Rise of Skywalker: What I Liked/What I Didn’t Like

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I watch the movies and the shows, I read the books, I wear the costumes, I spent more money than was perhaps warranted at the time for a custom lightsaber for my costumes, I wrote a book heavily influenced by Star Wars. So how did I like the latest movie?

I didn’t want to post about it too close to release, but now enough time has gone by, and I’ve seen the movie twice, so I feel I can give it a reasonable take. The tl;dr version is that I liked the movie, but there were some aspects of it I would have done very differently, and that didn’t work for me. Of course I’m not going to leave it at that, but you need to know that after this, I’m going to spoil the crap out of it, so if you haven’t seen it yet and you care about spoilers, you should probably stop reading now.

Beware: Beyond this point, spoilers lurk!

Okay, so the beginning held some issues for me. The opening crawl tells us THE DEAD SPEAK! and then goes on to say that a message from the long-dead Palpatine has been heard throughout the galaxy, threatening revenge.

Well, first of all, it’s just one dead guy, so THE DEAD SPEAK! is perhaps a bit of crappy writing. A DEAD MAN SPEAKS! would have been more accurate, but okay, it’s sensational to use the plural. I’ll concede that.

What I cannot countenance, though, is doing it in such a lackluster, drama-free way. Instead of being told that was happening, imagine if we’d seen it. Imagine if Poe, Finn, and Rey were consulting with Leia in Resistance HQ when the message came over the wire, Leia sagged in horror, and someone else of Leia’s age recognized the voice? Wouldn’t that be better? How about if we saw the horror and fear throughout the Galaxy as the Emperor’s voice streamed across the hypernet?

Maybe they’d have done that if Carrie Fisher had been alive for this one. Maybe not. But I can’t help but feel that the opening we got was substandard.

As for Palpatine’s return, I’m not bothered by that so much, but that’s probably because I’m one of those EU nuts. Palpatine’s return is a story that has been told before; it didn’t take much of a stretch for me to assume it happened the same way. And while Dominic Monaghan gets his line about “ancient Sith cloning techniques,” it’s a throwaway line I get the feeling was missed by a lot of people, judging by the “how did he survive?” questions I’m seeing online in the wake of the film’s release. They could have spent more time on that, I think, and less time collecting plot coupons.

Poe was handled well; he’s matured from where he was in The Last Jedi, and is ready to command–even recognizing he needs his buddy Finn to lead with him is a sign of that maturity; he’s not the guy to go it alone anymore. I loved the little bits of his past we saw, and the discussion-through-expressions alone he had with Zorii at the end was a thing of beauty.

Finn also got some good screen time, though his big emotional moments seem to have hit the cutting room floor–we never find out what he was going to tell Rey. Hopefully that’ll be in the novelization.

Rey’s arc, I loved. I know a lot of so-called fans hate Rey and her “mary sue” tendencies, but I don’t consider her a Mary Sue at all, and I have no problem accepting her innate and intuitive understanding of the Force, or her swift learning once she’s got a teacher. She redeemed Ben (with some massive help from Leia), and she earned her place as the last of the Jedi. I’d love to see where she goes from here; I really hope they don’t abandon the new characters as the Star Wars machine moves on from the Skywalker Saga. If anyone from Disney Publishing reads this, I’ve got some ideas on how Rey moves on from here for the books. Drop me a line, guys!

I didn’t really love the use of old footage for Carrie; Leia came off as speaking in non sequiturs several times, and the effect was flat. I’m not sure what else they could have done, but it didn’t work for me 100%. That said, Leia’s end was fitting. She saw in her vision with Luke that her son would die at the end of her Jedi journey. She was wrong about how that would come about, which was fitting–in my opinion, none of the Skywalkers have ever correctly understood any of the prophecies around them, from Anakin’s “bringing balance to the Force” to Leia. She stopped, but her last act was to reach out to her son as a Jedi, and help turn him away from the Dark Side. And in doing so, both of them died. Prophecy’s a hell of a thing.

Ben, a man who killed literally billions, spent his last moments returning life to one who had been his enemy. It was fitting, and while I cringed as they kissed, I was relieved when a moment later he faded out of the world. Maybe he’ll show up as a Force ghost someday (I have some ideas there).

I absolutely loved Babu Frik, and I was very pleased to see him alive at the end of the story. I really liked the world of Kijimi, and I was upset they destroyed it in the story. But the little guy survived, along with Zorii, whom I also really liked, despite her being in only a couple of scenes.

However, one thing I really hated was the sidelining of Rose Tico. Rose is a great character, played to great effect by Kelly Marie Tran, and I was upset that she was given next to nothing to do. Her plotline with Finn went nowhere, she was just an exposition machine, and she could have been replaced by just about anyone. Tran and her character both deserved better, and I’m annoyed with Abrams for not giving her what she deserved. I’ve read the screenwriter’s explanation, and I find it wanting. I mean, I believe Terrio, but I also think more effort could have been expended to make things work better–maybe by dropping Leia from those scenes and rewriting them for Rose to shine.

Despite that, Rise of Skywalker was a fitting end to the story that began with A New Hope (or The Phantom Menace, take your pick), and while there were things I’d have done differently, or not at all, I think Abrams delivered a Star Wars experience I could be happy with. I saw it twice in the theater, I’ve preordered the home release. I look forward to more in this universe, in all the forms it takes.

Published by Michael R. Johnston

Father of an eighth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Fifty years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA

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