Even before Rian Johnson set to work on crafting The Last Jedi, he was asserting his influence on the Star Wars universe. Following acclaim from smaller films like Brick and Looper, Rian Johnson joined the esteemed ranks of indie directors Disney have elevated to helm blockbuster projects. Like Gareth Edwards on Rogue One, Johnson will be navigating new waters and following in some massive footsteps. Luckily, his passion for the universe and focus on character and story seem to be pointing towards another smash hit for Lucasfilm later thus year.
While we've yet to get a proper trailer for The Last Jedi, the recent teaser and Star Wars Celebration event provided us with plenty to hold us over in the meantime. We met new character Rose, saw the Journal of the Whills hinted at, and learned more about Luke and Rey's crucial roles in the new film. But the very nature of the Skywalker Saga means Johnson will be picking up where J.J. Abrams left off with The Force Awakens. And while he has the Lucasfilm story group to help him navigate the vast universe, it turns out Johnson began shaping the Star Wars franchise even before he began filming his entry.
EW spoke with Johnson a bit about The Last Jedi, and he revealed the small favor he asked of Abrams when it came to the final scene of The Force Awakens.
“Yes … The big [favor] was, I asked if R2 could come with Rey, and if BB-8 could stay behind with the Resistance. Originally it was BB-8 who went with Rey, which makes sense for the story in a way. But I asked, ‘Can you do me this solid and switch the droids?’”
While changing the ending of a film is no small thing, Johnson's request was a relatively simple one. And though BB-8 was more central to The Force Awakens, it makes sense that he'd stay with Poe Dameron rather than head off with Rey. Meanwhile, Luke will get to see his old friend R2 and a nice parallel can be drawn between Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi.
As for Luke's role in the new film, Johnson went on to say that the titular last Jedi and his decades-long quest will be a key part of the new film.
“Figuring out where his head was at was the very first thing I had to do when writing the movie. I had to crack this. And it had to be something for me that first and foremost made sense. Why did Luke Skywalker go off to this island? That was the starting point, and that’s what the entire movie explores.”
Given the title of the film, it makes sense for so much of the plot to be devoted to Luke's journey. And while the Resistance and the First Order will certainly be battling it out in the new film, it looks like Rey, Luke, R2, and Chewie will be on their own separate adventure. Johnson also went on to stress that while Luke's isolation may seem cowardly given all the destruction that followed it, he plans on painting it in a very humanistic light.
“There has to be a good reason that makes sense to him — and to some degree makes sense to us.”
Like Yoda before him, Luke's decision to leave could be viewed as selfish given all the atrocities that followed each character's self-imposed exile. In the long run, however, Yoda's survival meant Luke could ascend to his rightful place, and Luke's will likely do the same for Rey. That said, expect the film to get plenty dark and philosophical, as this year's film will be much more ominous than The Force Awakens. With The Last Jedi premiering later this year, we should know a lot more about it soon.