star wars - leia hugging rey in the force awakens

One of the bigger fan nitpicks about Star Wars: The Force Awakens concerns a scene in the final minutes of the film: I’m talking about General Leia Organa’s hug (I’m being vague, because spoilers… not that there is a single person reading this post that has yet to see the movie yet).This morning I had the pleasure of chatting with Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams about the new movie he produced, 10 Cloverfield Lane (that interview will follow later this week). But before I talked Cloverfield, I asked Abrams about this common fan nitpick. What did the Force Awakens director say about the Leia hug? Find out after the jump.

Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens follow.

So the question is: after the Resistance fighters returned from the attack on Starkiller Base which saw the death of Han Solo, why did General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) hug Rey (Daisy Ridley), a stranger she had never met before, rather than hug Solo’s life-mate Chewbacca, with whom she’s had a long friendship.

Chewie is likely destroyed by the loss of his best friend, yet Rey had only formed a bond with Han recently — is it strange that Leia bypasses Chewbacca to embrace Rey? It’s not a moment that has bothered me much (leaving the first screening I was more concerned about R2-D2’s role in the story, which Abrams later explained). But I think it’s a valid question. I had expected it to be explained by a possible deleted scene in the novelization, but so far it’s gone by unaddressed.

Carrie Fisher and JJ Abrams

I chatted with Star Wars: The Force Awakens director/producer J.J. Abrams over the phone, as the film he produced, 10 Cloverfield Lane, will premiere in New York City tonight. Before I talked Cloverfield, I had to ask him one question about The Force Awakens: Why did Leia hug Rey instead of Chewbacca? Here was Abrams’ answer:

That was probably one of the mistakes I made in that. My thinking at the time was that Chewbacca, despite the pain he was feeling, was focused on trying to save Finn and getting him taken care of. So I tried to have Chewbacca go off with him and focus on Rey, and then have Rey find Leia and Leia find Rey. The idea being that both of them being strong with the Force and never having met, would know about each other — that Leia would have been told about her beyond what we saw onscreen and Rey of course would have learned about Leia. And that reunion would be a meeting and a reunion all in one, and a sort of commiseration of their mutual loss.

But Abrams realizes that some people saw it as a slight and admits that the real mistake may have been in how he blocked that shot:

Had Chewbacca not been where he was, you probably wouldn’t have thought of it. But because he was right there, passed by Leia, it felt almost like a slight, which was definitely not the intention.

So there you have it, from the guy who co-wrote, directed and produced the movie. Hopefully this explanation brings some peace to the galaxy of fans who have been scratching their heads since the release of the movie. And I think Abrams is right: if the shot had been blocked in a different way, with Chewbacca running with Finn in his arms to awaiting medical personnel, no one would have thought any differently.

But then some viewers may have still wondered why Leia sought out Rey. Since the release of the film, fans have theorized that the hug signals that Leia knows Rey, proving she is of Skywalker heritage. Which is not an entirely bad theory as a couple of scenes later, Rey is personally sent off to find Leia’s brother Luke Skywalker. Why was she chosen to go on this important mission and not someone who has seniority in the Resistance? Is it just because Luke’s lightsaber found her in Maz’s castle, or is there something more to it?

The answer to this question will likely come when Rian Johnson‘s follow-up Star Wars Episode VIII hits theaters on December 15th, 2017. And while you won’t get the answer to that question answered in your local multiplex this week, you’ll get the answers to very different questions in Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, in theaters this Friday.

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