Rian Johnson Explains Why Trying To Appease Star Wars Fans Is A ‘Mistake’

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
(Image credit: (Lucasfilm))

Starting Thursday night, Star Wars fans will leave The Rise of Skywalker with certain feelings and opinions connected to the final chapter of the over-40-year saga. We hope we’ll walk out with tears of joy in our eyes – a moment of release and satisfaction surrounding a franchise that is deeply important and nostalgic to many of us. But there’s also such a thing as the conclusion simply “pleasing” predictions, and fans may not be content if that is the outcome.

Director Rian Johnson has been the center of an ongoing debate for the past two years regarding The Last Jedi’s merits as a satisfying Star Wars film. The movie subverted many fans' expectations on what would happen in the sequel to J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. Some felt like the movie went in particular directions just to do it. Yet, as Johnson noted during an appearance on Radio show Swings & Mrs., he wrote the controversial The Last Jedi before Episode VII had even been released and fan theories really got going.

Rian Johnson spoke out about why “pleasing” Star Wars fans would be a mistake. In his words:

I think approaching any creative process with [making fans happy] would be a mistake that would lead to probably the exact opposite result. Even my experience as a fan, you know if I’m coming into something, even if it’s something that I think I want, if I see exactly what I think I want on the screen, it’s like ‘Oh, okay,’ it might make me smile and make me feel neutral about the thing and I won’t really think about it afterwards, but that’s not really going to satisfy me.

If you had an idea of what you’d imagined a highly-anticipated movie to be and it played out just as you thought it would, you’d probably come out of it a bit disappointed. Part of going to the movie theater is about being surprised and challenged, which means sometimes the best choice for a filmmaker is the biggest risk. Playing it safe may make more people happy initially, but Rian Johnson strove for the kind of film The Empire Strikes Back was to him: unexpected.

With J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker soon approaching theaters, the next debate among fans will be whether it measured up to expectations. The movie has the immense pressure of wrapping up the entire Skywalker Saga that started in 1977. Sticking the landing on this type of event feels near impossible. One star of the upcoming film, Richard E. Grant, recently said he thinks The Rise of Skywalker will face fan backlash, especially because it is the end.

So far, The Rise of Skywalker has sparked mixed reactions from critics, awarding the film an on-the-line between “Fresh” and “Rotten” 59% on Rotten Tomatoes with over 200 reviews filed. CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg gave the film 2 out of 5 stars in his review, calling it a disappointing end to the saga. He felt the movie undid much of the plot points Rian Johnson set up in The Last Jedi. Some of the first reactions were positive too! Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta felt J.J. Abrams nailed it, while io9’s Germain Lussier said it’s “everything you want and more,” though he added that he doesn’t necessarily think this is a good thing.

Could The Rise of Skywalker fall under what Rian Johnson feared – pleasing fans and therefore bogging leading to disappointment? Check out the movie on December 20 and judge it for yourself.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.