Rian Johnson on ‘Last Jedi’ Backlash: I Honored the Original Trilogy By Subverting It

"With every movie, they were pushing it forward," Johnson said of George Lucas and his creative team -- which is what he wanted to live up to himself.
Kelly Marie Tran, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"
Kelly Marie Tran, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Rey’s backstory, Snoke’s fate, and Luke Skywalker’s own story-arc were all plot points that elicited a polarized reaction from fans after “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premiered in 2017.

Now, writer-director Rian Johnson has a response: He took the risks in order to pay homage to George Lucas’ original trilogy — it’s all about moving the story forward.

Johnson discussed the film on an episode of the podcast “Creative Processing with Joseph Gordon-Levitt” released this week.

“I think the instant you start thinking in terms of how do you not step outside of the bounds of what the original movies did, you’re not thinking the way the people who made the original movies did,” he said. “With every movie, they were pushing it forward, with every movie they were stepping outside those bounds and pushing the characters into new, emotionally honest, but surprising places.

“That’s why those movies are great. That’s why they’re alive. If they had been looking at something that came before it and saying, ‘Oh, we better not do this because that is outside of this or that,’ it would’ve been different.”

In one particular case, the backlash against Johnson’s decisions turned hateful. Vietnamese-American,Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico, deleted all her Instagram posts in the midst of racist harassment. Tran was the first woman of color to play a leading role in a Star Wars movie, and she wrote about her experience in a New York Times op-ed.

Meantime, a Change.org petition signed by nearly 117,000 demanded Disney “strike Star Wars Episode VIII from the official canon.” Disney did not.

Some of the new developments introduced in “The Last Jedi” will be explored in the final installment of the Skywalker saga, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which is due out in December.

J.J. Abrams, who helmed “The Force Awakens” is back directing the saga’s ninth film. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio, who won an Oscar for his “Argo” script.

Detractors were likely disappointed when Disney announced Johnson would create a new, post-Skywalker trilogy of films in the “Star Wars” universe.

Johnson’s directorial debut came in 2005 with “Brick,” a neo-noir in a high school setting starring Gordon-Levitt.

He also helmed the Season 5 episode of “Breaking Bad,” “Ozymandias,” which has topped several lists of the all-time greatest TV episodes.

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