For two-and-a-half-hours last night I was nine years old again. I sat in rapt attention next to my dad as the fanfare boomed from the speakers and The Words in yellow lettering scrolled into the distance. The nonology now known as the Skywalker Saga has reached its conclusion, 42 years after it began.
I’d be a fool to call the “the last Star Wars film” as though it was going to be the last film to ever feature the Jedi. But, we are told that we’ve seen the last of the Skywalkers and I’m choosing to believe that. And for purposes of this post, “the last Star Wars film” will do.
Needless to say, spoilers abound.
I had some concern when J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of Episode IX. I still have a sour taste in my mouth from his Star Trek reboot. The Force Awakens was a fine film, but where it was weak was in all the things J.J. is known for. He has a habit of setting up a mythology and not knowing how he’s going to pay it off. Rather than having a plan, you end up with having to squeeze the plot into one of the holes you’ve dug.
Please see Season 8 of Game of Thrones for an excellent example of what happens when you’re not prepared to pay off a long running plan.
The thing Star Wars is famous for is that scene in Empire where Vader reveals to Luke who is father is. Prior to that moment, we had spent almost two whole movies blissfully believing that Luke’s dad was this fighter pilot and Jedi. Just an all around froody dude who fought on the side of good and always knew where his towel was (that last bit isn’t exactly canon).
We didn’t need any more than that. Star Wars was a fairly simple space opera. Good vs. evil. The whole shebang.
By adding that one moment, at the right time, Star Wars suddenly became legendary.
Going into the sequel trilogy, Star Wars came with baggage. And it was baggage of our own making. We decided everything needed to connect, everything needed meaning. And it really doesn’t.
The Force Awakens works perfectly as a movie if you edit out any vague references to Rey’s parentage. It’s barely in there anyway. Most of the hype around it is due to publicity.
Similarly, because of the baggage brought by the Fandom, people started asking “who is Snoke”? He doesn’t need to be anyone. He never needed to be anyone. He just needed to be the bad guy.
Rian Johnson did everyone a huge favor by saying, “Rey’s parentage is a pointless distraction and Kylo Ren is the real bad guy of this series. Let’s move on.” I didn’t need a redemption arc for Kylo Ren; I assumed by the end of The Last Jedi he was beyond redemption.
Leaving The Rise of Skywalker I felt incredibly satisfied. There were three specific complaints I had:
- The Kiss - when did this suddenly become a love story? This was totally unneeded, out of place, and confusing.
- Rey’s Parentage - Re edit this film to remove any reference to her parentage and watch it work perfectly.
- The Ticking Clock - Travel times in Star Wars have always been loose, but the ticking clock in this movie and The Last Jedi were just dumb.
I went into this movie expecting an epic show down of good versus evil and I got it.
The Cameos - A Love Letter
I had assumed that “Force Ghost Luke” would end up playing a larger role in this movie, but he was just right. Just a tour around the galaxy of the Old Jedi. The final “Rise” sequence featured almost every Jedi ever captured on screen. Including Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones. Despite the fact that they play the same person.
Ian McDiarmid managed to play the Emperor at his very creepiest.
The Leia work was amazing. I know they had to work off of existing footage of Carrie Fisher and I thought they did a fantastic job of incorporating her.
Brining back Billie Dee Williams as Lando was a nice touch. As was the return of Denis Lawson as fan favorite Wedge Antilles. If you’ve never heard of Wedge Antilles, that’s okay. But for reference he was the only non main character to survive all three original Star Wars films. Including both Death Star battles. For the big fans, the three seconds of screen time he got at the end were a big deal.
The uncredited return of Harrison Ford was a nice touch as well. He played </checks notes> Han Solo. This movie needed to provide a final, absoulute bit of closure to the fans and after it settles a bit, I think that’s the thing that will do it.
The Battles - Epic
The thing about the final movie in a series this epic is that everyone is on the table. Killing Rey midway through the picture? Completely possible. When they killed Chewie, I 100% believed that.
The lightsaber duel was the best they’ve ever done. Better than the Duel of Fates. I literally watch the Duel of Fates the night before and it’s not even close. Watching Rey and Kylo go after each other in that environment was intense.
Adding to it all is that you really don’t know how that one was going to end. Kylo could have won. Rey could have turned to the Dark Side. There are any number of ways that could have broken down.
Possibly the lasting element of The Last Jedi was the establishment that Rey and Ren can pass physical objects when communicating. Passing the lightsaber was a fantastic turn. The payoff was great.
The Star Wars
I’ve been really happy with the new trilogy. I read joke a couple of years ago:
Do you know what the worst part of Star Wars is? The fans.
You don’t have to like everything to like these movies. My whole life I’ve loved Star Wars knowing there were parts that were dumb, but that’s never made me love them any less.
That doesn’t hold true for the prequels, but no one is going to fault me for that.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. Rian Johnson, gave us a Star Wars that had a bit more hope in it than the rest of the new trilogy. That’s a good thing.
I got to go see a Star Wars movie with my dad. And that made it a pretty good day.