Lucasfilm and Disney never had a long-term plan with the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and they still don’t. With all the controversy surrounding the latest saga film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and whether it’s actually a great or terrible film (I happen to think it’s just shy of being good), it’s quite obvious Lucasfilm doesn’t have a concrete vision for these new movies. The scepticism people had with J.J. Abrams setting up yet another new universe and leaving other filmmakers to figure out how it concludes has been well warranted.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Abrams introduced plenty of important and huge questions regarding some of the main characters in the film, questions many people thought would be addressed in a thoughtful way and be the main focus in Episodes VIII and IX. As it turns out, these lingering questions have been completely tossed aside by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and it’s quite worrying.
Now, be warned, there will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
After watching Episode VIII: The Last Jedi I came out of the theatre feeling a bit dumbfounded and satisfied. It’s a strange feeling, one I rarely have about a film where I understand why some people disliked it and others quite loved the direction Johnson took with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The biggest criticism aimed at The Force Awakens has been that it feels like a rehash of A New Hope – a Star Wars film which ponders way too much to hardcore fans and their nostalgia for this franchise.
And so, Johnson listened to these criticisms and went the complete opposite direction, opting to subvert expectations every chance he could. However, he ultimately leaned too heavily towards the other side, essentially resetting a trilogy which only has one more film left to wrap up the story.
There are two story decisions which, in my opinion, prove Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of the filmmakers over at Lucasfilm are making it up as they go. The biggest one is undoubtedly Snoke. Star Wars: The Force Awakens set this character up as this important, mysterious figure with an intriguing past. A character which will play a significant role in the overarching story. Abrams set up this mythical figure who, in his eyes, was meant to play a much bigger role moving forward. Johnson took Abrams’ story decisions and essentially threw them away, saying they’re not important.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter who Snoke is and where he came from. He’s just there to further develop Kylo Ren, setting up the wanna-be Darth Vader as the main villain in Episode IX. On one hand, I can commend Johnson for taking such a huge risk with Snoke, killing him off in the middle of this story. It’s exactly the type of filmmaker Johnson is, one who loves subverting expectations every chance he gets. Just watch his previous two movies, Brick and Looper. But on the other hand, it’s blatantly obvious this isn’t the direction Abrams wanted or would’ve taken with Snoke. It’s a meshing of two distinct, opposite filmmaking styles and visions which ultimately ends up hurting the sequel trilogy.
The second story decision is, of course, Rey’s parents, which isn’t as big of a deal as Snoke’s demise but still important nonetheless. I see where Johnson was going with this, as relegating Rey’s parents to being a pair of random drunkards is another way of subverting expectations. Forget about the Skywalkers and the bloodlines and being born a hero – we’ve seen this tale told in the prequel and original trilogies. It’s a brave decision, but one that came up with no planning. This is a major mystery Star Wars: The Force Awakens leans heavily on, and one in which Abrams thought someone would share the same vision as him in the long run.
With Abrams now directing Star Wars: Episode IX, it’ll be fascinating to see if he’ll undo anything Johnson went within The Last Jedi. He certainly has the power to do so and recent reports suggest Abrams pitched the story for Episode IX just a few days ago. Yet another prime example of the lack of long-term planning from Lucasfilm.
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