SPOILERS ARE IN HERE FOR THE RISE OF SKYWALKER OBVIOUSLY
In September, I wrote a piece (that I never uploaded) about setting my expectations far too high for specific movies and events and ultimately being disappointed by the result. From that point on, I have been trying and somewhat failing to temper my excitement for certain upcoming releases. The biggest test for me was easily the latest release of everyone’s favourite space opera franchise, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
I bought into a lot of it, reading tie in novels and comics and prepping myself up for a finale that has endless possibilities in its outcome, we can go anywhere from here in this new and exciting slice of Star Wars. That trailer tease from celebration featuring Emperor Palpatine had me excited for a couple of small and exciting call-backs but damn… it completely misfired. It misfired for several reasons, and after doing a lot of soul-searching, I realised it wasn’t an overhyping of fan theory creation that screwed me over here (like a lot of The Last Jedi’ criticism’) it was the complete opposite.
This isn’t going to act as a review, and it isn’t going to be a “what went wrong” piece either. Look at it as somewhere in-between. Due to working at a cinema I have seen this film a lot, so this will be therapeutic. Each time I see/hear it, I become more and more dissatisfied with what was turned in by returning director JJ Abrams.
I’ll start with the ignorance towards the existing content within the world; I’m not even talking about the total wipe clean of The Last Jedi but the ignoring of tie-in novels and comics which usually isn’t an issue. These serve to make a quick buck and give a small set-up to minimal parts of the world; the comic does this by giving us an introduction to tiny side characters like Aftab Ackbar, the new Mon Kalamari character seen in the resistance base.
The primary issue comes from the brushing off significant plot points in the film, like the return of Emperor Palpatine, which is quickly explained in one of the most ridiculous opening crawl ever put to Star Wars. Containing some line about him having a new morning radio show on the galaxy broadcasting evil. I hate to do the fan-wishing thing but could you imagine seeing the moment in the cinema, where a radio buzzes to life, and we hear his return mid-opening mission with the gang. The biggest bad guy in history has returned, but it’s relegated to the crawl? You actually can listen to this moment but only if you joined an in-game event during a match of Fortnite. What this means is we will not get any reaction to his return, for now, and in the film, everyone is already acting as it’s the new normal in the galaxy.
Then you have more important stuff like the complete omission of Rose Tico, ignoring inconvenient set-ups from the previous films, i.e. Rey’s parentage, to create new ones that you then have an hour to solve. You can almost feel the fear from Terrio and Abrams’ in the script as they scramble to add old-new things that play better in terms of fan service, which play better to a captive audience. Sure it does provide a smile, but this feeling slowly faded the longer it sat with me and even towards the end of the film I felt more and more disappointment with where this story was taking me. It seems like there was something better on the table the entire time as previously attached director, Colin Terrovorows script leaked earlier this month that could have turned into something great with some more work.
One of the most critical factors of this is the lack of Emperor Palpatine. I think he’s at the root of all my problems with the movie. I find it lazy. He could be in it, in a much smaller capacity and this is what I thought would happen they would continue with the story and not rush a new one, stick to their guns after the reaction to TLJ and win everyone over. Relying on the past isn’t a terrible thing. However, in the film, it is used as a crutch. It acts as weaponised nostalgia, like a kind of explosion of “remember this?”.
There was plenty of other stuff they could of more eloquently implemented like force ghosts, Holocrons and TV Easter eggs but we get zombie Sheev and some voices in Rey’s head during the final battle. You’re telling me you’ll bring out Ian Mcdiarmid but only get Sam Jackson in the voice-over studio? Like if you’re going to go the fan service route, at least go all in. I got to a point in the film where I half expected Baby Yoda to stick his adorable green ears up and wave to the camera but might’ve been a bit soon for that. I will say the return of Wedge Antilies did make me happy to see considering the events of Resistance Reborn (a novel tie-in) and I do find a lot of moments and set pieces enjoyable and well-shot. I feel the film as the whole left me feeling cold and disappointed from a sheer over-use of old stuff. I am all about the new.
I wanted to continue the sequel not run back to the 80s and hide there because it worked better in a focus group. It wasn’t fan-speculation or theories that screwed me, Nah it was the thirst for a new and fresh Star Wars adventure, I’m still searching for it now that I’ve finished Favreau’s fantastic season 1 of The Mandalorian. Something that struck the perfect balance for me in terms of calling back to what we know and creating something unique and exciting. With new voices like Taika Waititi and Deborah Chow jumping aboard the galaxy far far away and the return of Grand Master Rian Johnson with his original trilogy. There is hope we can get more of these unique slices of interesting Star Wars content until then I’m off to rewatch Mando and prep for Clone Wars season 7.