Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson admitted he really didn’t care about Star Wars canon in a recent interview discussing Johnson’s Knives Out film.
Johnson was asked by The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Heltzel:
“Whenever you are writing, let’s say you are creating your own universe, you said you don’t think about actors, you are starting something from scratch, how is that approach versus something where you have a pre-existing universe? If you are writing characters for Star Wars, you have this universe, you have characters that everybody knows, and then now you are doing something from scratch. Do you find your approach is different for that?”
Johnson would respond, “No, not at all. Because I don’t really think in terms of universes or in terms of creating worlds or whatever. That’s not that interesting to me.”
He continued, “The only thing that is interesting to me is story. And the story specific to, like whether you are writing a Star Wars film that’s part of a three movie trilogy or a quote unquote original thing like Knives Out, you are still telling a story that is new to the thing that you are doing that it has to work within the context of that movie.”
Johnson added, “So, to me the notion of what’s the entire galaxy or world that you are creating or something, I can’t imagine getting excited about creating that. To me what I’m excited about is creating a two hour long experience for an audience to have in the theater. And that means how they engage moment to moment with the story and the characters that are on the screen. And that doesn’t change in either one of those.”
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This answer is not really shocking given the product we saw in The Last Jedi. The movie threw away and completely ignored characterizations and story moments from The Force Awakens. The opening scene of the film is probably the biggest example. General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson is turned into a complete and utter buffoon as he gets prank called by Poe Dameron.
This is a stark contrast to the opening crawl of The Last Jedi, that reads:
“The First Order reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy.”
It continues, “But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape….”
It literally describes Hux and the First Order as merciless legions. But what we get is a bumbling buffoon, who falls for a prank phone call and delays killing Poe Dameron. That’s pretty much the opposite of merciless. If Hux were indeed merciless, he would have blasted Poe Dameron out of the sky without even communicating with him.
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It also notes that the First Order decimated the Republic. Who gave that order? General Hux in The Force Awakens. Here’s a refresher.
This is the guy Rian Johnson had on the receiving end of a prank phone call from Poe Dameron in The Last Jedi.
These three moments prove that Johnson believes what he’s preaching, and apparently so did Kathleen Kennedy and the head honchos at Lucasfilm. It’s why the script, the prank phone call scene, and The Last Jedi were approved.
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However, radically changing characters that are part of a much larger narrative doesn’t work on audiences. It doesn’t work with Hux and it most certainly doesn’t work on Luke Skywalker, who is probably an even bigger example when it comes to altering characters to fit a singular narrative despite three previous films defining who he is as a character in the minds of audiences.
Luke was tested by the Dark Side Force in Return of the Jedi. He even succumbed to those temptations when he attempted to strike down the Emperor and subsequently dueled Darth Vader. However, he would eventually resist those temptations and chose to sacrifice his own body rather than allow his soul to be corrupted by the Dark Side as Anakin Skywalker’s had.
This choice ultimately awakened Vader to his wrong doing and his failure as a father. He then decided to throw Palpatine down the central shaft in order to save his son’s life. That choice also redeemed his soul. He might have been previously consumed by the Dark Side as Obi-Wan Kenobi had previously stated, but this choice to save his son, was also a choice to reject the Dark Side.
In contrast to this Luke Skywalker, who overcame the temptations of the Dark Side, Rian Johnson depicts Luke as an old hermit who has isolated himself from his friends and family. He’s also cut himself off from the Force.
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In order to explain why Luke has done this, he shows Luke attempting to murder his nephew, something that would have been previously unimaginable given the Luke Skywalker we knew from The Return of the Jedi. The Luke Skywalker who threw down his lightsaber and sacrificed his own life in an attempt to redeem his father.
Even if you could accept that Luke Skywalker attempted to murder his nephew (I don’t), how can you accept the fact that Luke Skywalker decided to hide himself away in shame. If he came to the realization that Ben was falling to the Dark Side, would he not have gone to the same lengths he went to, to redeem Darth Vader?
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This is the major problem with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which he is now finally admitting. He didn’t care about the legacy of Star Wars. It was all about the single movie, the “two hour long experience for an audience to have in the theater.”
That’s not how movie series work. That’s not how a trilogy works. And it’s ultimately why the Disney Star Wars films are an utter disaster story and character wise.
What do you make of Johnson’s latest comments? Do you think he’s finally being truthful about Star Wars: The Last Jedi?