The Rise Of Skywalker Director J.J. Abrams Says Watching The Last Jedi Encouraged Him To Take Risks

Chewie and Lando in The Falcon

The Star Wars franchise has been enthralling moviegoers for decades, and is showing no real signs of slowing down. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the property was kickstarted back up with J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens, and the introduction of standalone films. Abrams introduced a new set of characters to the franchise, alongside franchise favorites like Leia, Han, And Luke. Rian Johnson took over for The Last Jedi, and Abrams recently revealed how the subversive and surprising choices from that movie helped inspire him to take more risks for the highly anticipated Rise of Skywalker.

There is a ton of pressure on J.J. Abrams to deliver with The Rise of Skywalker, especially following the disappointing performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Additionally, Episode IX will wrap up the nine-film Skywalker Saga. Abrams recently spoke to the affect Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi, and his experience on The Force Awakens, had on his upcoming blockbuster, saying:

On this one, I let myself be, at least in the way I was approaching the thing, freer. In Episode VII, 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 IX, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode VII.

Well, that's certainly interesting. It looks like J.J. Abrams might have been in his head too much when working on The Force Awakens. But now that he's back for his sophomore run in the galaxy far, far away, he's more confident and eager to take risks.

Related: Why Star Wars: Episode IX Is Called The Rise Of Skywalker, According To JJ Abrams

This makes a great deal of sense, as The Force Awakens was the first new Star Wars movie to hit theaters since the prequels. Episode VII made a ton of money at the box office, and was the biggest pop culture event of 2015. But the movie did get some criticism for too closely resembling A New Hope, with the young Jedi on a desert planet and a planet-destroying weapon that needed to be destroyed.

On the other side of the coin, Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi received some backlash for being too subversive. He purposefully went against fan expectations, unceremoniously killing off Snoke and seemingly answering the question of Rey's parentage. And while some fans took umbrage with his choices, Lucasfilm was happy enough with his efforts to give Johnson the opportunity to direct a future installment of the franchise. In his same conversation with Games Radar, J.J. Abrams explained how that influenced him, saying:

Rian helped remind me that that’s why we’re on these movies – not to just do something that you’ve seen before. I won’t say that I felt constrained or limited on VII, but I found myself wanting to do something that felt more consistent with the original trilogy than not. And on IX, I found myself feeling like I’m just gonna go for it a bit more.

Well, this is exciting. It shows that J.J. Abrams could seemingly go anywhere with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, especially as he attempts to provide an adequate ending to the beloved space opera. The trailers already show that he's pulling no punches, with the group of heroes assembled on a mission across the galaxy. What's more, the inclusion of Emperor Palpatine shows that there will be plenty of major plot twists.

All will be revealed when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies. Plus our 2020 release list to look forward to the New Year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.