Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Fans are, as expected, already buzzing about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and some of the shocking twists and turns writer-director Rian Johnson included in the movie. Arguably the most controversial point was the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies. After two years of fan speculation that Rey could be the offspring of Han/Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or other major characters, it turns out that her parents were junk traders who sold her off for drinking money when she was a child.
Of course, some fans will be reluctant to accept that explanation even though it ties neatly into the overall theme Johnson is going for, which is that greatness can come from anywhere, a notion that’s mirrored in A New Hope before The Empire Strikes Back turned Star Wars into a family saga. But when Steve Weintraub spoke to Johnson last week, he wanted a definitive answer on whether or not Rey’s parents are nobodies, and Johnson explained that it’s true at least for The Last Jedi:
So, can I just make the statement, that’s who her parents are? They came from nothing, they’re buried in the desert, is that for sure?
RIAN JOHNSON: That’s what Kylo sees and that’s what he tells her and I think he’s not lying in that moment. That’s what he saw and she seems to believe it when she hears it. I don’t want to … I’m not writing the next film, we’ll see how they handle it going forward, and as we all know in these movies, there’s always a certain point of view that’s involved. But, for me, I’ll tell you that was the … I can understand why that answer doesn’t feel good. It’s not supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to be the hardest thing she could possibly hear in that moment.
Johnson continued that to give into fan theories and try to make Rey a chosen one would not only have deflated the power of the moment, but also wouldn’t have been in line with the most beloved film in the series, Empire Strikes Back:
“The same way that if you think about … if you go back to Vader telling Luke, “I am your father.” That was effective, not because it was a surprise, because it was a twist, I think it was effective because that’s the hardest thing both Luke and the audience could hear in that moment. It turns it from the … it takes away the easy answer is basically. It takes it from, yes, Vader is just a bad guy we hate and we want to die, into, wait a minute, Vader is actually a part of our protagonist, he has a connection to him, and we have to think about him in a more complicated way, in a way that may involve redemption. That doesn’t feel great. That’s like, Mark’s amazing heartfelt, “No,” in reaction to that is the correct response.
In this movie, the easiest thing that, the wish fulfillment for Rey and for the audience, would be, “Yes, you are so and so’s daughter. Yes, here is your place in this movie. Here is how you fit in. Problem solved.” I can understand why Rey would desperately want that and why us, we as an audience, do too. But the hardest … but we’re not here to give Rey an easy time, we’re here to put her on the hard path so that she has to … because that’s the path of a hero. And the hardest thing she could hear is, “You’re not gonna get that easy answer. You’re going to [inaudible 00:02:41] not going to be defined by your lineage in this. You’re going to have to stand on your own two feet and to find yourself. And, not only that, Kylo is going to use the fact that you don’t have that to stand on to try and get you to lean on him in this moment. And you’re going to have to find the strength within yourself to define yourself in this world.” And that’s hard. It needs to be hard. It should be hard.”
To me, this is the rich storytelling that Johnson offers even though it goes against the wish-fulfillment that fans desire. Fans have reached the point where they see franchises not as stories but as games. They just spent the last two years playing a guessing game and Johnson went down the road no one expected by saying Rey’s parents were nobodies. While it’s entirely possible that J.J. Abrams could ret-con this in Episode 9 and say that Kylo was lying, Rey’s memories were false, and that she’s actually the descendant of a popular character, Johnson has the richer story because of what it means for Rey and her future.
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