Let’s Talk About The Rise of Skywalker

Let’s Talk About is more or less a transcript of a conversation that Kevin and I have about particular movies. While it is not an actual transcript, since we have long since moved past talking on the phone, think of it as a giant text message thread between two friends. Also, these posts often contain SPOILERS, so don’t continue unless you’ve seen the movie in question or just don’t care about having things ruined for you. You’ve been warned.

Jesse: So Kevin, let me set the scene for you: we were both fans of The Last Jedi, wanted to see how Disney built off of the plot threads in that movie and in our own ways were each anticipating the release of The Rise of Skywalker. We saw it at different times (because life is like that) and were not able to discuss our thoughts with each other until very recently. Finally, we shared our opinions and I believe the consensus was… disappointment. Crushing disappointment.

Am I off the mark there or does that sum it up pretty well?

Kevin: That sums it up pretty well and for all the disappointment I felt I can’t imagine how bad it was for you. Personally I’m a guy who likes Star Warsas in, I have watched every movie at least once but could never do a complete rewatch, I’ve dabbled in Star Wars video games a couple of times, and I also beat you and your fiancée at a Star Wars board game one time.

But for you, you’re a BIG Star Wars guy. So big you know all the intricacies of the convoluted Clone Wars TV show that I will never understand even with you breaking it down to me over and over (somehow Samurai Jack is involved? I don’t know).

My crushing disappointment stems from story telling and how poorly J.J. Abrams executed the end of the saga from a character point-of-view. But for you this is another crushing disappointment in a fandom that you’ve been a part of since before you could pronounce ‘midi-chlorian’.

So please walk me through your initial reaction to The Rise of the Skywalker, were you incensed? Did you let the hate flow through you? Did you choke someone with the force?!

Jesse: I attempted a force choke but ultimately just wound up choking on my Sour Patch Kids. Instant karma for trying to use the dark side.

After we saw the movie, I was walking back to the parking lot with my fiance and her friend, and we were discussing all of the ways that the story and script could have been improved. It was disheartening to me how easily we were coming up with ideas that sounded a lot better than what we wound up getting. And you know what, that happens with Star Wars sometimes. For all of the joy and awe that it brings to our lives, every once in awhile we get a big old steaming turd. That’s just the way it is.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I remain perplexed how poorly Disney planned out this trilogy from start to finish. Can you give me any insight as to what the hell they were thinking?

Kevin: I’ve worked on a myriad of group projects in college and now in my career and they all have one thing in common: they end in disaster. At this point I’m shocked any group of people can come together to create something as simple as a 30 second commercial, let alone an entire space opera.

However, the biggest difference between my work projects and this little Star Wars thing? Billion of dollars. Disney invested heavily in the Star Wars franchise. It’s literally a pillar of their new streaming service, a key attraction to their amusement parks and integral in keeping the attention of the next generation of kids.

That’s the most perplexing part. It reminds me of the disappointment of the Game of Thrones finale (which I never saw). I don’t understand how something so important could be completely mishandled when you have creative geniuses, all of the money in the world and a huge library of source material at your disposal! Maybe there was too much of it all. Too much money, too many hands in the cookie jar, too much pressure.

I imagine it’s like landing the Millennium Falcon: it looks easy but if there’s too many people yelling at Han or he’s trying to land on a ledge on Mustafar (had to look that up, the volcanic planet that Obi-Wan and Anakin fought on), then it becomes a lot harder!

I can’t explain it but to me the biggest error was not locking in the same creative mind to oversee this new trilogy. Maybe over the years we will get some insight into why the directors changed from Abrams to Rian Johnson and back to Abrahms. Or why there isn’t a Kevin Feige-MCU role that ensures the universe is consistent and of high quality.

Until then, please divulge your main points of contention with the ending of the Skywalker saga. You alluded to issues with the story and the script but what specifically ruined the movie for you?

Jesse: The funny part is that despite all of my disagreements with where the narrative was heading, I was willing to see it through to the endAs someone who loved The Last Jedi, I recognize that there are a lot of Star Wars fans who felt let down by that movie (to put it mildly). Maybe the shoe was on the other foot this time and I was one of the detractors of something that a lot of other people really enjoyed. Just because my opinion is different doesn’t mean the film was without merit.

But then we got to that ending and everything completely unraveled. Palpetine was strong enough to disable an ENTIRE FLEET of capital ships, but couldn’t stop Rey from killing him after she got a “pep talk” from a bunch of dead Jedi. Ben Solo apparently lost the ability to speak when he turned back to the light side of the Force, leaving Adam Driver very little to work with when trying to convey that arc (which I thought he did admirably given the circumstances). And then after Palpetine was defeated (again, rather easily), The Rise of Skywalker decided to try its hand at a Romeo & Juliet type ending in the most cringeworthy way possible.

Here’s the thing: if you’re going to have Ben save Rey so they can finally be happy together and that’s where you wanted to go all along, then you need to own how cheesy that is and just freaking go for it. But when they had Ben die seconds later (because I guess the strain of reviving a fellow force user was too much?), I rolled my eyes at how stupid that was. My fiance busted out laughing. We couldn’t believe how sharply the film veered away from its desired course just because it wanted to throw a curveball, or show that there were consequences for everything that had happened up until that point. The same movie that made it perfectly clear it was disregarding the majority of the repercussions set up by The Last Jedi.

J.J. Abrams is a good director, Kevin. He’s been the mastermind behind a lot of quality material. I just can’t figure out why he was willing to sign off on any of this. Should we even cover the last couple scenes of the movie? Or shall we spare ourselves the pain?

Kevin: We can’t not cover the last couple of scenes. But we also can’t fully cover them because, frankly, a LOT of it doesn’t make any damn sense. Just trying to dissect the plot holes and decisions is a fool’s errand.

Alas we are fools so let’s try anyway. You broke down a lot of the questions around Emperor Palpatine, that he dispensed the fleet with ease but couldn’t stop Rey. But you didn’t even address the fact that, ya know, Palpatine was supposed to be dead and is suddenly back. The movie addresses that he is back from the dead in the opening scrawl but fails to mention how exactly and that he is, in fact, a clone (?!). We had to find out that vital information months afterwards in a novel.

In addition, Palpatine’s plan doesn’t make a lick of sense. He needs Rey to kill him in anger so he can transfer his spirit to her since his body is failing, but she refuses because, you know, he’s evil and she doesn’t want to be used for evil. She continues to refuse until he threatens to kill her friends. So now she has to choose between saving her friends by killing the evil dude, but won’t that only prove that she is evil and allow him to take control of her? How rigid is this clause of “kill your grandpa and his spirit will be passed on to you?” Does it have to be “murder out of anger only”? Does it not count because she is doing it for the love of her friends? Even if that is true there would definitely be anger involved because that’s how emotions work! She loves her friends AND is angry that her grandpa clone is trying to kill them. There isn’t one primary emotion that drives all choices, people are far more complex. So if she murders him to save her friends and his spirit does transfer then won’t his spirit in her body kill her friends anyway? And it would be all her fault because…she killed the bad dude? What in the fuck?

And then that plan fails (obviously) but now, suddenly, Palpatine CAN kill Rey and Ben and use his own withering body to become all powerful? And then Rey ends up killing Palpatine but sacrificing herself only to be saved by Ben. So…where does the Emperor’s evil spirit go? Did it dissolve into sand? Is that why Anakin hates sand?

Man this Sith inheritance thing is confusing as fuck. I’d need the galaxy’s greatest law firm to figure out his last will and testament.

Okay I’m sorry, I got a little lost in my ramblings there, but you see my point. They wanted to bring back the biggest bad guy in the galaxy but didn’t tell you how and didn’t make his plan succinct enough to understand. And on top of that they decide to completely disregard The Last Jedi and all of the character development for the strongest character of this trilogy in Rey.

As you know, in the prior film, Rey discovered that her ancestry wasn’t important. She came from nobody and it didn’t matter. Now all of a sudden we are thrown for a loop when Rey finds out not only is her bloodline “royal” but the clone of her grandfather is demanding she sacrifice her life for it. How in the world can you throw in such a dramatic twist and expect the audience to fear that Rey might give in to her dark side?

And that’s still not the worst part. The worst part, and absolutely the worst thing Star Wars has ever done (that includes Jar Jar Binks!) was the very last word of the last scene.

You know what I’m talking about Jesse and I feel like I’ve droned on and on. Why don’t you take over and describe the “Skywalker” scene and let me know if I’m crazy for loathing it more than Anakin hates evil emperor spirit sand.

Jesse: The most befuddling part about Palpatine’s return is that he announces it to the entire galaxy, via some sort of holographic voicemail. Why would you reveal that you’re not dead if your goal is absolute power and you could quickly seize it from an unsuspecting Resistance? I swear that man is his own worst enemy.

In short, you’re not crazy, Kevin. You can loathe that “Skywalker” scene all you want and I may even join you for a minute. First off, like most other plotlines in this movie, it doesn’t even make sense. Even if you consider that Rey considers the Skywalkers to be her family or that she was in love with Ben (which feels kind of like a stretch), she never married Ben. His last name isn’t even Skywalker, it’s Solo for heavens sake! She just took that name for herself and received approving looks from Luke and Leia’s force ghosts, so it must be all good. But what really bothers me about her taking that name is that it tells the audience that you don’t matter in the Star Wars universe unless you are a Skywalker, and it’s the only way that Rey could find meaning in her life. That’s right, forget making a name for yourself (and staying, “Just Rey”) and definitely don’t even think about trying to redeem the Palpatine legacy (you know, her ACTUAL family).

You know this movie didn’t sit well with us when we both go on rants about it. Overall, the problem with the last scene, and really the main issue with this entire movie, is that it didn’t really feel like a culmination of any of the arcs or story threads that had been set up in this trilogy. Instead, it came off as one giant apology from Disney to all of the fans who hated the first two films. Pissed that Snoke turned out to be a red herring? Hey, here’s Palpatine, who basically was Snoke all along! Didn’t like Luke Skywalker taking a unique stance on the Jedi’s place in the galaxy? Don’t worry, he was just kidding around and wants to apologize for offending your idea of who you think he should be. Not getting your Ewok fix from this new trilogy? Fear not, they’re making cameos before the credits roll in this one. The heroes will even celebrate in a forest at the end!

So instead of just rolling with the punches and trying to let this story follow its own natural trajectory, Abrams and Disney gave us a very mediocre and watered down version of Return of the Jedi. Mark Hamill did an interview when this movie came out and they asked him if this was going to be his last Star Wars movie. He bluntly replied, “I hope so.” To be honest Kevin, I agree with him. I don’t want to see another movie about these damn Skywalkers.

Am I being too harsh? Am I calling it like it is? And how likely am I to change my tune if they were to announce a new Skywalker trilogy tomorrow?

Kevin: I can’t speak for you but I know I would roll my eyes if they announced a new Skywalker trilogy. At this point I’m completely sour on the franchise as a whole. I still haven’t watched The Mandalorian, despite all accounts that it is great, because I’m so apathetic towards the universe now. I have no desire to go back and do a rewatch. I don’t even want to beat you in that board game again.

Of course I have said similar statements about the MCU recently so maybe I’m just looking for something fresh. Or for something that respects it’s characters and isn’t just a mindless cash grab. Lately I’ve focused my attention towards smaller or forgotten films and have found some gems like BuffaloedThe Master, and Midsommar. And maybe that is better than vocalizing my complaints about a 40 year old franchise. Maybe I should be lifting up other films that will only get a fraction of the attention but deserve it all.

What say you Jesse? What does your Star Wars fan future look like?

Jesse: I will always love Star Wars. Like a junkie who always goes back to what hooks him even after he’s cleaned himself up, eventually I make my way back to a galaxy far, far away. But I agree with you 100 percent that it is in desperate need of something fresh. It possesses such a rich and vast anthology of worlds, characters and stories that it seems criminal, if not outright lazy, to just keep going back to the well of what’s worked before. One reason I enjoyed The Mandalorian so much is that it tapped into that depth and showed us how much potential Star Wars has to continue capturing our imaginations.

And I truly hope Disney learns its lesson and doesn’t repeat past mistakes. I just wouldn’t put it past them to wait 20 years or so and then do ANOTHER trilogy about the Skywalker legacy. Will I watch it? Probably, but at a certain point you have to wonder how much Disney truly cares about Star Wars beyond the spectacle that it provides. It is a license to print money and always will be, and I just don’t know how hard they’ll actually try in the future when they already have those box office dollars in the bag.

As a fan, I guess the best you can do is vote with your wallet. Don’t automatically shell out cash for anything with the Star Wars brand on it. Maybe follow Kevin’s lead and focus on smaller films that badly need your money. Films like Sorry to Bother You (which, holy crap, is going to get some more coverage from me here in the near future).

Just remember, Kevin, the Force will be with you… always. Because I’m getting a rematch with you in that darn board game.

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