How 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Forced J.J. Abrams Out of His Comfort Zone
J.J. Abrams is a much different filmmaker than the one he was when he made his first Star Wars movie four years ago. The Rise of Skywalker director reveals what -- and how -- he changed.
Director J.J. Abrams' first Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, was met with fan criticism as being a Xerox of the first Star Wars movie ever, 1977's A New Hope. In fact, Abrams remarked in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he can understand why audiences would view it that way -- it was kind of in the film's design that he co-wrote. Now, as Abrams is primed to conclude the new trilogy he started, and the Skywalker Saga George Lucas kicked off more than 40 years ago, the filmmaker is comparing is work on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with his directorial approach to Force Awakens. In the latest issue of Total Film (via sister site Games Radar), Abrams talked about how The Force Awakens compares to The Rise of Skywalker, at least as far as his directing approach is concerned:
“On this one, I let myself be, at least in the way I was approaching the thing, freer," Abrams revealed to Total Film magazine (via sister site Games Radar). "In Episode VII, I was adhering to a kind of approach that felt right for Star Wars in my head. It was about finding a visual language, like shooting on locations and doing practical things as much as possible. And we continue that in Episode IX, but I also found myself doing things that I’m not sure I would have been as daring to do on Episode VII.”
Skywalker marks the first time in Abrams' feature film career that he has completed something he has started, and it is refreshing -- and commendable -- that the director would want to step outside his comfort zone while tackling a project unlike any he has truly done before. We can pin some of the inspiration for this movie on The Last Jedi director and writer Rian Johnson.
“Rian helped remind me that that’s why we’re on these movies – not to just do something that you’ve seen before. I won’t say that I felt constrained or limited on [Force Awakens], but I found myself wanting to do something that felt more consistent with the original trilogy than not. And on [Skywalker], I found myself feeling like I’m just gonna go for it a bit more.”
To branch out like this, with so much at creative stake on this project, is, again, admirable. Especially given the less-than-solid ground the franchise currently has under it.
What You Can Learn
Even directors like Abrams, with a significant degree of success that comes from "playing it safe" within the confines of what got them that success, can feel the itch to branch out. To challenge themselves -- in a way that also services and honors the material and what came before. To take chances on yourself is not easy, especially when doing so within the confines of a Star Wars movie.
But it is inspiring. And necessary.
We will see how it all plays out when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.