John Boyega was very public about his feelings towards The Rise of Skywalker over the course of its production.
SWSC Investigates The JJ Cut:
Aside from Mark Hamill, John has the most online interaction with fans. These interactions are a valuable look at his feelings towards the film during its production and after it was finished. John has been clear about his disappointment over The Last Jedi and many of us who were also disappointed in that film took notice when he appeared to be excited about his portrayal of Finn in Episode IX. Throughout 2019, he continued to tout the film and talk up Finn’s role in it. That is until December 3rd, when he first saw the film, after which he fell silent. To us, there is no stronger evidence than John Boyega to show that there was once far more to The Rise of Skywalker.
Through John’s Eyes
John’s first words about Episode IX were at Awesome Con in April, 2018 reporting Daisy had told him they were to be together again. For those who loved their dynamic in The Force Awakens, this was welcome news after Finn and Rey went through The Last Jedi without speaking a single line of dialog to each other. John further sparked cautious optimism among Finn fans when he reassuringly replied to a Tweet hoping for a better story for the character:
Throughout filming, John continued to periodically give enthusiastic teases from the set:
And even personally thanked JJ Abrams when filming wrapped:
It was during Celebration that John’s enthusiasm really began to shine through however. In one video, he expressed joy that his character, Finn, would finally do something John had wanted for a long time:
I was excited when I read the script. I actually read it, and I stopped, and then I went and had a conversation with JJ. I was like, “thank you, man. I’ve been- I’ve been waiting for this.”
In an interview with Steele Wars he teased that we’d learn more about Finn and his backstory (0:31):
After Celebration, he continued to give teases and pump up the film, even as the plot of the movie steadily leaked out.
For May the 4th, John posted a video of himself and Naomi Ackie where Naomi jokingly asks if they look alike:
And continued to post throughout the summer:
At D23 he again teased we’d learn more about Finn’s background:
And became even more active after the trailer that further hinted at Finn’s Force sensitivity:
He continued to exude excitement on the eve of the December 3rd cast screening:
After seeing the movie for the first time, John stopped posting to Social Media about The Rise of Skywalker. When asked about his silence he had this to say:
“It’s a lot to take in. There was a reason I was like… excited about telling everybody about it going in, but now I’ve seen it and I’m coming out and I’m like, you know what, I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut; because I just want the audience to see it… but we had an amazing time.” -John Boyega
Although he said he had an amazing time in the above quote, his response to being asked to communicate what he thought without words told a very different story (note the rest of the cast as well):
Indeed, once the general audience had seen the movie, John continued to make his dissatisfaction clear:
John went from excited to angry and frustrated between the start of filming and seeing the movie in December. Given Finn’s portrayal and story in the final film, it’s not hard to see why.
Left Once More on the Cutting Room Floor
It’s clear the movie was not at all what John was expecting when he saw it, so what changed or is missing?
First, it’s been long debated whether Finn is Force sensitive within the fandom. Many fans insisted the marketing for The Force Awakens and the movie itself set him up to be another Jedi character. SWSC’s very own TheMandalorianWolf laid out the case for Finn’s Force sensitivity based on TFA in the runup to TROS. Alas, The Last Jedi appeared to squash those hopes and the books and comics seemed to point away from that idea. However, many insisted that was JJ’s original intent and hoped he would put Finn back on the path of the Jedi.
Their patience and hopes looked like they would be rewarded as John repeatedly hinted his character would be revealed to be more than just a defected Stormtrooper:
Several times throughout the movie Finn tells Rey he needs to tell her something, but what that was is never revealed. In a May 1, 2020 interview, John revealed what he was trying to tell Rey during TROS. In a cut scene, Finn told Rey he could feel the Force and believed that’s why he was able to resist the First Order conditioning. Rey tells him she always knew. Unfortunately, that scene was cut and audiences were left wondering what Finn meant to tell Rey (6:08).
The film itself has strong indications of his sensitivity, including when he senses Rey die, but it’s obscured enough to lead people to actively debate it and ask JJ and John about it. JJ reportedly answered in December that he was indeed going to tell Rey he was Force sensitive. John further confirmed it in the later interview. If the intention was for Finn to be Force sensitive, then why only leave bits and pieces of this storyline? What narrative purpose would John telling Rey have served and why leave in the remnants of this plotline that was sure to become a fandom joke?
Given John’s pre-release enthusiasm over his character’s Force storyline, it is difficult to imagine that particular story thread amounted to him telling Rey he could feel the Force. It’s certainly hard to see what John might have been referring to with this quote:
I was excited when I read the script. I actually read it, and I stopped, and then I went and had a conversation with JJ. I was like, “thank you, man. I’ve been – I’ve been waiting for this.”
In this light, his response to the fan who hoped Finn would use a lightsaber again is intriguing (notably, Luke’s green lightsaber remains unaccounted for in the trilogy). At the same time, this would require a substantial reworking of the film and still lack narrative weight.
During the marketing period for The Force Awakens, JJ was asked if Rey and Finn had last names that were being intentionally withheld. At the time, he indicated this was close to the mark. It transpired Finn lacked a last name in TFA because he had been taken from his family at a young age by the First Order. Indeed, his name throughout the trilogy, “Finn”, is derived from his Stormtrooper designation – FN-2187. Although we briefly see him as a young child, nothing more is revealed about where he came from or his real name. For a character originally conceived as a lead, this is strange.
What is stranger is JJ Abrams stated we would learn more about Finn’s past in The Rise of Skywalker the day before the cast screening (Who’s Finn?), making good on an implicit promise dating from TFA. Yet, as we now know, the movie is silent on the matter. As we saw in the interview with Steele Wars during Celebration, John himself seemed to think it would be part of the movie. It is therefore reasonable to conclude it was intended to be part of the movie. Just one question: where is it?
It has become widely known that the new character of Jannah was meant to be Lando’s long lost daughter (another plot thread that goes nowhere) late in the movie’s production. Yet this would have made the lack of information about Finn’s background even more glaring and it’s unclear what purpose it would have served. Lando is a secondary character in the film and its presence or absence has minimal effect on the movie’s story anyway.
Just before Celebration in early 2019, Jedi Paxis of the Star Wars Leaks sub received information from a source he described as reliable. Among the tidbits in that leak was the claim Jannah was Finn’s sister. Aside from Zorii being a bounty hunter with unclear allegiance, the sources other claims were largely accurate. On its own, this could be dismissed as simply a Pinewood rumor that turned out to be incorrect.
Yet, there are other indications this source was at one point correct. First, there is a May the Fourth Instagram video of Naomi and John where Naomi jokingly asks if they look alike. Far stronger is a passage in the TROS Art Book (pg. 91):
Jannah being Finn’s sibling would have anchored her far more securely to the plot and served as a defining moment for Finn. Through his found family, he would have been able to find his real family. Further, if we posit the Force is the reason Finn was able to overcome the First Order’s “technology” then it is probable the ex-Stormtroopers of Company 77 are Force sensitive as well. In which case, we would have had a Stormtrooper uprising and the beginnings of a new Jedi Order rolled into one. Thus, it would have tied up Finn’s storyline in the ST and provided a foundation for the future. The question thereby becomes, why was this abandoned in favor of… nothing?
As John was hinting at learning about Finn’s background at Celebration – after filming had wrapped – it’s highly likely the family storyline was filmed. Further, John’s obvious excitement over the Force storyline and references to scenes he was particularly proud of on his social media suggest more than a brief conversation about his Force sensitivity with Rey exists. Yet this would require a considerable reworking of the movie and it would have to have been done in post-production. Combined with the musical evidence courtesy of John Williams, it is difficult to see how the claim that the movie had minimal changes from its original story could possibly be true.
Finally, for those who had hoped Finn and Rey would be a couple we leave you with this from Jedi Paxis: