Blog by David Scothern.
This meme though… How many Star Wars films are there now? Nine trilogy films, Rogue One and Solo. Out of those eleven films only one is widely agreed as a classic, and that’s the second one ever made, The Empire Strikes Back. Some of them are generally considered poor such as The Phantom Menace and Solo. I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith. It wasn’t perfect but it encapsulated all the best things about Star Wars; a massive space battle and some epic lightsabre duels. The fights all had psychology and you could tell what was happening. The action had meaning. Take the final battle between Obi-wan and Anakin. For the entirety of the duel, Obi-wan is retreating and countering Anakin’s furious attack. The elder Jedi is overpowered but he is the better Jedi. He gives himself over to the Force and defeats Anakin. In a somewhat underwhelming prequel trilogy, the moment between Obi-wan and Anakin is earned.
The sequel trilogy has been a disaster. There’s no other way to describe it. The Force Awakens is a beat-by-beat copy of A New Hope. Visually, it’s stunning. There are some scenes that gave me goose bumps the first time around, but the film does not stand up to repeated viewing. Surprisingly, neither does The Last Jedi despite being an ambitious and daring take on the Star Wars setting. Rise of Skywalker was offensive on many levels and at times felt like badly written fanfiction. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Kelly Marie Tran was the first female, non-white lead in Star Wars.
Kelly Marie Tran
Rose was played by Kelly Marie Tran in The Last Jedi and was a decent enough character. The actress was no doubt excited to be starring in a Star Wars movie, but I imagine that excitement was short-lived when she received horrific abuse by trolls on social media. Tran ended up closing her social media accounts and has reportedly had to seek therapy to deal with the abuse. I found it offensive that instead of continuing her character development in Rise of Skywalker, she was basically relegated to an extra with only a couple of lines in the movie. It was insulting and a step-backward for the makers of the film to relegate the first real non-white female lead in a Star Wars film to a glorified extra. Tran deserved better.
Keeping track of lightsabers in the new trilogy is an impossibility. In TFA we are told that Luke’s first lightsaber has been recovered, because. It was last seen attached to his severed hand and falling into the atmosphere of a gas giant but here it is, in the hands of an alien character. Because.
Luke then takes himself off to Ahch-To without a lightsaber. Somehow, his second one went walk about but now it appears he had his sister’s lightsaber. His first scene in TLJ shows him toss his first lightsaber off the edge of a cliff as though it’s a piece of trash. His first scene in Rise of Skywalker shows him lecturing Rey on the importance of respecting your lightsaber.
In the final battle against Palpatine, Rey is then using two blue sabers, but Leia’s is shown to be yellow. So, what happened to the green saber?
I don’t even know where to begin. So, the reveal that the Emperor is back is given away in the opening crawl. It turns out he has been behind everything and was responsible for cloning Snoke and using him as a puppet. This is retconning of the highest order and is not remotely credible. However, I was only a few minutes into the movie and was willing to let it go.
Leia’s scenes were awkward as they were obviously lifted from previous unused footage before Carrie Fisher’s death. This was always going to be a difficult one, but personally I would have written Leia out of the film.
Much of the film is dedicated to finding a sort of compass that would allow the Resistance to find the base that the Emperor is building his new Empire from. The Emperor and his dark world were very well designed and atmospheric. I loved seeing the old-school Star Destroyer designs as well. The search though, was, well, boring. Rey, Finn and Poe eventually find their way to the wreckage of the Death Star from Return of the Jedi. Standing on a cliff, Rey points a dagger at the wreckage and just kind of figures out that the compass they need is there. The whole scene is just a bit confusing and doesn’t work. It’s almost like the writers could not figure out how to move the plot along and tried to Jedi-mind-trick the audience into just going with the flow.
There are several death fake-outs in this movie, which I’ll now run through. Rey fatally wounds Kylo and then heals him, because. Rey seemingly kills Chewie, but the film pulls a bait-and-switch with no prior foreshadowing. Palpatine seemingly kills Kylo but he comes back. Palpatine seemingly kills Rey, but Kylo heals her. And I just remembered the kiss. It was not earned. One of my favourite parts of The Last Jedi was the tension between Kylo and Rey. Rise of Skywalker took several steps backward with their relationship before finally having them kiss. Unlike Anakin and Obi-wan’s emotional scene at the end of Episode III, this was not earned.
The final battle is where I mentally checked out. The key to any fictional good versus evil battle is that the odds must be overwhelmingly against the heroes, but there must be that hope of victory which, when it comes, makes sense. Luke destroying the first Death Star made sense because it was the result of his journey from farm boy to fledgling Jedi. The Rebels against the Empire in Return of the Jedi made sense because the Rebels threw everything they had at the Empire, but the Emperor’s arrogance and Vader’s redemption saved the day. All these beats were earned. Looking at other franchises, in the Battle of the Hornburg (movie version) the Uruk-hai have 10,000 troops against a few hundred Elves and Men. Then, when all seems lost Gandalf and the Rohirrim save the day. It was foreshadowed and earned.
So, let me explain the absurdity of the battle. There are thousands of Star Destroyers that, earlier in the film, rose from the surface of the planet to hover above the Emperor’s base. We are told that they cannot rise higher, because. We are then told that there is a transmission tower on the surface of the planet that will guide the Star Destroyers away from the planet. If the tower is destroyed, the Star Destroyers will be trapped. Seems a stupid place to build your fleet, but I’ll let it slide. We are then told that the Resistance will attack the base and land a force to take out the tower instead of firing a few missiles at it, why? Because.
When the battle starts, the Imperial fleet realises what the Resistance is attempting and switch to the transmission tower on the command ship and turn off the one on the planet. Wait, what? If you can put the tower on a ship why not every ship? Why have one on the planet? This is a direct call back to the crazy idea that only Snoke’s ship would have a particular type of scanner in The Last Jedi. So, the Resistance land on the surface of the command ship and ride horses along the hull (yes, you read that right) whilst fighting Stormtroopers. It was batshit crazy and not in a good way.
With the Resistance ships being vastly outnumbered, the writers had to find a way to nerf the Star Destroyers and so they dropped in a couple of lines; 1. The shields on the Star Destroyers will not work in the atmosphere and 2. Destroying their main cannon will destroy the whole ship. Does the Empire never fucking learn?
Another aspect that requires you to suspend disbelief is that whilst the Imperial warships require a helping hand to move in a vertical direction, the Resistance capital ships (when they do show up) have no difficulty flying rings around them, despite the ragtag fleet being a collection of civilian ships and freighters. The battle itself was also dull. Not once was I excited or even interested in what I was seeing. There was no logic or psychology to the battle. You can’t just have flashing lights; the battle must have a story. For a film franchise called Star Wars that now spans eleven films we have had very few exciting space battles.
What a horrible mess this film is. It’s almost as bad, maybe even worse, than The Phantom Menace. I could go on more about how Finn’s character was utterly wasted across three films. On paper, a Stormtrooper joining the Rebels sounds interesting, but they managed to make Finn look like a loser. Kylo Ren starts out as an emo teenager, develops in The Last Jedi and then reverts to being an emo teenager in Rise of Skywalker. Hux starts out as a major threat in The Force Awakens before being relegated to comedy relief in The Last Jedi and is then killed with disdain in an almost throwaway scene in Rise of Skywalker. It’s almost like they set out to make the worst trilogy possible.
When people ask me if I like Star Wars my reply is often along the lines of “I like what Star Wars could be.” When I was younger, I read much of the extended universe of novels that reached decades into the future after Return of the Jedi. There was material there that would have made an incredible sequel trilogy, and some of you may have guessed I am talking about Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. In this trilogy of books, the Empire is led by Grand Admiral Thrawn who is possibly the most compelling villain Star Wars has ever produced. A thoughtful, almost sophisticated warlord, he was later brought into the animated show Rebels. It is such a shame they did not use Zahn’s novels as a blueprint for this trilogy. I think Rise of Skywalker has done what Phantom Menace and Solo failed to do; it’s killed my interest in Star Wars.