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Every artist knows that when they put something out into the world, it’s going to be critiqued. Some handle those critiques better than others. And given the high level of scrutiny that J.J. Abrams has faced for his two Star Wars films -- especially its epic conclusion, The Rise of Skywalker -- you could argue that he probably responds to criticism better than just about anyone else in Hollywood.
After a screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams talked to Vanity Fair about the pressure that comes from making movies for a dedicated fanbase. He was asked what he would say to fans who are disappointed with the film, and whether or not he thinks there’s something wrong with the fandom; he had this to say:
No, I would say that they’re right. The people who love it more than anything are also right. I was asked just seven hours ago in another country, ‘So how do you go about pleasing everyone?’ I was like’ What…?’ Not to say that should be what anyone tries to do anyway, but how would one go about it? Especially with Star Wars. I don't need to tell anyone here, we live in a moment where everything immediately seems to default to outrage. There is an MO of either: ‘It’s exactly as I see it, or you’re my enemy.' ... It’s a crazy thing that there is such a norm that seems to be void of nuance and compassion — and this is not [a phenomenon] about Star Wars, this is about everything. ... It's a crazy moment, so we knew starting this any decision we made -- a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision -- would please someone and infuriate someone else. And they're all right.
It was wise for the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker creative team to anticipate a mixed response. Film critics have cumulatively given the ninth episode of the Skywalker saga the franchise’s worst reviews ever. Fans seem to be a bit more forgiving, if Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Score can be believed. But there is already plenty of discourse about the narrative decisions, and whether or not they amounted to a satisfying conclusion to one of the most beloved film series of all time.
Fans have had strong reactions to everything from Kylo Ren’s fate to Rose Tico’s limited screentime. And it’s likely that the debate will rage on about The Rise of Skywalker’s merits, as well as the rest of the trilogy’s, for years to come. While J.J. Abrams’ response to backlash is, as per usual, very gracious, it’s likely he’ll bow out of future conversations. The director has all but confirmed he won’t play a role in any future Star Wars films.