Director J.J. Abrams has addressed the story plans, or lack thereof, in regards to the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Abrams directed The Force Awakens in 2015, which reintroduced the franchise, rather successfully, to the masses. But there wasn’t a full story outlined for all three movies in the trilogy, for better or for worse. Now, Abrams has, somewhat indirectly, addressed whether or not it would have been better to have the whole story of the trilogy mapped out from the beginning.
J.J. Abrams had great luck with The Force Awakens. It made more than $2 billion worldwide and was generally well-liked. He set up lots of threads that could be picked up in the sequels. But he departed, making way for Rian Johnson to direct Episode VIII, which became known as The Last Jedi. Abrams, after Colin Trevorrow departed ways with the project over creative differences, circled back to the franchise to direct Episode IX, now known as The Rise of Skywalker. During a recent interview, in honor of the tenth anniversary of Super 8, Abrams as asked if the Star Wars sequel trilogy would have benefitted from having a plan from the beginning. Here’s what he had to say.
“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.”
“I feel like what I’ve learned as a lesson a few times now, and it’s something that especially in this pandemic year working with writers [has become clear], the lesson 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.”
The filmmaker is careful not to specifically mention Star Wars. But we get, in a broad sense, an idea of where his head is at. Speaking further, Abrams said that sometimes the plan that you go in with doesn’t always work out either.
“There are projects that I’ve worked on where we had some ideas but we hadn’t worked through them enough, sometimes we had some ideas but then we weren’t allowed to do them the way we wanted to. I’ve had all sorts of situations where you plan things in a certain way and you suddenly find yourself doing something that’s 180 degrees different, and then sometimes it works really well and you feel like, ‘Wow that really came together,’ and other times you think, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe this is where we are,’ and 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].”
Again, not specifically singling out Star Wars there. But J.J. Abrams did conclude his thoughts in a revealing way. In the end, Abrams said he’s learned it’s critical to have a plan going into a project.
“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.”
Both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, for various and radically different reasons, were wildly divisive. Could that divisiveness have been avoided if Rian Johnson had entered Episode VIII working from a story outline? If Colin Trevorrow had done the same with Episode IX? We’ll never know, but it seems that Abrams just might have approached this all a little differently, given the chance, knowing what he knows now. This news comes to us via Collider.