The latest film in the Star Wars saga has been one of the most successful movies of all time, though it's not without mixed critical response. Fans have been divisive over the film and its many reveals, including the identities (or lack thereof) of Rey's parents.
But director Rian Johnson revealed he made a deliberate choice for that revelation, tying it to the ending of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in which the Force truly has awakened with the final shot of a stable boy full of hope, watching the stars as the Resistance races across the galaxy.
"I went through all the possibilities in terms of who her parents could be," said Johnson, speaking on the Empire Film Podcast. "I made a list. 'It could be this; what are the upsides and downsides? Or it could be this; what are the upsides and downsides?' And there were two things about this option that made it feel right to me… I like the idea that we're breaking out from the notion that the Force is just this genetic thing that you have to be tied to somebody to have. It's the 'Anybody can be President' idea, which I like introducing."
The writer and director also went back to one of the most dramatic reveals in the franchise, one that changed what every fan thought they new about the Star Wars saga.
"The bigger thing, the foremost thing was just dramatically, storytelling wise," Johnson said. "The way I like to put it, in The Empire Strikes Back, the big revelation of 'I am your father,' it's a big surprise but I think the reason it lands is not because it's a surprise. The reason it lands is because it's the hardest possible thing that Luke and hence the audience could hear in that moment. You've had a bad guy that you can hate…
"With that one line, 'I am your father,' suddenly that easy answer gets taken away from you and he's something that our protagonist has, inside of him, has a relationship to. And that we now have to think of in more complex terms, in terms of layers of redemption. And that makes it harder, not easier, for the audience and definitely for Luke."
While many fans theorized that Rey would end up related to Luke Skywalker, or Emperor Palpatine, or Obi-Wan Kenobi, or countless others, it didn't turn out that way because Johnson felt that was the easiest way out for the character AND the audience.
"So, for me, if Rey had gotten the answer that, 'Oh yeah, you're related to so and so. Here's your place in this story,' that would be the easiest thing she could possibly hear," Johnson said. "The hardest thing to hear is, 'Nope, this is not going to define you… and in fact, Kylo is going to use this to try and undercut your confidence so that you'll feel you have to lean on him for your identity. And in this moment, you're gonna have to make the choice to stand on your own two feet… to find your own identity in this story.' That seemed just dramatically to be the thing that was most potent to throw to Rey in that moment."
His reasons for the story echo the film's final scene, which was set up back in J.J. Abrams entry in the saga. The Force has awakened, and now it's time for those in the galaxy to become who they are unburdened by the past.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now playing in theaters.