So I saw that new Star Wars film. And I have some thoughts on it. Some good, some bad. But overall? I liked it.
Boy, that new droid was cute. I liked it.
Okay, okay, let’s get into the nitty gritty. But first, a quote from our director:
“I’m not someone who quite understands the science of the Force. To me Star Wars was never about science fiction — it was a spiritual story. And it was more of a fairytale in that regard. For me when I heard Obi-Wan say that the Force surrounds us and binds us all together, there was no judgement about who you were. This was something that we could all access. Being strong with the force didn’t mean something scientific, it meant something spiritual. It meant someone who could believe, someone who could reach down to the depths of your feelings and follow this primal energy that was flowing through all of us. I mean, that’s what was said in that first film!
“And there I am sitting in the theater at almost 11 years old and that was a powerful notion. And I think this is what your point was, we would like to believe that when shit gets serious, that you could harness that Force I was told surrounds not just some of us but every living thing. And so, I really feel like the assumption that any character needs to have inherited a certain number of midi-chlorians or needs to be part of a bloodline, it’s not that I don’t believe that as part of the canon, I’m just saying that at 11 years old, that wasn’t where my heart was. And so I respect and adhere to the canon but I also say that the Force has always seemed to me to be more inclusive and stronger than that.”
If George Lucas got lost in the weeds, trying to fit in things like “midi-chlorians” into his space fantasy at the expense of character development (or, frankly, good writing), then J. J. Abrams has the exact opposite problem. He focuses on the mythic, the fairy tale aspects — this is why he brought back Palpatine, because there needs to be a Dark Lord for the heroes to defeat. This is why he redeemed Kylo Ren, because that’s what would happen in a fairy tale. But then again, that’s also what would happen in Star Wars. It’s just that it happens a bit too much in The Rise of Skywalker. This movie is a bit too fairy tale.
The Rise of Skywalker is not a great movie. I hesitate to call it a good movie. It’s a good time, especially if you don’t go in with high expectations, expecting only what Star Wars has always given: great space battles and great lightsaber fights. And, in those cases, The Rise of Skywalker delivered.
But in other cases, it tripped itself up by trying to cram a bunch of stuff into two hours that needed a lot longer. Like, okay, Palpatine’s back. How? “Dark science.” Okay. Rey is suddenly Palpatine’s granddaughter. I think we need more than five minutes to focus on her realizing this and struggling with it. But all she needs it a pep talk from Force Ghost Luke and she’s okay!
Yes, Rey as Palpatine’s granddaughter is stupid. It reinforces the notion of “power = blood.” Where and how did Palpatine even have a son? No clue, because nobody ever mentions who he was or even his name. Rey’s mother, however, is Villanelle from Killing Eve, so that’s cool.
Most of the film is a fetch quest, going after a Maguffin which will lead to another Maguffin which will lead the Resistance to the Sith planet which the hidden Sith fleet (called, of course, the “Final Order”) all of which, of course, have planet killers attached to them. There’s barely time for character development. Hell, there’s barely time for characters.
And yet, we still get some and some good ones. Keri Russell’s Zorri Bliss is great and she has a real scene with Poe where we get to know both of them better. Noami Acki’s Jannah provides us with some really interesting stuff that I wish they explored more — stormtroopers who refused to obey their commands and ran away instead. I want an entire movie about Jannah and her fellow former stormtroopers.
But the movie also makes several blunders. Leia dies for, like, no reason. She reaches out to Kylo Ren with the Force, but...unlike Luke, who clearly strained himself doing that, we don’t know why exactly this took so much energy. But at the same time, we learn that Leia was trained to be a Jedi by Luke and she, in turn, trained Rey. I want to see an entire movie about Jedi Leia, dammit. (Although not with that CGI technology.)
The movie also gives in to the Reylo ship, which it really didn’t need to. Not that I’m opposed to people shipping it, but the movie literally had them kiss once and then he died. I’m fine with his giving his life to Rey and redeeming himself (with Guest Appearance By Han Solo), but the kiss was just unnecessary. He didn’t even have any last words!
But that was my Big Cringe moment. There were other moments — like Lando’s appearance — where I wanted to cheer. Lando is used sparingly, but well. Han Solo shows up with one good scene. Force Ghost Luke is also used well, although I can’t help but want him to be snarkier, like he was in The Last Jedi.
Oh and we hear the voices of pretty much all of the named Jedi, including Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson. So yeah, that was a Big Cheer moment.
My ranking of the new trilogy goes:
- The Last Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- The Rise of Skywalker
But just because it’s in the B-/C+ range (2.5 out of 5 stars) doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I did. Quite a bit, actually.
And also that new droid was cute.