Recently, J.J. Abrams, director and writer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, sat down with Rolling Stone to participate in an interview regarding the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga with Rise of Skywalker, which was also written and directed by Abrams.
During the interview, many piercing questions came up that gave us a deep look into what went on in starting off this final trilogy, two of which Abrams himself directed and co-wrote, and what it was like seeing The Last Jedi, the one film Abrams was not involved in. One question in particular that we had to highlight, was regarding director Rian Johnson’s abstract and divisive approach and desire to subvert audience expectations.
There was a certain amusing irreverence in Rian Johnson’s approach to The Last Jedi — he subverted some of what you set up. Snoke seemed like the major villain, for instance, and he killed him off. – RollingStone
“When I read his first draft, it made me laugh, because I saw that was his take and his voice. I got to watch cuts of the movie as he was working on it, as an audience member. And I appreciated the choices he made as a filmmaker that would probably be very different from the choices that I would have made. Just as he would have made different choices if he had made Episode VII.” – J.J. Abrams
You don’t have to look too deep into this line of questioning to get the sense that the interviewer is pointing out the fact that there were major frustrations with Rian Johnson’s choices with The Last Jedi, particularly around ignoring a lot of what Abrams teed up for him with TFA. And it is certainly true that we may never know the key differences between the first draft that Abrams read and the final draft that TLJ follows, but it appears that Abrams got the sense that Johnson was going in a rather unconventional direction.
The interviewer from RollingStone goes on to add that with these unexpected plot choices Johnson made, that it had some unexpected impact on where Abrams expected the story to go and just where it would end up with Rise of Skywalker.
“I had a real sense with [Force Awakens co-screenwriter] Larry Kasdan about where things would go, potentially. And I think that, when I read Rian’s script, what I felt was that with everything that happens in that movie, and quite a lot does, nothing sort of obviated a sense of inevitability where I thought the story could go.”
Again, it doesn’t take much to see that Abrams’ words are all very much suggestive. Reading this, the takeaway here appears to be that Abrams recognized that Johnson wanted to try something different, but that it just didn’t land. We also are under the impression that Abrams probably knew this to be the case for audiences as well.
By now everyone has formed an opinion on The Last Jedi. Love it or hate it, it exists. It happened. And someday, we will need to be able to accept that and move on. But as long as any director from any other Star Wars movie talks about their views on The Last Jedi, it is going to be really hard to let this one go.