Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been out in theaters for about two months now and has been a topic of much great debate since then. It seems like fan culture can never be satisfied as a large whole anymore. Regardless of some the empty negative reactions, the heavy side who did enjoy or love the film have been engaging in constructive conversations of their own. Talking about a film’s strengths and weaknesses is always welcome when done in a healthy manner.
One particular conversation that has recently sparked is that of deleted scenes. Why certain key moments such as Rey running along the Ach-To shore with a lightsaber ready in hand were cut and for what reason? Many were disappointed that such a striking visual was absent and felt like the film could have benefited from the extra dramatic tension. If discussions about TLJ have proved anything- it is that fans do not always know what is exactly right for their material when they are not presented the whole picture.
Collider hosted an interview with director Rian Johnson last night at IMAX HQ in California. One of the many topics that arose was that of deleted scenes. Fans already know some of the deleted content based on previous interviews and features. Rey’s third lesson from Luke being the biggest example. However, Johnson here did not hold himself back on giving more info on what he exactly cut, why he removed it, and what his feelings were after.
We have a lot of deleted scenes. We have deleted sequences. There are two big sequences that are really the kind of hero pieces of it. One is a whole other big thing between Rey and Luke on the island that involves the Caretaker creatures. You see this village where the Caretakers–the Nun Fish creatures–live, and it’s a sequence that I always really loved. It’s a really beautiful sequence. It’s one of those things where … and this always happens in the edit, it’s like suddenly you can see through the Matrix and you’re like, “Oh my God, that big sequence that I love so much and I can’t imagine the movie without, if we lift it out and put these two things together, it plays in a slightly different way but it plays better.” And you just kind of have that, “::sigh:: Shit,” and you hit delete. You don’t think about all the stuff we built on set to get the shots, you don’t think about all the work the actors and the crew did, you just hit one button and it’s gone and the movie’s better … It’s three, four minutes.
One has to admit that the theatrical cut plays very smoothly. There are not any moments where one can instantly feel that a scene is missing due to editing. Rey’s departure from Ach-To feels natural and comes from good motivation. It also calls back to The Empire Strikes Back where Luke has to leave Dagobah before completing his training as well. This also leaves an open thread for J.J Abrams to tie in episode 9. Perhaps Luke can return as a force ghost to give his final lesson to Rey? Johnson also went on to explain what was cut from Finn and Rose’s side adventure.
There’s another sequence where Rose, and Finn, and DJ are sneaking through the Mega Destroyer, which is just another really fun, funny sequence, I think. That’s another four minutes, or something. But then there’s a lot of really substantial little scenes. There are scenes with Finn that ended up getting stripped away, kind of his motivation for going out to look for Rey. There’s a lot of stuff that I really love that I was really happy we were able to get back in there … There’s more than 20 [minutes] in there.
It should bring comfort knowing that plenty of what the director did love made it into the final edit. Johnson is also stressing the idea of the deleted scenes not being entirely necessary for the film when it comes to telling the middle chapter of the this trilogy. This thought may then bring some to question Johnson on why Han Solo never had a proper funeral after his death in the previous film. One would initially think that the scene was completely necessary and expected after first watching The Force Awakens. Well it turns out that Johnson actually has a strong reason for leaving the scene out of his script. He confirmed that there was never a debate about putting Solo’s funeral in the script because the pacing gave no room for it. He used Obi-wan’s tragic mentor role death from A New Hope as a good parallel.
“It’s tough in Star Wars because I always think about the mourning that Luke gives to Ben’s death, which is all of four-and-a-half seconds before, ‘Come on kid we’re not out of this yet’ and then boom, you’re into ‘Yay, woo-hoo! Don’t get cocky!’. There’s the moment for it, but it’s not long. We don’t have time for our sorrows, commanders. That’s kind of the thing of Star Wars; you don’t really linger on grief because you’re moving forward
The only characters that have gotten a funeral scene in the saga have been Qui-Gon, Padme, and Darth Vader. Other characters have died, but none have received a legitimate funeral like these three. The reason why is because their deaths all share a similar detail. They died close to the very end of their films after their conflicts started to settle down. Solo dies and his son Kylo Ren is still at large with Starkiller base still seeming indestructible. Considering how quickly TFA transitions into TLJ, and the fact that Solo’s body is obliterated, there was really no place for the story to slow down enough to give him a proper funeral. Johnson then went on to further elaborate what his editing process was like.
We basically chose what went on the Deleted Scenes reel and what didn’t, and that was entirely based on, with each of them, “Is this scene interesting enough? Is it good enough for people’s time?” … There’s nothing that we purposefully held back. If we didn’t include it in the Deleted Scenes, it’s because we really didn’t need it in there. There’s nothing where it’s like, “Oh, this is good, let’s hold on to this.”
Johnson ended the conversation on this topic by echoing what he has been known for saying for months now- the final edit of the film is the best version possible. This is already the longest Star Wars film to date, so one can imagine how stressful it may have been for Johnson to really choose what was essential while also trying to make the film not too long. Audiences can easily get lost or bored when the narrative does not keep a consistent pace throughout a film’s run time. One added scene here and there and threads may end up feeling slow or like they are being dragged for too long. Johnson did say that he is a fan of certain extended film cuts, but he can not see himself ever doing one. One should not let these words disappoint them, Johnson is merely trying to get you to see the best version of the story right from the first time you pay to go see it. One of the best traits filmmakers can display in the industry right now
Check back soon for more updates on the Star Wars Universe leading up to the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story in May- Andrew J. Salazar (@yokis101 on Twitter)
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now.
Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is directed by Rian Johnson and stars Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis