The best thing about the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker being so close is that maybe, finally, we can stop talking about The Last Jedi. Or...not?
Rian Johnson’s (in our opinion, excellent) eighth chapter in the Star Wars saga was always going to be divisive. That’s what middle chapters are. However, since its 2017 release, the film has somehow become more than a film to simply be argued about. Its become a lightning rod for Star Wars hatred.
Johnson’s choices in the film, controversial as they may have been, turned the story’s mystery into meaning. He basically said “These aren’t the questions you’re looking for,” answered those, and posed new ones, setting the table for a follow-up that could be radically different from what fans may have been expecting. Back in 2015, right as The Force Awakens was coming to theaters, J.J. Abrams’ good friend Greg Grunberg said the following. “[J.J.] read [Episode VIII] and said something he never, ever says. He said: ‘It’s so good, I wish I were making it.’”
That was before people saw the movie though. Now, in 2019, on the eve of Abrams’ sequel to the film, his tune has changed a bit. Speaking to The New York Times, the director first praised The Last Jedi for being “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices.”
However, he then added this. “On the other hand, it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don’t think that people go to Star Wars to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter,’” Abrams said. Finally, Abrams balanced his statement by suggesting The Last Jedi’s relationship to The Rise of Skywalker was crucial because overall it was “a story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other.”
Nevertheless, the damage had been done. Haters of The Last Jedi have been pulling Abrams’ quote out and holding it above their head as a sign of victory while Last Jedi fans have done the same as a sign of disgust. In this case, both sides are kind of right. Abrams’ quote feels like a simultaneous condemnation of both the film and its fans. Plus, throwing the massively successful film under the bus just as its filmmaker is promoting his own, also-successful, original film (Knives Out) just feels kind of crappy.
Ultimately, no matter what side you all fall on, we’re all still talking about this. It’s been years. It happened. It’s done. Snoke is dead. Leia flew through space. Rey was told her parents were no one. Next week we’ll find out how much, if any, of that sticks. Even if you don’t like the film, though, doesn’t a part of you want it to matter, and want this new movie to take what Johnson did and pay it off? Make you like The Last Jedi more in retrospect instead of less? If somehow all of the things people hated about The Last Jedi are magically course-corrected in The Rise of Skywalker it will only work to hurt Star Wars’ legacy, not help it. And even if Abrams thinks it wasn’t what people wanted to see, hopefully he realizes that.
“I think, knock on wood, that the fans are going to feel...listened to,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told io9. “I think that’s always been an important thing to Lucasfilm is the fans are every bit as important to us as what any of us do. And I hope they feel that way with [The Rise of Skywalker].”
The question is, which fans was she talking about? We’ll find out next week.
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