Oscar Isaac and John Boyega in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

J.J. Abrams’ Comments Just Make Me More Anxious About Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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I try to be upfront as to how I am developing my thoughts. When Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out, I deeply enjoyed it, and while I have come to find aspects of it more frustrating, it’s a movie that I think wasn’t allowed to be enjoyed or disliked organically because of all the bad-faith criticism that was coming from one corner of the internet.

Still, it’s very clear that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are not only two works with two different directors, but two scripts with a different vision about what Star Wars is. This is why The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that makes me anxious the more and more I read about it.

Now, I have come to realize that sharing stories about rocky productions and reshoots can sometimes be a way of skewing expectations in the final cut’s favor, but when reading an interview with some of the cast of Episode IX for the New York Times, I find myself seeing that J.J. Abrams, love him or hate him, is really returning to a story he had no intention of finishing initially.

He explains in the piece that he already knows that endings are not his strong suit and that he’s “never been great at endings,” but The Force Awakens did the job of reviving the series in a critically and commercially successful way. Yes, there were criticisms of it being too close to A New Hope, but he left it off in a place where there was room for any new creative direction, and Rian Johnson definitely did that with The Last Jedi.

“In its story, the “Force Awakens” heroes were separated from one another, confronting personal roadblocks on individual journeys, and the actors found it just as challenging to make. “The characters were very frustrated, and it felt that way,” Isaac said. “You felt the difficult energy of those scenes, figuring that stuff out.”

Abrams praised “The Last Jedi” for being “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “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.’”

Even so, Abrams said “The Last Jedi” laid the groundwork for “The Rise of Skywalker” and ‘a story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other.'”

So, this is where I get nervous. Yes, Johnson’s movie is polarizing, and I think that it’s fair for the cast to be outspoken about their disappointments. I don’t care about that. However, from a writing perspective, the idea that Abrams is going to push the next film in the other direction now doesn’t make any sense to me. Especially when he is doing it, apparently on a tight schedule once he was brought in after Colin Trevorrow, who was originally slated to direct the movie, left.

Plus, for a lot of people, this sudden rush to say that The Last Jedi was too “meta” to work has felt a lot like they are throwing Johnson under the bus to make way for Abrams’ more “traditional” version of the Star Wars sequel.

Myself, I think Knives Out, Johnson’s most recent project, while funny, did highlight that he has a blind spot when it comes to race. It was very jarring, at times, to see immigration status of the character Marta used as a threat in the film. I think, with Last Jedi, he meant well and wanted to craft a story that allowed Poe, Finn, and Rose to be heroes in their own right. I think, in many ways, on the surface level, he did that. Still, when you look at the film as a whole, the fact that most their storylines could be removed and it wouldn’t fundamentally change how the story plays out bothers me.

Regardless, The Last Jedi is part of the canon, and I don’t want the Star Wars version of the Gilmore Girls revival, where the director ignores an entire section of the story because they weren’t a part of it. If we accept that Jar Jar is canon, we can accept this, too.

Plus, trying to go fulling the other way when you only have so much time doesn’t help either.

“With the clock already ticking on a planned 2019 release for Episode IX, Abrams was the only logical choice to take over — and even more reluctant than he was with “The Force Awakens.” On that movie, he said, “we got away by the skin of our teeth. Why the hell would I go back? Am I a moron to tempt fate a second time?” Abrams said he took the job knowing he’d be working “in an accelerated way from the beginning,” with three fewer months for postproduction than he had on “The Force Awakens.”

‘I’m not saying it’s like the closest that ‘Star Wars’ will ever get to being live TV,’ he said, ‘but it was not leisurely.'”

This is what happens when you don’t have a plan for a trilogy, just a corporate mandate that it must happen.

December 20th, here we come.

(via New York Times, image: Lucasfilm/Disney)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.