– Transcription and thoughts by Han Spinel
The full interview with editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey can be heard on Light the Fuse podcast, and the transcript below begins at ~ 4:16. Brandon and Markey both edited The Force Awakens, and Brandon returned to edit The Rise of Skywalker with co-editor Stefan Grube.
Light the Fuse: Did you guys like The Last Jedi?
Maryann Brandon: I liked parts of the The Last Jedi, yeah.
LTF: Mary Jo?
Mary Jo Markey: [silence]
LTF: The Last Jedi… the second one.
LTF: Well alright, I guess we’re not telling the truth today.
MJM: Well, we’re not lying.
MB: You know, The Last Jedi, I will say this, it was just a different take….
LTF: A completely different take…
MB: …on the Star Wars saga. And to Rian’s [pause] credit, he stuck to what he wanted to do and he wanted to deconstruct the film and open it up to.. to go a different direction. And that is the film he made. And you know, I know it’s controversial, but isn’t that kind of good in a way?
LTF: You bring new elements…
MB: You bring in new elements…
LTF: Kind of exciting…
MB: Yeah. I- you know- that’s why I say I feel like very much in hindsight that the Trilogy, the last part of the Trilogy, needed one vision. And-
MJM: I couldn’t agree more.
LTF: Yeah… it’s a little all over the place.
MJM: It’s very strange to have the second film (inaudible) consciously undo the storytelling of the first film-
MB: -of the first film.
MJM: I’m sorry, but that’s what it felt like.
LTF: Yeah, that’s what a lot of people were trying to say that about The Rise of Skywalker, that it undid all the stuff that Rian Johnson did, but it’s like yeah you know, Rian Johnson kind of did that first…
MB: Right, so it’s kind of like it went like that.
MJM: I really don’t feel that’s true about [The Rise of Skywalker]. I don’t know, I just-
MB: Well the third film went with the first film…
MJM: [The Rise of Skywalker] took where [The Last Jedi] ended and just tried to tell the story… tell a story. I didn’t feel like it was consciously un-
MJM: trying to… I don’t know. It just didn’t feel that way to me.
LTF: Essentially, The Last Jedi is a polarizing movie. It has some really interesting ideas in it that don’t all fully work.
MB: I agree. I think it’s really polarizing and I think it was hard to know for the writer and for JJ [Abrams] what to do with it. I think, you know-
LTF: Right, like how to bring the Star Wars fans back from that.
MB: Or how do you, you know it’s like if someone wrote the middle of your novel [laughter] and now you’re like, ‘O.K… how do I get to the end of the novel?’
The discussion from here goes into detail about the painstaking process of editing film, and especially editing big action or sci-fi blockbusters, such as editing Star Trek during the writer’s strike. Brandon mentions that these types of films are difficult to write out on paper, and that something like a battle scene is written as a sequence of shots, but in the cutting room, it must become its own living story through cohesion of narrative elements and grand visual effects. That is to say, editors spend a great deal of time helping the stories that aren’t written specifically with narrative come to life on the screen.
While Maryann Brandon appears to be playing nice with her initial comments regarding the direction of The Last Jedi, Mary Jo Markey’s initial silence on the subject was followed by a stinging right cross –
It’s very strange to have the [The Last Jedi] consciously undo the storytelling of the [The Force Awakens]. I’m sorry, but that’s what it felt like.-Mary Jo Markey
Her apology is clearly to fans that find her statement offensive or controversial, but not for her opinion of The Last Jedi undoing narrative threads weaved in The Force Awakens.
This isn’t an argument about whether we as fans enjoy this movie or that, but it does highlight that whatever grand and overarching theme was present during the writing and filming of The Force Awakens, appears to have been ultimately disregarded or thrown out completely in favor of the new directions Rian Johnson wanted to take the Sequel Trilogy with The Last Jedi.
If so, what was this original story? Why and how did Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm Ltd. justify abandoning said story? The answers to these questions may never fully surface. However, they warrant further examination considering the steady decline in public interest for the intellectual property of Star Wars following the global success of The Force Awakens.
Building on this foundation and revelation from Brandon and Markey, I’ll begin digging deeper into and expand upon my initial impressions and review of The Rise of Skywalker and assess the Sequel Trilogy as a whole.