‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi': Rian Johnson Gives His Take on Rey’s Parents

     December 16, 2017

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Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow below. If you haven’t seen the movie, turn back now.

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That’s all the warning you’re going to get! From here on out, we’re talking about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and all its numerous story developments, plot turns, and narrative twists. Many of the questions that were left after watching The Force Awakens inform the many turns of The Last Jedi and perhaps none has been more contentious (while also cloaked in total mystery) than the origins of Rey and her parents. The revelation that Ewan McGregor provided the voice for the single gasp of “Rey!” when Daisy Ridley‘s jedi-in-training first touched the lightsaber in Force Awakens made me buy into the Kenobi theory but as we all now know, that’s not where she comes from. Or is it?

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Image via Lucasfilm

In a climactic scene toward the end of The Last Jedi, while deciding her future with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey is faced with what seems like a devastating answer to the question of who her parents were. Kylo seemingly allows her to envision her past and pushes her to come to terms with her heritage, and she comes to admit that her parents were nobodies, junk traders who traded her for money, food, booze, or who knows what. It’s a good answer but the obvious question here is whether or not Kylo had overwhelmed Rey and projected that answer into her mind to trick her or if that is truly her origin story.

Speaking with EW at a Q&A following an AMPAS screening, director Rian Johnson said that he was not given a rulebook to follow regarding Rey, that he was able to answer that question the way he wanted to answer it. And as far as he sees it, it’s legit, though he acknowledges that he can’t speak for what J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio are doing with the next film:

“I can’t speak to what they’re going to do. And there’s always, in these movies, a question of ‘a certain point of view,’…But for me, in that moment, Kylo believes it’s the truth. I don’t think he’s purely playing chess. I think that’s what he saw when they touched fingers and that’s what he believes. And when he tells her that in that moment, she believes it.”

The director also spoke to how he came to the decision to make Rey’s parents seemingly unimportant in the established universe of the movies:

“I was thinking, what’s the most powerful answer to that question? Powerful meaning: what’s the hardest thing that Rey could hear? That’s what you’re after with challenging your characters,”

 

“The easiest thing for Rey and the audience to hear is, Oh yeah, you’re so-and-so’s daughter. That would be wish fulfillment and instantly hand her a place in this story on a silver platter…The hardest thing for her is to hear she’s not going to get that easy answer. Not only that, but Kylo is going to use the fact that you don’t get that answer to try and weaken you so you have to lean on him,”

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Image via Disney

That’s certainly the feeling you get from watching the movie, which makes the question of the importance of established mythology and legacy at the center of its drama. For all the numerous red flags that went up while watching Johnson’s movie, The Last Jedi is marked by a refusal to be guided by the sacred lambs of its predecessors. Yoda burns down the sacred texts of the Jedi order, Luke disappears himself, and Kylo usurps Snoke by the end of the movie, allowing the figures of the new class take hold of the narrative. For Rey to realize that she’s not an extension of a legendary resistance fighter or a high-ranking lord of the Empire but rather a talented fighter who can make her own mythology is completely in line with that rebellious tone.

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