‘The Last Jedi': Why Rian Johnson Chose That Answer for Rey’s Parents

     February 2, 2018

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Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

One of the best decisions Star Wars: The Last Jedi makes is choosing to have nobodies be Rey’s parents. It’s a decision that ignited some controversy now, but I think in time more people will see the wisdom of Rian Johnson’s dramatic reveal because it’s a reveal driven by what will challenge the character.

star-wars-the-last-jedi-new-posterJohnson was kind enough to sit down to do a 70-minute Q&A following an IMAX screening of The Last Jedi with Collider, and during the discussion, he explained that the reason he went with making Rey come from nothing wasn’t because that was the theme he had in mind, but rather the theme emerged about of the decision of what would challenge Rey the most:

“It definitely was something that kind of slowly emerged. The truth is that was never like a driving thing for me in the movie, and I’ve talked a little bit elsewhere about the big decision with Rey and her parents. That’s one of the big things. It’s cutting loose the idea that of her being special coming from lineage. And that is true and I do like that, and I think that’s a good thing. That wasn’t, though, the motivating factor behind that decision. It was more a dramatic decision of ‘What is the toughest thing she could hear about her parents? What is the thing for her and for us what will make her have to stand on her own two feet and will make things the hardest for her?’ Because she’s the hero and that’s her job—to have things be the hardest for her. So it came from that and the other element came along with that, which is something I really liked.

 

But I didn’t sit down and think, ‘How do we overturn this whole thing of Star Wars lineage?’ That wasn’t the driving factor. It was almost a byproduct of a natural process of, ‘Oh, this is what’s going to make sense for her as a character, as a dramatic turn there. And that means this, and that’s kind of nice.’ It’s a strange, organic process, I guess.”

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Image via Lucasfilm

That’s smart writing because ultimately it understands what a character wants and needs rather than catering to the wants and needs of the audience. The audience, desiring the comforting blanket of mythology, would probably want a recognizable name to be Rey’s parents. But once you get that answer, Rey’s story becomes divided between her parents and her own, thus rendering her into another form of Kylo Ren. With Johnson’s decision, you get a great juxtaposition where Kylo Ren is driven by his parents while Rey is driven by her parents being nobodies. She’s now free to craft her own destiny whereas Kylo Ren feels like the only way to live is to react to the past.

I know Last Jedi had more than its fair share of detractors, but I definitely think that it’s a movie, now divorced from two years of expectations, that will grow on viewers who are willing to accept the movie on its own merits.

Check out the video above. For more from our interview with Johnson, click on the links below, and check back soon for the full 70-minute Q&A.

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