What does director J.J. Abrams see when he sees Adam Driver? A large, shadowy figure with dark hair? Does he look at Adam Driver’s height and mass and see … the Babadook? Are J.J. Abrams’s glasses the wrong prescription? Or is he like one of those people at Warby Parker who wear frames without prescriptions to look smarter and sell glasses? Sure, J.J. Abrams has filmed Adam Driver, but has he really taken a good long look at him?
I will tell you what I — and other people on the right side of history — see when we look at Adam Driver: We see “one of the finest actors of his generation.” We see an Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore stan. We see a big boy! Adam Driver is “Fee-fi-fo-fum!” big, as big as my apartment. According to my calculations, one Adam Driver thigh could barely squeeze its way into an airplane hangar. I’m not sure that Adam Driver’s latest director and, by extension, the newest Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, know any of this. They are on the wrong side of history. This movie and this director do not know Adam Driver is hot.
At this point, the topic du jour every jour of a Star Wars press cycle is: Does J.J. Abrams not know Adam Driver is hot? There exists a group text (I made this up, but I believe it sincerely) between Rian Johnson, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee, and the subject of that group text is Driver and his hotness — and maybe, on a random Tuesday, his talent. (But mostly his hotness.) Abrams is not on that group text.
(I am sorry to have to embed my own tweets in an article I am writing — it’s a little bit like kissing your sister — but as I am the premier authority on this matter, I really don’t have another choice.)
Abrams’s lack of awareness of Driver’s hotness began with The Force Awakens, a fine movie he directed, in which we’re introduced to the villainous Kylo Ren. After he denounces his Jedi heritage, Kylo fashions himself a Darth Vader–esque helmet with silver inlay. Like Vader, he doesn’t wear it only during combat — he wears it all the freaking time. Scene after scene of this six-foot-two mouth-breathing body being big and bad. It’s hard to recognize here that Driver is hot, because we don’t get a lot of face time with him at all, with Driver wearing a mask and everything. This was the choice of Abrams, who probably thought it was a good idea. The mask, however, is not a good idea. Adam Driver is hot, and his hotness should not be obstructed by a Toys ’R’ Us (RIP, you’ll live forever in our hearts) nostalgia replica of Vader’s swag.
The Last Jedi, however, not directed by Abrams, tossed out the mask, literally: The movie made fun of it. “You cannot hide behind a mask here,” Supreme Leader Snoke, once described as the galaxy’s mightiest cuck, told Kylo. “You cannot pretend to be Vader in this place.” The helmet was a child’s attempt at unearned infamy. Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, was incapable of facing his real identity as a wayward son who killed his father and betrayed his Jedi master on his way to ascending the throne of the First Order. Rian Johnson, knowing Driver is hot and the helmet is ridiculous, scripted Snoke to say as much: “Take that ridiculous thing off!” Kylo smashes the helmet, freed to be shirtless, toweled, and oiledt! Up! as he coos warnings and threats into Rey’s ear. “Adam looks so damn good because he’d been training hard-core for the past six months for those fight scenes,” Johnson said upon the film’s release. “I’m like, ‘Eh. He looks so good. We should put him up there.’” He said it, and he was right to say it!
I know Abrams saw The Last Jedi, and I know he read the script and was jealous of how good it was. Beyond letting Driver roam free and shirtless, it allowed him to desire and be desired, to submit to a gaze, in those private volleys with Rey. There was a tug-of-war over Ben’s hardened little heart, and he was in conversation with his warring natures. But in The Rise of Skywalker, I am devastated to report that Abrams is back at the helm and back to his old tricks. He has pulled out his soldering iron. He has called a meeting with the costume department. He has put that freaking mask back together. To twist the knife — which, importantly, cannot be classified as out — Kylo directly addresses his accessory of choice. “I sense unease at my appearance, General Hux,” Kylo says to his staff, in a scene that can be described only as a very tense board meeting. “About the mask?,” Hux replies. “No, sir. Well done. I like it.” Well, I — and other humans with eyes — do not! (“See! Now I’m mad!,” I scribbled furiously in my notebook. “Enough!”) Kylo’s mask represents the new trilogy’s most uninspired impulse, which is to blandly replicate the original trilogy’s trademarks. The Last Jedi interrogated our trio of leaders; it didn’t just let them carpool between galaxies toward the next MacGuffin.
For some time now, I have been convinced that J.J. Abrams does not realize Adam Driver is hot, which is a shame. Driver’s weirdo-intense attractiveness — hotly debated, to be sure — has been deployed effectively by other (better) directors in other (better) movies. Marriage Story was obsessed with squeezing him into small spaces in weird ways, showing how increasingly uncomfortable divorce is. Silence worked against his unique bigness; he lost 51 pounds to play a missionary priest desperately trying to resist renouncing his faith. In BlacKkKlansman … okay, fine, in that one he just wore flannel and fought racism and was hot.
“Does he … just really … not see it?,” I imagine Scorsese tapping into his phone in that aforementioned group text. “I really don’t think he does,” Lee says. “LOL,” he adds, with a bunch of emojis. Johnson likes the message. Baumbach is not in this group message, because there was an earlier group text he was invited to, but he left that one and didn’t think anyone would notice but of course they all did. (There is a force field around Jim Jarmusch that disallows him from being added to any group chat, no matter how exclusive.) In conclusion: Adam Driver is hot, and it will be a blight on the legacy of the J.J. Abrams Star Wars movies as their director is intent on not acknowledging this.