I wasn’t going to write about Rise of Skywalker. I didn’t think I had anything substantive to say that couldn’t be summed up in a tweet, but then I started seeing all the negativity around it. And I mean, on one hand that’s fine. People are allowed to think what they want about a movie, but when I started seeing a lot of “If you really like Star Wars, you hated TRoS” and “Here’s why none of us real fans like the Skywalker saga finale!” And it just irritated me because, I’m not going to start listing out all my Star Wars bona fides — whatever those are — but I’ve been a fan for 25 years and I loved Rise of Skywalker (and so did all the people I’ve talked to face-to-face about it, tyvm, internet). It had everything I wanted, and most importantly, it made me excited about Star Wars again.
So, if you’re feeling a little down about the pervasive online criticism and negativity, this is the post for you! Join me in gushing about this 40+ years in the making conclusion.
The thing I loved the most about Rise of Skywalker was the friendship between Rey, Finn and Poe. One of the things that’s been disappointing to me about the sequel trilogy was that lack of camaraderie. Sure, Luke, Leia and Han spent a lot of time in their trilogy not together, but so much of what happened in those films felt like it was in service of their friendship. Han’s tauntaun might freeze before he reaches the first marker, but his friend’s out there and he’s going to bring him back. Luke sees a vision of his friends being tortured and helping them is more important than Jedi training. A whole team goes undercover trying to get Han out of Jabba’s palace.
The sequel trilogy wasn’t built on moments like that, and that’s okay. The first two movies had a lot to do, and even though there’s a giant chunk of things I wish had been different, I’m not the one making movies. But in lieu of that foundation of friendship throughout the sequel trilogy, seeing them together in this movie — arguably more than we ever really saw the original trilogy characters just being together — was so satisfying.
I remain amazed at how well leftover Force Awakens footage was repurposed to give Leia such presence. I was so afraid we’d get like one scene that established their new post-Crait operation and a sudden funeral, and then everything would carry on with a giant Leia-sized hole that everyone would be expected to ignore. But it wasn’t like that at all! I’ve heard some people say some of the dialogue didn’t quite fit right, but I guess I can thank my theater/Star Wars-high for not noticing. And for not caring that “You know that scene where she laid down? That was a body double!” No shit, man. Shut up and watch the show. If you can suspend your disbelief for space wizards and laser swords, you can check the realities of filmmaking around a death at the door, too.
Familiar faces (spoiler, spoiler, spoiler)
I was so happy to see Lando. With the plot-contrived limited Luke and the real-life contrived limited Leia, he really carried the banner for the old guard of Star Wars, and it just felt right. Between Lando, Han, Threepio’s hero moment, justice for Chewie and Wedge’s split second appearance (Hi, Wedge!), so much of Rise of Skywalker felt like a homecoming.
And can we talk about that Han moment for a minute? Because, for one, I 100 percent think it was originally conceived as a Leia and Ben scene and that Harrison Ford, who hasn’t been quiet about being kind of over Star Wars since the 80s, came back again because Carrie couldn’t. And that’s a beautiful thought. Plus, it clearly worked really well as a Force Awakens parallel.
For another, I guess I’ve just heard Mark Hamill impersonate Harrison Ford so many times that when that off-screen “Hey, kid,” line popped up, I figured Luke was about to have a heart-to-heart with the nephew he thought about killing that one time. And then it was Han? Be still my heart. (And the guy next to me who was all “WHAT?!!” was maybe a little clue, but I don’t think it really had time to register in my brain before Han appeared.)
I keep seeing people talk about course correction like it’s a bad thing, but honestly, I was just happy to see the things that didn’t really work for me before fashioned into something that did. For instance, I’ve got no beef with Rose Tico. She’s a fun, sweet character, and all the hate Kelly Marie Tran got for her was unacceptable. But that sudden Last Jedi-swerve into potential romance with Finn was just a complete no-go for me. Seeing that pivot into “Hey, Finn has other friends!” was much appreciated. I wish we could have seen her doing a little more, but I’m here to talk about the movie we got not the movie we didn’t.
Suddenly having Palpatine back and pulling all the strings did seem maybe a little half-baked of an idea, but let’s be real: Snoke was never all that developed either. I do think it needed to be sold a little more than one line about how “I’ve always been the voice in your head!” and one line about how clones are a thing, though. Maybe I’d feel differently if it had any set up in Force Awakens or Last Jedi, but it didn’t really, that I remember. I wasn’t bothered by Rey being a Palpatine, but I was a little by Luke and Leia “always knowing.”
I thought Zorii Bliss was a fun foil for Poe, and I haven’t seen anyone who didn’t like Babu Frik. The new little “no, no thank you” droid was cute. And I really liked Jannah and the colony of Storm Troopers who had laid down the weapons and defected.
I thought Rise of Skywalker did a tremendous job. Most of the things I found fault with were small — Threepio realizing he might have a way to bypass his programming right before his memory wipe, for instance — and some of them might be rectified by a second viewing. Like, I’m not exactly sure where Exogal was or what explosion an Ewok was watching at the end. And I could do to hear about Ben and Rey being basically Force twins from other mothers (and fathers) again. But I can also admit that it’s very possible that new bit of knowledge was just as sparse as I remember it and maybe there’s some handwaving you have to do to not be bothered by TRoS’s imperfections.
But none of those complaints are enough to cancel everything I loved about it. I loved all of the relationship dynamics. I loved Ben’s redemption and Rey’s setback and eventual rise. I love that in the end “just people” showed up to fight the Final Order and that it traded on the idea of there being more people who want to do good for the universe than evil. I even loved that Hux was the spy not because he cared about the Resistance but because after two movies of being Kylo Ren’s oft-humiliated lackey, he just wanted Ren to lose. He’s not a tragic character, he’s a worm right up until his deserved end.
So, yeah. I loved Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for everything that it was. In the weeks leading up to it, somebody asked me if I was excited, and I kind of hemmed and hawed because honestly, I wasn’t. Of course I wanted to see it, but my enthusiasm had taken a nose dive post The Last Jedi. But it didn’t take 10 minutes for my mood to shift, and now that the sequel trilogy is complete, I’m eager to watch it again and see if my TLJ experience is improved by having the whole story. I’m planning a deep dive into the 11 movies and at least The Mandalorian and the future Obi-Wan series, if not Clone Wars and Rebels. I even located my Original Trilogy novelization omnibus and the notebook I started scribbling in years ago when I decided to do a complete Legends novels read-through without ever actually completing the first book. I can’t wait to get back on that in 2020.
In short, Rise of Skywalker made me excited about Star Wars again, and for that I am grateful.
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