‘Star Wars’: J.J. Abrams’ Surprising Reaction to Snoke’s Death in ‘The Last Jedi’

Some regard it among the best Star Wars films ever made. Others consider it a franchise-killing disaster. Yet, moviegoers are still talking about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Even two years later, Star Wars fans debate how writer/director Rian Johnson’s film affects the saga. Moreover, we still don’t know how J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will follow up on the detours its predecessor took. In promoting the film, Abrams shared his initial — and very surprising — reaction to The Last Jedi‘s bold direction.

J.J. Abrams on the red carpet
J.J. Abrams on the red carpet | Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Dividing the ‘Star Wars’ fandom

Before we get to Abrams’ thoughts, we should set the stage a bit more about The Last Jedi. While the film’s release came a year after Rogue One, it, of course, serves as a direct sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That first film in the sequel trilogy — also directed by Abrams — was criticized for hewing too closely to 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope.

So The Last Jedi, in true Johnson fashion, subverted expectations, going completely another way. Fans of the director know he has a tendency to bring a distinct take to each genre he touches. Such was the case with his Star Wars film.

Mark Hamill himself was famously taken aback by Johnson’s storytelling decisions. Johnson chose to “let the past die” in The Last Jedi, setting aside mysteries — like Rey’s parentage — fans had expected clean answers to. But one of the most controversial decisions was regarding the supposed Big Bad of the sequel trilogy.

J.J. Abrams on Rian Johnson’s vision

Roughly midway through The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren turns the tables on Supreme Leader Snoke, bisecting him with Rey’s confiscated lightsaber. The Force Awakens had positioned Snoke as the Emperor Palpatine of the new trilogy. But, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Abrams revealed he was far from offended by Johnson’s choices.

When I read his first draft, it made me laugh because I saw that was [Johnson’s] take and his voice. I got to watch cuts of the movie as he was working on it, as an audience member. And I appreciated the choices he made as a filmmaker that would probably be very different from the choices that I would have made. Just as he would have made different choices if he had made Episode VII.

Of course, Abrams’ sensible response will probably not appease fans who continue to see The Last Jedi as an affront to the saga. An argument could be made that Johnson’s auteurist approach to the film was a poor fit. After all, he was working within an established brand, not in a world he created himself.

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‘The Last Jedi’ fundamentally changed Luke Skywalker

A prime example of this is Johnson’s version of an older, disillusioned Luke Skywalker. Rather than the plucky hero he played in the original trilogy, Hamill’s Jedi counterpart has secluded himself from the Resistance, his family, and even the Force. Even Abrams was shocked where Johnson took the character, according to his Rolling Stone interview.

I felt the biggest surprise was how dark Luke was. That was the thing that I thought: “Oh, that was unexpected.” And that’s the thing The Last Jedi undeniably succeeds at, which is constant subversion of expectation. The number of things that happened in that movie that aren’t the thing you think is going to happen is pretty fun.

Luckily, The Last Jedi managed to allow Johnson the chance to put his own stamp on Star Wars without hampering Abrams’ vision for the trilogy he started. Abrams has even praised Johnson’s approach for emboldening him to challenge himself with The Rise of Skywalker. We’ll find out very soon if Abrams is able to provide a satisfying conclusion to the nine-part Skywalker saga.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20.