- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.“
- Several moments in “TROS” appear to be direct digs or course corrections from 2017’s divisive “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
- The new film appears to give fans a happier Luke Skywalker, brings back Kylo Ren’s helmet after it was smashed to pieces in “TLJ,” all but ignores a character introduced in the last film, and dismisses and changes the explanation for Rey’s heritage.
- Fans have criticised “TLJ” and “TROS” directors Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams for either trashing “Star Wars” or leaning too heavy into nostalgia.
- They should be directing their ire toward Disney and Lucasfilm, which fast-tracked the sequel trilogy without an over-arching idea similar to its well-planned out Marvel movies and which tossed out George Lucas’ original treatments for the new films.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
Mark Hamill returns in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” as a Force ghost. In a pivotal moment, he catches his lightsaber after Rey tosses it into a fire.
“A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect,” Skywalker tells her.
The line not only reads as a direct dig at the treatment of Luke in “The Last Jedi,” but it also seems to undo one of the biggest fan complaints of the Rian Johnson-directed film. At the start of “TLJ,” Luke takes his lightsaber from Rey and carelessly tosses it over his shoulder before walking away from her.
That moment, coupled with Skywalker’s hermit lifestyle and flippant attitude towards the Jedi and the Resistance, led Hamill himself to initially express frustration with the interpretation of the character. He told ABC’s “Nightline” he disagreed with “virtually everything” Johnson decided about Luke. During the press tour for the film in 2017, Hamill was documented saying the Skywalker we see in “TLJ” is “not my Luke” and that he even had a back and forth with Johnson over Luke’s direction. When the film debuted months later, many fans sided with Hamill, saying Luke appeared out of character from the original trilogy and with the code of the Jedi. (Hamill later said he regretted voicing his doubts about the character after the film’s release.)
During a recent Academy screening of “TROS,” director J.J. Abrams said Luke’s line about respecting a Jedi’s weapon in the latest “Star Wars” film isn’t “flipping off” “TLJ.” But that scene is one of a few in the new film that appears to undo elements from or make knocks at “TLJ” so much so that Abrams’ film almost feels like a direct sequel to 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” which is widely enjoyed by critics and fans alike.
The omissions of story elements from “TLJ” in “TROS” and subtle digs between the two films show the larger difficulties and pressures of making a large, crowd-pleasing trilogy to one of the largest examples of intellectual property in a confined amount of time throughout script changes and director shuffles.
Moments in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ that seemingly undo ‘The Last Jedi’
In addition to Skywalker’s line about respecting a Jedi weapon, here are several other key moments in “TROS” that appear to either make a dig at or ignore points brought up in the last “Star Wars” film:
Kylo Ren’s mask returns after being smashed to pieces in ‘The Last Jedi’ and rendered ‘ridiculous.’
In “The Last Jedi,” Snoke tells Kylo Ren early on to “take that ridiculous thing off,” referring to Kylo Ren’s helmet. He calls him a child “in a mask.” They’re interesting comments now, seeing that Snoke was actually Palpatine all along and Palpatine provided Darth Vader with his own similar-looking mask. Did Palpatine find this to be ridiculous because Kylo Ren didn’t have any life-threatening ailments that warranted it and he wasn’t living up to the Vader name? Or was the line a response to how some critics and fans poked fun at Ren’s helmet, saying it made him seem like nothing more than an Emo Vader wannabe. Perhaps both.
“TLJ” director Rian Johnson said destroying Kylo Ren’s mask was important for Rey to see that there was more to the character underneath the mask. (Plus, it’s a crime to hide the talented Adam Driver under a mask for the entirety of a film.)
“The whole premise of this film is that you’re getting inside this guy a bit more. More than that, Rey is seeing there’s more to him than she thought,” Johnson said in “The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” “The notion of getting the mask off of him so we don’t have to deal with it and can look into his eyes seemed really important.”
Regardless, Abrams brings the mask back in “TROS.” Somehow, every little scrap of it is found and it’s forged back together. When Kylo walks into a room filled with the First Order wearing it, he mentions that he senses unease about his appearance and promptly shuts down any negativity about his reassembled helmet.
Rey isn’t a nobody anymore. She’s a very important somebody.
The entire trilogy Rey is trying to discover her place in the world and where she came from. Kylo Ren bums her out in “TLJ” when he tells her she’s a nobody. During a Q&A after the film in 2017, director Rian Johnson said the easiest thing for Rey to learn would be that she was related to one of the greats like Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“That would be wish fulfillment and instantly hand her a place in this story on a silver platter,” Johnson said. “The hardest thing for her is to hear she’s not going to get that easy answer.”
But Rey didn’t stay a nobody. In “TROS,” we discover she’s Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter, reversing course from the last film. According to Abrams, the only thing more difficult for Rey to hear than being a nobody is that she comes from “the worst possible place.”
“I don’t know if it resonates for everyone but I think there are quite a few people who appreciate that idea of not coming from a place that you’re not particularly excited about following or proud of. And though I completely understand ‘you’re nobody’ is a devastating thing, to me the more painful, the more shocking thing was the idea that you’re from the worst possible place,” Abrams said during a Q&A after a recent Academy screening of the film.
“Is that thing that you feel that you know is part of you somehow, that you’re haunted by, is that your destiny? And the idea that there are things more powerful than blood, as Luke says, that thing was a really important thing to convey for us.”
Rose’s character is hugely ignored and had at least one scene cut with Rey.
The biggest disservice in “The Rise of Skywalker” is given to Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose who was introduced in “TLJ.” Instead of seeing more of her, screen time is given to Abrams’ buddies Dominic Monaghan (who starred on “Lost”) and Greg Grunberg (“Felicity”). Most frustrating is that Monaghan joined the franchise in the ninth film for such a minor role. He winds up having more screen time and lines than Rose who easily could’ve taken on his part.
This is more frustrating when you know Rose was supposed to have at least one scene with Rey that was teased in a press photo for the film seen above. That scene didn’t make it to screen.
The Knights of Ren are back… to promote a comic series?
Kylo Ren’s warrior posse returns after an absence from all of “TLJ.” Though they appear more, “TROS” still fails to tell us anything significant about them. If you’re really curious, a new Marvel prequel comic series plans to reveal their mysterious backstory.
Broom boy is ignored.
Lastly, the film blatantly ignores the very end of “The Last Jedi,” which introduced us to a Force-sensitive boy. The open-ended conclusion gave viewers a very Disney ending, suggesting that anyone could have the power of the Force and grow up to be a hero. The boy, named Temiri Blagg, isn’t mentioned or seen again. It makes the end of “TLJ” seem pointless unless the idea is revisited in a Disney Plus show or a future “Star Wars” movie.
Fans are noticing these omissions, revisions, and more, and are confused.
Since its release, fan discourse has been joking about how much of “The Rise of Skywalker” seems to undo parts of “TLJ” that angered the fandom.
A number of tweets and memes circulating online suggest there’s tension between Abrams and Rian Johnson, who directed the last “Star Wars” movie.
And no, this wasn’t a simple oversight. Rian Johnson admitted years ago that he changed Kylo’s scar because it “looked goofy” (after initially claiming he didn’t change it at all). I doubt JJ Abrams was very thrilled with that comment. pic.twitter.com/W4CRUgCPXR
— Steven™ (@StevenTheArtist) December 25, 2019
Rian Johnson and JJ Abrams handling the New Star Wars Trilogy together: pic.twitter.com/Hl10E0e5Uk
— Cinememes (@Cinememes_) December 20, 2019
Rian Johnson: What if I cast the first Asian-American woman in a lead role for a Star Wars film?
JJ Abrams: LOL what if I just cast more of my famous white friends?
— Jason (@jasonthinks) December 22, 2019
JJ Abrams: I know who Rey’s parents are
Rain Johnson: yeah, they are nobody
JJ Abrams: I SAID I know who Rey’s parents are #StarWars
— Rachel Papirakis (@RPapirakis) December 22, 2019
Rian Johnson: TFA relied too much on nostalgia and tired plot threads, so lemme spend my whole movie definitively getting rid of all that. Snoke dead, Luke dead, Anakin saber destroyed, Rey is nobody. There! Now there’s no way IX can be a retread.
JJ Abrams: Cute.
— FlackonPrime ???? (@flackncoke) December 26, 2019
I'm watching star wars and it's like a bad improv show and rian Johnson is like "ok here we are at the supermarket" and JJ Abrams is like "no we're not"
— Naomi Higgins (@nomstrositi) December 21, 2019
jj: oh yeah and btw broom boy is qui-gon's great great grandson
— v (@epne_) December 24, 2019
the rise of skywalker is such a cheap nostalgia fest and it’s mind-blowing how much jj abrams bends over backwards to please fans. i feel sorry for rian johnson more than anything. what i loved about the last jedi is that it made star wars feel fresh again – this feels regressive
— iana murray (@ianamurray) December 20, 2019
What is going on? The new trilogy has been about pleasing the fandom and squeezing the most box-office potential out of them.
Are these two movies fighting with one another? It certainly seems that way a bit from the outside looking in. But when you step back, Disney and Lucasfilm have just been trying to please whatever it is that “Star Wars” fans want.
2015’s “The Force Awakens” was arguably a carbon clone of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” something Abrams acknowledged and defended after its release. In a 2015 interview, Lucas said Disney wanted to “make something for fans” with “TFA.”
Some fans didn’t mind that. Others thought that it was leaning too heavily on nostalgia to placate the fandom after a prequel trilogy that many despise. (“The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” are among the worst-reviewed of the nine-film Skywalker saga). Regardless, “TFA,” the first “Star Wars” movie released under Disney, broke box-office records. At the time, it became the fastest movie to crack $US1 billion at theatres in just 12 days. It also surpassed “Jurassic World” at the time to have the biggest opening weekend of all time ($US248 million). Overall, the movie grossed over $US2 billion worldwide.
Typically, sequels make more money than their predecessors as long as they’re good. (See: “Harry Potter,” the “Twilight” series, the “Avengers” series.) How could Disney improve upon fan complaints with “TFA” to make even more at the box office? What if the next “Star Wars” movie, “The Last Jedi,” felt really fresh and original instead of nostalgic?
“The Last Jedi” flipped the script by unexpectedly killing off Snoke without explaining anything about him, giving us Rose’s character, and giving fans a Luke Skywalker they weren’t happy with before killing him off. However, the film was critically beloved. (After the original trilogy, it’s one of the best-reviewed “Star Wars” films on Rotten Tomatoes.) Despite glowing reviews, it turns out fans didn’t actually want something different (despite seeming to ask for just that). The film has the lowest audience score of any “Star Wars” film at 43%.
A lot of “Star Wars” fans took issue with “TLJ” for going against the grain and betraying so many things about “TFA,” the Jedi, and Luke. The box-office numbers showed that. The film grossed $US1.3 billion worldwide, a number that any studio would love to have for a film, but not for a “Star Wars” movie following one that performed like “TFA.” “TLJ” grossed nearly $US1 billion less than “TFA” worldwide.
Where was Disney and Lucasfilm to go from here? They gave audiences one nostalgic film that made $US2 billion and one that gave a fresh perspective that made much less. Nostalgia sure seemed to be the no-brainer route to end the Skywalker saga. And that’s a lot of what fans received in “TROS” when Abrams returned to the director’s chair. Will it gross more than “TLJ” or live up to “TFA”? Probably not. The film’s opening weekend was less than both of the films before it (a still very respectable $US177.4 million, making it the 12th highest-opening weekend ever). In six days, “TROS” has made $US517 million worldwide.
What the directors have said about each other’s films
Honestly, it’s mostly been praise. Anything that looks like a dig at the other director looks like its a criticism of how Disney and Lucasfilm have handled the “Star Wars” trilogy sequel.
Despite changing up things from “TFA,” Johnson told Cinemablend in 2017 that Abrams was supportive of his film’s direction.
“[Abrams] was into it because I think he was into the storytelling,” Johnson said. “He’s a great storyteller himself and he saw the potential of each one of these beats. I think he saw it for what we were going for, which is not… we weren’t going for, ‘Let’s subvert a Star Wars movie.’ We were going for ‘Let’s make a great ”Star Wars’ movie that has things in it that will push the limits of what we can do.'”
In 2015, Abrams told /Film he spoke with Johnson about “TLJ” and mentioned he thought the script was “amazing.”In a recent New York Times interview, Abrams said while he believed Rian Johnson’s eighth film made “bold” choices, he thought it was “a bit of a meta approach,” saying he didn’t think fans went to “Star Wars” to be told things don’t matter.
But what about the parts of “TROS” that appear to undo parts of “Episode VIII?”
Abrams claims that’s not what he was doing.
“I never found myself trying to repair anything. If I had done ‘VIII,’ I would have done things differently, just as Rian [Johnson] would have done things differently if he had done ‘VII,'” Abrams told Empire. “Having worked on television series, I was accustomed to creating stories and characters that then were run by other people. If you’re willing to walk away from the thing that you created and you believe it’s in trustworthy hands, you have to accept that some of the decisions being made are not gonna be the same that you would make.”
In a December interview, Johnson criticised catering to “Star Wars” fans, saying it would be a mistake to deliver something that isn’t unexpected. At first glance, it seems like a dig at the newest “Star Wars” movie. But Johnson was commenting on why his own “Star Wars” movie wasn’t big on nostalgia.
“I think approaching any creative process with [making fandoms happy] would be a mistake that would lead to probably the exact opposite result,” Johnson told Radio.com. “If I see exactly what I think I want on the screen, it’s like ‘oh, OK,’ it might make me smile and make me feel neutral about the thing and I won’t really think about it afterwards, but that’s not really going to satisfy me.”
After an Academy screening of “TROS,” Abrams told Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican that people who love the new film more than anything are “right.” He also said those who are infuriated by the film are right, too.
“We knew starting this any decision we made – a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision – would please someone and infuriate someone else,” Abrams told Breznican.
You can watch Abrams speak about this below:
— kaila ren (@kaila_ren) December 21, 2019
Johnson echoed similar sentiments to Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio after the release of “The Last Jedi,” saying that every fan has “a list of stuff they want a ‘Star Wars’ movie to be and they don’t want a ‘Star Wars’ movie to be” and that’s OK.
In other words, neither of them were going to make something that would please everyone. Perhaps that comes with the territory of making a “Star Wars” movie in the first place.
The pressures of making the perfect ‘Star Wars’ movie the Lucasfilm way.
Fans are pitting two directors against each other and are blaming them for ruining “Star Wars” when Lucasfilm has had a revolving door of directors for most of its “Star Wars” movies.
The original plan was for Abrams to direct the first film in the new trilogy, followed by Johnson’s “Episode VIII,” and then Colin Trevorrow’s (“Jurassic World”) “Episode IX.” A Boba Fett spin-off was planned with Josh Trank (“Chronicle”). The Han Solo spin-off prequel was supposed to be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“21 Jump Street,” “The LEGO Movie”). The “Game of Thrones” showrunners were announced for their own trilogy.
Trank left his film in 2015, saying he needed a break from fans after his “Fantastic Four” reboot flopped. Lord and Miller were reportedly fired from production on “Solo” with just a few weeks left to go on principal photography for the 2018 film.According to Variety, there was a big culture clash and the duo’s style of filming was criticised. Instead of getting creative freedom, there was a lot of control over the film from Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
A few months later, Trevorrow stepped down from “Episode IX” after reported disagreements over the film’s direction and scripts. As a result, it was pushed back seven months. After a controversial final “Game of Thrones” season that misfired with fans, showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss left their trilogy for a lucrative $US200-million multi-year Netflix deal.
“Nobody in our business develops something with one person, that’s it, and everything goes perfectly,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told the Los Angeles Times in December. “That’s a fairly common part of the process. We fall under incredible scrutiny because it’s ‘Star Wars.’ Because of the quality I’m striving for, I’m reaching out to top talent, and vice versa.”
After Trevorrow parted ways with Lucasfilm, a veteran movie producer told Vulture that Kennedy is the gatekeeper to “Star Wars” and anyone who doesn’t want to get on board with the studio’s vision for the franchise can leave. That’s extremely intimidating.
“If you rub Kathleen Kennedy the wrong way – in any way – you’re out. You’re done,” they said of working with Kennedy. “A lot of these young, new directors want to come in and say, ‘I want to do this. I want to do that.’ A lot of these guys – Lord and Miller, Colin Trevorrow – got very rich, very fast and believed a lot of their own hype. And they don’t want to play by the rules. They want to do s— differently. And Kathleen Kennedy isn’t going to f— around with that.”
In September 2017, Abrams returned after Johnson passed on taking over “TROS” and he had the enormous task of not only picking up the pieces and closing off a trilogy, but of closing out a saga with eight films before it. Two years prior, Abrams’ friend and “Star Wars” star Greg Grunberg said he regretted not making “TLJ” because it was “so good.” If someone was going to take over and wrap up the series, it may as well be Abrams.
“It felt like there was a chance to do it in a way where we could go beyond, and do better than we did in ‘VII,'” Abrams told Rolling Stone of why he signed on for “Episode IX.”
The real issue: There was never a giant over-arching idea for this trilogy that everyone agreed on.
When George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $US4 billion, he handed over treatments for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX of “Star Wars.” Disney decided to scrap them and start over. These are films Lucas has been thinking about for decades. He told Hamill about his “Episode VII” idea in the ’80s.
The result has been a new trilogy pumped out in five years that doesn’t feel like it has one overarching idea, but a bunch of ideas blended together from different directors and the Lucasfilm story group that hopefully resemble a complete, cohesive narrative.
How would you describe the arch for this sequel trilogy that’s supposed to be part of the Skywalker saga?
Lucas’ first two trilogies follow definitive archs. The prequel trilogy introduces us to Anakin Skywalker and shows his journey to the dark side as Vader. The second trilogy introduces us to Luke Skywalker, the hope to bring balance to the Force who stops the Emperor’s reign of terror.
The sequel trilogy has arguably been less about the Skywalker saga than it has been about Rey Palpatine’s journey to discover her place in the world while simultaneously trying to tell us something about the troubled Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and the cast from the original trilogy. “TFA,” “TLJ,” and “TROS” have been more concerned with creating mysteries, adding clever nods to the franchise to distract and appease fans, and introducing more new characters (Rose, droid D-O, Zorii Bliss, and Jannah) than any of the films have time to fully explore.
It felt like each director came in and worked on their own individual film separately. After the release of “TLJ,” Simon Pegg said Abrams had a different idea for Rey’s lineage (perhaps the one finally revealed in “TROS”). After Trevorrow left “Episode IX,” he said he wasn’t considering bringing back Palpatine. Some reported his film wanted to focus more on Luke Skywalker before Johnson’s film killed him off.
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new trilogy, claims that’s not how it always was. Ridley told IGN in 2018 that Abrams wrote scripts for the entire trilogy. But when Johnson came on for “TLJ,” it changed entirely.
“Here’s what I think I know. J. J. wrote Episode VII, as well as drafts for VIII and IX. Then Rian Johnson arrived and wrote TLJ entirely,” Ridley told IGN. “I believe there was some sort of general consensus on the main lines of the trilogy, but apart from that, every director writes and realises his film in his own way… I believe Rian didn’t keep anything from the first draft of Episode VIII.”
According to Anthony Daniels’ recent book, “I am C-3PO – The Inside Story,” making “The Rise of Skywalker” sounded a bit chaotic. The actor recalled emailing Abrams after he returned to finish “Episode IX” in January 2018 and waited months to get a response about a script. When he finally received a response from Abrams about four months later, it read: “You’re either going to love or hate how much you have to do in this new movie. J.J. XoXo.” That was it.
Daniels responded with a quick, “I’ll settle for hate. It will be quicker.”
When he eventually received his lines, Daniels recalled receiving numerous versions of the script along with changes to lines occurring the day they filmed on set.
“There would be many latest versions lying in my trailer each morning,” Daniels wrote of when he started receiving scripts. “Fresh new words for a new day. Each one a thoughtful, inventive improvement. Over the ensuing months, various updates would follow on coloured paper – Blue Version, Green Version, Pink Version, Beige Version, and my favourite, pages with a yellow tint, ‘Golden Rod Version.'”
If you go down a Reddit rabbit hole, fans are currently sharing a post from someone claiming to be a “Lucasfilm insider” on behind-the-scenes drama with the film. One of the most interesting rumours is that there are two main versions of “TROS.” One was the brainchild of Abrams and Lucas that explains a Matt Smith character who doesn’t appear in the final film. Another, approved by Disney, is the one in theatres.
A representative for Disney didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the rumours of two scripts.
Regardless, maybe this is partially why Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige is coming over to develop his own “Star Wars” movie. Does Disney want him to MCU-ify the “Star Wars” brand to become a well-oiled machine as well? It wouldn’t be a surprise. Marvel is mapping those phases out so far in advance that Feige and Marvel Studios have been able to get fans to add the “phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe” into their vernacular.
What are the next phases for “Star Wars” after this? We know about a few Disney Plus shows featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor of “Rogue One.” There’s a second season of “The Mandalorian” with the “Baby Yoda” character. Otherwise, some vague movies and trilogies have been announced, but it’s not really clear what we’ll be seeing. “TLJ” director Rian Johnson is still doing his own trilogy as of now.
No one needed ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ in 2019. But it probably made the most sense to release it and move on.
It’s disheartening going on social media and seeing so much anger and hate directed toward Johnson and Abrams for either trashing “Star Wars” or making something fan service-y. Fans shouldn’t be expressing their anger at directors, but rather the company that fast-tracked all of these films to be rushed out.
Even Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged the company would slow down on its “Star Wars” rollout after a subpar performance by “Solo” in theatres. The film grossed under $US400 million worldwide and was expected to kick off its own franchise.
“I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made – I take the blame – was a little too much, too fast,” Iger told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2018.
After “Solo,” no one was clamoring for another “Star Wars” movie right away. Until Disney purchased Lucasfilm, fans weren’t used to getting a new “Star Wars” film every year. It never felt like there was the same level of excitement for “Episode IX” that there was for Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame.” Yes, “TROS” was pushed back a few months from a May release date when Abrams came aboard, but was that enough?
“Star Wars” is one of the most valuable and recognised IPs in the world. Wouldn’t you want to make sure you get it right? It’s probably one reason why something like James Cameron’s “Avatar 2,” the sequel to the former highest-grossing movie of all time, has been pushed back repeatedly.
It probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world if the finale to the Skywalker saga was put off another year, but at this rate, spending any more money on a film that may not gross more than “TLJ” may have seemed counterproductive. And, to Disney’s benefit, despite critics having mixed feelings over the film, the majority of fans seem to be satisfied with the conclusion. (It has an 86% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes.)
That may be enough for the Mouse House. The best thing for Disney to do is to wash its hands of Lucas’ stories, which so many hold dear, and focus on their own original stories (“Rogue One,” “The Mandalorian,”) which most seem to be enjoying.