I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi even more than I’d expected to, and one of my favorite sequences was the ‘siege’ on Crait. It felt classically swashbuckling, with the heroes cornered with their backs against the wall and the villains advancing upon them with all their might. If you recall, the most threatening weapon in this sequence was what looked like a miniaturized Death Star laser, acting as some kind of bunker buster technology.
Now, in an interview with IGN, Rian Johnson has explained the cinematic influence for the weapon: the 1981 ABC miniseries Masada. And no, I’d never heard of it either. Apparently, after the success of Roots, ABC produced a number of historical miniseries marketed as “ABC Novels for Television.”
Masada tells a loosely fictional account of the AD 73 Roman siege of the Masada citadel in Israel – which famously ended with a Roman victory. However, when the Romans entered the fortress, they discovered the Jewish defenders had committed mass suicide when their defeat became inevitable.
During the siege sequence in the miniseries, the Romans reveal a large battering ram weapon to break down the fortress doors, and it’s this that Johnson borrowed for the climax of The Last Jedi. You can check it out for yourself in this short trailer for Masada, at about the ten second mark.
“This big walled city and the battering ram that the Romans were building, to build up, I just remember how terrifying that battering ram was. So that’s actually the pull for me,” said Johnson.
Given that Star Wars was notoriously inspired by many other movies, with George Lucas basing the films off his memories of Flash Gordon, together with Kurosawa’s samurai pic and World War II dogfighting movies, Johnson pulling an idea from what is obviously a strong early cinematic memory is all too appropriate. I’d love to hear more from the director, too, about what influenced certain scenes in his blockbuster – I’m sure the opening sequence, where the bomber is missing its chance to drop its load, is pulled from something as well, but I can’t figure out what. If you have any ideas, please let us know in the comments section down below.