‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Is ‘All About Satisfying the Fans,’ According to One Star

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker faced more pressure than any previous entry in the saga. As both the grand finale and the follow-up to The Last Jedi, director J.J. Abrams faced an uphill battle in satisfying fans. Of course, the film fell short of delivering the ending most Star Wars fans wanted. But now actor Greg Grunberg — a longtime friend and collaborator of Abrams — has spoken up to defend The Rise of Skywalker.

'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker' screening
‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’ screening | JC Olivera/Getty Images

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ underwhelmed hardcore fans

In a detailed interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Grunberg — who appears in both The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker — shared his dismay at the response the latter film received. One of the biggest issues many fans had was how Abrams played it too safe. The return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) was an especially egregious decision. But Grunberg isn’t buying any of that logic, he told THR.

A movie like this is all about satisfying the fans. And J.J. does it in an emotional way as the characters are connected. There’s almost no fat in this movie at all, and that cannot be said for the others. There are moments where you go, “Oh, you could lose that scene, and the movie would still hold up.” Everything in this movie matters, and they did such an incredible job of wrapping up and servicing all the characters. Would I have liked to have seen more of Rose [Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran]? Yes. Would I have liked to have seen more of the other characters? For sure, but you can only do so much.

As Grunberg himself points out, another fan criticism was Kelly Marie Tran’s reduced role. After The Last Jedi set Rose up as a pivotal character, The Rise of Skywalker‘s decision to downplay her felt like it validated the toxic “fans” who harassed Tran online. In fact, many moviegoers noted just how much The Rise of Skywalker seemed to prioritize Abrams’ The Force Awakens over its own predecessor.

Was the sequel trilogy disjointed?

Truly, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker only expanded the polarized reaction to The Last Jedi. In previous interviews, co-writer Chris Terrio clarified that he and Abrams never intended for their film to be read as a rebuke of Rian Johnson’s 2017 release. And Grunberg echoes that sentiment in the THR piece, claiming that he wasn’t aware of any ill will Abrams may have held toward Johnson.

I never heard one disparaging thing from J.J. about Rian. Rian is a brilliant storyteller and filmmaker. It’s one of those things where if you pay attention to the film and engage with it, all it does is keep that story going. But I’m glad you’re asking me, because I would absolutely tell you if there were moments here and there. And there weren’t.

The actor goes on to say that he had hoped Johnson would bring his character, Snap Wexley, back for The Last Jedi. Since that didn’t happen, Grunberg said — perhaps jokingly — he would have been the first to suss out any bad blood between Johnson and his childhood friend, Abrams. If this rivalry was fabricated by fans, it isn’t the only element of The Rise of Skywalker to be all in their heads, according to Grunberg.

No director’s cut on the way

Because many fans considered Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker rushed and overstuffed, they assumed the film might have been the product of behind-the-scenes drama. Perhaps Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and Abrams had clashed over creative decisions, leading to a ton of excised material. It wouldn’t be the first time Star Wars faced director problems.

Although Grunberg admits a lot of extraneous scenes were cut, these cuts were part of the natural process of sharpening The Rise of Skywalker. As far as he knows, there’s no such thing as the rumored director’s cut of the film, he told THR.

Personally, I don’t think there’s any truth to that, and I would be surprised if there’s a “J.J. cut.” Every movie goes through a series of cuts; it’s just the nature of it. You see what works, what you need more of and where you need clarity. So I think that’s all a part of the creative process. I don’t buy into it at all.

Grunberg does, however, believe Abrams completely stuck the landing. He even called the ending “incredibly satisfying and so beautiful.” Clearly, that opinion is far from universal. So fans will be interested to see where Star Wars pivots after The Rise of Skywalker. For instance, what elements of the film will future projects embrace? And which will be forgotten like the prequel trilogy’s midi-chlorians? Only time will tell.