Detractors of Star Wars: The Last Jedi have a myriad of complaints they cite against the film; among them is the belief that J.J. Abrams set up a bunch of plot threads in Star Wars: The Force Awakens that Rian Johnson abandoned and didn’t deliver on. For some, it could seem like there was no synergy between the two directors. That’s not entirely the case though, because surprise, J.J. Abrams was actually involved with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In advance of the release of his new murder mystery film Knives Out (which has been getting great reactions), the British Film Institute hosted a Screen Talk with Rian Johnson where he spoke about his career, including the making of his highly divisive entry in the Skywalker Saga’s Sequel Trilogy. According to a fan on Twitter, the director revealed that he in fact had many long discussions with J.J. Abrams about The Last Jedi.
So J.J. Abrams was actually involved with Episode VIII insofar as he talked with Rian Johnson about it prior to the film’s production. By the sound of it, these weren’t quick bits of small talk where the two directors just traded pleasantries as a matter of professional courtesy. Based on what Rian Johnson said, these were lengthy discussions about The Last Jedi.
This runs contrary to the belief based on the creative direction of this trilogy’s middle chapter, that J.J. Abrams had nothing to do with The Last Jedi or that Rian Johnson didn’t care what J.J. thought. Back when Star Wars: The Last Jedi was first released, Rian Johnson mentioned that he pitched the film's story to J.J. Abrams, and Abrams gave his notes on said story.
J.J. Abrams was involved to a degree and did give his input on The Last Jedi, but that doesn’t mean that he would have made the exact same film as Rian Johnson did. Although he has said that he isn’t trying to repair the Saga or remedy perceived problems caused by The Last Jedi with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams recently admitted that if he had been the one to direct Episode VIII, he would have done things differently (what specifically, we don't know).
Although the two directors had deep conversations about the second chapter in the Sequel Trilogy, that doesn’t mean that they totally agreed on every point or that J.J. Abrams was a fan of everything Rian Johnson did. Ultimately it was Rian Johnson’s film, and at his BFI talk, Johnson also said that he wanted to make a movie that stood on its own and succeeded on its own merits, while also taking the trilogy into account.
The comments section can debate whether Rian Johnson succeeded in that goal or not. While it’s nice to hear that J.J. Abrams was involved somewhat, I think a strong case can be made that those deep discussions Abrams and Johnson had should have come before Star Wars: The Force Awakens even got made.
If Lucasfilm had formed a brain trust between the directors of the Sequel Trilogy (including intended Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow) at the beginning to hash out the arc of all three films, things might have went a bit smoother. It seems that some stuff was planned from the beginning, but we'll probably never know for sure to what degree.
It seems somewhat unclear what will happen with Rian Johnson’s Star Wars trilogy at this point, but presumably he could map out an entire story ahead of time if those films move forward. In the meantime, J.J. Abrams is back in the director’s chair to close the Skywalker Saga out with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters December 20.
Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to see the rest of this year’s biggest movies, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest Star Wars movie news.