As we are counting down the days to witness the final chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, the fans are rampant with excitement as interviews with cast and crew begin to trickle out for the film’s promotion. Empire magazine recently spoke with director J.J. Abrams for their special edition, Episode IX issue; although his responses are calculated and methodical, they are quite revealing.
Initially, Abrams was only set to helm the first installment of the trilogy, but due to the unforeseen departure of Colin Trevorrow on IX, Kathleen Kennedy sought out Abrams to finish what George Lucas started over forty years ago. He was shocked at the thought of ending the Skywalker Saga, but it in his words, “was too compelling and too tempting to reject.”
Despite the ever growing anticipation for Episode IX, there was some tension leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, due to its predecessor, The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s contribution of Episode VIII left a selection of fans displeased with the direction of the sequel trilogy. By design, The Last Jedi subverted any and all expectations fans had after watching The Force Awakens. After all, director, Rian Johnson has stated numerous times his intentions were to do just that.
However, most of those subversions were not made known to Abrams while crafting his previous work. Abrams admitted, “When I was working on VII, I’d be lying if I said I knew everything that was gonna happen in VIII and IX.” He clarifies his statement by explaining, “I had some ideas, but we had a release date that required us to work on VII!” Clearly, Abrams had concentrated his efforts on developing a singular movie rather the entirety of the trilogy due to time constraints set forth by Disney. Those same constraints had forced screenwriter, Michael Arndt off of writing The Force Awakens in 2013.
Later on in the interview, Empire confronts Abrams with the theory that he is attempting to rectify the “damage” of The Last Jedi and “course correct.” He defends Johnson, “If I had done VIII, I would have done things differently, just as Rian would have done things differently if he had done VII. But 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. And if you come back into it, you have to honor what’s been done.” Abrams talks from experience, and with a firm understanding that Johnson would ultimately build upon the world he had set up for him Episode VII. Abrams knew The Last Jedi would differ from his own vision, how much it differed is still unclear, but he has voiced support for Johnson as far back as 2015 where he admitted the script for VIII was so good he regretted not agreeing to direct the second installment.
Understandably, Abrams has stated previously he was exhausted after working on The Force Awakens, and could not undertake another film so shortly after. Many have long speculated that the sequel trilogy was rushed because of Disney’s insistence to turn out Star Wars based content rapidly. Unfortunately, Abrams statements appear to further confirm this theory. Even Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger has admitted fault for allowing the overwhelming saturation of Star Wars material to flood the market. But, there is hope for The Rise of Skywalker.
Abrams playfully alludes to some spectacular moments in IX when Empire asks about the D23 footage that showcases what appears to be a dark side version of Rey. He responds, “I’d rather let that one lie… the movie has a number of things that you wouldn’t expect to have happen and you wouldn’t expect certain characters to do. There are surprises along the way.”
To say that The Rise of Skywalker has much to accomplish would be an understatement; over 40 years of storytelling has led to this moment and fans are longing to leave the theater satisfied with the saga’s conclusion. With J.J. Abrams’ direction I’m certain the Skywalker Saga will have the ending it truly deserves.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20, 2019.