The first film in the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was largely praised by fans, while others decried it as being too similar to the original trilogy, with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently detailing her decisions to actively challenge the fan base by pushing the franchise forward with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As proven with the debut of the prequel trilogy of films, and as we were reminded of with the reaction to The Last Jedi, when a film deviates too strongly from their expectations, certain groups of fans are happy to voice their criticisms loudly and often.
"We definitely did. We’re talking all the time about how we move Star Wars forward and how we keep it relevant," Kennedy shared with Rolling Stone about deliberately challenging fans. "Obviously, we don’t want to just keep making the same movie over and over again. So I agree with you. I mean, I love what [writer/director] Rian [Johnson] did. It’s an absolutely wonderful movie. I think he’s an extraordinary filmmaker. And I really appreciated the bold moves that he did make."
She added, "I think people forget that, especially when you’re doing a trilogy structure, the first movie is setting things up, the second is usually the conflict, and the third is the resolution. So you’re bound to have that second movie, much the same way [Star Wars: The] Empire Strikes Back was probably the darkest and most dramatic of the three. We talked about it with Indiana Jones! You know, we did Raiders of the Ark and then we did Temple of Doom, which was dark and created a lot of controversy, and people were surprised at where it went with the storytelling, but, frankly, that’s the whole point!"
Despite the excitement around the film's release and its box office success, the film has arguably replaced the prequel trilogy as the most divisive event in the history of the franchise. While many fans appreciated the 10th theatrical outing of the saga (including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars feature film) following unexpected narrative paths, others were frustrated with our first big-screen return of Luke Skywalker since Star Wars: Return of the Jedi depicting a much different version of the hero we've ever seen.
While it might be easy to get lost in a rabbit hole on social media of toxicity in the fandom, Kennedy pointed out that the studio pays closer attention to fans than they might realize.
"I love that we have these amazingly passionate fans who care so much," Kennedy pointed out. "And I know sometimes they may think we don’t listen, but we do, and I thought it was fantastic that people got that engaged. It just showed me and everybody else how much they care. And that’s important for all of us that are doing this. We really look at them as the custodians of this story as much as [we are]. We look at it as kind of a partnership."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on December 20th.
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