Rian Johnson On Catering To Fan Expectations

Rian Johnson On Catering To Fan Expectations

The debate over “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is only just beginning, the film potentially set to be as divisive as its predecessor – Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” – as both films offer a whole different approach to franchise filmmaking.

Johnson has spent much of the last two years hit by the backlash from “Star Wars” fans who dislike his film’s storytelling decisions. It’s a movie that defied expectations at numerous turns, something that some appreciated and others found abhorrent and saw as a lack of respect.

Johnson recently spoke with the Swings & Mrs. podcast for Radio.com and spoke more generally about incorporating fan service into films and when it’s good and not good to satisfy fandom’s expectation:

“I think approaching any creative process with [making fandoms happy] would be a mistake that would lead to probably the exact opposite result. Even my experience as a fan, you know if I’m coming into something, even if it’s something that I think I want, if I see exactly what I think I want on the screen, it’s like ‘oh, okay,’ it might make me smile and make me feel neutral about the thing and I won’t really think about it afterwards, but that’s not really going to satisfy me.

I want to be shocked, I want to be surprised, I want to be thrown off-guard, I want to have things recontextualized, I want to be challenged as a fan when I sit down in the theater…What I’m aiming for every time I sit down in a theater is to have the experience [I had] with ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ something that’s emotionally resonant and feels like it connects up and makes sense and really gets to the heart of what this thing is and in a way that I never could have seen coming.”

First reviews for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” suggests J.J. Abrams, who seemed to find a happy medium with ‘Force Awakens’, has overcompensated in his ‘course correcting’ Johnson’s film and plays things both quite safe and along expectations. Given time and distance, will Johnson’s theory hold up?