Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), aka Episode IX, is a sci-fi action movie that’s the last film of the new Disney Star Wars trilogy, and ideally, it is meant to bring a satisfying conclusion to the “Skywalker Saga” that George Lucas created over 40 years ago.
Instead, it’s a movie that races at a blistering pace from the start, giving viewers no time to stop and reflect about what just happened. By the end of the film, you’re simply too exhausted to process everything. The visuals are great, and there are some decent moments in the film. This is the first film where the three major “good guys”: Rey, Poe, and Finn, spend a decent amount of time together. Despite the rumors of reshoots and multiple cuts of the film, it does manage to put together a semi-coherent, if not a very satisfying, story.
If you’re not a huge Star Wars fan and/or you just want an opportunity to shut your brain off for a couple of hours and watch a visual spectacle, then The Rise of Skywalker delivers. If, however, you really like Star Wars, or appreciate things like story and character, or if you’re not a fan of the previous Disney Star Wars films (especially The Last Jedi), The Rise of Skywalker is not going to take you to a happy place.
WARNING: THAT’S THE END OF THE NON-SPOILERY REVIEW.
What follows are my actual thoughts about The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m going to spoil the shit of it. If you HAVE NOT seen The Rise of Skywalker, TURN BACK NOW!!!
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!
There’s a moment near the end of the film that if you blinked, you may have missed it. Two of the female characters in the film share a brief kiss. They’re not major characters at all. In fact, I couldn’t tell you who they were except that the one was an older woman who was one of Leia’s friends/co-workers in the Resistance.
The Rise of Skywalker echoes the final season of Game of Thrones — the film is solely focused on moving you from plot point to plot point, and it doesn’t want to you think about whether it makes sense. Even when what’s happening in the scene is significant, and probably should pause and allow the audience to feel the weight of what’s going on, TROS doesn’t have time for that. Instead, TROS only slows down to introduce new characters, who are mostly there to assure the audience that Poe and Finn are red-blooded heterosexual men, and/or buy time for the bad guys to show up.
After seeing The Rise of Skywalker, it’s clear that as much as Disney wanted to make the last three Star Wars films, they had no real plan as to what should be IN those films — other than not to use any of Lucas’ ideas. In fact, even though J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm deny it, it seems pretty clear that there were multiple cuts of this film, and the released version is just another spliced cut from prior versions.
The net effect is that the movie feels rushed. There’s no time to explain about why this thing happened; just accept it and move on. Or, worse, things are brought up in the film, then are simply never resolved.
I would not be surprised, if, like Justice League, fans will eventually start demanding the release of the rumored “Iger cut” or the “Lucas cut”, hoping that a better version of the Rise of Skywalker existed at some point.
In some ways, The Rise of Skywalker, was kind of doomed from the start. After allowing Rian Johnson to have free reign with The Last Jedi, and the ultimately divisive reactions to that film, J.J. Abrams was left with a bit of bad situation. Abrams had to find a way to either a) just run with what he was given, or b) try to find a way to “undo” elements of The Last Jedi so he could tell a new story, and/or c) find a way to “redeem” the brand and bring back fans who did not enjoy either The Last Jedi or other Disney Star Wars films. Instead, he went with d) all of the above.
Obviously, J.J. Abrams is not the guy you need if you need someone to devise a creative way out of the corner you’ve written yourself into. Sure, he can make films that are great visually, but he’s not much of an original writer.
That said, there are elements in this film that, had they more time to be fleshed out (like say, over the course of a trilogy?), had potential. They do finally keep Rey, Poe and Finn together for a good part of the film, but there are no pauses to allow the them to really just “hang out” together, so nobody really develops any further from who they were in the first film. Rey now wants to be a Jedi, but what about Poe and Finn? Why is Chewie still around?
There’s an attempt to give Rey a story arc, to try make her less of a “Mary Sue” by having her have doubts and/or new powers that she’s not entirely in control of. However, by the time you realize that Rey may have an actual character arc, she’s back to using powers she’s never had before. At one point she runs away, but instead of giving her a chance to express her feelings, she’s quickly given a pep talk and sent on her way. Also, her doubts/fears are never brought up when she’s facing Palpatine, who should have easily exploited such weaknesses.
— Sigh —
Let me throw in a few things that I like about the film.
The visual effects are top notch as always with these films — with one glaring exception. Oscar Isaac and John Boyega are great given what little they had to work with. Ian McDiarmid clearly had fun with being Palpatine. Adam Driver is clearly the best actor of the group though, and I think if the films had focused more on his story than Rey’s, we might have had a much better series. The soundtrack was also pretty decent, but like the film itself, nothing memorable.
Okay, I’m just going to make a list of things I don’t like about the film:
1) The Return of Palpatine (dun dun DUNNNNNNN)
This happens in the opening crawl. By the way, Palpatine’s back. He’s broadcasting from somewhere and talking shit about a “Final Order” and making new threats. Supposedly, the good guys have some ridiculous time-table to stop him, like, 16 hours?, or something. It doesn’t matter; the time is just there to arbitrarily move things along, and the cast will constantly remind you.
Why is Palpatine back? HOW is Palpatine back? The film’s not going to tell you.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (I know, right? I snickered when I saw this, too), though, doesn’t like the thought of someone challenging his “authoritah”, so he goes on the hunt for a thing – a Sith Wayfinder – that will show him the location of Palpatine.
Kylo finds Palpatine in the unknown regions of space. Palpatine tells Kylo he’s been the voice in his head all these years; he’s been secretly running things the entire time. Palpatine says he made Snoke, and you think, oh, maybe this is figurative, until Kylo walks by a vat of fresh Snoke clones growing in a vat. Instead of killing Palpatine, Kylo decides to accept Palpatine as his new boss, since Palpatine’s got a fleet of ships that he refers to as his “Final Order”. In theory, the combined might of the First and Final Order will finish taking over the galaxy and establish a new Empire.
But why? Isn’t the First Order basically in control at this point? The Resistance is mostly dead, so why hasn’t the First Order already established the “new” Empire?
Anyway, Palpatine orders Kylo to go “kill the scavenger” (meaning Rey), so he goes on the hunt for Rey.
I get that since Snoke was killed in The Last Jedi, they needed a new bad guy. It was clear that Kylo was never going to be him, or at least, he was going to continue to be conflicted. But, they could have built something around that. They would have been better off introducing Darth Plagueis or some new evil entity. Simply recycling Palpatine feels lazy.
2) Rey’s Family
This was a major f**k you to Rian Johnson, but it’s also really disappointing. One of the few good aspects of The Last Jedi was setting up the idea that Rey could be this powerful while being nobody. Rey is not a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or related to anyone from the other films. Even the last bit at the end, where the little boy appears to have Force-pulled a broom to his hand, fed into that idea that anyone could be a Jedi.
Abrams plan? Nope. F— that, Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter. *sigh*
3) Palpatine’s Plan
I’m not sure Palpatine even knows what his plan is in this movie. He wants to bring about a new Empire. He wants to kill the last Jedi (Rey). But, when Rey shows up, he decides, no wait, I want you to kill me. He says he’s been preparing a Sith ritual where if Rey kills him in anger, then his spirit and power would flow into Rey’s body. He’d effectively take over Rey’s body. Then, the film tries to spin this as the only way to save her friends is to complete the ritual (the scene basically echoes the same sequence between Luke and Palpatine in Return of the Jedi). Palpatine even opens up the roof to the Sith temple so he can shoot Force lightning at all of the Resistance ships and disable them (the Imper… I mean, Final Order ships, apparently had Force Lightning Plot Armor installed with their new Death Star guns). It’s meant to show Rey just how much peril her friends are in to pressure her into giving in (just like ROTJ)
Oh, yeah, the thousands of Final Order Star Destroyers all have Death Star guns on them. We don’t see this until an hour and a half into the film, and I’m almost shocked there wasn’t this brilliant bit of dialogue after the main characters learn about the guns:
“They have Death Star guns!”
“They have Death Star guns?”
“They have Death Star guns”
Why so many ships? The tech used in the Death Star was a HUGE deal. It was a bit of a shock that the Empire even had the resources to build a second one. Then, they built Starkiller Base, which was like Death Star 3.0, and had an even BIGGER Death Star weapon. Palpatine, though, for reasons, found a way to cram the power and tech of a Death Star into a Star Destroyer, and then made hundreds of them. Since there’s so many ships, and they all have this power, it negates the original impressiveness of what the Death Star could do in the original films.
If Palpatine announced a threat with a deadline, why isn’t he already moving his ships into position? Why are they all just sitting there waiting for the Rebels… er, Resistance to find them?
So, first Palpatine wants Rey dead, then he doesn’t. Then, Kylo/Ben shows up to stand with Rey against him, and Palpatine suddenly realizes that Kylo and Rey are a “Force dyad” that hasn’t been seen in generations. Palpatine can use the dyad to rejuvenate himself, for reasons, so he proceeds to drain the life force out of Kylo and Rey.
But, he doesn’t kill them.
Rey recovers, and so, Palpatine shoots Force lightning at her. She blocks with her lightsaber for awhile, then decides she needs two lightsabers. Two lightsabers, also for reasons, does the trick, and she’s able to reflect the lightning back at Palpatine.
At this point, Palpatine should have said “ow” and stopped doing that. Instead, he keeps going and effectively kills himself. Someone on YouTube pointed out, this is the third time over the course of the Star Wars movies that Palpatine has been seriously injured or killed by his own Force lightning. You’d think he’d have learned at some point.
- Force lightning: Good
- Force lightning in your face: Bad
Strangely, despite the fact that Rey does kill Palpatine in the end, his life force/powers don’t take over Rey’s body, also for reasons. The entire final confrontation with Palpatine is pretty sloppy.
Beyond that, this is f**ing Palpatine we’re talking about — the guy that was playing 10th dimensional chess around the other characters throughout the other films. Normally, we see that he’s many moves ahead of the other characters, but in TROS, he’s just making it up as he goes.
Then again, since Rey won, and technically, she’s a Palpatine, I guess that means — Palpatine won after all?
Also, bringing back Palpatine cheapens the end of Return of the Jedi, where Vader turns on his master and destroys him in order to save Luke. This is the most disappointing aspect of the film because it shows how little Disney cares about the original IP they invested in.
4) Rey is still a Mary Sue
Sure, they try to show her training, and failing, and she suddenly has doubts about her path, and she has a vision of “dark Rey” and all that. Again, because of the rush, there’s no weight to it.
But, she killed Chewie, you say? Uh, no she didn’t – that was the first of many death fake-outs. Later, for reasons, she runs off to hide like Luke, but Luke appear, gives her a pep talk (with a bit of a blatant f**k you to Rian Johnson), then sends her on her way.
This time around, Rey has force healing. When she’s pissed, she can cast Force lightning. She was raised on a desert planet, but she’s able to sail a skiff on water during a storm with waves so high that even the natives wouldn’t willingly sail on it. She knows how to pilot First Order craft with no problems. She can fly an X-Wing with no training. She can Force “teleport” to send Kylo/Ben a lightsaber when the plot needs her to. When she beats up the new character, Zorii Bliss, she immediately likes and trusts Rey.
It also doesn’t help that it feels like Daisy Ridley is phoning in her performance. It’s clear she wants to move on from Star Wars, but then again, based on recent interviews, so are the other major players.
5) The Death Fake-Outs
Ugh. The first time they try to pull this, it’s bad. Really bad. Everyone sees there’s only one shuttle that takes off from the desert planet, presumably with Chewie on board. Then, Rey accidentally blows it up. Again, there’s no dramatic pause here for effect. The characters briefly feel bad, then move on. Abrams then reveals to the audience – aHa! – It’s a trick. Hux tells General Pryde they have a prisoner, and shows us Chewbacca. When Pryde asks, didn’t the ship blow up, and Hux replies, oh, there was a second shuttle.
There’s C-3PO’s dramatic sacrifice, which just felt wrong. None of the new characters really like Threepio, so really, they’re perfectly fine with wiping his memory in order to get the translation of the Sith dagger. The film lets Anthony Daniels have his dramatic exit, which was mostly spoiled in the trailer, or so you would think. By the end of the film, though, R2D2 mostly fixes him.
Poe’s old flame, Zorii Bliss, lives on the planet that Palpatine destroys along with the little puppet droid hacker dude, so it looks like they got blasted to bits. Nope, they’re both fine and show up in time for the final fight.
Rey delivers a fatal blow in her latest fight with Kylo, but feels bad, and heals him. Later, Rey dies in the confrontation with Palpatine, which actually would have been an interesting ending. Nope, Abrams pulls a Star Trek: Into Darkness, and has Kylo/Ben crawl out of the pit Palpatine tossed him into so he can sacrifice himself and revive Rey. They kiss to please all of the Reylo fans, and Abrams can pretend that Kylo was redeemed.
6) Kylo’s “redemption”
Yes, Kylo has been shown throughout the new trilogy as struggling between the light and the dark sides of the Force. However, when he’s given a chance to show mercy, he doesn’t. He still kills millions of people.
He’s ordered to kill Rey, but instead, he plots to turn her to the dark side, and together they’ll rule the galaxy, just like Vader wanted to do with Luke.
But so did Vader, you say. True, Vader’s actions did not completely redeem him, but Kylo’s actions certainly don’t either. He did nothing in the final fight except finish off the Knights of Ren, and then, only with Rey’s help. He’s only there for the Reylo moment.
And let’s be honest: why should Rey have the hots for Kylo? She saw him once with his shirt off? In the course of these films, he’s kidnapped her, tortured her, murdered her first father figure (Han), tried to kill her on at least two occasions (maybe more?), tried to use the Jedi mind trick to order her to bring Luke to him, and lured her to Snoke’s ship only to bring her before Snoke. In both TLJ and TROS, he’s only interested in turning her to the dark side in order to consolidate his power (before he turns to the light).
To Reylo fans, though, this somehow makes Kylo a keeper. I don’t get it.
How about this idea? Rey sacrifices herself to give Kylo/Ben the chance to stop the Emperor, and he does, giving him some bit of redemption by stopping the immediate threat. Rey has died, and Kylo/Ben cradles her, then kisses her goodbye.
Now, Ben has a chance to begin a true redemption arc where he dedicates the rest of his life striving to live up to to Rey, Leia, and Luke’s example by trying to do some good to make up for all of the bad things he’s done.
That alone could have been Episodes X-XII, or a new Disney+ series, although Ben living and Rey dying probably would enrage the Reylo fanbase even more.
7) Scavenger Hunt
Now, we’re on to the mystery box that Abrams loves to use in all of his films. Here, it’s a convoluted mess. First, they go to find an “ancient” Sith dagger that, for reasons, Lando AND Luke were unable to find. Then, they have to find someone to hack C-3PO in order to get him to translate the Sith runes on the dagger.
The dagger sends them to Endor, where, you know, the second Death Star didn’t disintegrate but instead huge chunks of it crashed into the moon, and there are many sections that are mostly intact. If you happen to stand in the exact spot on the moon, and use a thingy on the dagger, it will show you the approximate location of Palpatine’s secret stash abroad the Death Star.
All this is for one of two Wayfinders that have Palpatine’s location, which Kylo destroys just as Rey retrieves it. The only reason the Resistance is able to find the location is because Rey runs off with Kylo’s ship, which has the other Wayfinder. It’s that Wayfinder that Rey eventually uses to send the location of Exogol to the Resistance.
So, really, the entire scavenger hunt was kind of pointless.
8) ReyLo, but no FinnPoe
The only two characters in these films that have any major chemistry together are Finn and Poe. Rey and Kylo have a bit of chemistry, I guess. But, the entire Rey/Kylo interaction doesn’t exactly represent a healthy relationship (see above). It’s not Padme/Anakin levels of bad, though. However, if anyone in this film should have kissed at the end, it should have been Finn and Poe.
It’s actually pretty funny how the movie goes out of its way to give both Poe and Finn love interests in this film. Finn actually spends much of the film being almost uncomfortably obsessed with Rey’s location at any given point, and yells “REEYYY!” a lot.
Hell, they wouldn’t have even needed to show them kissing. At the end of the film while everyone is celebrating, Poe gives his old flame, Zorii Bliss, this little look and head nod, silently asking “so, you wanna hook up?” Zorii shakes her helmet with an emphatic “no.” But, swap Zorii out with Finn, and Finn could just look at Poe for a long second, then shrug his shoulders, and nod, and the two of them walk off screen. Don’t show anything and leave the audience guessing.
9) Lightspeed Skipping
It happens very early in the film, but it’s insane. The Falcon is now able to “lightspeed skip” — meaning, they make a quick jump to lightspeed, stop, then jump again, rinse, repeat. Again, never mind that this breaks all of the “rules” of lightspeed in the Star Wars universe. The worst part is that they’re being pursued by TIE fighters that are now a) capable of also flying at light speed, and b) capable of tracking them through light speed. Dumbest. Idea. Ever.
10) Leia’s Death
My biggest issue is that there’s no weight to this scene; it happens, and the film just moves on. Even Avengers: Endgame took a minute to pause once they learned of Black Widow’s sacrifice.
I don’t mind that she used the last of her energy to reach out to Kylo/Ben, even if it just distracts him for a moment. It’s not clear if the vision of Han was Leia’s doing, and I’m sure there will be internet discussions about that. Kylo thinks it’s just a memory in his head. But it causes Kylo to switch back to the light? This is another big moment that should have been given more time/weight.
The only gut-wrenching bit in the entire film is Chewie’s reaction to Leia’s death, but nobody’s got time for that.
11) The Dagger
Part of the scavenger hunt that the gang is on is to go to a place to find a thing that will give them a clue to the location of the next thing, and they find an ancient Sith dagger. The dagger supposedly contains the location of the only other Wayfinder out there that can give them the location of Palpatine.
So, “ancient” Sith dagger, right? They get the dagger translated, which takes them to Endor, where the second Death Star was not vaporized, but somehow massive parts crashed on the forest moon. The dagger has a thingy that, if you stand in just the right spot while looking at the Death Star wreckage (you know, something that happened 30ish years ago), you could see the exact location of the secret room where Palpatine stashed the other way finder.
There’s more. The guy that had the dagger was sent to kidnap Palpatine’s son/daughter and his/her wife/husband and his granddaughter. The guy got the parents, but for some reason, didn’t get Rey, even though the film shows that they were all on Jakku. The guy uses the knife to kill the parents, and Rey eventually has a vision of all of this.
Even if you ignore the “ancient” aspect of the dagger, why does the dagger exist at all? If the guy that owns it was on a mission for Palpatine, why not just give him directions on how to get back to the Unknown Region? If you don’t trust the guy, have him meet up with someone you did trust and have them fly back to you. What about all the ships what would need to deliver resources and/or personnel to build and man all of these new Star Destroyers?
Why does Star Wars need to have a Raiders of the Lost Ark moment, where you have to stand in a specific spot on land and pull the thingy out in order to see the location? Why not just put a tracker beacon on it? Or something?
12) No Limits
There are no limits in this film, and that alone kills much of the magic in Star Wars.
- Kylo is able to Force teleport a necklace by grabbing it from her neck during one of their Force Skype conversations. Rey is able to send Kylo/Ben a lightsaber in a similar manner later in the film.
- Rey is able to jump over Kylo’s TIE Interceptor, then use her lightsaber to cut through a wing and disable it.
- The ship crashes at full speed, rolling to an eventual stop in the desert, and Kylo walks out of the wreckage without a scratch.
- Rey and Kylo can both Force pull a transport out of the sky.
- Palpatine can shoot out Force lightning that impacts thousands of Resistance ships, but no Final Order ships.
- Palpatine has somehow built and manned a new fleet of thousands of ships, all of which have Death Star tech capable of destroying a planet.
- Rey is somehow, without training, able to block/absorb Palpatine’s Force lightning, then, with a second lightsaber, is able to deflect it back at Palpatine, which kills him.
- Palpatine is able to drain the life force from both Kylo/Ben and Rey, but not enough to kill them (for reasons).
- Rey is able to Force heal any wound, including a fatal lightsaber blow.
- Ben, now back in the “light”, can transfer his life force to resurrect Rey.
- Force ghosts can interact with the physical world when the plot demands it. Luke appears and catches a lightsaber when Rey casts it into the TIE wreckage. He’s later able to pull a Yoda and raise his X-Wing out of the sea. Later, when it would make sense for the Force ghosts to appear and help Rey in her fight with Palpatine, they don’t.
The Force powers are now so incredible, there are no real consequences to anyone’s actions. Even death doesn’t matter, because someone can bring you back, or, if you’re a Jedi, you can appear as a ghost and interact with the physical world.
13) Space Horses
*Sigh* Even though the Lando and everyone he brings with him have no trouble flying into and out of the space around Exogol, the Final Order ships need to be guided out via transmitters. Of course, there are only two: one on the ground, and one on the command ship. Why? Why can’t all of the FO ships just get the coordinates and go like everyone else?
Anyway, when the Resistance shows up, and the new General Pryde realizes they’re going for the ground tower, he turns it off and switches to the tower on his ship. So, General Finn, who is leading the ground assault, heads for the command ship, where he leads an attack with team of people riding “space horses” on the deck of a Star Destroyer. It’s not in space, but it is flying. None of the bad guys think to tilt the Star Destroyer over to one side and let the ground assault slide off.
14) What did Finn want to tell Rey? Why does it matter?
It’s another example of how the film brings up something and never resolves. Early in the film, the gang is being sucked down into quicksand, possibly to their deaths, so Finn, thinking “this is it” — yells at Rey “there’s something I have to tell you” —
But, they’re sucked down into the sand before he tells her. Of course, it turns out they’re all fine; they end up in some type of tunnel system underneath the sand. Then, Rey asks Finn what he wanted to say, and he’s like “Never mind. I’ll tell you later.”
What? Hell, even Poe is curious, and asks Finn about it twice in the film. Finn never tells Poe or Rey what the big secret was.
The obvious answer is that Finn has the hots for Rey, But, Abrams supposedly admitted later the secret was that Finn was “Force-sensitive.” In theory, Rey, being super powerful in the Force and all that, would likely would have known that. It’s never resolved, so why keep it in the film?
15) The Knights of Ren
Hey, look, we finally get to see the Knights of Ren. Cool, right? We’ll finally get to learn who they are and why they exist and all that, right? Nope. They chase the gang around the galaxy and generally arrive too late to be effective, and then they serve as a brief obstacle for Kylo/Ben to fight through near the end of the film.
16) Lack of Rose Tico
There are a lot of people pissed about this, but I’m actually glad Rose Tico’s role was reduced in this film. I actually thought they could cut her entirely and it would have been fine.
It’s not that Rose Tico is a bad character. She started off being kind of interesting. I didn’t even mind the social justice perspective she had, even though it made little sense in the middle of a Star Wars movie (especially since all of that had zero impact on the plot). I despised how they used her at the end, and the cheesy line she had with Finn after stopping him from sacrificing himself. That’s not the fault of the character or even the actress; that’s just bad writing.
She’s only in The Rise of Skywalker at all for fan-service, and she adds nothing to the story. Either give her something to do that’s relevant to the story, or don’t put her in the film.
17) Finn’s Force Sensitivity
It’s not that I mind that Finn is Force sensitive, but it just feels like fan service at the point it finally comes up. Of course, it’s also weird that Finn has spent a LOT of time around some really powerful Force users that never detected it. Leia sensed who Rey was, but didn’t know shit about Finn? Come on.
18) The Rise of “Skywalker”
As soon as I heard the title of the movie, I suspected that Rey was going to take on the Skywalker name in some way, shape or form.
This was really just another fan service moment. Going back to Tatooine, having Rey say the name, and looking off into the twin suns’ sunset. I just don’t feel ike it’s particularly earned. I know they were going for the “ooh, look, see how we tied it back to the original film” moment, but it was still strange. Luke hated living there, and Leia had zero ties to it.
And why Skywalker? Of the two, Rey was much closer Leia than Luke, so why not take the name Solo, or Organa?
19) Chewie Gets a Medal
Why was this so important?
Is that enough? I’m sure I could think of more if I have more time. I just don’t want to though.
I had already watched a number of spoiler videos before going to see the film, so none of this was really surprising — outside of the fact that many of the spoiler sites got so much right. Most of my viewing experience was shaking my head in disbelief.
Looking back, I actually liked some of the new stuff in The Last Jedi after seeing it the first couple of times. It was interesting because someone did what I wanted: they tried to do something new with Star Wars.
Rewatching it later, though, made it less endearing. Luke’s arc was probably the best arc, and it was clear that was the direction they were heading in from the Force Awakens. With Luke in hiding, it really meant only two things: 1) He’d been exploring the dark side and/or had grown powerful enough that he didn’t trust himself with the power and secluded himself to protect everyone else or 2) He’d failed at something, and the guilt of that failure consumed him.
Once we learn that Kylo Ren is Ben Solo, it was pretty clear that when we saw Luke, chances are they were going to present him as a broken man. And, in TLJ, they did exactly that, but then, they gave Luke a bit of a chance to redeem himself.
I didn’t mind bringing up the ideas of the side-effects of war, how people are suffering and others are profiting from war without being directly involved in the conflict. However, none of that had any direct connections to the overall story of the film. Both ideas would make more sense being explored in a TV series, where they have more time to build up some stories around those ideas, and even have the protagonists do something to help.
The most tear-inducing scene to watch in these three films was Luke’s scene with Leia in The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson had the sense to pause everything and let the audience focus on these two characters for a few minutes. It wasn’t just Luke saying goodbye to his sister; it was Mark Hamill saying goodbye to Carrie Fisher.
But, after one viewing of the Rise of Skywalker, I don’t feel anything. Or, I guess I do feel something, since I’m about 6,000 words into a blog post about what I didn’t like about the newest film. I didn’t shed a tear for Rey’s near death, or Ben’s actual death, or any of the “deaths.” Even Leia’s death didn’t really affect me, and that was disappointing.
At the end of three films, I never learned anything more about the new characters to make me like or hate them any more than I did at the beginning. Sure, Kylo stopped being an emo asshole. Finn had the most complete arc in The Last Jedi, and sacrificing himself would have been a great way to complete his arc. But, they robbed him of that, and then, did nothing with him afterward.
It’s clear Disney (or at least Kathleen Kennedy) doesn’t care about the IP they bought from Lucas, which is the most disappointing aspect of all of this.
At the time of the acquisition, Kathleen Kennedy declared that most of the novels, comic books, and other material created outside of the movies would now be separate from the Star Wars canon — the “Extended Universe.” Only the films, the existing cartoons, and any new novels and films would be considered canon. The reason, she said, was she wanted new creators to have the freedom to explore new ideas with Star Wars without being constrained by all of the material that came before them.
For the new Star Wars trilogy, they only kind of explored new ideas in a single film. Instead of following Marvel’s example and finding people who knew the material and appreciated/loved the existing lore, they just hired a “big name” director who had zero interest in Star Wars. Instead of exploring new ideas, he mostly just re-hashed material from the original films. There were other directors attached to some of these projects, but when it was clear they were not following the “Disney plan” — whatever that was, they were dismissed.
I don’t even buy into the age-old argument that these films were meant for 8-10-year-olds. I’ve seen most of the Clone Wars and Rebels tv shows, and both of those shows had episodes that contained more “adult” material, and still told a better story in a 23-24 minute episode than the Rise of Skywalker did in almost 2 1/2 hours.
I know that the Star Wars films, despite their groundbreaking elements, are not the best narrative stories ever put to film, and even they didn’t plan everything out between films.
But, since 2008, we’ve been living in a world where super heroes are living on both the big and small screen. There are fantasy and science-fiction shows out there that have captured the minds of millions of fans. Look at the success of Game of Thrones (except for season 8).
Sure, many of these shows are not for kids, but my point is, we’re at kind of a renaissance when it comes to fantasy and science fiction in film and television, and as such, we as an audience now expect more from these shows.
I was excited when Disney announced they were going to finally make episodes 7, 8 and 9 and complete the Star Wars saga. When they announced they were bringing back the original cast, I hoped that the original cast was simply there to kind of hand things off to a new set of characters. The original cast would make cameos, but everything else would be a new story with new characters for us to learn to love as much as we loved the originals.
Sure, Disney did introduce new characters, and some had interesting back stories, but they never delivered on bringing something completely new to the table. Both Clone Wars and Rebels, where the show runners there did know and care about the Star Wars lore, did deliver on creating new and interesting stories. They even succeeded in creating a new strong, female character: Ahsoka Tano, who has become a favorite for fans of the tv shows.
But, the newest trilogy and the new characters just didn’t have the same resonance as the original cast. So, we’ve arrived at the end of the Skywalker Saga that could have had an amazing and satisfying ending, but instead has ended in disappointment.
So, after all of that, how would I rank the films?
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- The Last Jedi
- The Rise of Skywalker
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace
If you want to add Rogue One and, *sigh*, I guess, Solo, then the list would be:
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- Rogue One
- The Last Jedi
- The Rise of Skywalker
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace
The only glimmer of hope I have for Star Wars and Lucasfilm comes in form of the Mandalorian. It’s the first live-action Star Wars television series, and so far, the press has been pretty good. I haven’t watched it yet; the rumors about the Rise of Skywalker made me super-hesitant to watch anything else. Maybe I’ll be disappointed about it, too.
However, the Mandalorian was created by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, both of whom have some great backgrounds with franchises. After all, Favreau’s Iron Man kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe, and Filoni has been behind both the Clone Wars and Rebels tv series.
Maybe, just maybe, Disney have learned their lesson with the films, and, while they take a break from creating new films, take the time to find creators like Favreau and Filoni who can both build something new with Star Wars while still respecting the canon.
Imagine if Disney/Lucasfilm could find the equivalent of the Russo brothers who could do for Star Wars what those two did with the Marvel films. Those would be Star Wars films worth seeing!
Until then, though, it’s probably for the best that Star Wars takes a break.