J. J. Abrams On The Sequel Trilogy Should've Been Mapped Out
One of the most interesting things about the Star Wars universe is that almost all the live action movies have different directors. Most notably, of course, is George Lucas (A New Hope and the prequels). Then, we have Irvin Kershner (Empire Strikes Back) and Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi). Gareth Edwards and Ron Howard directed the spin-off movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Story Wars Story respectively. Finally, J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson helmed the sequels, which have arguably been some of the most contested Star Wars live action films with fans having opinions all over the map in regards to the three films.
Fans' opinions range from hating the sequels from The Force Awakens onward, to believing that Rian Johnson ruined everything with The Last Jedi, to absolutely loving The Rise of Skywalker. Whatever your opinions, one thing seemed to be pretty universal throughout. Everyone agreed that there was a lack of planning when it came to mapping out the sequel series, which resulted in quite a few plot holes, characters doing very uncharacteristic things, and storylines getting suddenly sprung on viewers from out of nowhere.
In a recent interview with Collider, J. J. Abrams talked about how he has learned from past mistakes about not mapping out stories and coming up with a plan. Adam Chitwood of Collider asked Abrams if he thought that the Star Wars sequel trilogy should have had a plan mapped out for all three movies. While Abrams did not specifically mention his work with any of the Star Wars sequel movies he directed, he responded that he has learned from the many mistakes he has made in the creative process in the past, and how having a plan should be the most important part of creating any story, particularly one that will have multiple stories and even multiple directors.
“You just never really know, but 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 emphasize. 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.”
He also brought up that an overall plan was not always the be all and end all. Sometimes, a plan can get in the way, stemming the creative process, or stopping exploration into other story ideas.On the flip side, if you do not have a plan going forward in the creative process, the story can fall to shambles.
“[…] sometimes when it’s not working out it’s because it’s what you planned, and other times when it’s not working out it’s because you didn’t [have a plan].”
J. J. Abrams was supposed to only helm The Force Awakens, but after Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow parted ways in 2017, Kennedy went back to Abrams, who was, after-all, the guy who directed the highest grossing movie in the United States and the only $2 billion movie in the Star Wars franchise. While he did not direct The Last Jedi, Abrams received an executive producer credit on the movie.
Abrams had his work cut out for him with Rise of Skywalker. It was the conclusion to the sequel trilogy, as well as, the conclusion to the entire Skywalker saga. Abrams brought in several concept ideas that he had not had a chance to introduce in The Force Awakens (for good or for ill, you decide), as well as continuing the storyline that Rian Johnson set up in The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, since it was also the conclusion of the chapter, he had to correct the course and wrap up several other points and storylines. As a result, some of the characters, storylines, and concepts that were introduced in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were never resolved or sufficiently answered in a way that many fans wanted.
As seen in the Collider interview, it appeared Abrams would have liked to plan out the sequel trilogy more than what actually ended up happening. Star Wars fans were never going to be completely satisfied one way or another. Some loved the end. Others did not. Whatever the case, the films still grossed over $4 billion combined. Overall, the lesson learned here was that having the story mapped out, especially in a long saga such as Star Wars, was always the best way to go.