Rian Johnson discusses the humor in Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi as well as the one scene that truly made him nervous. The filmmaker continues the story that director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan established in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens but also throws out everything Star Wars fans expected from a film set in a galaxy far, far away. The result is something extraordinary for a franchise as long-running as Star Wars, but certainly causes a divide between critics and audiences.
The Last Jedi is tied with The Force Awakens for being the second highest-rated installments in the saga on Rotten Tomatoes, right below Irvin Kershner's 1980 film, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. However, the sequel's audience score tells a different story. On Friday, The Last Jedi's audience score was the lowest of the entire series, sitting at 56 percent, but that number has since gone up to 57 percent, thus tying with George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Regardless, though, it's apparent not everyone is satisfied with Johnson's film, and chief among the film's criticisms has been its slapstick humor.
Rian Johnson discussed his reasons for adding the now-criticized humor into Star Wars: The Last Jedi in an interview with Vanity Fair, saying that he was trying to evoke the humor from the original trilogy.
That was something that was really, really important to me. That’s part of what I enjoy in movies. It’s part of what I enjoy in Star Wars. I think about Han and Leia and Luke wisecracking their way through the Death Star. The movies always had that sense of humor. Especially coming into the middle chapter, it has a stigma of always being darker. I knew it was going to get darker in some spots just because of what we had to do. It was really important to me, to, at the very outset, make a bold statement of, we’re going to have fun here also. Relax, you can laugh with it also, this isn’t just going to be a dirge.
Johnson also mentions being nervous about audiences' reactions to the joke in the film's opening sequence and using that as a means to tell moviegoers that his film will be fun, not just dark and gloomy.
That was the one thing I was most nervous about [the premiere] because we never tested these movies. This was the first time I’ve watched it with a crowd bigger than 10 or 15 people. The one thing that you can never know until you put it in front of a big crowd of strangers is if the jokes play or not. So I was very relieved when we got the laughs. Oh, that very first scene. That was really the one that was just, I was holding my girlfriend’s hand very tightly when that came up. Then I relaxed when the audience got it and started rolling with it. It’s so important to me because that sets the tone and the expectation that, oh, O.K. there are going to be laughs in this movie.
The Last Jedi is certainly an original tale that only borrows elements from past films, instead of rehashing them as The Force Awakens was criticized for doing, but it's not without flaws. A common complaint among those who disliked Lucasfilm's latest Star Wars outing was the sophomoric humor and starting the film off with an atypical joke for the overarching saga. While Johnson has his reasons for adding in that type of humor throughout The Last Jedi, providing levity arguably where they didn't need to be any, not all audiences seem to be sharing his enthusiasm for the jokes.
Source: Vanity Fair
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019