From cutting blood ties to The Force to shredding a successful formula, here are six ways writer-director Rian Johnson freed the franchise from the chains of the past.
Spoiler alert! Read on at your own risk.
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" wowed critics, but left audiences scratching their heads, largely because writer-director Rian Johnson subverted expectations and shattered the traditional mold of how a "Star Wars" movie is told, making bold and sweeping decisions that could irrevocably change the direction of the franchise.
While fans spent the last two years picking apart J.J. Abrams' "The Force Awakens," looking for clues to the identity of Rey's parents and Snoke's identity, as well as analyzing every aspect of Han Solo's death, Johnson didn't really care about any of that.
Instead, he answered none of those questions satisfactorily, and ignored others completely. And while "The Force Awakens" was criticized for being to much like "A New Hope," Johnson is facing criticism for not being enough like the "Star Wars" movies that have come before.
He had nods to "The Empire Strike Back" in his film, including a surprise fan-favorite return, a hidden rebel base on a snow planet and an epic lightsaber battle, but he mostly took those opportunities to turn expectations sideways and push ahead in new directions. The major theme was literally pouring out of Kylo Ren's mouth as he told Rey to forget the past and join him to forge a new future.
Following are 6 ways he may have broken the "Star Wars" franchise, and why that's a good thing.
Anybody Can Be a Hero
One of the biggest teases that left fans hanging by a hook for two years was the mystery surrounding Rey's parents. So who were they? "They were nobody," Rey said in the film, confirming what she always suspected. Even if Abrams undoes the answer, Johnson stands by his decision.
Just as Darth Vader being Luke's father was the hardest thing to hear at that moment, this was Rey's hardest possible truth. "[She's] going to have to find the strength to stand on [her] own two feet and define [herself] in this story," Johnson told Entertainment Weekly.
Fans immediately hated it, but it was important to break the Skylwalker legacy that had come to dominate the franchise. Force-wielders are special, but not because of who their parents are. By having Rey come from nobody, it means that anyone can stand up and be the kind of hero she is. Anyone can be special enough to embody the Force. That potential is within us all.
Not Your Father's Force
Not only did we see the Force used in new and unexpected ways in "The Last Jedi," but Luke had actually cut himself off from it, swearing it off forever. Thankfully, he didn't stand by his word on that one, giving us the most epic Jedi mind trick we've ever seen as he interacted with Leia and battled Kylo Ren, all from the comfort of his island.
On top of that, there's whatever Snoke did to connect Kylo Ren and Rey's minds -- if it was him that did it -- and General Leia's use of the force to not only survive the vacuum of space, but propel herself through it and back to her damaged ship. We didn't even know she was that strong in the Force ... did she?
Expanding our understanding of the Force opens up all sorts of creative possibilities. The Force is more than just visions, lightsabers, clouding lesser wills, and moving things with your mind. It opens up the potential of the mind and how it connects to the world, making it more magical and mysterious than ever.
We Got Your Diversity
Fanboys started complaining when "The Force Awakens" first put Rey front and center, after fooling them into thinking Finn would be the star. Then "Rogue One" dared to put a woman in the lead, and now "The Last Jedi" is just overflowing with women in charge and making the right decisions.
It's not just women who are fully represented in the new "Star Wars" films, but people of all ethnicities and differing body sizes as well. In Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose, there are four different ethnicities in four different characters, equally dispersed between male and female. That's a huge progression from when Leia had to represent all women, and Lando represented all people of color.
Now, they just need to take a look at LGBTQ inclusion for future installments ... though 'shippers of Finn and Poe needn't give up all hope just yet. Finn didn't reciprocate that kiss!
Johnson wasn't the first to employ this modern notion of killing off main characters unexpectedly, as J.J. Abrams snuffed Han Solo in "The Force Awakens." That death, however, was largely expected by fans. No one expected the fall of Luke Skywalker in the second part of this trilogy, and certainly not Supreme Leader Snoke. Perhaps Johnson was just trying to remind them of the "Wars" in the title. People die.
Snoke's story was barely begun, and remained almost completely untold after his demise. But we've played the mystery identity before with Darth Vader, and the mystery parents before with Luke and Leia.
Johnson decided it was time to do something different, tell unique stories instead of familiar retreads. And so he forced the issue, leaving "Episode IX" almost completely wide open for J.J. Abrams and future creators to do just that.
No One Cares About Your Theories
"It would have stopped any of these scenes dead cold if [Snoke] had stopped and given a 30-second speech about how he’s Darth Plagueis,” director Rian Johnson told Entertainment Weekly, referencing a character from the novels who was a major fan theory for Snoke's identity. "It doesn’t matter to Rey. If he had done that, Rey would have blinked and said, 'Who?' And the scene would have gone on."
The point is that theories about backstories and lineage and legacies may be fun for fans on forums, but they don't necessarily translate well into a film. And with books and comics already expanding this universe, Snoke's story may yet get told, it just might not happen on the scree..
More importantly, "Star Wars" is written for the fans, but it shouldn't be written by the fans. That's what fanfic is for. You can 'ship whoever you want and make Rey's parents Yoda and Maz Kanata if you'd like. Have fun with it, but don't get mad when the creators do something else.
Formula There Is Not
"The fans are so passionate, they care so deeply — sometimes they care very violently at me on Twitter," Johnson told Business Insider of the response he's seen so far. "I knew if I wrote wondering what the fans would want, as tempting as that is, it wouldn't work, because people would still be shouting at me, "F-ck you, you ruined 'Star Wars.'"
It's a kind way of saying that Johnson isn't here to give you what you want. Art is the singular vision of its creator (or creators), and it shouldn't pander to audience expectations. Whereas "Abrams" crafted a loving tribute to "A New Hope," Johnson took the "Star Wars" playbook and threw it out the window.
"Star Wars" fans have enjoyed certain expectations that have been met time and again in their films. Johnson burying the line "I've got a bad feeling about this" in BB-8's bleeps and blurps was indicative that he was not looking to follow the formula and meet those expectations.
Snoke died. Luke died. Rey is no one. Rose and Finn went on a mission that was ultimately pointless. Poe staged a mutiny that was ultimately pointless. All three essentially wasted their time while Leia and Holdo have it all figured out. This isn't the "Star Wars" you know. You can't predict what's going to happen or who's going to matter or how it's all going to connect, if it bothers to at all.
Isn't that what we want in our storytelling? Feel free to disagree in the comment section below, obviously.