Rian Johnson Calls Pandering to 'Star Wars' Fans a "Mistake"

Rian Johnson - Getty - H 2019
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon
"I want to be challenged as a fan when I sit down in the theater," the writer-director says of his process.

The latest chapter in the Star Wars franchise is just days away from opening and already it is creating a rift among early audiences. As of Wednesday morning, The Rise of Skywalker was holding a 57 percent on the critics' aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Some of those who did not care for the Disney film were critical of plot points undone from the previous movie, The Last Jedi. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, that Star Wars pic became perhaps the most polarizing in the franchise's history, sharply dividing fans. 

Johnson did not attend the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker, which was held Monday night in Hollywood.

However, he was a guest during a recent radio.com interview on the Swings & Mrs. podcast, during which he was asked about trying to please fans compared to telling a radically new story. 

“I think approaching any creative process with [the purpose of making fandoms happy] would be a mistake that would lead to probably the exact opposite result,” Johnson said. “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.”

It is unclear if Johnson has seen The Rise of Skywalker. He was not directly asked about the film during the interview. 

"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,” said the filmmaker.

Concluded Johnson, "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." 

The Rise of Skywalker was directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, who also took the helm for The Force Awakens

Johnson said on the podcast that his script for The Last Jedi was completed before The Force Awakens was released in theaters, so he did not craft his story based off of reaction to that film, nor did he allow fan theories to influence his radically different story. The Last Jedi holds a 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but has a dismal 43 percent audience score. 

Johnson most recently wrote and directed Knives Out, which was a critical and box office success. 

The Rise of Skywalker is set to open Friday.