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Guest Editorial: Clarifying J.J. Abrams Recent Statements on Rian Johnsons Direction With The Last Jedi

Discussion in 'SWNN News Feed' started by SWNN Probe, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. SWNN Probe

    SWNN Probe Seeker

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    A recent interview with J.J. Abrams, published by Fast Company, has once again fueled the flames of controversy around the sequel trilogy, about how “Rian Johnson threw away what J.J. set up in The Force Awakens.”

    In this article, guest writer ForceWave-1139 sets out to provide some clarity on this issue, looking back at some past interviews with Abrams and various other sources that paint a more complete picture of the collaboration between the two writer/directors and how their visions are more aligned than the recent comments by Abrams have led some to believe.



    However, this is an incomplete picture of what happened, as J.J. wanted to avoid “getting into the weeds.” For those of us who enjoy weeds, though, there was another interview with J.J., published by Wired in December of 2015, where he paints a more complete picture about the relation between J.J.’s story and Rian’s story:

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    Notice how this quote, and the quote from the Fast Company interview, do not contradict each other; both quotes has J.J. acknowledging that The Last Jedi is Rian’s film first and foremost. However, in the Wired interview, J.J. makes sure to clarify that the direction Rian Johnson took, despite being his own approach, was still in line with what J.J. and Lawrence Kasdan had in mind.



    This is a far cry from how people have tried to spin the Fast Company quote as “confirmation” that Rian “destroyed” everything that J.J. set up. As the Wired interview shows, quite the opposite is true. And because the interview was conducted years before TLJ was released, it’s unlikely that these statements were constructed as “damage control” in response to any perceived backlash from TLJ (since the film wasn’t even released yet).



    As he explains in the Wired interview, both J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson discussed their plans for their respective films, and made adjustments accordingly (one example was replacing BB-8 with R2-D2 on Rey's journey to find Luke Skywalker). This was not a one way street, though, where J.J. acquiesced to each of Rian's demands; on the contrary, when J.J. felt that Rian's suggestions didn't feel right, Rian adjusted his film accordingly.

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    The ambiguity of what Rian's adjustments entailed leaves the door open for those who are hellbent on believing that Rian merely bridged the gap between what J.J. established in TFA, and what Rian wanted to do in The Last Jedi (a common theory is that Luke's change in attire was an example of Rian working around J.J.'s refusal to budge). However, the fact that J.J. himself said that Rian's direction with the story was 'very much in line with what we were thinking as well' should anchor any wild speculation about Rian going rogue with the story after TFA.



    This may not be enough for some people to accept that Rian didn't 'throw away what J.J. set up', so it's worth taking a moment to address specific points about what was allegedly 'thrown away'.





    1.) Daisy Ridley said that the identity of Rey’s parents was revealed in TFA, and that they weren’t important



    Even before TFA was released, the identity of Rey's parents generated widespread speculation among the fandom. This led many audience members to find things within the film to support their theories, rather than look at what the film itself is trying to say. However, Daisy Ridley, Rey's actress, felt that the film itself settled the issue.

    [​IMG]



    What TFA revealed about Rey’s parents was that they left their daughter with Unkar Plutt, and Maz tells Rey that deep down, she knows that “they’re never coming back.” Using Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is that anyone who would abandon their child with someone as repugnant as Unkar Plut is probably a bad person, and since they’re “never coming back”, they’re probably not important (and certainly not Luke, Han and Leia, or any of our other heroes). So Daisy is correct in saying that TFA answered who Rey’s parents were. In another interview, she emphasized that she never felt Rey's parents were important to the story (apart from Rey's own personal journey).



    2.) Luke was always going to initially be bitter, disillusioned, and hide himself from the rest of the galaxy.



    Many critics of TLJ argued that Rian’s idea for Luke in the ST was different from J.J.’s; in their minds, J.J. intended Luke to go to the first Jedi Temple to study, not to exile himself from the rest of the galaxy.



    However, TFA itself refutes this:

    The only thing Rian Johnson did was explain why Luke felt responsible, and why he felt the need to exile himself.



    [​IMG]



    A common example, used by those who argue that Rian's conception of Luke was 180 degrees different from J.J.'s perspective, is how, according to Mark Hamill, there was going to be boulders floating around Luke at the end of TFA, showing how he hasn't cut himself off from the Force.

    However, it's a fallacy to suggest that this one detail means that Rian's view of Luke going forward wasn't in line with what J.J. had in mind. In TLJ, Luke didn’t reject the Force; he simply rejected the Jedi’s self-proclaimed monopoly on the Force. Most likely, this change was made merely so that it made sense why Luke didn’t know Han was killed off until Rey and Chewbacca found him (the fact that it reinforces Luke’s view, that the Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi, was a happy accident). The fact that J.J. acquiesced to this change, when he refused to change other elements, reinforces the idea that J.J. and Rian were collaborating to ensure that their films were roughly on the same wavelength.



    Many people fault J.J. and Rian for the decision to have Luke exile himself from the rest of the galaxy, and continue to struggle with the Dark Side after seemingly conquering it in Return of the Jedi. However, this idea actually came from George Lucas himself. While it's true that Disney's sequel trilogy doesn't follow Lucas' original outline to a tee, many elements from Lucas' outline still made their way into the films we saw in theaters; one of those elements was Luke’s portrayal.



    [​IMG]



    Doug Chiang's comments are especially enlightening, as it shows how Luke's broad arc throughout The Last Jedi had its roots as far back as May 2013, well before Rian Johnson was hired to direct Episode VIII a year later (June 2014).



    [​IMG]



    And according to Phil Szostak, Lucasfilm’s creative art manager, in his opinion, Luke in TLJ was consistent with what Lucas envisioned for the character:

    Admittedly, it’s unlikely that the events in Ben’s hut, which is the most controversial aspect of Luke in TLJ (albeit, woefully misunderstood, as Pablo Hidalgo explained), came from George Lucas; In Lucas’ outline, the son of Han and Leia didn’t start out the ST as having already fallen to the Dark Side, so Luke’s decision to exile himself and the son’s fall were probably separate events.



    In any case, all the evidence suggests that Luke's portrayal in the sequel trilogy was dictated by The Maker himself, not by J.J. or Rian, and whatever contributions they made were working within the framework George had already set up.





    3.) Snoke’s identity was a mystery



    Andy Serkis denied this in an interview with EW.

    [​IMG]



    It’s possible that J.J. didn’t intend for Snoke to be killed off so soon, with very little elaboration on who he is, but without any actual evidence for this, it’s a fallacy to use Snoke’s premature demise as an argument for the claim that “Rian Johnson threw away what J.J. set up.” And even if he did, that’s one story thread out of all the others that Rian continued as J.J. wanted.



    In conclusion; Once you 'get into the weeds of Episode VIII', you'll see that J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson had a healthy collaboration with each other over the general direction of the sequel trilogy, and that none of what J.J. Abrams set up in TFA was dismissed by Rian Johnson in TLJ. Hopefully, this article will clear things up and provide much needed context to this debate.







    About the author:

    ForceWave-1139 has adored the Star Wars franchise since he could comprehend images on TV. He has a young YouTube channel focused on Star Wars analysis, satire, and a strange affinity towards retro futuristic aesthetics.



    Click HERE to check out and comment on this topic on our main site
     
    #1 SWNN Probe, Apr 11, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
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  2. eeprom

    eeprom Force Sensitive

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    Hooray for (not so) common sense!!
     
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  3. Killthorne

    Killthorne Clone

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    YES! Excellent article! My thoughts almost exactly and I say this as a fan of 40+ years and as a writer. TLJ, in my "professional" and fan-based opinion, was a great film that fleshed out the tone of the galactic situation regarding the near extinction of the Resistance and the Republic, as well as the tragedy of the fallen legend Luke Skywalker, all initiated by Abrams with TFA. It couldn't have gone any other way, otherwise it would contradict the reason to the plot, rendering it all pretty vapid.
     
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  4. Angelman

    Angelman Jedi General

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    Thank you, @ForceWave_1139, for a very sane and precise rundown of events. I think I love you... :D
     
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  5. Darth Basin The Greatest

    Darth Basin The Greatest Rebel Official

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    Ok. Ok. But did JJ ok the seal milking?
     
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  6. Angelman

    Angelman Jedi General

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    Why wouldn't he? That's a great character moment for hermit-Luke.
     
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  7. RockyRoadHux

    RockyRoadHux Ginger General

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    Wanted to check out his Youtube channel, but the link doesn't work, same with his twitter account.

    ...What are you trying to pull on us? ;P

    maxresdefault.jpg
     
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  8. FN-3263827

    FN-3263827 Bendemptionist
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  9. RockyRoadHux

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  10. CTrent29

    CTrent29 Rebel Official

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    I guess I just don't care at this point. Especially since I dislike both "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi". Regardless of whether Abrams claimed that his 2015 film and Johnson's film didn't contradict each other, I felt as if there is no one voice for the Sequel Trilogy. And that is only one of many problems I have with this third trilogy.
     
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  11. SegNerd

    SegNerd Rebel General

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    4) Ben’s turn to the Dark Side was disappointing

    I may be in the minority for liking the PT better than the ST, but I don’t think anyone can deny how well the PT, and specifically ROTS, kept intensifying the pressure and rising to a boiling point where we truly understand Anakin’s decision (even though it was wrong).

    In TLJ, Ben’s turn was depicted as just some sort of brain hacking followed by one awkward moment that made both Ben and Luke less likable.

    5) No backstory for Finn or Poe

    This could still be covered in TROS, but I’m getting a bit frustrated with “They’ll fix it in the next one” moments - I’m sorry but we’re running out of “next ones.”

    6) No new connections to PT or OT

    TFA brought in many planets and characters we had never heard of, many of whom had no connection to previous movies. That, combined with the fact that the new elements are very similar to the old elements (but still not connected) are what made TFA feel like a “Soft reboot.”

    TLJ didn’t do anything to help this. No familiar planets and no new story connections.

    7) No answers about how Maz got the lightsaber or how Ben got the helmet

    They did show Ben attacking Luke’s temple, but since they already made a point of having Ben be in possession of the Vader helmet, if that was how he got the helmet, they should have stated it explicitly.
     
    #12 SegNerd, May 20, 2019
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
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  12. eeprom

    eeprom Force Sensitive

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    Finn was taken from a family he’ll never know and raised to do one thing. Poe is Leia’s most daring pilot. Those are their backstories as relevant to the story being told. If you want more, then there are novels and comics that cover this.
     
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  13. CTrent29

    CTrent29 Rebel Official

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    And in one little post, both men of color have been regulated to the roles of supporting characters, in compare to the white woman. Not surprised. Disappointed perhaps, but not surprised.


    You're not alone.
     
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  14. eeprom

    eeprom Force Sensitive

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    I think the word you’re searching for is ‘relegated’.

    Lacking an unnecessary backstory doesn’t automatically make you a supporting character. That’s a false equivalency.

    The Finn character’s journey is significant to what’s happening presently. Delving into his past beyond what was practical for his arc would only distract from the arc itself. He’s a man, conditioned within a sinister system to be little more than a killer, who rose above his programming and became his own person. That’s the important part to his story.

    The Poe character wasn’t supposed to live past the first act of TFA. He was an artifact of the Finn character’s development originally. He wasn’t built to be a main figure. That grew organically as the project progressed. Again, backstory wouldn’t help promote where his story is currently at.

    Please don’t needlessly make this a matter of ethnicity or gender. You may not like how the characters have been advanced, but it isn't inappropriate to what was established.
     
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  15. SegNerd

    SegNerd Rebel General

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    I guess we don't absolutely need more complete backstories for Finn and Poe - but if Finn is just another stormtrooper, why is he the only one who defected to the Resistance (not counting earlier eras/Rebellion)? And if Poe is just another pilot, why does Leia trust him the most? I think Finn and Poe are supposed to be "special," and it would've been nice to know why.

    GL's major characters usually started as "nobodies" and showed us they could become "somebody." With the ST, some of the characters just tell us they are "somebody," and we are expected to just take their word for it.
     
    #16 SegNerd, May 21, 2019
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
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  16. eeprom

    eeprom Force Sensitive

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    One of the ideas behind the Finn character is to show how someone involved in a ‘bad crowd’ can still think for themselves. That you don’t have to be ‘special’ to recognize the wrong of what’s being done in front of you. That you don’t have to be ‘special’ to stand up for what’s right and refuse to be a part of a hateful group mentality.

    Finn’s characterization isn’t about mystery boxes, it’s about moralism. His super power is that he’s a good person. You don’t need magic blood or a divine destiny to be a hero. It’s something we’re all capable of if we don’t allow ourselves to be misguided by the voices around us.
    Presumably because he’s proven himself a trustworthy and capable subordinate while under her command. TLJ progresses that concept further by suggesting that she also sees in him the potential for leadership. The movies could go into his parents being pals with Leia or his growing up around a Force tree or whatever, but none of that is really relevant.

    Poe is basically just a higher profile version of Wedge. No one ever needs to justify why Wedge is so competent. He just is. That’s the character.
    And I think not being is ‘special’ is exactly what IS special about them. Anyone ‘could’ do what they do, but they don’t.
    I’m not sure who is telling anyone they’re “somebody” other than the villain.
     
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  17. Too Bob Bit

    Too Bob Bit Force Sensitive

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    When you say GL's 'major characters', do you mean Luke and Anakin, the LEAD characters of their respective trilogies? Which are the other major character 'nobodies' where we get to see or be told their back stories? Jar Jar Binks possibly? Obviously not Leia or Padme as they were hardly 'nobodies' when we were first introduced to them.

    Why is there this 'need' some people seem to have for every single character in the ST to have a backstory? We learn as much - if not more - about the back stories of Finn and Poe as we did about Chewbacca, Han Solo and Lando in the OT. We learn next to nothing about the back stories of Qui-Gon Jinn and Mace Windu in the PT, but people seemed okay with that.

    We don't even get to know a great deal about Obi-Wan's back story as it relates to the PT. Where did he come from? How did he come to be a part of the Jedi Order in the first place? Of course, it was implied - through more general comments made by the Jedi Council - that he was probably found at a very young age and taken from his parents to be indoctrinated into the ways of the Jedi. Which is pretty much exactly the same as what we learn more assuredly about Finn (because he tells 'us'). If so little back story for Obi-Wan is enough in the PT, then why isn't it enough for Finn (or Poe) in the ST?
     
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  18. SegNerd

    SegNerd Rebel General

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    Upon re-watching the TROS trailer, I thought of another possible addition to the list. There is a shot in the trailer that indicates that Kylo Ren will be fixing/rebuilding his helmet. Not only is the helmet literally an idea that was created for TFA and semi-discarded in TLJ, but in a way you could say it is a metaphor for the ST issues in general: JJ created a lot of ideas in TFA, and RJ kind of just smashed things up and left JJ to pick up the pieces.

    Although I personally was not a big fan of JJ's ideas in the first place, even I don't think that having the story pulled in two competing directions is a good thing for the ST.
     
  19. Xeven

    Xeven Rebel Official

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    I think I would have been ok with Luke considering ending Kylo if they were training and Kylo was overcome by Darkside rather thank Luke attacking him while sleeping.
     
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