After Rian Johnson delivered one of the most polarizing “Star Wars” movies to date with 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” it’s not too surprising Lucasfilm re-teamed with “The Force Awakens” filmmaker J.J. Abrams to close out the new trilogy and the entire nine-film Skywalker saga with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Abrams’ “Force Awakens” was a beloved nostalgia trip that grossed $936 million in the U.S. (still the highest grossing domestic release in history), while Johnson’s “Last Jedi” was a more challenging vision that showed little interest in paying off popular fan expectations.
Some “Star Wars” fans have wondered if bringing Abrams back means “Rise of Skywalker” will play it safe, but the director tells Total Film (via io9) that’s not the case.
“In Episode 7, I was adhering to a kind of approach that felt right for ‘Star Wars’ in my head,” Abrams tells the magazine. “It was about finding a visual language, like shooting on locations and doing practical things as much as possible. And we continue that in Episode 9, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode 7.”
Abrams credits the storytelling risks of Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” for helping show him the need to continue to be bold in “The Rise of Skywalker.” As Abrams puts it, “Rian helped remind me that that’s why we’re on these movies — not to just do something that you’ve seen before.”
“I won’t say that I felt constrained or limited on 7, but I found myself wanting to do something that felt more consistent with the original trilogy than not,” Abrams concluded. “And on 9, I found myself feeling like I’m just gonna go for it a bit more.”
While Johnson has been at the center of backlash for well over a year thanks to his divisive “Last Jedi” script, Abrams has long maintained that Johnson’s “Star Wars” movie fit as needed into the larger story first started in “The Force Awakens.” In other words, Johnson didn’t simply make radical storytelling choices for the hell of it just to screw with fans.
“The story that we’re telling, the story that we started to conceive when we did ‘The Force Awakens’ was allowed to continue,” Abrams told the Associated Press earlier this year. “Episode VIII didn’t really derail anything that we were thinking about.”
Disney is opening “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in theaters nationwide December 20.