The knives have been out for Rian Johnson again as Star Wars fans react to the release of Disney-owned Fox’s The Rise of Skywalker by revisiting the debate over the space saga’s preceding installment, Johnson’s polarizing The Last Jedi from 2017. Today, Johnson defended himself and his version of the franchise’s central protagonist, Luke Skywalker.
When a Twitter user complained that Johnson “completely destroys the character” of Luke in his film (and “almost derailed the franchise” in the process) the director of Knives Out, Looper and Brick replied that a greater danger to the hero are portrayals that simplify him to the level of a video game avatar.
“I understand that point of view but I completely disagree with it,” Johnson wrote in a tweet that went out to his 976,000 followers. “In fact I think it disrespects the character of Luke by treating him not as a true mythic hero overcoming recurring wounds & flaws, but as a video game character who has achieved a binary, permanent power-up.”
Johnson’s take on Skywalker found the hero in embittered hermit mode which infuriated the franchise fans who have always embraced heroes that lose hands but have no patience for heroes that lose heart. (One reason may be brand esteem : If Luke has soured and lost interest in the galactic struggles of the Jedi universe how does that make a longtime fan feel about their devotion after four decades?)
Johnson’s film won over many critics by veering away from the franchise’s long-familiar rhythms and narrative choices but, no surprise, that flew in the face of traditions that may Star Wars fans embrace as something that almost rises to the level of pop-culture religion. If Johnson’s film was framed as heretical filmmaking, the just-release J.J. Abrams sequel, The Rise of Skywalker, is a course-correcting return to the familiar tonalities that jettisons some key story aspects along the way. And (again, no surprise) fans have been embracing the new film while many critics have cited its checklist approach to fan service as an artistic setback for the Jedi mythology.