Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I cannot do this without spoilers. If you want my spoiler-free reaction to the movie, I can simply repeat what I said on my facebook page:

Enjoyable movie. Fixed some of the issues I had with episodes 7-8 (mostly episode 8). The plot felt convoluted and extremely rushed. Character arcs were good. TONS of gaping plot holes and (because: JJ Abrams) UNANSWERED QUESTIONS (but we watched LOST, we knew that would happen). Also, the writers demonstrated a complete lack of understanding or grasp of any kind of battle strategy/tactics… all of which I will discuss in my much-longer post on the blog… a few moments made me cry (but in a good way). Not a lot of laughter, I think there was maybe one moment that made me chuckle.

But overall?

Entertaining movie that didn’t make me want to walk out at any point. So… that’s… good?


 

And thus ends the spoiler-free portion of this post. If you have not seen Rise of Skywalker and you do not want to encounter any spoilers… READ NO FURTHER.

Proceed at your own risk…

Beyond this point, there be spoilers! (Also, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading the post, you’ve seen the movie, so I’m not going to give you the play-by-play, and if you haven’t seen the movie, most of the following will most likely be confusing).

Okay, I think that’s enough warnings.

All righty. If you have made it past the second graphic, then you know that there are spoilers coming. I’m going to chat about all the things in the movie, and there were things I liked, and things I didn’t like, and things that I didn’t think made much sense, and I might not write them in with a whole lot of coherent thought…. but here goes!

I went to see The Rise of Skywalker with a WHOLE lot of trepidation. I pretty much hated elements of The Force Awakens (you can read my full review of that movie HERE if you’d like to get a little more info on what I didn’t like about that movie and why (mainly, I hated the way they killed Han Solo)). And The Last Jedi didn’t even merit a review on my blog because it was just seriously awful.  Also, plenty of other people were already ripping it to shreds and pointing out all the things that were wrong with it, and… honestly… the movie didn’t even merit the time and effort it would have taken to write a blog post review for it. Yep. That pretty much sums up my feelings on episode 8.

So, with all the hubbub surrounding The Rise of Skywalker, the fact that the executives clearly had no idea what the fans actually wanted to see, the trouble they’ve had keeping a director employed, and the fact that The Last Jedi a) walked away from everything set up by the Original Trilogy and spat in the face of one of my all-time favorite characters and b) had so much agenda in it that the plot was barely discernible… it was with varying degrees of apathy and extremely low expectations that I bought our tickets.

Summary (this is the too-long, didn’t read version)

My final thought and last word on the entire trilogy as a whole is this: you shouldn’t “pants” Star Wars. (pantsing, for my non-writer readers, means the act of sitting down to write a story without doing any sort of outlining or planning first). When Disney got hold of Star Wars, they should have started by writing a trilogy. (No, they should have started by making blu-ray and 4K versions of the original trilogy in its digitally remastered but PRE-1997 tampering form). But AFTER they did that, they should have written a trilogy (preferably one that didn’t toss out all the EU books as non-canon). Instead, they first tried to play it safe (plagiarizing episodes 4 & 5). Then they decided to up the ante and try to use Star Wars as a vessel to shove an agenda down our throats… and that backfired big time and hit them right in their pocketbooks (which is the only agenda they actually care about). Now they’ve done what they could to appease the fans, and I’d say they did an okay job with what they had left to work with. But it would have been better if they had written a cohesive story across three movies that actually made sense.

If you would like to now read way more info on what I liked and didn’t like about the movie than you probably actually care to know… here are the details:

Things I loved about the movie:

1. Rey – Okay, I know she’s basically a Mary Sue. (A female character with basically no flaws or weaknesses). But then, so is Cinderella. Sometimes (NOT OFTEN) a Mary Sue character can work, and when she’s as epically likable as Rey is and has been since The Force Awakens, I’m willing to overlook it. Rey has been the saving grace of these movies for me, I really like her. She’s got this childlike wonder and this incredible goodness to her that is endearing. Like Luke Skywalker (and especially the Luke Skywalker of the EU books) she is unfailingly kind to everyone she encounters, whether they be a former Stormtrooper, a random droid, or even the Emperor himself. Even in the midst of trying to kill Kylo Ren, Rey cares about him. In many ways, I wish that these new movies could have somehow taken place further in the future and not had any of the original characters, because it would have been so much easier to just fall in love with these new characters if I didn’t have to set them right next to the extreme mishandling of my favorite old characters.

sigh.

But we’re talking about things I liked right now… so…

2. Abrams ret-conning/fixing multiple things from Episode 8. I’ll get into this more in my later points, but so much of this movie made up for the horribleness that was episode 8.

3. Finn – I’ve liked Finn from moment one. (In spite of the fact that he went on a pointless side-quest in E8 and Johnson turned him into a bit of an idiot) Abrams did a ton in this movie to grow this character up from where he began in E7. I LOVED the hints that he may be Force-sensitive (and that the other stormtroopers you meet in this movie who decided not to take out a bunch of innocent civilians might be, as well), and I am now wondering if a lot of those force-sensitive kids the Empire has been kidnapping have been to brainwash them into Stormtroopers, thus effectively eliminating them as a threat to the Sith while also increasing the size of their army. (I’m not saying that IS what has been happening, just that it fits and I like it as a theory).

4. Poe Dameron - Another character I’ve liked from moment one, and in this movie we continue to see him grow up into the leader you kind of knew he had to be. He is clearly the Han Solo of this trio, with a checkered past, fantastic piloting skills, a flare for taking risks and coming out okay on the other side. I loved learning more about his past in brief snippets, and I loved seeing the way that Leia clearly believed in him and the trust she placed in him leaving him in charge.

5. Han Solo - if you read my review of Episode 7 – or know me at all – you know that this was the biggest beef I’ve had with the new trilogy. Han’s death seemed so pointless. So… unworthy of Han Solo’s character. The brief moments in E9 when he appears (as a memory, not a force-ghost) to Kylo Ren… ALMOST made up for what I consider to be one of the worst cinematic decisions ever. So, that’s saying something. I still can’t be okay with Han’s death. He’s supposed to go out on the Falcon, saving the galaxy. BUT… his words and his memory helping to push Kylo Ren back to that moment of decision, and this time he makes the RIGHT choice… and then goes on to save the galaxy…. that almost made it all right.

6. Lando Calrissian – I mean, it’s Lando. And he was every bit the Lando he’s always been.

7. Luke Skywalker – the biggest ret-con of them all… the moment when Rey goes back to Ahch-to and decides to follow Luke’s decision to hide away from the galaxy and she tosses her lightsaber into the burning remnants of Kylo’s ship… and Luke’s force-ghost catches it and gently chides her for not taking better care of her lightsaber, and then utters the words, “I was wrong.”

Chills, man.

Chills.

Thank you, JJ Abrams, for giving me back Luke Skywalker.

8. Rey’s parentage – I really wanted her to be Luke’s daughter. I mean, yeah, I know some people were all excited about her not having a “royal lineage” and just being an ordinary person… but… fiction doesn’t generally work that way. I don’t actually see this as a ret-con from E8, because the Dark Side of the Force lies. That’s what it does. When it told Rey she was nobody, I assumed it was lying. But… Palpatine’s granddaughter was a twist I did NOT see coming. It’s incredibly creepy and weird, but hey, it works. And I liked it.

9. Lightsaber duels – all the lightsaber duels. Epic and awesome and yes… I mean… we can’t deny the fact that a good percentage of the reason we love Star Wars has to do with lightsabers. The more, the merrier.

10. Kylo Ren/Ben Solo - Honestly, I’d happily watch three full movies of JUST Kylo and Rey. They were about the only thing I liked about E8, and while I didn’t actually like Kylo Ren at all in E7 the first time I saw it… he’s grown on me. His character arc is one of the most well-done things about this entire trilogy, and his ultimate redemption at the end of this movie is one of my favorite cinematic moments ever. I wish he didn’t die at the end, because the whole “Force Dyad” this is super cool and I would have liked more story with them, especially with them working together like they do when they’re both in Palpatine’s temple… lair… creepy throne room thing… but at the same time, his character arc was complete, and his death made sense. And it made me cry.

11. Callbacks – while I ripped E7 to shreds for basically plagiarizing the first two movies in the Original Trilogy, this movie did a great job with tons of call-backs that were just enough to be nostalgic but not so heavy-handed as to be obnoxious or take over and left plenty of room for this movie to have good moments and lines of its own.

Things I didn’t like:

First of all, there are already many other people on the internet starting to talk about the plot holes, etc this movie leaves you with, and others explaining why those things aren’t ACTUAL plot holes or unanswered questions…. and I’m not about to even pretend to be as smart as they are. Or as nerdy. Because I’m not.

(For example: if you would like to read a humorous discussion on how Palpatine’s tendency to have back-up plans for his back-up plans means that everything in this movie about his plan makes perfect sense, I recommend THIS ARTICLE)

1. Lack of actual strategy/battle tactics evidenced in the movie. “This fleet will increase the First Order’s strength a thousand-fold.”

So… just how many Star Destroyers were there up there? More than a thousand, I’m guessing, because I’m pretty sure the First Order didn’t have like, just one other Star Destroyer.

But… even if I accept that this enormous fleet of Star Destroyers has been either built over the past 30+ years, or that these are old Star Destroyers being retro-fitted with planet killing weapons, and I accept that somehow we can get planet-killing weapons onto a craft smaller than a small moon (because historically that’s what it took… Death Star…) because technically while not canonical, the starship Sun Crusher was a thing in the EU and… okay… I still find it hard to believe that it makes sense to keep all of these deadly weapons in a place where they cannot leave quickly or without some kind of guiding beacon. Why in the galaxy would you engineer that weakness into your fleet?

Also, the beacon is supposed to be on the ground, but then the Final Order (because we can’t just call it the Empire, it has to have yet another new name) transfers the signal to one of the Star Destroyers. Okay, fine, well and good. But why doesn’t the Resistance still knock out the one on the ground? I mean, if they knock the one out on the Star Destroyer, can’t they transfer it back to the one on the ground? Or for that matter, couldn’t they just bounce the signal around the fleet until they got out of orbit or whatever?

Also, did you see how difficult it was to get to that planet? The way that Rey needed the Wayfinder, not only to find the planet itself, but also to navigate through that weird hyperspace jumble of redness… and she signaled that trail to the Resistance because otherwise they never would have gotten there?

So… um… how did Lando and company all suddenly show up without issue? Did they all have to fly through that rigamarole and we just didn’t see it? Seems like that’s not what happened, since all the ships suddenly appeared together above the planet…

2. Logistical issues. Continuing to gripe about tactical stuff…. if you’ve got, say, 1,000 star destroyers (for the sake of argument, we’ll say that the claim of this increasing the strength a thousand-fold was an exaggeration), each with a crew complement of 37,000, that means you’re talking about 37 MILLION people just on Star Destroyers. I’m not wondering where all those people came from, the Outer Regions are largely unexplored and it’s possible there could be a lot of Sith devotees. The Empire never seems to lack for finding people to follow them. But what I do want to know is where did Palpatine come up with all the money to pay for such a fleet? The difficulties of funding a large-scale war/fleet/army/etc come up rather a lot in the cartoon “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and if this project began even before Palpatine’s first death… we’re talking about a massive, massive amount of money not just for building the ships (in theoretical shipyards somewhere in the Unknown Regions), but also for paying the crews… who are hovering, trapped, inside the atmosphere of a planet that looked largely devoid of life. So you’re also paying to bring in supplies and food and water (because replicators are a Star Trek technology, not a Star Warsian one) just to keep all of these people alive.

3. No sense of danger. In E4 when Luke goes on that first run at the Death Star, 2 x-wings, 1 y-wing, and the Millenium Falcon limp away from that battle. There was a very real sense of loss and finality and difficulty in that battle, even if it was for mostly nameless characters. In this final confrontation, I’m pretty sure we saw one Resistance fighter die, though my husband tells me it was many many more.  Even still I didn’t get the sense of danger, because the Resistance numbers never appeared to decrease.

4. Convoluted and rushed plot - Because this movie was so obviously attempting to both be its own epic conclusion to the saga while also trying to ret-con most of E8 and squash two feature-length movies into 2 hours and 21 minutes, the plot felt extremely rushed. The characters are sent on an epic quest, which would have been a great thing to see a whole three movies about… but instead it was a whirlwind ride smooshed into a single film. They hop from world to world, searching for a thing, the villain always shows up exactly at the perfect moment to perfectly destroy all their well-laid plans, and then they have to reel back and figure out something else.

5. Unnecessary POV switching - in a book, this would be called “head hopping.” There was at least one moment in the movie where this occurred and it annoyed me when it happened. Rey has to get out to the fallen Death Star. We are told that it is extremely dangerous to cross the super choppy water, but she gets in a little boat and does it anyway. Moments later, Kylo Ren lands his ship on the Death Star. And moments after that, Finn and his new buddy show up, having followed Rey out in the other little skimmer that was so handy. All of this only served to decrease my ability to believe that what Rey did getting there was actually anything impressive (see point 3), and the only reason Finn was there was to show part of the story from his perspective. He didn’t need to be there. His presence only served to undermine Rey’s ability in the minds of the audience. His perspective would have been stronger, and her character arc would have been better, had he been left pacing on the cliffs waiting for Poe to finish fixing their ship so they could go over and rescue Rey… only to get there in time to see her fly off in Ren’s ship.

6. Unanswered Questions - There were tons of questions left swaying in the breeze at the end of this movie. Some of which we may never know the answers to. Such as: why was Hux the mole? What did Finn want to tell Rey? Is Finn force-sensitive? How did Kylo Ren get off the Death Star after Rey stole his ship? How did Maz end up with Luke’s lightsaber that fell off Cloud City all those years ago? What happens to the galaxy now? Where even did the First Order come from? What happened to the New Republic? (I do realize that some of these questions may be answered in books and video-games, but I am of the personal opinion that if your blockbuster movies require me to read 7 novels and play 3 video-games, then there is a major problem with your story and your story-telling abilities).

So, those are my initial reactions to the end of this portion of the Star Wars story.

Wow this has become an incredibly lengthy post. I apologize profusely, and if you’ve made it this far, I commend you and greet you as a fellow fan and nerd.

What are your thoughts? Do you like the new Star Wars trilogy? Which movie of the 11 is your favorite? Which is your least favorite? Have you seen the new movie? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation!

~ jenelle

8 Comments

Matthew Sampson

I enjoyed Rise of Skywalker! I felt that it answered all my major questions from the first two movies and tied up the overarching story in a way that made sense. I hadn’t expected Ren to turn to the light after The Last Jedi, so I was pleasantly surprised when he did make that choice based on a solid character arc. I really feel that Ren and Rey and their relationship has been the heart of this new trilogy, and despite everything else the growing depth between them is the reason why I still enjoyed The Last Jedi.

I think I can provide rationalisations for some of your unanswered questions:

After Rey leaves the Death Star in Ren’s special First Order fighter, Ben turns up on Exagol in a random TIE fighter (that he leaves parked next to Rey’s X-wing). It’s possible that he found an intact TIE fighter inside the Death Star, given that it did store many TIE fighters and the individual pieces of wreckage are quite large.

The Resistance tracks Rey to Exagol using the coordinates provided by her wayfinder. Lando and the Millennium Falcon are with them at that point, so I’m sure they also sent the hyperspace path to Lando and that he also shared it with everyone who turned up.

I also think that the Final Order, given the difficulty of reaching Exagol or even knowing about it in the first place, didn’t anticipate any need to leave Exagol in the first place. Also, if you have that number of ships stored on a single world and being controlled individually, there’s a huge likelihood that they might crash into each other, accidentally discharge their planet-killers, and end up wiping out Palpatine’s final plan all on their own—so a single massive system to coordinate their departure does make sense from that perspective. Also I’m not sure if they were actually being crewed while they were under the ice.

And finally I felt that Hux’s character arc in this movie was the conclusion of his enmity towards Kylo Ren in the other two movies—that his treachery towards the First and Final Orders came out of his all-consuming hatred for Ren, rather than any positive feeling towards the Resistance. Imperial politics at its worst.

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jenelle

I’m glad you enjoyed it! I did enjoy it, as well, despite my nit-picking :)

YES! Ren and Rey are my absolute favorite parts of this new trilogy, and Ren’s character arc in particular was masterfully handled.

Those are good points. I particularly like your theory that Ben could have found a TIE fighter on the Death Star. I still think there’s a major resource problem with the Emperor’s Final Order. I’m not too fussed about the huge weakness built in to the fleet and their inability to jump quickly to hyperspace considering that the Emperor is… well… historically fairly prone to that sort of tactical flaw in his plans ;) and he’s clearly not feeling to good at this point in his… erm… life? :-D

Yes, Hux’s rivalry with Ren is definitely a factor that makes sense.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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Kat Vinson

Ben dying is the one thing I was really unhappy about. The actor did such a fantastic job acting – he seemed like an entirely different person. His personality suddenly had so much of his parents in it – I could really see the Han in him. And I hadn’t noticed at the time, but other than saying “Ow” when he jumped on the giant chain, he never spoke a word as Ben. I was a Reylo shipper and really happy about the kiss. His little goofy smile afterwards really got me, especially after he died.

But that Dyad bond they have – being two halves of a whole and “a power like life itself” – and the way Ben healed her by “transferring his life force” – I’m extremely suspicious (& hopeful really) that she’ll find a way to bring him back. Especially since we never saw his force ghost. But even if we had, I’d still be thinking it’s possible. The way they were able to interact across such large distances and even touch each other. I wonder if one of them could have literally pulled the other through if they had tried. And Rey has all those ancient texts – they’ve barely scratched the surface of what a dyad bond means.

Mostly Kylo/Ben is like an Edmund Penevsie or Eustace Scrubb to me. My favorite characters are those ones who have been changed/redeemed. I wanted to see him live life transformed.

I’m supposed to be working on my novel on this Christmas vacation but I keep plotting fan fiction instead. Lol

So altogether, I thought Abrams did a fantastic job fixing the complaints, and making the story coherent. Adding those elements that are echoed again later and come full circle. I mean, yes, if they’d planned it from the beginning it could have been better. But he did amazing with what he had to work with.

At the ending when all the ships arrived, I had the thought that Abrams was making the story and the fight include all the new fans and kids watching- making it for them too, not just those of us who grew up with it. Like passing the baton.

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jenelle

I agree. I was really hoping for more potential stories with Rey and Ben as a force dyad. I’m not holding out hope for Ben to return though… I spent all my hope on wanting Han to somehow have survived (all the other things that fell down a hole in the Star Wars universe have magically come back…).

I do like your passing the baton imagery/theory! That’s lovely.

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hamlettethedame

Basically, yes to all of this. I was underwhelmed, overwhelmed, and just plain whelmed… but at least I wasn’t disappointed and angry like I was after 8. So… it’s all good? Sorta?

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hamlettethedame

Lol! I’m not familiar with Young Justice… the “whelmed” thing was kind of a nod to 10 Things I Hate About You.

“You can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

“I think you can in Europe.”

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jenelle

That’s funny! I forgot that line was in that movie. In Young Justice, Robin makes a big deal about the word “whelmed” as well as a few others. It’s a good cartoon show, I think you’d enjoy it, the humor is up your alley. :)

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