How The Last Jedi Broke The Mystery Box
When the reins were being passed from Abrams to Johnson, the latter was simply handed a bunch of boxes. They might’ve contained great toys, designed to help capture the imagination. They could just have easily as contained snakes. Johnson didn’t want to play the mystery box game, so he broke the boxes and told his own story. Supreme Leader Snoke wasn’t Darth Plagueis; he wasn’t really important at all. Johnson recognized that what mattered most was his connection to Kylo Ren - less the part he played in making him, but more the part he was playing in holding him back from his full potential.
Likewise, Rey could have been a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or even a Palpatine. But that would’ve been just another powerful Force-user of a lineage audiences had already seen plenty of, which spoke to the power of a name more than the Force itself and the core idea that anyone could be a hero (which is rooted in George Lucas’ Star Wars). It’s more interesting, unique, and challenging to have Rey be no one. Finding a reason for Luke to be on Ahch-To was even more difficult. What could have made one of the greatest Jedi of all time go into exile at a time of conflict? To stay hidden as one of his best friends is killed, and his sister desperately needs him?
Abrams took the job because of the question “Who is Luke Skywalker?” get passed up the chance of an answer (aka knowledge) in favor of adding to the question (mystery). And so, Snoke dies. Rey learns the devastating truth. And Luke has cut himself off from the Force. The characters who matter most are pushed forward in bold new directions. The characters and plots that didn’t were left behind. Rather than mysteries, audiences had fully fleshed-out, complex characters that they could truly understand, and that’s a great thing for Star Wars: Episode IX.
J.J. Abrams Needs To Give Answers In Star Wars 9
Abrams wasn’t supposed to direct Star Wars: Episode IX. Had things worked out as Lucasfilm intended, then Trevorrow would be helming the final installment. This is a position he’s never really been in before throughout his career. The moments he arguably has had to give answers - Star Trek Into Darkness and The Cloverfield Paradox, for instance - have been disappointing, but this is on another level with regards to wrapping up a story. How he handles it is key to Star Wars: Episode IX’s success, and to ending both the sequel trilogy and the Skywalker Saga.
Abrams has plenty to build upon for Star Wars: Episode IX. There’s the final act of the battle between the Resistance and the First Order and the rise of Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader, which is the closest thing audiences have seen to a Sith in the Star Wars sequels. Rey has the tools to make a new Jedi Order. There are still questions to be answered around things like the Knights of Ren. But mostly, there needs to be a real ending. To leave some things ambiguous is fine - good, even, when done right - but, for the most part, Abrams needs to wrap things up.
It’s no good, then, for Abrams to fall back on his favorite storytelling crutch. He can’t simply offer up a new bunch of question. He needs to give answers. He needs to have a real resolution and conclusion. In Star Wars: Episode IX, he needs to choose knowledge. Abrams must finally open the mystery boxes for the core Star Wars saga to successfully end.