‘Star Wars’: Rian Johnson Is Defending 1 Controversial Element of ‘The Last Jedi’

Although Star Wars: The Last Jedi received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, certain aspects of the movie proved to be controversial and did not sit right with everyone. Some fans complained about Luke’s arc, the Canto Bight storyline, the Leia Force scene, and more.

Since the movie came out, writer and director Rian Johnson has taken part in a number of interviews and has been active on social media, and through these two mediums, he has been responding to some of the most common criticisms.

Let’s take a look at the most interesting instance of Johnson defending The Last Jedi, followed by Johnson’s responses to the other major complaints fans have.

1. Luke’s ability to project himself using the Force

Luke Skywalker stands and looks ahead in an all-black outfit.

Luke Skywalker showed some new abilities. | Lucasfilm

Some fans have complained about Luke Skywalker being able to project himself onto Crait. They feel that it’s cheap to introduce this new power out of nowhere in order to save the heroes. After all, that’s basically the definition of a deus ex machina. These fans have acted like this is a brand new power that Johnson pulled out of thin air.

Johnson took to Twitter to defend this. He pointed out that this power does not come out of nowhere and that there’s precedent for it in Star Wars lore: The book, The Jedi Path, explains that some Jedi can create duplicates of themselves.

Although Johnson did not say this, another defense of the scene would be that the power is set up earlier in the movie. When Kylo Ren and Rey first speak via their Force connection, Kylo says, “You’re not doing this. The effort would kill you.” This sets up exactly what Luke does at the end of the movie and why it kills him.

Next: Johnson’s explanation for Leia’s near-death experience

2. Leia using the Force to save herself from death

Carrie Fisher as Leia

Leia’s ability to use the Force was called into question. | Lucasfilm

Not everyone was a fan of the scene in which Leia Organa saves herself from death using the Force. The complaints range from those who feel that the execution of the scene just looks goofy to those who are annoyed that it was “unrealistic” or that Leia being able to use the Force was too sudden.

In terms of why Leia is able to break out the Force like this, Johnson told Entertainment Weekly:

I liked the idea it would be an instinctual thing. This would be more like stories you hear about parents of toddlers who get caught under cars and they get Hulk strength and lift the car up. It would be something in these final moments to show that she’s not done with the fight. And like a drowning person pulling herself back, that’s how it manifests itself for the first time in her.

Johnson hasn’t really responded to those who just feel that the scene looks goofy. But he doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic to those who somehow can’t believe that Leia Organa, the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, would be strong in the Force even without training.

When asked on Twitter why Leia can use the Force like she does, Johnson just responded, “Cause she’s a bada** muthaf*cka.”

Next: Why Johnson felt that explaining Snoke’s backstory would have been a waste of time

3. Not revealing the origin of Snoke in the movie


Snoke is still a mysterious character in many ways. | Lucasfilm

One aspect of The Last Jedi that left some fans disappointed was the lack of answers about Snoke and his background. Well, Johnson has said that while fans might be interested in learning more about Snoke, providing a whole backstory within the movie would have slowed things down and would not have been relevant to the story.

“It would have stopped any of these scenes dead cold if he had stopped and given a 30-second speech about how he’s Darth Plagueis,” Johnson told Entertainment Weekly, “… It doesn’t matter to Rey. If he had done that, Rey would have blinked and said, ‘Who?’ And the scene would have gone on…and I’m not saying he’s Darth Plagueis!”

While speaking to Business Insider, Johnson also shot down the idea that he killed off Snoke just as a middle finger to all the fans speculating about the character. He pointed out that he wrote the movie before The Force Awakens was released and all the Snoke theories took off. Simply put, Johnson says he killed Snoke because the most interesting direction to take this story in was for Kylo to start running things on his own.

Next: Johnson’s explanation for Luke’s heartbreaking failure

4. Luke Skywalker goes into hiding after contemplating murdering his nephew

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Luke had a dark arc in The Last Jedi. | Lucasfilm

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of The Last Jedi is the way it treats Luke Skywalker. Some fans don’t like the idea that Luke would contemplate murdering his nephew, Ben Solo. Johnson has defended this scene by saying that it’s simply a momentary temptation.

“It’s not like Luke is a Superman who’s impervious to that,” Johnson told IGN. “Having just, even the brief moment of temptation of it because that’s what that moment is. He doesn’t give in to the Dark Side, it’s a moment of temptation to the Dark Side.”

The other common criticism comes from those who believe that even if Luke were to have this momentary temptation, he wouldn’t give up and go into hiding afterward. Johnson provided a great explanation for this in The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He explained:

Ultimately, Luke’s exile and his justifications for it are all covering over his guilt over Kylo. The big gloss that he’s putting over the whole thing is: “The Force does not belong to the Jedi. This ongoing dynamic between the Jedi and the Sith just keeps renewing itself and just keeps feeding the fire. It’s time for this old religion to die so that the truth about God can rise from elsewhere — basically, so that a more worthy god can rise. It’s really hard, and it’s going to cause a lot of pain, but that’s what has to happen. So I’m going to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done, what I couldn’t do in Empire, and not answer the call of my friends so that the Jedi Order dies and something new has to rise and pull the light up.”

Next: Why Johnson decided to make Rey’s parents nobody of significance 

5. The movie revealing that Rey’s parents are nobodies

Rey in Star Wars

The reveal of Rey’s parentage was a let down to some. | Lucasfilm

The Force Awakens left fans wondering who Rey’s parents are and what happened to them. The Last Jedi (seemingly) provides the answer: Rey’s parents are unimportant junk traders who sold her away for drinking money.

A lot of viewers love this explanation because it means that the protagonist of this trilogy is a young woman who comes from nothing and has to find meaning for herself, not a young woman who was destined for greatness because she’s the daughter of Luke Skywalker or someone similarly important. Others, however, were disappointed that the answer was so simple and anticlimactic.

Johnson has explained his reasoning for making Rey’s parents nobody by saying:

For me, if Rey had gotten the answer that she’s related to so-and-so, had learned her place in the story, that would be the easiest thing she can hear. The hardest thing to hear is, ‘Nope, this not going to define you. And in fact, Kylo is going to use this to try and undercut your confidence so you’ll feel you have to lean on him for your identity. And you’re going to have to make the choice to find your own identity in this story.’

Johnson has also said that part of the reason for making Rey’s parents nobody was that it supports the idea that anyone can be a hero, and you don’t have to come from one specific bloodline.

Next: A lot of fans did not respond well to this character and subplot.

6. Rose and the Canto Bight subplot

Rose and Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rose and Finn’s subplot wasn’t everyone’s favorite part of the film. | Lucasfilm

Some fans felt like the detour to Canto Bight was ultimately pointless. Others have complained that Rose doesn’t really need to be in the movie. But Johnson has explained that the character of Rose grew out of a desire to have someone who could challenge Finn. Originally, she wasn’t in the movie at all, and her role was filled by Poe.

“Poe originally went on the journey with Finn to Canto Bight. And it was boring,” Johnson explains in The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “It was just these two dudes on an adventure.”

“I knew something was wrong when I looked at their dialogue and realized I could interchange any of the lines,” he said. There wasn’t conflict between them. So I realized I had to come up with something else. Finn needing somebody else to go with who would actually challenge him and push him and contrast with him was where Rose came from.”

Indeed, through his journey with Rose, Finn ends up growing from someone who wants to run away from the fight and who only cares about his friend to someone who is willing to sacrifice his life for the Resistance.

The kiss between Rose and Finn also wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Johnson told IndieWire that he debated whether to put this in the movie, but he went with it because “it was something that felt right to me that I stuck to, to make my heart lift.”

Next: Why Johnson felt it was necessary for the movie to be so funny

7. The movie having so many jokes

A porg in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The porgs were one of the funny elements of the film. | Lucasfilm

The Last Jedi is arguably the most hilarious Star Wars movie ever. Not everyone was a fan of the comedy, though. Some felt like the non-stop jokes were a distraction and that some of them were less funny than others.

But Johnson has said that it was always important to him that the movie be funny, just like the originals are. He told Vanity Fair.

I think about Han and Leia and Luke wisecracking their way through the Death Star. The movies always had that sense of humor. Especially coming into the middle chapter, it has a stigma of always being darker. I knew it was going to get darker in some spots just because of what we had to do. It was really important to me, to, at the very outset, make a bold statement of, we’re going to have fun here also.

Next: Johnson says that doing this was incredibly difficult but necessary. 

8. The death of Luke Skywalker

Director Rian Johnson (L) and actor Mark Hamill attend the press conference for the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney

It was inevitable that the character of Luke Skywalker would die at some point. But some fans were upset that he was killed off now rather than in Episode IX or later.

Johnson says that now was the right time, partially because this new trilogy is really about the new characters. He told Entertainment Weekly, “I think the hero’s journey of Luke Skywalker concluded in Return of the Jedi. This [trilogy] is the hero’s journey of Rey, and Finn, and Poe. The [ongoing] story of Luke is one that has to play in tandem with that of Rey.”

Johnson also said that it made sense because Luke fulfilled his purpose at the end by becoming a legend to inspire the galaxy, and after that, “you can make the case that then there’s nothing more powerful that he could accomplish.”

Keep in mind that just because Luke is dead doesn’t mean we won’t see him again. Though he’s not writing or directing the next movie, Johnson has very heavily implied that Luke will return as a Force ghost and continue being involved in the story. He told Esquire, “The potential of Luke’s part in the next chapter, no matter what it ends up being, the possibilities are more varied and more exciting with him having passed on into the next realm.”

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