The Rise of Skywalker
Reviewed by Eliza DoLots
Posted December 29, 2019
This isn’t going to sound like high praise, but it is: The Rise of Skywalker is not as bad as I feared it would be. Being someone who searches out and consumes spoilers, I had learned of one scene which seemed terribly upsetting. However, when it happened, I found I didn’t agree with how others had portrayed the scene and—while not good—it wasn’t utterly disgusting (there’s your high praise!).
If you are a big fan of The Last Jedi, you might have some issues with The Rise of Skywalker. The eighth movie in the series is largely ignored. It would be very easy to go directly from The Force Awakens to The Rise of Skywalker. I’m fine with that, but I can see that many would be upset.
The Rise of Skywalker feels like director J.J. Abrams read all the Reddit threads of people listing what they wanted to see in the next Star Wars movie and said “how can we make that happen?” Even if it makes very little sense, if enough people asked for it, they do it. Do you love high speed, high tech, low altitude vehicle fights through alien terrain? There’s plenty. Do you love space battles? There’s plenty. Reylo (Rey + Kylo)? There’s something for you! Do you hate the very idea of Reylo? There’s plenty for you to enjoy. Do you miss the cute little creatures of past movies? Don’t worry, they’ll show up. Do you absolutely require a new adorable creature to be happy? You’ll be fine. Indeed, I want a T-Shirt with Babu Frik on it NOW! Have you always wanted to see LGBTQ representation in Star Wars? Well…it’s probably not what you really wanted, but there is a kiss with a gay couple.
If this all sounds a bit scattershot, it is. It feels like too many people needed to be placated. I suspect this is going to be an issue with many movies now as the Disney corporation puts its finger into virtually every single pie made in Hollywood.
Despite this, The Rise of Skywalker is a fun movie. I enjoyed it. It’s FUNNY, which is something I want Star Wars to be. Going hand in hand with being funny, this movie uses C3PO better than any of the previous movies. I find that appropriate. The entire nine movie arc could well be over-titled “A Protocol Droid’s Story”. If you’ve ever enjoyed C3PO even a bit, you’ll enjoy much of this movie.
There has been much discussion of how the death of Carrie Fisher was being handled by the production team. No CGI they said. All previously shot, cut footage, they said. I honestly don’t know what they did, but it’s not great. Some of her lines feel like clips from previous films that have been dropped into new backgrounds. They may not have CGI’ed her face, but they clearly gave her a new dress and location. There are some scenes that appear to have a “back of the head” double (in many of the hugging scenes—and there’s a fair amount of hugging of Leia—it’s pretty clearly someone with a Leia wig and dress). Worse, some of her dialogue doesn’t seem to match up to the scene she is in. She just says words. They don’t have a lot (or anything?) to do with the conversation the others are having. At one point, there’s a full body double that’s sort of hidden from us. Scenes and explanatory dialogue just happen around her. I don’t have an answer because this was obviously a huge problem to overcome. I don’t feel they did it as well as they said they did, but I don’t know if it was possible to do it better.
One character from The Last Jedi that did make it to Rise of Skywalker is Rose. Played by Kelly Marie Tran, Rose in The Last Jedi was hated by a particularly vicious group of fans. They went after the actress at every opportunity (as though it was her fault that they didn’t like the character) ultimately driving her off social media. J.J. Abrams was, rightly, disturbed by this and he not only refused to cut Rose, he put her in many scenes. She is in virtually every important Resistance scene. However, her storyline was eliminated. She is simply a fact machine. With the exception of two short moments—one between her and Finn and one that is just Finn—we have no clue that anyone has any emotional attachment to this character. There is a great deal of discussion on line about how poorly the character is treated in the script despite the fact that she is in many scenes.
Much of the discussion about Rose centers around the fact that there is a new character who shares her basic “give out facts” job. Why create a new character rather than expand on the character you have? This discussion misses the fact that the new character also does almost nothing. His main purpose seems to be being a recognizable actor. Me? I thought it was nice to see Dominic Monoghan bringing the worlds of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars together, but he had very little to do and there was really no reason for him to be there.
The ultimate villain (who will not be a surprise to most) is super weird and fun. A character we had thought dead, he’s hooked to life support and brought in by a crane at one point. It’s reminiscent of the Borg Queen in First Contact and quite nice. Like Star Trek and Harry Potter, death in the Star Wars Universe only lasts as long as the movie makers need it to. This isn’t even the most unlikely return to life I’m aware of. If we can accept traveling by warp speed, there’s no reason to find this character unbelievable.
Small spoiler here: A core component of this movie is redemption for Kylo Ren. Redemption arcs are great. I love a good redemption arc (Snape!), but they can be pushed too far and for me, Kylo Ren’s is. This is a point where it’s not as bad as I feared, but it still seems that Rey is awfully forgiving of the man who—as J.J. Abrams himself has said—mind raped her in The Force Awakens. It’s not so bad that I condemn the movie, and she does spend a fair amount of time beating him up, but still, why???? Why do female character have to not only forgive their abusers, but embrace them? This isn’t a healthy message and I really wish movies would stop sending it.
J.J. Abrams' Star Wars trilogy ultimately has to be credited with expanding the universe’s inclusion of humans. It might be hard to remember, but in the original movie, there appeared to be only a handful of women in the entire galaxy. There was Leia, Beru (Luke’s aunt), and the woman who told the story about how many people died to bring them the plans for the Death Star. Were there others? I don’t recall any. Maybe in the Cantina scene? In this movie a woman is referred to as a Jedi Master. Another woman is “all of the Jedi”. Several of the most interesting new characters are female. Likewise, there were so few people of color in the original movie that one black man walking back and forth in the background constituted most of the movie’s “inclusion”. In Abram’s Star Wars people of color are heroes. People of color are villains. There are scenes with no white characters, just people of color having meaningful conversations about plot and substance. In a universe with Wookies flying space ships, it’s nice to see that all colors of humans get to go on the ride. Clearly there is progress left to be made. Finn’s character started off with promise, but was quickly relegated to a secondary position. Poe, the first Latinx character in Star Wars, has now been given a drug running backstory that is stereotypical and contradicts what we were told about his war hero status in The Force Awakens. But it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that there has been progress. The lack of LGBTQ representation in Star Wars has been a sore point for many. Abrams has addressed this in a token way. It’s fast and in the background, but there is a kiss by two women that is very clearly not chaste or platonic. These are all good things and we can hope they lead to better things. Star Wars should belong to everyone and everyone should be able to see themselves in Star Wars.
This isn’t the last movie. It is the last “Skywalker” movie, but this movie is all about setting up future movies. Disney just opened giant Star Wars zones in both US parks (and probably at other parks around the world). They need new movies every so often to keep that interest up. There is one scene at the end which is basically “Hey, why don’t we go do a new movie together about us?”. We need to know the history of Babu Frik. We need to see what happens to Rose. So, there will be more and I’m excited to see them.
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