Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: A saga repeated

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skwalker had a lot to accomplish for one movie: it had to not just wrap up a trilogy, but a saga of three trilogies, and to also find a direction to go in after the previous two movies in the trilogy went in such very different ones. In the end, watching this one was a bit like being on an amusement park ride, where you thought that it was veering off in a different direction, but it turned out that was a fake out, in that the path returned right back to its original direction.

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Much like The Force Awakens mostly stuck to the formula of A New Hope, Rise of Skywalker seemed to have been similarly influenced by Return of the Jedi, returning the saga to mostly familiar ground. Most of the ways that The Last Jedi seemed to hint at the new trilogy diverging from the formula of the original were ignored or undone by the new movie. In the end, Rise of Skywalker gave viewers the return of Emperor Palpatine, another revelation of a major character of the saga being from a famous and Force-powerful bloodline, and the villain of the first two movies being turned from the Dark Side to join the novice Jedi to confront a bigger threat. If this all seems familiar, it’s because it is. Much like I wrote about The Force Awakens, I think that if you enjoyed Return of The Jedi, you’d enjoy this one too. As a movie to wrap up the saga however, while it has a lot of enjoyable nostalgia factors and does try to bring various parts together, I think that it is a missed opportunity to do something different.

It is understandable that as the movie ending not just this current trilogy but the saga that involves the original characters as well that there would be attempts to fit in a lot from the original trilogy as well. Actually, there was just a lot to fit in period with this installment, which led to some significant problems with pacing. Rise of Skywalker may have the most action of any of the Star Wars movies, or at least it seemed that way to me, as it jumped from place to place, action scene to action scene, rarely pausing to slow down.

As mentioned, Emperor Palpatine returns to be the main villain in this one, which does make a kind of sense from a creative perspective. With Snoke out of the picture, the choice would likely be to either introduce yet another major villain to this trilogy, or have Kylo Ren take over as the main villain for Rey to have to confront and defeat. I thought that second option may be the route that they were going to go after the ending of The Last Jedi, and especially with the duel between Luke and Kylo in that movie. That, however, would have meant going in a new direction, whereas they seemed to have decided to stick with the outline of the original trilogy. Also, Palpatine is revealed as the bigger villain of the original trilogy by Return of the Jedi, and is the major antagonist of the prequel trilogy as well, so there’s some symmetry in bringing the character back.

Lando was the only character of the core group of heroes from the original trilogy still around not to have yet had a part in the new trilogy, so it was great to see him back as well, and having such an important role. Han Solo returns for a brief but powerful scene, and Luke returns in a role much like Obi-Wan played in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. So on one level, there is a sense of completion, but it’s also too much of the same. It’s actually a lot of the newer and different elements to the new films that were interesting to me, and caused me to wonder where they could have gone with a less cautious creative approach. For example, the quest elements in Rise of Skywalker, and adding more mythology background for the Sith, like the dagger and Wayfinder, was something that hadn’t been tried before to this extent in Star Wars movies, and seemed like something out of the old EU books. Also, Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s relationship and Force connection wasn’t just a retread of another from one of the earlier movies.

I wrote in another article about how this movie might have shown the Jedi changing as a result of both the events of the prequel trilogy and the period of the rise of the First Order. In The Last Jedi, in one of the more intriguing scenes of that movie, Luke talks to Rey about the Jedi’s legacy of failure, how they failed to stop Palpatine’s rise, and of the Jedi’s hubris. Some of that is obviously a reflection of Luke’s bitterness and regret by this point, but I also thought that some of it was a reaction in some areas of fandom to the portrayal of the Jedi in the prequels. I wondered if maybe it was a signal that after a Resistance victory in the third film of the prequel trilogy, there might be something included about ways Rey may take the Jedi Order in a new direction, and adapt as leader to avoid the mistakes of the past. I don’t know if this was a case of dropping or reversing elements from The Last Jedi, as they did with some others, or if it was not really meant to be something pursued in the first place. Maybe they just didn’t have the time, with so much packed into this movie, but it was something I’d have liked to see. Perhaps it will be something for future books to cover, along with more backstory on other elements, like more details on the rise of the First Order.

What’s interesting to me looking over the three trilogies overall is how consistently good and enjoyable to watch all nine movies are. Sure, there’s variation in quality, but apart from The Phantom Menace, I would say that the rest are all at least three stars, going by a traditional four star maximum. The Phantom Menace is the weakest and even that one is simply okay. For such a long running series, that’s an impressive feat that many other movie series don’t match. Still, there does seem to be a kind of creative rut that this sequel trilogy has made clear. An excessive concern over reaction to certain departures from formula may mean that it’s regarded as safer to tell a familiar saga over again. I’m not sure if the excitement would be there for a potential distant movie trilogy where an embittered and reclusive Rey, after her failures with an apprentice who has turned to the Dark Side, is left to train a new hope for a resurgent Jedi Order. The formula is a winning one for the Star Wars franchise, as long as it doesn’t return to it too often.

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  • Murry Chang

    Attack of the Clones is not a 3 out of 4 stars movie by any means.

    • The_Shadow_Knows

      I thought it was the worst of the prequels. I also thought all three of them were one star movies at best. Writing, direction, acting – all horrendous. I hope Lucas really has retired.

      • Murry Chang

        Yeah at least TPM has the sweet Windu/Kenobi/Maul lightsaber fight going for it, AotC doesn’t even have that. And RotS has Padme dying because she has a sad, which I’ve always enjoyed for its comedic value.

        I have to wonder if the author was a kid when they came out and so thinks they’re better than they actually are.

        • The_Shadow_Knows

          TPM and RotS were muddled and incomprehensible, seemingly directed by a stroke patient, and had acting more appropriate to a play where fourth graders wear bad vegetable costumes and talk about the four food groups, but at least they weren’t boring. It took me three tries to get through AotC on video without falling asleep. The “love” story was amazingly gross too.

          • Murry Chang

            That about sums it up.

        • Kradeiz

          Robot Chicken summed the Padme death scene up best:

          ” ‘She’s lost the will to live?!’ What is your degree in? Poetry?!”

          • Murry Chang

            I forget who said it but one of the ones I like is that she died from IITS(It’s In The Script).

      • Michael Weyer

        That’s one reaction I’m fascinated by: That suddenly the exact same people who spent 20 years tearing the prequels and Lucas to shreds are now “but at least they had good story and trying something and Lucas deserved to finish his vision rather than Disney movies.”

        • Xander

          We point and laugh at these people.
          AT.
          Not WITH.

    • ofidiano

      They’re still better than the sequels.

  • oohhboy

    What. The. Deuce.

  • maarvarq

    I’ve now so thoroughly spoiled myself on Ep 9 that I’ll probably just borrow a DVD to see it, if I can be bothered. Otherwise, I’m out. Like James Cameron’s Avatar sequels, I just don’t care.

  • John

    In the original trilogy we knew the bad guys were working for the Empire, so there being an Emperor made sense. Palpatine randomly returning (and having a massive, super powerful fleet) is just random in this movie.

    • Murry Chang

      I’m taking it as an homage to the crazy ass shit they used to do in the EU. This is WAY less crazy than Dark Empire.

      • Michael Weyer

        Everyone who champions EU remember Thrawn and Jade and forgets how terrible a lot of it was with the constant “revived Empire with new superweapon” plot and truly convoluted at the end.

        • Murry Chang

          I tapped out after they dropped a moon on Chewie but it definitely seems to have gotten even more convoluted by the end. Darksaber, The Wedding of Princess Leia, anything with Kyp Durron…ugh just not good stuff.
          The Zahn and the Rogue/Wraith squad books were good, most of the rest was meh at best.

          • Michael Weyer

            Plus, many fans forget that the majority of the public have not been reading 30 years worth of novels and comics so try explaining: “Empire hung on for decades before peace treaty, some weird alien race attacked, Luke was married, wife murdered and now with a new love, Chewie was killed years back, Boba Fett escaped Sarlaac and has a daughter, Han and Leia had twins but the son fell to the dark side and killed along with another kid and there’s all this weird Force spirit thing going around.”

          • Murry Chang

            lol and don’t forget the ghost love Luke had, the aliens who were Darth Vader’s slaves and the ultimate assassins who now follow Leia, the prince that tried to marry Leia before Han, the Force alien glob thing on the space station(Crystal Star I think that was in?)the frigging Sun Crusher, etc…
            Never mind the Dark Horse stuff with World Destroyers, the Galaxy Gun, fake evil Luke and resurrected Palps hahaha!

          • Michael Weyer

            I mean, they couldn’t even get their own histories straight as new writers would be retconning what others were doing. Plus, Zahn just unable to let Thrawn go and turning him into this “the greatest Imperial military mind” which just makes it more baffling Palpatine wouldn’t have him at the key battle of Endor.

          • ofidiano

            “I mean, they couldn’t even get their own histories straight”

            Unlike the new story group, amirite?

          • Xander

            The Crystal Star was that glob thing that was rounding up force-sensitive children and attempting to eat them to power a portal to another dimension. That was the point where I gave up on Star Wars novels. I heard there was some good stuff in the New Jedi Order books, but I read the first chapter of the first one, but I quit when there was some new alien species with a weapon that could eat through deflector shields by going really slowly.

            Really, the more I think about it, the less I mind Disney throwing out the whole EU. I wish they could have kept the first Thrawn trilogy and the short stories and possibly Galaxy of Fear, but you’re both right, there was a lot of bad stuff there, too.

            Their choice to keep the prequel trilogy is baffling, though.

          • ofidiano

            “Really, the more I think about it, the less I mind Disney throwing out the whole EU.”

            I’m the opposite. The more I think about it the more I hate Disney for throwing out the whole EU. Please tell me what we have in return? Is it something good and orderly?

            “Their choice to keep the prequel trilogy is baffling, though.”

            That’s what you find baffling? Oh, and eff you too.

          • ofidiano

            Good stuff. Already better than the sequels.

          • ofidiano

            Tell them to read. Literacy is good.

          • ofidiano

            “I tapped out after they dropped a moon on Chewie”
            A badass death scene and not a copout.

            “On the other hand I was ALL IN on Luke’s character development for TLJ. If he would have realized how bad of a teacher he was in the EU and just quit he literally would have saved billions of lives.”

            So you admit that EU Luke did make mistakes, and wasn’t a godlike being who had to learn from said mistakes. Unlike TLJ Luke who was just a teat sucking loser.

          • Murry Chang

            I didn’t say it was a copout or not badass, I just said I tapped out at that point.

            Sure he made mistakes but he didn’t learn from them, he just kept trying to teach students and turning one out of each class to the Dark Side. I thought Luke was right to quit and try to end the Jedi line.

          • ofidiano

            “I thought Luke was right to quit and try to end the Jedi line.”

            I strongly disagree with that statement.

          • Murry Chang

            Well I mean it’s only my opinion about a space wizard movie series so I don’t feel strongly about it either way, but after watching the Clone Wars series recently I realized that the Jedi are just the worst and should not have continued.

        • ofidiano

          The worst of the EU is still better than the sequels.

          “how terrible a lot of it was with the constant “revived Empire with new superweapon” plot and truly convoluted at the end.”

          Did you watch Force Awakens?
          At least the Sun Crusher had Kyp Durron’s fall to jackassery to compliment the plot.

          • Murry Chang

            The sequels aren’t even close to as bad as Darksaber.

          • ofidiano

            I have no idea what Darksaber is. Just to be clear, I consider the EU to be the stuff that appears after the Thrawn trilogy. Is it a novel in the whole Yuuzhan Vong thing?

          • Murry Chang

            Wait so you’re saying you think all of the ST is better than anything in the EU but you don’t know Darksaber?

            Yeah you’re gonna want to calm down with that until you actually read everything from the EU. The original Thrawn trilogy and the Rogue/Wraith squadron books are generally good, there are a couple other books that aren’t horrible and the rest are total trash, especially anything by Kevin J. Anderson:

            https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Darksaber_(novel)

          • ofidiano

            “Wait so you’re saying you think all of the ST is better than anything in the EU but you don’t know Darksaber?”

            Yes. Absolutely yes.

          • Murry Chang

            Wait I think I had that backwards and you agreed with me lol.

            Anyhow, if you haven’t read the worst of the EU, you can’t say it’s better than the sequels. Crystal Star, The Courtship of Princess Leia and Darksaber are required reading if you’re going to try to make that comparison. None of the sequels were amazing, TLJ and RoS especially had some lousy stuff, but they’re still better than Crystal Star or Darksaber.

          • Xander

            I actually kind of liked Darksaber, but I listened to it on audiobook, so I may have been biased by the person reading it. I thought it was a decent follow-up to Children of the Jedi.
            Crystal Star is hot garbage, though. I really didn’t like VIII, but I’d rather watch that on a loop for eight hours straight than read through Crystal Star once more.

          • Murry Chang

            The romance plot with Luke and Callista is SO HORRIBLE.
            You’re right that Crystal Star is worse though.

            Oh I guess I should add Shadows of the Empire to the list…the Xizor/Leia pheromone thing is lame but the rest of the book is damn good.

          • Xander

            Really? I kind of thought they were a good couple, better than Luke and Mara, but–again–I remember Children of the Jedi better than Darksaber. Plus, I rather liked the idea of the Hutts building their own Death Star laser and having it fail spectacularly.

            Shadows of the Empire is very good other than the pheromone thing. I played the game through first, so Dash’s sacrifice wasn’t quite as dramatic, but I thought the Black Sun was an interesting addition to the Star Wars mythos.

          • ofidiano

            “Anyhow, if you haven’t read the worst of the EU, you can’t say it’s better than the sequels.”

            I’ve read the summary on Wookiepedia. I prefer it over the sequels.

          • Murry Chang

            Well hey there’s no accounting for taste.

          • ofidiano

            Indeed.

  • Michael Weyer

    * It’s fascinating how I see one blog where guys loved TLJ for being so daring and different and angry this movie erases it. Then another which goes “at least this cares about the characters and Abrams reparing the damage Johnson made.” It shows how divided this fanbase is.

    * There’s a great video out there of Nostalgia Critic where you have an Abrams hater, a TLJ defender, an Abrams fan, a guy still complaining about Expanded Universe erased, all arguing and bickering and complaining….

    Then Baby Yoda shows up and they all gush and cheer and NC is “Wait…this is what you all agree is true Star Wars?”

    As someone nicely said: “Forget Trekkers, Potterheads or LOTR folks. No one can hate Star Wars as much as Star Wars fans.”

    • Murry Chang

      “true Star Wars”
      Big part of the problem right there. ‘True Star Wars Believers’ are the No True Scotsmen of the nerd world.

      • Michael Weyer

        Yep, a guy at Theme Park Insider nailed it: “What is “true” Star Wars to one fan is not to another.” As a fan of 42 years, I can totally agree.

        • ofidiano

          I don’t know if it’s a matter of what’s ‘true’ or not, but of good story-telling. What story did these sequel movies give us? One was an imitation of the first Star Wars, the next was an imitation of Empire and Return with a little defecating mixed in, and the last was just a mess. I know many people hate the prequels, but it had it’s own story, distinct from the OT. And I like them, warts and all.
          But these sequels are so shallow to me. They mean nothing. When they announced the sequels, and said that the EU was done for (in my opinion, a mistake), I assumed that we would be placed in a galaxy divided in Kingdoms, Successor Empires, the New Republic, and maybe a reborn CIS, with a new enemy messing things up further.
          When I saw Force Awakens, I knew I wouldn’t like the sequels. Where were the new Jedi? What about the New Republic? Why was the First Order so much like the Empire? Shouldn’t the First Order be more like a fanatic religious group with clerical trappings? It’s not so much that these sequels aren’t ‘true Star Wars’, but lazy, carbon copies.

  • Michael Weyer

    I don’t mind if folks dislike ROS or such, their right. What I hate is the attitude of “if you don’t think Disney ruined you with these movies, you can’t be a real Star Wars fan.” Which is just the feeling I’ve gotten with actually liking the prequels all these years.

    Think back to 2012: The franchise was stagnant, the EU books had become way too complex, cartoons stuck in prequel era and the huge feeling of “someone needs to get it away from Lucas.” Regardless how you feel about VII-IX, Rogue One was awesome, Solo is better than it deserved at the box office, Rebels was terrific, Fallen Order one of the best SW games in years and Galaxy’s Edge is fantastic. Plus, as much as some may not like it, there are many who love Rey, Kylo, BB-8 and the newer characters. So this “Disney ruined the franchise” argument really doesn’t hold water.

    • Xander

      I genuinely like the characters of Rey, Kylo, Finn, and Rose. BB-8 has his moments. Phasma seems like a lot of wasted potential. Honestly, I wish all of these characters had had a better series of movies to be in.

      Poe I wish had died in the TIE crash in VII.

    • ofidiano

      All I have to say to you is if you don’t think Disney ruined you with these movies, you can’t be a real Star Wars fan.

      • Michael Weyer

        I’m going to assume that’s tongue in cheek.

        • ofidiano

          I’m too busy admiring the beauty of my kilt and bagpipes to answer that.

  • ofidiano

    The sequels are terrible. Don’t pretend that they’re solid.