J.J. Abrams says Star Wars: The Last Jedi didn't derail The Force Awakens' plan. Back in 2015, Abrams kicked off the franchise's sequel trilogy with a film that set up multiple mystery boxes to explore in later installments. Chief among those story threads were Rey's parentage, the reason for Luke Skywalker's exile, and Supreme Leader Snoke's role in the larger story. It fell upon Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson to answer those questions, and by now it's well-known not everyone agreed with his creative choices. The Last Jedi is one of the most polarizing films of the decade and continues to be a point of contention.
Rey's parents turned out to be nobodies buried in the Jakku desert; Luke fled after a moment of weakness spurred Ben Solo's turn to the dark side; Snoke was sliced in half without so much as a hint of backstory revealed. Many fans were quick to criticize Johnson from deviating too far from Abrams' original plan, discarding plot points and entire characters with reckless abandon. The feeling was Johnson retconned much of The Force Awakens to better fit his film, but according to Abrams that isn't the case at all.
In an interview with ET Canada while at the 2019 D23 Expo, Abrams discussed the evolution of the sequel trilogy's narrative and claimed The Last Jedi didn't take things off course as much as some might have thought:
"The story that we're telling, the story that we started to conceive when we did The Force Awakens was allowed to continue. Episode VIII didn't really derail anything that we were thinking about."
There's arguably a lot of truth to what Abrams is saying. During the build-up to The Last Jedi, Johnson remarked how there wasn't a mapped out arc for the entire trilogy already in place, giving him extensive creative freedom. And from a certain point of view, he didn't outright contradict anything established in The Force Awakens. For example, Maz Kanata told Rey that her parents weren't coming back and it was never explicitly stated Snoke was definitely going to be the big bad of the sequels (in fact, the plan all along was to bring back Palpatine). While Abrams did sketch out drafts for the other movies, a case can be made he didn't have anything exact in mind for where the story should go. Those aforementioned mystery boxes could have simply been intriguing jumping off points for Johnson, who visited the Force Awakens set and watched dailies before writing his script.
Abrams has maintained from the get-go that the reaction to Last Jedi didn't influence Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and he's going to honor what Johnson did in that film. That approach probably isn't going to win over any of the TLJ Disowners upset by Star Wars 8, but it's likely better than the alternative. The Last Jedi received strong reviews from critics and grossed $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office, so it was a successful film. Attempting an on-the-fly course correct in response to a polarizing film usually doesn't pan out (see: Justice League), meaning the best thing for Abrams to do is to just follow The Last Jedi and build off what Johnson did.
Source: ET Canada
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019