When J.J. Abrams directed The Force Awakens, he delivered a very fun and welcome introduction to the sequel trilogy, but the criticism he faced was that it was too similar to A New Hope.
Rian Johnson, meanwhile, did things in The Last Jedi we’ve never seen before in a Star Wars film, and his daring approach paid off by delivering the saga to new heights. Seeing that, Abrams said, inspired him to take a more daring approach on The Rise of Skywalker too.
“Rian helped remind me that that’s why we’re on these movies – not to just do something that you’ve seen before,” Abrams told Total Film in a recent interview, per Games Radar. “I won’t say that I felt constrained or limited on 7, but I found myself wanting to do something that felt more consistent with the original trilogy than not. And on 9, I found myself feeling like I’m just gonna go for it a bit more.”
I’m really thrilled to hear this. I will forever defend Abrams taking a more conservative approach to TFA, because he faced the massive task of reinvigorating a cinematic franchise, bring old fans back in and new ones in, and kick off the sequel trilogy. So he took the approach of a very similar story and feel but focused on new characters, and I think it worked really well. So when I say this, I’m not saying that I think he did wrong in that regard on TFA, but I do think that is a part of what made TLJ so much better. Rian Johnson wasn’t interested in just showing us what we had already seen; he decided to take the franchise to new places, and in doing so he delivered one of the best stories we’ve ever seen in this universe. So I’m happy to hear that Abrams feels that he can be more daring in this upcoming film.
“On this one, I let myself be, at least in the way I was approaching the thing, freer,” he said. “In Episode 7, I was adhering to a kind of approach that felt right for Star Wars in my head. It was about finding a visual language, like shooting on locations and doing practical things as much as possible. And we continue that in Episode 9, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode 7.”
It remains to be seen whether that daring approach will pay off with a rewarding story (though I’m certainly quite optimistic!), but regardless, I want to applaud Abrams for daring to go in new directions. And I think it’s great that he’s giving Rian Johnson credit for helping him have the confidence to do so.
So, as if you needed yet another piece of evidence that Abrams isn’t at odds with Johnson’s vision and haven’t been paying attention up to this point, here you go!