“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opened on December 20 to divided reviews, fervent fandom, and everything in between. But one issue that’s been top of mind for many fans is whether or not director J.J. Abrams’ “The Rise of Skywalker” is trying to right the perceived wrongs of Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” from 2017. The latter film is the one that you like if you’re not a huge “Star Wars” fan to begin with, and if you are? Well, some fans were not pleased with director Johnson’s flourishes within the “Star Wars” universe.
At an Academy post-screening Q&A following “The Rise of Skywalker,” J.J. Abrams debunked the idea that there is some disturbance in the force between him and Rian Johnson. As for fans who prefer one film over the other, he said. “I would say that they’re right.” And regarding “The Last Jedi,” he said, “The people who love it more than anything are also right.” (Vanity Fair has the scoop.)
In terms of tackling the “Star Wars” universe, which has sprawled for more than four decades and with countless iterations across film, television, literature, and video games, Abrams said that there’s no pleasing everyone. “I was asked just seven hours ago in another country, ‘So how do you go about pleasing everyone?’ I was like’ What…?’ Not to say that that’s what anyone should try to do anyway, but how would one go about it? Especially with Star Wars,” he said. “We knew starting this that any decision we made — a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision — would please someone and infuriate someone else,” Abrams said. “And they’re all right.”
Regarding any mixed reactions to his movie, Abrams said, “There is an MO of either: ‘It’s exactly as I see it, or you’re my enemy,’” he said. “It’s a crazy thing that there’s such a norm that seems to be void of nuance and compassion — and this is not [a phenomenon] about Star Wars, this is about everything.”
One of the main perceived “rewrites” of “The Last Jedi” hidden within “The Rise of Skywalker” is how the origin story of Rey (Daisy Ridley) is spelled out. Since “The Force Awakens,” Rey’s potential parentage has been debated endlessly, and according to “The Last Jedi,” she was nobody from nowhere and the child of “filthy junk traders.” In “The Rise of Skywalker,” this is not exactly so. (IndieWire rounded up spoilers for the film and their significance, if you just want to skip the movie and cut to the chase.)
Regarding Rian Johnson, who is expected to deliver more contributions to the “Star Wars” universe in the near future, Abrams said, “It would be a much more interesting answer if there were conflict…The truth is when I was getting [The Force Awakens] up and running, I was nothing but grateful that a director and writer I admire as much as Rian was coming in to do [the next one.] Not expecting to come back to this, it was just fun to watch what was happening and get to respond to it.”
Abrams also praised Johnson’s direction on “The Last Jedi.” “One of the many brilliant things that Rian did in ‘The Last Jedi’ was give Luke an arc. He learned something. He got somewhere. So at the end of that film he recommitted to the thing at the very beginning of the film he was rejecting, so the idea that even Luke Skywalker can learn something,” Abrams said. “I think for a kid to hear Luke Skywalker say I was wrong, I think is a beautiful thing. And I think it’s something we could all probably do with, a little bit.”