Many Star Wars fans weren’t happy with Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi. But his trilogy might exceed expectations.
We’re less than a year away from the yet-to-be-named Star Wars Episode IX. And while we’re counting down the days, it’s been fun thinking about everything that’s happening in the galaxy in 2019.
The more time that passes, the more opportunities we have to reflect on The Last Jedi — a Star Wars movie that did fine in the box office, but failed to meet many fans’ expectations for what a Star Wars movie should be.
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To be clear, I don’t have strong feelings of negativity toward Johnson or the movie he made. But I understand why so many people claimed to be disappointed. Or angry. Or … whatever.
There were things I wish had been different. And I don’t know how Episode IX is going to tie up all the loose ends.
But it was a decent movie. It just wasn’t the movie a lot of Star Wars fans wanted.
Which is why I’m convinced anything Johnson creates in the Star Wars universe from here on out — as long as it’s not another saga episode — is actually going to be amazing.
To explain this, I’m going to have to talk about The Last Jedi. But I hope it reshapes the way you think about Johnson’s potential as a Star Wars creator.
More places and species
Part of what makes Star Wars entertaining is its vast array of planets and creatures, and how they all operate (or don’t) within one shared universe. If we let Johnson take on more Star Wars, we’re going to see a lot of new things — or old things brought back to life.
Canto Bight proved Johnson isn’t only interested in exploring new environments, cultures, and species: He’s good at bringing them to form.
Maybe for you, the Canto Bight portion of TLJ wasn’t great, took away from the main story, or didn’t seem to fit your expectations. But if that had been its own Star Wars story, it may have been received better — maybe even adored.
The more planets and diversity we’re exposed to, the bigger this universe feels. And I don’t know about you, but the bigger the universe, the more intriguing it is to explore.
A modern depiction of ‘good vs. evil’
The Last Jedi was all about balance. Johnson did his best to drive home the idea that everyone has a little bit of both good and bad in them — possibly hinting at the fact that neither Rey nor Kylo is all light or all dark.
The “light vs. dark” theme has been woven into Star Wars lore for decades. But stories tend to evolve with the times, and more and more, authors and directors are realizing that what people — especially young people — need to be reminded of is that good people sometimes do bad things, and not every “bad” person is hungry for power or intoxicated by greed.
I can see Johnson doing well telling stories of people in this galaxy who don’t know which side they’re supposed to be on or where they fit. It doesn’t have to be a grey Jedi, either. These could be totally relatable characters wandering around the galaxy just trying to survive.
There are a lot of fans who don’t want Star Wars stories that don’t somehow involve the Original Three or any random Force-sensitive Jedi. Jedi are what make Stars Wars unique, and all that.
But I think there’s room for good storytelling even if the only time we see a lightsaber is on the black market in some far-off world lacking laws and adequate hygiene (whatever that means in the galaxy far, far away — are there toothbrushes in space?).
The reality is, Star Wars is growing. It may be time to move beyond Force-focused storytelling. And Johnson might be the perfect person for it.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
OK, let’s be honest. You may have hated Luke nonchalantly tossing that lightsaber over the edge of a cliff. And Leia, uh, Force-flying through space. And Rose stopping Finn from sacrificing himself to LITERALLY SAVE THE ENTIRE RESISTANCE.
But even if those things weren’t what you wanted to happen, I personally consider it good storytelling when someone can surprise me and make me feel things I did not expect to feel during a Star Wars movie.
There are critics that argue Johnson basically took everything J.J. Abrams set up in The Force Awakens and carelessly decided just to do his own thing instead. And I don’t entirely disagree.
But if you look at The Last Jedi not as one piece of a much larger puzzle, but as its own separate story, it’s much easier to see that in itself, it’s not a bad story. Disney obviously chose Johnson for this job because he’s capable of telling good stories.
If this trilogy is its own separate thing set in the galaxy we know and love, he’ll pretty much have a clean slate to work with (so to speak). He’ll be able to tell a decent story, from beginning to end, without having to live up to the expectations and storylines set by seven previous films.
I have faith in Rian Johnson. I really do. At the very least, I’m going to give what he makes a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Except Kylo Ren. He doesn’t deserve my sympathy or yours. Bad Kylo.
If Rian Johnson makes more Star Wars, will you watch it? Or was one movie enough?