Can J.J. Abrams Save Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?

It's not too late for the new trilogy.
Star Wars may be in trouble. With the flop of Solo: A Star Wars story and the $700 million drop in box office returns between The Force Awakens and Last Jedi, it's apparent this spaceship is running out of fuel. However, there's a new hope - J.J. Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is back for Rise of Skywalker - the last installment of the new trilogy. Will he manage to save the franchise? Let's see why it can go both ways.

J.J. Abrams directed the highest-grossing Star Wars ever

According to Box Office Mojo, The Force Awakens made $2,068,223,624 worldwide against a budget of $245,000,000. When you look at the numbers, Episode 7 was the highest-grossing Star Wars film ever, at least if we ignore inflation rates. One thing is certain - Abrams did a much better job at directing Star Wars than any of the new directors, provided we use box office returns and Internet scores, such as Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB.
Of course, those metrics don't always equate to the quality of the movie, but Hollywood is much more likely to look at those numbers than they are to look at a film's quality.

J.J. Abrams is better at public relations

The director went as far as to say that people didn't go to watch Star Wars to see the kind of "meta approach" Last Jedi took. This may be a small concession to fans who hated the Last Jedi. At the same time, it could also be interpreted as an uncalled for and unflattering remark at the expense a fellow Star Wars director.
But it could work to Rise of Skywalker's favor in the end. A lot of people were angry about Episode 8. J.J. Abrams is still a professional and he wouldn't give any press statements without the approval of Disney, so this may be an attempt by the media conglomerate to appease the angrier portion of the fanbase.

J.J. Abrams has a problem ending things

Lost was one of the most beloved shows of the 2000s, and yet the ending was extremely controversial. Abrams created so many great mysteries, but when it came time to reveal what they were all about, he came short. To a certain extent, this is why Last Jedi failed - it answered mysteries in an unsatisfying way.
Can J.J. really break away from his habit of making empty promises? For example, we have an image of Rey, the main character of the previous two movies, looking like a Sith Lord to a certain extent. Will that little mystery suggested in the trailer have a satisfying payoff? If we look at the director's previous work, it seems somewhat unlikely.

The problem of the Mystery Box

The mystery box way of thinking was first revealed by Abrams in his 2007 TED Talk. The gist of it is to create mystery for its own sake. It's sort of like a pyramid scheme - always suggest new mystery and never reveal what it actually is. This is great for marketing and keeps people on the edge of their seats.
But there's a problem. A mystery is only as good as its answer, but at the same time and you can't keep things a secret forever. Once people know the truth, they'll feel like their previous time investment wasn't worth it and get very, very angry. For example, imagine if (Spoiler Alert) Darth Vader wasn't Luke's father, but there was some other reveal, like he was just nobody. It seems absurd, and yet this is exactly what happened with the reveal of Rey's parents.

Can J.J. do it?

We'll really have to wait and see, but it seems that Abrams is really the most sensible choice for director for this particular movie. We're in for a fitting conclusion of the third Star Wars trilogy. For better, or for worse.
This article may appear in some platforms with a collage cover photo with photos from Flicker by user Gage Skidmore.