What 'Star Wars' beef? J.J. Abrams is 'nothing but grateful' for Rian Johnson's 'The Last Jedi'

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has proved polarising in the two years since its release. Supporters of the Rian Johnson-directed sequel — the eighth installment in the Skywalker Saga and bridge between The Force Awakens and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker — praise its balance of lightheartedness and bold, dark story choices, comparing it favourably to the crown jewel of the long-running saga, The Empire Strikes Back.

On the flip side, naysayers drag Johnson for those same story choices, notably the fate of Luke Skywalker, the deaths of Snoke and Captain Phasma, the interlude on Canto Bight and the surprising answer to the mystery of Rey’s parents.

On Wednesday, that debate hit a fever pitch when quotes from J.J. Abrams — director of both The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker — went viral, with the Abrams seemingly firing shots at The Last Jedi while talking to the New York Times.

Read more: Why are fans still salty about The Last Jedi?

Though Abrams praised the film as being "full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices," he added, "On the other hand, it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don’t think that people go to Star Wars to be told, 'This doesn’t matter.'" Adding further fuel to the fire were quotes from Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.

Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Director Rian Johnson on the set of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (David James ©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved)

The internet reacted as expected — which is to say subtlety and reason were in short supply.

In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment last week, however, Abrams had high praise for Johnson, even if he admittedly felt The Last Jedi didn't go where he expected it to in terms of uniting the saga's three main heroes, Rey (Ridley), Finn (Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).

"Rian is an incredibly talented director, I don't know if you've seen Knives Out, but I loved it. Just an incredibly talented guy and a great storyteller," Abrams told us (watch clip above).

"So when he came on to work on the next film, and we were just starting to shoot [The Force Awakens], I was really excited to see where he would go and what he would do.

J.J. Abrams, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Anthony Daniels attend the special fan event for 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)

“And it's funny because one of the things that I was [thinking] at first [was], 'Oh, I really want to see all the friends together.' And in his story, they really weren't. [Rey] doesn't really meet Poe until the end.

“Rey and Finn are not really together in the movie. So in a way the story that he told in a lot of ways helped set up what we're doing in IX [The Rise of Skywalker]. But it also allowed Episode IX to have the group together and out on an adventure in a way that weirdly, even though it's the third film, it's the first time they all get to be together."

Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.

As more than a few commenters have pointed on Twitter, it was Abrams who separated the trio in the first place at the end of The Force Awakens – though clearly he's indicating he expected them to be reunited at some point in The Last Jedi.

Still, Abrams clearly holds Johnson (and his film) in high regard: "There were a lot of details [and] story points that Rian set up in Last Jedi that [we] run with in this movie," he continued. "I don't think this movie would've been nearly what it is without the choices that Rian made, so I'm nothing but grateful."

So there it is. Can't we all just get along, Star Wars fans?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in UK cinemas on 19 December.

Watch Richard E. Grant tease a major character plot twist: