To be fair to J.J. Abrams, taking on directorial duties for the final film in a nine movie, 40-plus year saga, at the last minute, is not an ideal scenario. But that’s what happened with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a complicated movie with tremendous expectations, and tremendously mixed reviews.
How does J.J. Abrams feel? Based on some recent comments, he seems pretty zen about the whole thing.
At a screening for The Rise of Skywalker with Abrams and screenwriter Chris Terrio in attendance for a post-screening Q&A, moderated by Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican and captured by The Disinsider writer Kaila Spencer on Twitter, Abrams was asked how he felt about the film’s mixed response.
To paint a picture, the film has a “rotten” critic’s score of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, but a much more solid 86% audience score sampled from Rotten Tomatoes users who participate.
When Braznican asked Abrams about people’s mixed reactions to The Rise of Skywalker, he responded, “I would say that they’re right. The people who love it more than anything are also right.”
In other words, it’s impossible to please everyone. What a cop-out.
“I was asked, ‘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 does 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 M.O. of, it is either exactly as I see it or you’re my enemy.”
Abrams then added some compelling insight about lost nuance to general discourse, including, but not limited to, Star Wars:
“It’s a crazy thing that there is such a norm devoid of nuance. Not just about Star Was, but about everything. Compassion, acceptance, allowing people… It’s a crazy moment. so we knew starting this that any decision we made, a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision, would please someone and infuriate someone else.”
Altogether, J.J. Abrams has a zen attitude about the response to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a movie with decades of expectations riding on it. It might be because, while it is Star Wars, it was also just a job for Abrams. Although a lifelong fan of George Lucas’ saga since childhood, Abrams lived out his wildest dreams directing 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a movie meant to reignite Star Wars for a completely new generation. The Rise of Skywalker, by comparison, was more or less about just finishing what was started.
Following the firing of original Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow in 2017, Abrams was hired by Lucasfilm again to bring the new trilogy to a conclusion, under a far tighter schedule than the conditions for The Force Awakens.
“Sticking this landing is one of the harder jobs that I could have taken,” he told The New York Times. “But that was why it felt worthy of saying yes.”
Time will tell if the new trilogy stands up to the original series. And time will tell if J.J. Abrams did, in fact, stick the landing of these movies. Until then, it sounds like Abrams is letting the Force take the wheel.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.