Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Director J.J. Abrams Says You Can’t Look at Fans as an Adversary

Star Wars fans shouldn’t be looked at as an “adversary,” says two-time Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, who relaunched the franchise with The Force Awakens before returning for The Rise of Skywalker. Despite the divisive nature of the Rian Johnson-directed The Last Jedi — still stirring online discourse two years after its release to theaters, including renewed debates over its stars’ frank criticisms that came to light when promoting The Rise of Skywalker — Abrams believes “spirited debate is not a bad thing,” and the filmmaker explains why he sympathizes with critics:

“You can’t look at fans of Star Wars as an adversary. They’re passionate, and certainly can be contentious, but the fact they care — I feel like I, as a Star Wars fan, understand that love for the series,” Abrams told Popcorn host Peter Travers. “So I feel blessed to be involved in something that matters so much to so many people.”

Asked if he stays away from online commentary, Abrams answered, “Here’s how I feel. Every time I read something where someone is unsupportive — which is a kind way of saying ‘brutal’ — I kind of go, ‘Well, they’ve got a point.’ And whenever I read someone saying, ‘Oh, he’s the greatest,’ I’m like, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about.’”

“I always feel like I sympathize with the people who have the sort of more negative things to say,” he added. “So it’s not a pleasant thing to ever read something that’s negative, but I also feel like spirited debate is not a bad thing, and certainly, you can find some of that online.”

Abrams, a fan since he first saw George Lucas’ original Star Wars when he was 10-years-old, says the blockbuster was “obviously mind-expanding” and it was understood immediately that “things had changed when that movie [came out].”

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“It had such an impact, obviously, on audiences and filmmakers, and not just the technology of it, but the sort of world-expanding nature of it, the sense of opportunity and possibility. And it’s this thing that, for me, as a filmmaker, I feel very lucky to get to be involved in it,” Abrams said. “On [Skywalker], I kind of went into it with a different point of view, having done one already. It was such a challenge, the ambition of it was so enormous. Not just because it was another Star Wars movie, but because it was the end of not three movies, but nine. And that was really the thing that I thought, ‘This makes me really uncomfortable.’ And so that was really the reason to do it, in a way, was to sort of finish what we had started with this trilogy. But to take the saga away, endings do not come easily.”

The Skywalker Saga ends when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.

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