JJ Abrams admits that not planning a trilogy roadmap for the new Star Wars films, in hindsight, was a mistake.
Whilst promoting the 4K release of Super 8, filmmaker JJ Abrams has been chatting about the way the Star Wars prequel trilogy turned out. Abrams of course directed 2015’s opening film, The Force Awakens, before returning in an unplanned move, to direct the trilogy closer, 2019’s The Rise Of Skywalker.
Whilst the first film was received favourably, the second, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, suffered something of a backlash, despite being acclaimed by critics, and then Abrams’ return in the form of The Rise Of Skywalker was largely derided by pretty much everyone
Having now put some distance between himself and the film, the director has been reflecting on the trilogy’s shortcomings, and for somebody well versed in long-form storytelling, it seems he still can’t quite believe that they went into the trilogy without an overall direction that the story was going to take.
Says Abrams to Collider, “I’ve been involved in a number of projects that have been – in most cases, series – that have ideas that begin the thing where you feel like you know where it’s gonna go, and sometimes it’s an actor who comes in, other times it’s a relationship that as-written doesn’t quite work, and things that you think are gonna just be so well-received just crash and burn and other things that you think like ‘oh that’s a small moment’ or ‘that’s a one-episode character’ suddenly become a hugely important part of the story”.
After outlining that the need to ‘pivot’ sometimes to respond to an ongoing narrative is essential, Abrams went on to answer whether he thought the trilogy would have benefitted from an overall plan, rather than allowing each successive director to simply build upon, or discard, the previous director’s ideas:
“I feel like what I’ve learned … is that you have to plan things as best you can, and you always need to be able to respond to the unexpected. And the unexpected can come in all sorts of forms, and I do think that there’s nothing more important than knowing where you’re going”, adding “having a plan I have learned – in some cases the hard way – is the most critical thing, because otherwise you don’t know what you’re setting up. You don’t know what to emphasise. Because if you don’t know the inevitable of the story, you’re just as good as your last sequence or effect or joke or whatever, but you want to be leading to something inevitable.”
This is just a small taste of the full interview at Collider, that’s well worth reading and adds a lot more to this.
Considering George Lucas mapped out nine movies’ worth of plot before he wrote a page of A New Hope, we still can’t quite believe that Lucasfilm didn’t even decide what was happening over the course of this particular trilogy though. Abrams seems to have learned a harsh lesson from it and we’ll bet that somewhere, George Lucas is reading this and nodding sagely, in a Yoda-like fashion.
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