So, it’s been a few weeks now and I’ve had time to ruminate a bit more on the latest Star Wars movie. If you didn’t see my previous thread that linked to my twitter post, I can boil most of my feelings toward this movie as this:
And if you liked the movie – good on you. We all like different things. It doesn’t make us less friends or more friends, we just have different tastes in films and how we approach certain stories.
I’ve talked with plenty of people that liked it and I think that it all boils down to what you wanted from this trilogy and this movie specifically.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
I think there were two ways to approach this movie.
Some thought of this as a 9 movie saga, starting with Anakin and going to Rey, but at the core, still about the original Star Wars films and characters. They wanted everything to be linked together. They wanted characters and moments from all the previous movies to participate. They wanted this to be a grand finale for all 9 of those films, creating a second closure for Luke, Han and Leia. I had not watched any trailers, but I heard that was what Disney was pushing in the trailers, linking it all back to the original movies.
Others thought of the sequel trilogy as its own story, with the original films part of its history but the stories were that of Rey, Finn and Poe (sort of). They wanted this finale to be their finale, because we have been told by Disney that this is the end of their stories on film. We knew we would be saying goodbye to everyone, but the focus would be on this next generation of characters and bringing their stories to some kind of resolution.
I was in the latter camp.
I remember when Force Awakens was initially announced and casting information came out about the original cast being featured. I remember dreading it. While the prequels weren’t perfect, they didn’t really effect the original films. Yeah, they created a backstory for Darth Vader and Obi-Wan, but it was easy to ignore them when you settled in with your popcorn to watch the OT. But finding out that Luke, Han and Leia would be back, I was worried that their stories would be tarnished, or it would turn into Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and just be painful to watch as older characters were forced to act young.
When Force Awakens was released, I loved it because it surprised me. Leia and Han were there, but they were not the main characters, more historical figures moving in the sidelines, letting Rey and Finn surprise me with their stories and characters. And when the ending happened and Rey was the one with the lightsaber, I remember being overcome with emotion – a woman with a lightsaber, in a movie, being a badass. I didn’t know how much I needed it until I saw it and realized that, while I loved Leia, she never got to be this hero.
Yes, TFA was a fun play on New Hope and its story, but it still managed to be unique in its own way. And as long as the sequel wasn’t a remake of ESB, things would be fine.
The Last Jedi surprised me even more, taking Star Wars to a more thoughtful and mature level, playing with tropes from the universe. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked the different messages. I liked Leia trying to teach Poe that his reckless actions, typical Movie Action Hero risks, were not good in the real world. I liked hermit Luke teasing Rey and watching Rey bring him back to being an active in the universe. And while Finn and Rose’s story dragged a LOT in places (why DJ, why?), I liked how she helped convince him to be a hero for more than just Rey and understanding the far reaching effects of the war and the resistance.
But above all, I enjoyed Rey and Kylo’s story (NOT Rey/Kylo! Rey and Kylo) and the idea of living in that gray area. Where before, the Jedi and Sith were about black and white, it was fascinating to watch Kylo talk about letting go of old ways and forging new paths and how the villain was actually making sense and how, for a moment, I almost thought Rey could help him find balance up until that final moment when he turns away. As Luke faded away into The Force, it was clear that Rey was now the Last Jedi. And Kylo, her nemesis. This was not a remake of ESB – Kylo Ren’s relationship with Rey was completely different to that of Luke and Vader.
But where would this story go? Should Kylo Ren be redeemed after everything he did, especially after destroying the mask and doing it all as a man? What would Rey be like as a Jedi?
Turns out, those questions were not the questions the writers of Rise of Skywalker were interested in. Suddenly, the movie was about the Emperor, dead for 30 years, but not really. And Leia, not dead in the movies but dead IRL. Instead of being about Rey as a Jedi, she is suddenly at the same level she was in TFA (her clothes even reverted back). Kylo Ren also reverted back to his former self, even rebuilt his old mask.
And the biggest bit of disappointment – it all slid back and suddenly became a strange blend of a ESB/RotJ reboot. The opposite of what I wanted.
Do I feel foolish for not expecting this? J.J. Abrams did the same thing with Star Trek, swearing up and down that the second movie would not be a remake of Wrath of Khan and yet…it was.
I don’t mind fan service but I have a low tolerance for it. I can go from being amused to feeling manipulated pretty quick and I don’t like that feeling. Others live for it: they love a movie that is wall to wall nods, winks, references, callbacks and retconning. There was a LOT of this in Rise of Skywalker, and while others revel in it, it just annoys me. As you can imagine, RoS pushed my buttons.
So, yeah, I love the original trilogy and I love Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. But they were always two separate trilogies for me, with some guest starring characters in the new trilogy. I felt like Rise of Skywalker went too far, and the guest stars suddenly became the stars. The fan service overwhelmed the story. I wanted Rey and Finn and Poe and Rose and Kylo Ren – their stories, their finales.
There’s a lot more to this, more specifics I can go into, but after thinking about it for several days, I can understand why people liked the movie. But I can’t even bring myself to see it again. I have not felt that upset when leaving a movie in a long time. I burst into tears. I was so let down and frustrated. I’ve been going through the stages of grief ever since because I don’t feel like those characters got the attention they deserved.
I think I will stop there. I have a note on my phone that I keep adding to as I think of things that I was disappointed by, storylines that I wish had been, and those I wish had not happened at all. And even as I think about it, I think of ways the movie could have been rearranged to be stronger, little story tweaks, edits, that could have made it coherent and flow better, doing more justice to the characters.
Okay, going to stop before this becomes a novel. I mean, it probably will be a novel eventually, but I should at least break it up into chapters. Hopefully this was coherent enough.