May the Fourth be with you, fellow Star Wars idiots! I’m sure I’ve made it clear, over my many years at the co-helm of this mighty blog, that I have more opinions on Star Wars than can be contained in this mere physical form. Opinions that I will share given the very barest hint that someone cares about them. And today, I have free and non-stop rein to bellow my Star Wars opinions into the great void of the internet’s ear. Specifically, since this is the day that The Rise of Skywalker hits streaming services, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on that final part of the sequel trilogy – and just how successful episodes seven, eight, and nine actually were.
When I reviewed Rise of Skywalker last year, I was honestly and truly exhausted by the great Star Wars discourses. I’d spent months writing about it – which I loved, by the way, so thanks to everyone who read my retrospective for giving me an excuse to do that – and the release of the final part of the sequel trilogy brought on a barrage of thinkpieces and fandom wars and honestly, I just thought it was a pretty decent blockbuster. My review was relatively positive then, but, much like Joker for my co-writer’s Batman retrospective, my opinion since then has shifted significantly.
And that’s because The Force Awakens is an amazing film. It really is! I’ve loved The Force Awakens unwaveringly since I first saw it, and it seemed to promise everything that I’d wanted from a new series of Star Wars movies: films that fundamentally grasped the feel of the universe, but that embraced a diversity of ideas, actors, creators, and stories to bring us something new. The Force Awakens, even now, feels exciting; the set-up for the characters feel different and fresh, from Finn’s bravery in rejecting the violence that he was raised into, to Rey’s enormous and unwieldy power, to that teased romance between Poe and Finn and Kylo Ren’s fanboy facist villainy. It’s a film that left me wanting more, more, more, and I can’t say much better for the start of a story.
And then there was The Last Jedi. Okay, I don’t care for The Last Jedi for a lot of reasons, I really don’t. But I will admit that it captured, at least, the sense of trying something new. I loved the idea of Rey’s parentage being completely irrelevant, and the rejection of an old Jedi order that was left outdated in the face of new conflict. I think there’s a lot fucking wrong with that movie – I’m not going to get into it yet again here, but trust me on this – but I admire director Rian Johnson’s commitment to giving us something that we hadn’t seen before.
Which brings us to The Rise of Skywalker. And now, looking back at it, what frustrates me more than anything about this finale is the way that it just falls back on tropes, both from the Star Wars universe and cinema at large, that serve not just to undermine so much of the story that has come before, but to toss most of it out of the window. Finn is shifted irreparably from leading man to sidenote; Rey has to be the grandaughter of Palpatine to justify her powers, because of course they couldn’t just be. Poe is Straighty McStraighterson, despite the protests of Oscar Isaac himself, and Kylo Ren gets a snog and a redemption arc from the woman he emotionally and physically tortured. What doors The Force Awakens and even The Last Jedi opens, The Rise of Skywalker locks behind it as it goes and throws the keys into a canal.
And I hate that. I still don’t think The Rise of Skywalker is a film that’s absolute gobshit if taken in a void, but as the final part of a trilogy that seemed to want to try something new, it couldn’t be more of a failure. But I still love what came before, and, for this fine Star Wars day, I know I’m going to be reliving my favourite moments of the sequel trilogy – and thinking about what could have been if it had stuck to its laser blasters with The Rise of Skywalker.
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Esquire)