Yes, J.J. Abrams Consulted With Rian Johnson Ahead Of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Rey and Kylo Ren lightsaber battle in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
(Image credit: (Lucasfilm))

You can’t really talk about J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker without going back to Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. The two films look to be diametrically opposed, yet equally divisive among the fandom. Many fans who didn’t care for Johnson’s 2017 Star Wars film are finding satisfaction in Abrams’ Episode IX, and vice versa. Contrary to the thought that The Rise of Skywalker writer/director greatly ignored the movie before it, Abrams recently said this:

We had conversations with Rian at the beginning. It’s been nothing but collaborative. The perspective that, at least personally, I got from stepping away from it and seeing what Rian did, strangely gave us opportunities that would never have been there, because of course he made choices no one else would have made. In a way it felt kind of like a gift, though of course there were challenges in every direction. It was actually weirdly more helpful than not, having that other energy to the story. There was an alchemy because of the things that he did.

Is anyone else surprised? J.J. Abrams cleared up ideas that he rebelled against Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi at a Friday screening of The Rise of Skywalker (via Vanity Fair). According to the writer/director, Rian Johnson was consulted on the latest Star Wars movie. Abrams also praised the Knives Out filmmaker for contributing to many plot points in Episode VIII that he and co-writer Chris Terrio built upon for The Rise of Skywalker.

Fans have certainly found a good amount of plot points that contradict Rian Johnson’s movie – such as Rey’s revealed place in the story, Kylo Ren donning his helmet again and the absence of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico. There are elements of The Rise of Skywalker that needed The Last Jedi too, such as Rey and Kylo’s Force phone calls or, as Abrams points out, Luke Skywalker’s arc.

While some fans' blatant criticisms about The Last Jedi lay in the treatment of Luke’s return, J.J. Abrams called it “one of the many brilliant things” Rian Johnson did with the franchise. Looking back, he said Johnson’s unique ideas helped more than anything, and didn’t end up debilitating their creative process. In Abrams’ words:

The truth is when I was getting [The Force Awakens] up and running, I was nothing but grateful that a director and writer I admire as much as Rian was coming in to do [the next one.] Not expecting to come back to this, it was just fun to watch what was happening and get to respond to it.

However, it should be noted that Rian Johnson’s name is not on the script for The Rise of Skywalker. Actions are particularly more telling than words, and there does seem to be some different standpoints on the franchise from each filmmakers' point of view.

But both of them seem to agree that there was no way they’d be able to please everyone with these movies. Recently, Rian Johnson said he felt it would be a mistake to go into the creative process from the standpoint of trying to make fans happy. He talked about wanting to be challenged as an audience member and filmmaker.

Similarly, J.J. Abrams said he and Chris Terrio knew no matter what choices they made, The Rise of Skywalker would receive a mixed response. At the post-screening Q&A, he said he wouldn’t even know how to go about pleasing everyone.

What do you think? Does Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker feel like a collaborative process with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi? Sound off in the comments below and read our review of the film!

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.