It has been quite the ride in recent years following Star Wars. What started out as a standalone film a year after I was born evolved into a trilogy of films that captured the hearts and minds of a generation. After a long hiatus, the creator of those films returned for another trilogy – and whether you liked those six movies or not – there was no argument about which individual was making decisions about the events taking place, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”
Star Wars was the brainchild of George Lucas and of course he was influenced by countless stories that came before him and benefited from the amazing talents of those around him as the films were created. If we had a problem with the events that played out on screen, then it was easy to point to Lucas as the individual responsible. And many people did hold him responsible after the conclusion of the prequels. So much so that he sold the franchise to Disney and moved on with his life.
The sequel trilogy announced by Disney produced excitement that perhaps the old magic of Star Wars could be recaptured. They brought on J.J. Abrams to direct a script that was written by at least three people including Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3). It was announced that the original cast would reprise their roles, and fans were tentatively hopeful the new films would positively jolt the Star Wars universe.
The Force Awakens accomplished that by stylishly redoing the plot of A New Hope with an enjoyable cast of characters. We got an emotional end to the story of Han Solo and a major tease for whatever might have happened to Luke Skywalker. For whatever reason, Luke’s reveal in the new trilogy of films was held for the second installment; The Force Awakens hinges on the story of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. It produced memorable scenes, funny lines of dialogue, great visuals, and offered intriguing questions:
- Who is Rey? Are her parents anyone special? Is she a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi or Palpatine?
- Is Kylo capable of redemption? Will he turn to the Light Side or go further to the Dark Side?
- Who is Snoke?
- What’s the deal with The Knights of Ren?
- Why was Luke hiding? What’s he going to do when he finally speaks to Rey?
As the start of a new trilogy and purposeful jumpstart to the flagging Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens worked well. Critics and fans alike embraced the movie, and it set the stage for two more films that could go continue to mirror the original trilogy or do something a bit different.
The Last Jedi was certainly something different!
While most expected the middle installment in the new trilogy to be the darkest in tone, some were not prepared for how much the film would play around with the Star Wars mythos. The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Breaking Bad) begins with a bit of slapstick comedy as Poe toys with General Hux to buy some time for the Rebels to escape their base. It’s a bit reminiscent to the Rebels fleeing the Battle of Hoth mixed with Han bantering with Death Star personnel while trying to rescue Princess Leia. Poe gets into a disagreement with General Leia about tactics and while his efforts result in the destruction of a large First Order starship, the film makes you feel the lost of the Resistance fighters that died during the battle. The victory is even more short-lived for the audience as Poe is scolded by Leia for his flyboy theatrics.
We finally get to meet Luke and his first gesture in the new trilogy is to throw his lightsaber over his shoulder and over a cliff – he throws that legacy item away and spends the next 30-plus minutes telling Rey that the Jedi need to die. It’s not something many in the audience would expect from their childhood memories of Luke Skywalker though it is what George Lucas had in mind for his path (follow the tweet thread below for more details).
Luke challenges Rey (and the audience) to evolve in the way they think about The Force, the Light and the Dark. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren destroys his mask (another legacy item that was a callback to Darth Vader’s mask) after his mentor, Snoke, tells him to, “Take that ridiculous thing off.” Luke and Snoke are both trying to teach lessons to these pupils – and by extension, the audience.
The movie continues to explore grey areas as Finn goes on a side quest with a new character, Rose, and together they learn that the distinction between The First Order and Resistance is not so clear; there are wealthy individuals profiting from both sides of the fight. It challenges to audience to consider that the good/bad dichotomy from past films may not be as simple – and the choices by Kylo Ren leave us conflicted about whether or not we should be rooting for this guy or if he’s beyond saving. It then culminates in Luke Skywalker sacrificing his life by interfering in Kylo’s plan to end the Resistance.
The Last Jedi also shut the door on a variety of questions posed by the The Force Awakens:
- Who is Rey? Are her parents anyone special? Is she a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi or Palpatine? She’s no one. Her parents were junkers that sold her for drinking money.
- Is Kylo capable of redemption? Will he turn to the Light Side or go further to the Dark Side? Both. Neither?
- Who is Snoke? No idea. He’s dead now.
- What’s the deal with The Knights of Ren? No idea, though those red-armored Sith guards were cool.
- Why was Luke hiding? What’s he going to do when he finally speaks to Rey? He maybe, kinda-sorta came close to killing Ben when he sensed he was drifting to The Dark Side. He shuns Rey initially, and then dies trying to protect her and Leia.
It’s a really interesting movie and it attempted to move the franchise in new directions. While certainly not perfect, it was critically acclaimed and many fans enjoyed it. Some certainly did not. Combined with the reaction from a vocal minority of fans, the troubled production of Rogue One and Solo added fuel to the notion that Star Wars was in a troubled place as a franchise.
- Who is making decisions?
- Why are these films being made this way?
- Whose vision is making it on screen and why?
- Why is there so much turnover with writers and directors?
If anyone had a question or problem about the original or prequel trilogy, then the buck stopped with Lucas. It was his thing. It became clear that no one really had a handle on what IS Star Wars – and various efforts were being made to figure it out.
The original writer (Rian Johnson) and director (Chris Trevorrow) for The Rise of Skywalker were both changed. Abrams was brought back to direct and write the screenplay with Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman, Justice League). In the moment, it felt like Disney was making a safe choice to bring back Abrams as Johnson’s film upset the Star Wars behemoth.
And now we have The Rise of Skywalker, which completes the sequel trilogy and begs the question, “What was that all about?”
I was excited to watch The Rise of Skywalker. I enjoyed soaking in the trailers and otherwise avoided spoilers. I wanted to go in fresh and see how everything wrapped up. I wanted the saga to end on a high note and maybe even improve the prequels in some way; tie it all together nicely. Truly, the only thing I really wanted was for Force Ghost Anakin to show up to counsel Kylo in an effort to steer him away from the Dark Side. I realize that’s a goofy, long-shot thing to hope for; I really thought it made sense for where the story was likely to go and it would help tie this trilogy together with the first six films. I stayed off social media in the days leading up to the film, which was a refreshing change of pace and something I might do more often. Our showtime started with approximately 20-30 minutes of trailers, and there’s no doubt that sullied the beginning of the movie for me. I’m getting old!
The music hit and the crawl scrolled – and I immediately felt disheartened. I knew they brought back Palpatine’s voice in the trailer and Ian McDiarmid appeared at Star Wars Celebration, though I was hoping his presence in the new movie would be that of a phantom. Or that a Clone Emperor still existed on Kamino, which again would tie in nicely with the plot of the prequels while giving our heroes a threat to eliminate. I was hopeful Palpatine was a deliberate feint to cover for some other development. Nope, the Emperor is back as the Big Bad.
First, why? Second, you’re going to reveal and confirm that in the opening crawl?
If you lived under a rock and never consumed any news or information about The Rise of Skywalker, the return of the Emperor is revealed in the first paragraph of the crawl for the final film of the trilogy. I learned later that the only place to hear the Emperor’s message referenced in the opening crawl is in the videogame, Fortnite.
So the crawl rolls past and Kylo is chopping down whoever on his way to obtain some Sith artifact that leads him to Paplatine, who is clinging to life – literally dangling from wires and tubes in some weird Scooby-Doo lab. One could argue that The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker both start with slapstick comedy! So the table for the final installment of the sequel trilogy is set – the Big Bad is the Emperor, which completely invalidates the conclusion of the original six films.
The initial films were about the the stories of Luke, Han and Leia and how they took on the Empire and their leaders, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. The prequels focused on the early life of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, his eventual wife and the mother of Luke and Leia. As a whole, the six films were about the rise, fall, and last-minute redemption of Anakin Skywalker. He sacrificed himself to turn against his master and saved his son. It didn’t exactly wipe the slate clean for the millions of people he killed – including innocent children – though it allegedly restored balance to the Force and gave our heroes a chance at a new start.
The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi undid most of the gains our heroes earned in the original trilogy. Han and Leia weren’t living happily ever after, and their son gave in to the Dark Side and then killed Han. Luke felt like he failed Ben Solo and chose exile. Leia was still fighting the same battles she fought 30 years ago. The Empire was defeated and The First Order rose up in its place. Watching the original trilogy now feels a bit different but at least they defeated that creepy Sith guy, right?!
Nope, Palpatine is back. So whenever you watch Return of the Jedi going forward, you know that most elements of that victory are short-lived.
The new trilogy heroes, Rey, Finn, and Poe, are given information by a First Order spy that Palpatine has returned and Rey is able to piece together some clues about where to find the goober:
They travel to a new planet and meet Lando, “Hello, what have we here?” They don’t find the goober they are looking for though they do find another goober that has Sith writing only understood by C-3PO – only he cannot translate because it’s against his programming to speak the Sith language. They run into Kylo and some Knights of Ren and Chewie is taken hostage on a starship. Rey and Kylo get into another, “That’s mine!” Force-Off as the starship takes off with Chewie inside. And just like when it happened in The Last Jedi with Luke’s lightsaber, the item they are Force-fighting over is destroyed.
Oh my goodness, they killed Chewie! Wow, that’s a bold choice with some emotional resonance. It reminds me of the time Chewie was killed in a novel when a moon landed on him. And, wow, it will be interesting to see how this affects Rey and her possible slide to the Dark Side. That’s truly a surprising development and…
(holds finger to ear)
I’m sorry, we are told within minutes that Chewie is not dead; he’s held prisoner on a capital ship that’s near another planet our heroes traveled to in search of a new goober. C-3PO agrees to have an adorable little technician override his programming to allow him to translate the goober. They devote a scene to hammering home how much of a loss this will be for Threepio as he will no longer remember his friends and personal history. However, his loss of memory is played for mostly laughs the rest of the way until R2-D2 restores his memory in the final third of the film.
With both Chewbacca and C-3PO, The Rise of Skywalker flirted with the notion that the characters and audience would have to face some consequences. In the first case, the accidental murder of Chewbacca by Rey was reversed within minutes. In the second, the emotional sacrifice by C-3PO was played for comedy and ultimately reversed as well. In both cases, I was disappointed with these reversals.
And speaking of reversals…!
Rey, Finn, and Poe go on a mission to rescue Chewie and Rey does some more mind-melding with Kylo. It’s unclear how they are connecting since Snoke is dead, and Snoke was the one that bridged their minds in The Last Jedi. It’s never addressed though I’m willing to buy the two of them have a special connection – sure. Before the heroes escape the ship, Kylo informs Rey she is Palpatine’s granddaughter and that her parents (so Palpatine’s son and his wife) attempted to hide her from Palpatine on Jakku. Rey goes from being no one connected to the major families in Star Wars to a direct descendant of the Big Bad himself.
With Threepio’s successful translation, the heroes are off to find another goober on another new planet. This time, it’s the remains of the second Death Star crashed into an ocean. Rey uses one of the goobers to find the location of the new goober. She uses an ancient Sith dagger just like Mikey from The Goonies to find the Emperor’s Throne Room. I find this bizarre for any number of reasons; where to begin?
One, why are we referencing another 80’s movies in Star Wars? It’s too cute by half. Two, why would an “ancient Sith dagger” have a map stored in it that matches the location of the Emperor’s Throne Room in the second Death Star from one specific vantage point? The dagger is ancient and the second Death Star crashed less than 30 years ago. Third, I can’t imagine the crashed second Death Star was an unknown ruin during the past 30 years; nobody thought to check it out? I’ve played enough Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that when you defeat the Big Bad, you search his or her stuff. There’s typically treasure! The Goonies‘ riff was silly, and maybe one can argue it’s harmlessly silly. More on that distinction later.
Back to Rey, she navigates to the Throne Room and confronts a vision of herself turning to the Dark Side. She grabs the new goober and runs into Kylo. They have a nifty duel on the surface of the second Death Star as waves crash around them. Kylo is distracted by the awareness that his mother, Leia, has died, and Rey takes the opportunity to mortally wound him. Wow, she killed Kylo; that’s interesting! I wonder what’s going to happen next….
(holds finger to ear again)
I’ve just been informed that Rey expresses remorse for her actions and uses her Force abilities to heal the wound and bring Kylo back to life. Distraught, she travels to where she trained with Master Luke to follow his path of exile. This plans lasts for about 30 seconds! As she’s burning the stolen ship she used to reach the planet, she throws her lightsaber into the fire only for Force Ghost Luke to manifest and hand it back to her. He even jokes with her about not disrespecting a Jedi’s weapon. It’s a direct counter to how Luke behaved in The Last Jedi when he was originally presented his old lightsaber by Rey. Luke encourages Rey to get back into the fight to face Palpatine and engages in a nearly-shot-for-shot recreation of Yoda levitating his X-Wing out of the swamp complete with the same John Williams’ musical notes. Now Rey has a ship and she’s off once again.
Meanwhile, Kylo recovers and ponders the death of his mother and the various actions he has taken in his life. Harrison Ford shows up (because why not?) even though he’s not a Jedi and isn’t a Force Ghost. Kylo understands this is only a memory of his father and they have a nice scene about Kylo deciding to turn away from the Dark Side and come back to being Ben Solo. Kylo throws his lightsaber into the ocean (where I imagine someone will find it in a future comic book or Disney+ series) and like Clark Kent taking off his glasses becomes BEN SOLO.
So Kylo turned away from the Dark Side because his mother died? Because Rey killed him? Because Rey brought him back to life? Because a memory of his father offered him forgiveness for killing him not that long ago?
We’re not given much more explanation than that and I found it unsatisfying. Kylo Ren goes from being an intriguing character with complex motivations and competing agendas to Ben Solo, the boyfriend-chasing-his-girlfriend-before-she-gets-on-the-plane-at-the-airport for the rest of the movie. It’s sorta cute, endearing, and easy. I half-expected ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ by Simple Minds to start playing in his cockpit. I also felt Peter Dinklage-in-the-final-season-of-Game-of-Thrones vibes from Adam Driver; both are great professional actors and it seemed like even they couldn’t believe the stuff they were being asked to do in the franchise.
The film concludes on the same planet where we started, which is beyond meta at this point. Rey and Kylo are after the Emperor while the rest of our heroes (excluding Rose “I’ll stay behind to find a weakness on those new Star Destroyers” Tico) arrive in an effort to fend off a fleet of new Star Destroyers, each of which feature a planet-killing weapon! It’s like the end of Return of the Jedi all over again. They even brought back Wedge! And isn’t that ship in the background the Ghost from the Rebels cartoon?
The logic of the Emperor, Rey and Ben fight is exhausting. I had a difficult time following it while it happened, and reading multiple articles after the fact did not help to clarify matters. The Emperor wanted to turn Kylo so created Snoke, and then wanted Kylo to kill Rey though he knew Kylo wouldn’t do it and really wanted Rey to arrive in front of him. The Emperor wanted Rey to kill him once and for all so his spirit, which also contains all the Sith throughout time, can travel into Rey’s body. The Emperor dismisses Ben by throwing him down a chasm, which never means anything final in Star Wars (I still can’t fathom how they allowed Darth Maul to show up in Solo; the balls on the folks pulling the strings these days!). Rey does not kill him so Palpatine decides to kill her and seems to discover that the connection between Kylo and Rey is a special “dyad” that — somehow gives The Emperor his life back. While trying to kill Rey, she summons on the strength of past Jedi as we hear the voices of Jedi appearing in prior films and other television series and deflects his force lightning back on him – just like Mace Windu and Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker – and he dies for good this time. Right, everybody? Right?
Rey seems to have also died in the effort, although Ben comes back from the chasm (that didn’t last long!) and uses the same Force power to bring Rey back to life. Whatever bad feelings between the two – including those moments when she watched him kill his father, emotionally torment and lie to her, and oh yeah, physically and mentally torture her – evaporate and they share a romantic kiss. Ben quickly dies as the effort required to bring Rey back ends up killing him and his body dissipates like numerous Force users before him.
The Resistance armada finishes off the remaining Star Destroyers and our heroes gather back on a forest planet to celebrate their victory. We sadly don’t hear Yub Nub, though we do see a couple of Ewoks for some reason and Chewie finally gets his medal. Lando seemingly flirts with a new female character – or maybe he’s her father? Either way, it’s an odd moment when the finale in a trilogy of trilogies only has moments left to unfold.
The coda for the entire experience is Rey recreating a scene from The Force Awakens as she slides down a piece of debris to the ruined moisture farm of Owen and Beru Lars. She buries the lightsabers of Luke and Leia (oh right, a quick flashback scene earlier with CGI Young Faces showed how Luke trained Leia and how she had a lightsaber; I honestly have no idea how Luke’s lightsaber exists since it was destroyed in The Last Jedi) and then shows off a new lightsaber constructed from her staff complete with a yellow blade. When a neighbor comes up to ask her
why’s she’s trespassing on an abandoned crime scene what her name is – Rey responds, “Rey Skywalker.” And then she looks out at the setting twin suns of Tatooine just like Luke did over 40 years ago.
It’s beautiful poetry if you’re into that sort of thing.
Lemmings, Are We?
Obviously, the choices in The Rise of Skywalker did not work for me, and I sadly could not separate myself from how these movies were made to “just enjoy it.” The Force Awakens was a fun reboot to the franchise and posed new questions. The Last Jedi was uncomfortable to watch and answered those questions in unexpected ways. The Rise of Skywalker changed the answers to those questions in the safest way possible, which critics panned and audiences loved.
- Who is Rey? Are her parents anyone special? Is she a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi or Palpatine? She’s not no one. She’s Palpatine’s granddaughter. But she renounces that name and instead takes on the name of Skywalker.
- Is Kylo capable of redemption? Will he turn to the Light Side or go further to the Dark Side? Not only is he capable of redemption, he fully embraces his past identity, Ben Solo, and spends the last third of the movie as an action hero trying to rescue his damsel in distress. He ultimately dies, the closest thing The Rise of Skywalker has for consequences for our major characters, though he seems to redeem himself in the process without any scenes indicating that it should be perhaps a bit more complicated.
- Who is Snoke? He was literally created by Palpatine in his creepy, Sith-rave laboratory dungeon.
- What’s the deal with The Knights of Ren? No idea, though their fight with Ben that mirrored the fight with the Sith guards in The Last Jedi was cool.
- Why was Luke hiding? What’s he going to do when he finally speaks to Rey? He maybe, kinda-sorta came close to killing Ben when he sensed he was drifting to The Dark Side. He shuns her initially, and then dies trying to protect her and Leia. And when Rey goes to his planet of exile again, he shows up like a friendly ghost of Christmas past and is a different person from The Last Jedi.
Finn and Poe? They don’t have much in the way of a character journey throughout the films. Finn’s journey from Stormtrooper to full-fledged Rebel culminates in The Last Jedi. He tags along with Rey and Poe throughout The Rise of Skywalker because he cares deeply about Rey, and hints that he might have special feelings for her. That is never resolved in the movie, and Abrams recently clarified that Finn was going to tell Rey that he’s Force sensitive as well.
Poe goes through a learning experience in The Last Jedi after not having much to do in The Force Awakens. He learns what it takes to be a leader from two women and voices his desire to live up to General Leia’s legacy during The Rise of Skywalker. We don’t get to see much beyond him swashbuckling around the galaxy though we do learn he had a former love interest/rival and was a spice runner. I guess that matters to some people for reasons.
I think there was something about a doomsday clock with a timer of about 16 hours – and considering the heroes jumped around to 3-4 planets throughout the movie, that’s another plot point that’s going to seem silly if I pay more attention to it. I haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker a second time yet, and I’m interested to set all this aside and possible just enjoy a new, big, dumb Star Wars movie.
And that brings me to how this film has been received. I’ve spent the majority of the last week thinking about the movie and talking to the people that saw it with me. There seems to be a consensus that the movie offered a lot of fun though some of the creative decisions are questionable. Those of us that enjoyed the tone and ambition of The Last Jedi are having a difficult time accepting this entry into the series. I think this quote from Enrique Bertran (who I have interviewed in the past) is a good summary:
The Rise of Skywalker is so incredibly easy and convenient to watch as a viewer. Other than trying to keep up with the rather-nonsensical plot and how it changes or distorts things that took place in prior films, the film never makes the audience feel uncomfortable for too long. We’re not given any time on screen to really process the return of the Emperor and what that truly means. None of the characters that were around to defeat him in Return of the Jedi comment on his return in a significant way other than, “He’s bad, what do we do now to win?” Chewie is killed for maybe a few minutes (I want to time this next time I see it), and Threepio’s memory wipe is played for laughs until that’s undone as well. Kylo gives up his Dark Side agenda without much explanation and returns to being Ben Solo; he and Rey even kiss before he dies (the second time). His death is not given any time in the movie as we are quickly celebrating the victory over the Emperor (again) and his fleet (again).
It’s easy, and so many choices seemed to be deliberately made to please as many people as possible while also appeasing those that did not like The Last Jedi. And maybe that’s fine. Maybe that’s all Star Wars is anymore – and maybe that’s all that Star Wars ever was.
That’s what I’m wrestling with right now. Was Star Wars always this dumb and easy? Was it always a cash grab? With the first six films, I could talk myself into the notion that Lucas was burning to tell a specific story and we were all along for the ride. With the past three, I cannot in good faith talk myself into the idea that this was a story that needed to be told. I don’t think these films are capturing the attention of kids like they did many years ago. The powers that be at Disney did not have a story to tell. They brought in numerous creatives to cobble together films for a release schedule, and it all culminated in two-plus hours of wish fulfillment and fan service.
As we were talking about The Rise of Skywalker over the weekend and how it tried to throw everything and the kitchen sink during the film to make people happy, one of our friends that saw the movie with us started yelling while miming furious masturbation, “Reylo kissed! OH MY GOD, that’s Freddie Prince Jr’s voice speaking to Rey! CHEWIE FINALLY GOT HIS MEDAL!”
I laughed. Not at the people that enjoyed those things, but at the cynicism that led whatever players to create a movie that catered to those wishes over and over again at the expense of anything else: Here’s Kylo repairing and wearing his helmet for the folks that wanted him to stay edgy. Here’s a split-second of two woman kissing to satisfy the diversity audience. Here’s a few heavy-handed quotes that seem anti-Trump to satisfy the liberals. Here’s us undoing something you maybe didn’t like in the last movie; here us doing that again! Here’s a reference to an earlier film/show you may have seen. We even turned Hux into a mole for you folks that enjoy him. It’s like it was written and edited in a board meeting where terms like “cross-platform” and “synergy” were highly involved.
It doesn’t matter if the plot doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter if trying to decipher these three films as one piece of art is nonsensical. It doesn’t matter if the audiences’ intelligence is insulted. Because if we force-feed them enough cool stuff that they want at a fast enough pace, it won’t matter. They’ll love it.
Perhaps Star Wars has always been McDonald’s. I did the math once, and I’ve likely eaten north of 3,000 McNuggets in my lifetime. I enjoy McDonald’s (in doses) and I love Star Wars! I understand the allure of comfort food and self-care strategies. Maybe Star Wars is just something to watch when you want to feel good and comfortable. And perhaps it shouldn’t ask interesting questions or test you in any way. Perhaps Star Wars is the most popular comfort food and that is fine.
We got a taste of how it could be more, and rather than embrace those possibilities the new owners of Star Wars balked when some fans shouted that they wanted their simple comfort food again. It’s disappointing.
I’m not annoyed with fans that enjoyed the new movie or that wanted to keep things simple. I somewhat wish that I could embrace the simplicity and spectacle of this movie as well! I am bothered that the folks running Star Wars since Lucas sold it to Disney did not go into this trilogy with a coherent plan and then jerked around the fanbase through this trilogy and other Star Wars films.
I don’t know if they understand Star Wars – or if I understand it anymore.
Like, what are we all doing?
I imagine I’ll come around at some point. I’m bummed we didn’t get Force Ghost Anakin and that this movie actively makes prior films in the franchise worse – not to mention the aggressive countering to themes and decisions in The Last Jedi I processed and respected.
The disappointment is also related to it being over. Perhaps some of this is grief. The adventures of Luke, Leia and Han are complete; and it’s sad that Carrie Fischer’s died before The Rise of Skywalker was filmed. She would have made it a stronger film. I know Star Wars will never truly end. They’ll make movies, television shows, novels, comics, and animated shows; the train will keep rolling. But it’s reached a point for me where all the machinations about how the sausage gets made interfered in my ability to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
I wonder why I hit that point now, and why so many others didn’t. Maybe people want to embrace a harmless piece of entertainment that makes them feel good in some rather dark times at the moment. Maybe they don’t want to deal with grey spaces and challenging questions in a story about good versus evil featuring space wizards.
I don’t begrudge anyone that simple joy.
More than anything else The Rise of Skywalker increased my appreciation for The Last Jedi and the curiosity about what might have been for the new group of heroes if the powers that be allowed things to develop from there instead of hitting a massive reset button. Star Wars is the second franchise this year to culminate in a final chapter that featured heaps of spectacle and poorly-conceived and executed character moments. It is also another notch in the cap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which continues to run like a well-oiled machine while other franchises flounder.
I don’t think The Rise of Skywalker will age well; I never experienced so many disappointing moments during a Star Wars movie before. And maybe that will change with a second (and third) viewing while learning to accept the film for what it is. Maybe I can get lost in one of the three (I think it was three) duels Rey has with Kylo. Maybe I can just enjoy Lando being Lando. Maybe the Resistance Armada arriving to save the day will produce some chills. Maybe Ben shrugging after finding a lightsaber behind his back will be wicked cool.
Though accepting The Rise of Skywalker as a piece of dumb entertainment that is quintessential Star Wars might make me want to take a longer break from the Star Wars universe than maybe I’m willing to admit.
7 thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker’s Audacious Cynicism”
I agree with most of your points. Only thing I wanted to note was that The Clone Wars cartoon (pre-Disney) had already established that Maul survived.
Thank you for reading. Yes, I was aware Maul came back in The Clone Wars (with spider robot legs!); I thought it was silly then too. It culminated in another showdown with Obi-Wan that was cool – though I think it would have been best to let that villain stay retired.
Star Wars was doomed after RotJ. Why? Because you can’t go home. The OG trilogy was innovative in the late 70s, but new ground has been paved since then. The prequels were terrible, why? Because we were adults trying to recapture the magic of childhood. But I remain optimistic of the SW future because the Mandolorian and Rogue One have shown us that good SW content is still possible.
I can find positive moments and good experiences from all Star Wars films. I enjoyed The Last Jedi because it did take risks and tried to expand to story in interesting ways. The series is also in new hands and it’s unclear even they know what type of story they are trying to tell. I imagine the future will bring a combination of “good Star Wars” and “bad Star Wars” — for whatever that means!
I really appreciate this thoughtful overview of the latest trilogy and the new movie. I really wanted to like Rise but was not happy about the Emperor returning as the big bad, and left the theater feeling kind of meh about the whole thing. Not the way I wanted to feel at the end of the Skywalker saga after decades of fandom. That being said, I do need to get back for a second viewing in the theater. Take my money, Disney! I know I’m a sucker.