One of the most jarring things in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is how it takes fans’ preconceived notions of the Force and changes them. Things we’ve never seen happen in Star Wars happen often and we just have to go with it.
In a new interview, Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson reveals fascinating insight into those changes and explains how and why each of the moments happened.
Obviously, spoilers abound.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Johnson sympathizes with the fans who may find some of his choices in the film, like Rey and Kylo Ren talking through the Force, or Luke projecting himself onto Crait, difficult.
The truth is, because “Star Wars” until “The Force Awakens” has been set in amber and we hadn’t had a new “Star Wars” movie in 10 years, you forget that they were introducing new Force stuff with each movie, based on the requirements of the story. Force-grabbing didn’t come around until “Empire,” it wasn’t in “A New Hope.” Same with Force ghosts. They’d introduce new ideas of what could happen with the Force each time.
So Johnson does that and then some. First of all, there’s the idea that Yoda can manipulate the real world from beyond the grave.
The one point where we do introduce a bit of a twist in terms of Force ghosts is where Yoda calls down the lightning onto the tree. That, I think, is a tantalising hint of the potential of someone who is a Force ghost interacting with the real world.
There’s also the moment where Princess Leia, seemingly dead in space, uses the Force to fly back onto the ship.
That was something Kathy [Kennedy] was always asking: Why has this never manifested in Leia? She obviously made a choice, because in “Return of the Jedi” Luke tells her, “You have that power too.” I liked the idea that it’s not Luke concentrating, reaching for the lightsaber; it’s an instinctual survival thing, like when you hear stories of a parent whose toddler is caught under a car and they get superhuman strength, or a drowning person clawing their way to the surface. It’s basically just her not being done with the fight yet.
I wanted it to happen [for Carrie] and I knew it was going to be a stretch. It’s a big moment, and I’m sure it will land different ways for different people, but for me it felt like a really emotionally satisfying thing to see.
Then there’s the Kylo and Rey “ForceTime” sessions (a term used in the L.A. Times piece that we should all adopt). Johnson says the primary reason for the discussion was to get the characters talking and comfortable with each other, but without being in the same place. Because if they were in the same place, they would have just fought. How to do it though? The Force.
I knew I wanted them to talk, and to talk enough to where we could go from “I hate you,” to her being forced to actually engage with him. That’s where the idea of these “Force connections” came from, which is kind of a new thing. It’s a little bit of a riff on what happens with Vader and Luke at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it’s entirely new in some regards.
Finally, there’s the big one, Luke projecting a version of himself to distract the First Order for the Resistance (which has been used previously in the comics, see image below). Here’s what Johnson had to say about that.
When Luke shows up he’s projecting, it’s like a hardcore variation of what Kylo and Rey have been doing the whole time and that’s why it takes so much out of him….We tried to play really, really fair. In terms of his footsteps — we removed all of his foley — there are no footstep sounds. They never touch. And if you look, the salt flakes that are falling are sparking off of Kylo’s saber and not off of Luke’s.
Whether or not you buy Johnson’s reasoning for these changes or the ability for the characters to do it, you can’t say he didn’t think about them all. Plus, he’s right. The original films similarly revealed new powers each time. We’re learning about the Force as we go on. They have just been part of our Star Wars understanding for so long, we forget at one point, they were new, too. Like The Last Jedi is now.
Image: Dark Horse Comics’ Dark Empire #5, art by Cam Kennedy
The whole interview with the L.A. Times is great and has more insight on things like Kylo being shirtless, Rey’s parents, Snoke’s death, Han’s dice, and more. Read it below.