Here’s my one line review of Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker—Finally, Threepio got a lot of room to spread out!
Yeah. Yeah. Star Wars. There’s a new one. I liked it. I liked how much people I like liked it. I also disliked it. It’s a movie that gave me many of the things I always wanted in a Star Wars, while at the same time not. Seeing how the trilogy wraps up, it’s clear to me that J.J. Abrams comes from the Stephen Moffat school of not explaining major plot details and instead creating big dramatic moments that distract you from plot holes or weak characterization.
For every negative opinion of the movie I have, I also have a positive one. Threepio got a lot of time to spread out is both criticism and praise. From a story standpoint, there were many, many, many other characters who could have benefited from the time given to Threepio. From the standpoint of Anthony Daniels, all of the Threepio scenes were lovely and perfect because Threepio is a calming, supportive character from my childhood—and we’ve lost so many of the original cast in recent years that yes more Anthony Daniels please.
But, in terms of TROS, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about Carrie Fisher and Leia that are constantly shifting, and I dunno… TROS did the best it could with what it could, but I felt the same as I felt when I first saw The Force Awakens that the opportunity to do more and do better with Carrie/Leia was there sooner. And The Last Jedi… really, she was in a coma for most of the thing? That’s the best you’ve got? Anyway, was Leia’s story in TROS emotional and meaningful? Yes, especially with Billie Lourd doubling for Carrie at times. Did the dialogue/blocking/writing still feel a bit disjointed? To me, it did, but what can you do?
Continuing on the Threepio thread, I could have used more Rose Tico in TROS as well. And Finn’s potential was never fully realized, and it’s a little weird to sort of imply that most/many/all First Order Stormtroopers are people of color taken into slavery without ever exploring what that means. That’s a bold statement, especially if they’re all so readily killed without ever given a moment of humanity inside their helmets. I mean the individual troopers. Who are they? Do they like what they’re doing? Who knows?
Like the Empire, the First Order leadership are basically Nazis, but Hux was allowed a redemption arc? Yet the second person we’ve met who used to be a Stormtrooper, Jannah, was kinda rushed by? Maybe she’s Lando’s daughter. Definitely she was a First Order Stormtrooper. I don’t know how to articulate all of this but none of that felt cool. And it speaks to me that if Star Wars wants to properly handle the stories of a growingly diverse set of characters, it needs to branch out beyond the narrative input of white dudes. And yes this is what I want of Star Wars.
It was an odd feeling going into this one. TLJ felt like such an ending to me, and I have so many mixed feelings about it. I hate it and I love it, equally. I think it’s my favorite of the new trilogy in that it tried the hardest to explore the grayness of a black-and-white universe. But, I also think TLJ fails at being a Star Wars movie from a very structural perspective: Instead of having some time between movies, TLJ chose to start immediately after TFA and then had to make a lot of odd decisions from that point forward.
With Star Wars, every film starts in media res. But for the trilogy films (I’m not going to call them the Skywalker Saga, which feels like something vomited up during a marketing meeting), the time jump between episodes adds mystery and depth, and it allows the new story to feel like it is the most impactful adventure in a series of untold adventures. Starting right after TFA, TLJ felt a bit interstitial to me. TFA and TROS both begin a little too much in media res, to the point where each one makes me feel a little dizzy. But I also kind of like that. But it’s also kind of clunky. And maybe also lazy. (Yes, it’s lazy.)
Still. TROS, I think, succeeded at that bit of in media res Star Wars-ing in an almost purposefully sociopathic way. I wouldn’t have minded knowing how Palpatine returned from the dead. Or never died. That’s important, right? I don’t get why so many plot details from a major motion picture need to be saved for the convergence of Disney-branded tie-in materials or theme parks. That’s gross. I think that’s gross.
After TFA ended, I never felt like the next film needed to pick up from the moment Luke is handed the lightsaber by Rey. There’s a version of the story where we don’t need to see that. Because what we got was a joke about our expectations, a gimmick, a prop gag. Like so much of TLJ, it felt condescending. So I never liked that. But from TLJ, I did love the idea of allowing the Jedi to be more than one family or lineage and opening it up that anyone could become an important Jedi—not just a Skywalker. I loved that a lot—it felt timely and important and urgent, and TROS really deep-sixed the idea.
Because, Threepio got a lot of room to spread out.
All that said, overall, the sequel trilogy was fun enough, and kept the spirit of the originals by not seeming to plan anything in advance, which is a strange move by Lucasfilm/Disney but not unsurprising.
Maybe it’s just Star Wars fatigue on my part.
My definitive ranking is: IV, V, VI, everything else, and II. Rogue One is better than Solo. Rebels and The Mandalorian are rad. The Clone Wars had a coupla real good ones. Ahsoka Lives and MTFBWY always!