Okay, so it’s been out for a few days now. I’m talking about it, get onboard or get out because I’m spoiling everything.
See, I’ve enjoyed Disney’s Star Wars films so far. It’s been an interesting ride, with a couple of decent standalone movies and a new trilogy that started with some promise. The Force Awakens was a lovely olive branch from Disney, promising us that the horrid storytelling and writing from the prequels was nowhere in sight. The film was a lot of fun, even if it was a cheap move, and it pushed my nostalgia buttons so hard that I actually cried more than once through the film. Then we got The Last Jedi, which is a wonderful film despite the fandom’s violent reaction to it. Look, it’s a good film that says a lot of important things about evolution and the fandom’s toxic relationship to the franchise it loves so dependently.
But now we have The Rise of Skywalker, a reactionary film that puts on display a lot of the problems with this trilogy that I’ve enjoyed up to this point. Whether you had issues with these millenial kids on your lawn telling you that your binary morality isn’t real or you just had to echo the angry YouTube fan cry of “she’s a Mary Sue,” your issues come to a head in this – the final episode in the Skywalker Saga. I want it on record that I was entertained by this film, even moved at points, but it’s not a good film.
So right off the bat we’re informed that Emperor Palpatine is back. How? Welp, that’s not clear. At one point it’s theorized that it could be cloning, Sith magic, or some combination of the two. The film itself doesn’t care, shaking its head along with the audience and suggesting “sure, why not?” Snoke is also explained here, with two more of him in a little tank. It’s suggested that he was just a genetically engineered puppet for Palpatine to control so…whatever, okay. The issues with this are so convoluted that it took a shrug to make it work, as explaining it would have been even more lore and I don’t think most audiences would have been okay with that. I like lore, rules, and logic, so if someone had wanted to spend half an hour reading directly from the Sith handbook the details of how to perform the ritual for “essence transfer” I’d have been overjoyed, but I can see how most would have been pissed off at adding to this already lore-heavy film.
For those in the anti-Rey camp…you’ve been wrong for a long time. The previous two films went to a lot of effort to make sure you knew she was unwieldy and stumbling through her early training, unsure as to what she was doing and scared at the power awakening in her. The Rise of Skywalker jumps forward a year to show her deep in her training via Leia Organa Solo. The girl is now overpowered as hell, hovering a dozen feet off the ground and creating rotating orbital rock rings while attempting to commune with the lost spirits of ALL of the Jedi (she accomplishes this later, though I’m not sure why it mattered other than some wicked cameos). I just…why? Why did they cave and allow her to become this? It’s ridiculous; so many of us have spent years defending the character from these uninformed, lazy accusations from (mostly male) toxic fans that were just angry we didn’t get an adaptation of the Thrawn Trilogy (that wouldn’t have worked on screen, get over it). Now, though, she’s broken through that barrier to become exactly what I didn’t want her to.
And their explanation for that nonsense? Oh, she’s a Palpatine now. His granddaughter, in fact, and she is living proof that wrinkly, feral, Sithy, butt-foreheaded Sheev Palpatine does indeed get down with the ladies. Apparently he houses all of the Sith inside him, just like Rey houses all of the Jedi inside of her, so that explains…something?
She’s also got this other power. I’ll give Abrams credit, he builds on the new powers Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo were developing in The Last Jedi and just goes buck-wild with them. The two have regular conversations from lightyears apart, can knock stuff into each other’s locations, and at one point she straight passes him a lightsaber (leading to an awesome Adam Driver smirk, which kind of made my day). I actually LOVED this aspect of the movie and wish they’d built on it. We need some interesting Force stuff, and this delivered like crazy.
Force stuff came through in another way as well. We got a ton of voice cameos:
- Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker
- James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
- Andy Serkis as Snoke
- Olivia d’Abo as Luminara Unduli
- Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano
- Jennifer Hale as Aayla Secura
- Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
- Ewan McGregor and Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
- Anjelique Perrin as Adi Gallia
- Frank Oz as Yoda
- Freddie Prince Jr. as Kanan Jarrus
I mean…holy hell. There’s a lot to unpack here. I enjoyed most of these, but I’m also one of a few power-dorks that would catch most of these. Couple that with the fact that all the Jedi are speaking to Rey, it just happens to be ones we can recognize from movies and not thousands of years of warrior-monks and I have to roll my eyes a bit.
But the other two small roles are ones I have more varying mileage with. I knew Mark Hamill had been on-set and figured he’d pop up as a ghost but…wow, that was pointless. He just came on screen to reiterate what he learned at the end of the last film, stating that his self-imposed exile was wrong. They are trying so hard to pretend that The Last Jedi didn’t happen for the angry fans that they’re hobbling their own movie with unnecessary cameos. Harrison Ford’s return as Han Solo was much better, and I choked up at the sight of it (alright, I cried). It really served to bring Adam Driver’s performance to its climax and I thought it worked well.
I’ve been pissy here, but let’s just highlight some things I liked:
- Babu Frik tho
- Billy Dee Williams can’t appear grandfatherly, only horny and smooth
- C-3PO gets some of the best lines in the new trilogy
- Seeing the Death Star Throne Room again, even if it was unnecessary
- Ma boi Sheev Palpatine hamming it up again (DEW IT)
- Han Solo, any time and anywhere
- John %#$*ing Williams!
- Keri Russell’s eyes belong in every movie, alongside her talent
- Palpatine has a throne, but also stadium seating for cult events
- Adam Driver smiling after 3 films of brooding-face
- Hyperspace skipping in the Millenium Falcon
- Richard Grant as a Palpatine fanatic from back in the day
- The way Chewie reacted to Leia’s death
- The weird, otherworldly Burning-Man culture on Pasaana
There were other positives but those are definitely the main ones. The trilogy has been uneven and carried a serious amount of issues, but so have all films in this franchise. I don’t mind at all, just enjoying the ride, but this one was just cobbled together so quickly that logic fell by the wayside. It managed to be fun, but it just couldn’t be good or satisfying. A shame, too, because I think we only got this because of the reaction to The Last Jedi (a film I’ve got huge problems with but found fascinating and bold).