pitch for his forthcoming Star Wars trilogy, which remains unconnected to the overarching Skywalker saga, had no story whatsoever. The only thing he threw out there was a brand new story told over the course of three films, that's it. And while we know how The Last Jedi's story unfolded, we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Johnson's next Star Wars chapter.
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