***Author’s Note: Yes, this should have come out on May 4th, but due to my laziness, I missed the mark. Sounds like I would be perfect for a job at Lucasfilm! Oh, but I kid! Well, not really. But I do. Sorta. Anyway, here are some reedited reactions from my seeing the Episode IX in the theater back several million years ago in December 2019. To date, it was also the last movie I saw in the an honest-to-goodness theater…and that’s the worst tragedy that the Covidia could have ever brought.
Golly, those Academy Awards, eh? Such glitz, such glamour, such ennui! If the ratings sink any deeper, they might as well just air a repeat awards show from 1993. At least that would be interesting to watch with actual films that people saw. Granted, that approach won’t get the love of the current award-mongers, but those people just want to get invited to film premieres, so their opinions mean worse than nothing.
Speaking of people that just want to get invited to premieres, I want to talk about Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of the Attempt to Erase Episode VIII. I know that since hardly anyone is talking about Star Wars given the lack of hype or interest or rewatchability, I might as well take up the challenge and be the lone voice in the desert.
My bride and I had once again lured a babysitter to watch over our brood and instead of taking advantage of the situation, we decided to go to see Star Wars: Plan IX from Outer Space. We ordered some Brobdingnagian-sized burgers and some healthy flagons of ale from the cinema bistro. Everything was delicious save for the Samuel Adams IPA I ordered by mistake. To me IPAs taste like someone poured beer into an already quarter-filled Windex bottle because they enjoy the aftertaste of disinfectant. Still a beer is a beer and a Star Wars movie is a Star Wars movie, so why not?
My wife asked the waiter what the audience reaction had been for this movie. The gent hesitantly replied, “It’s been okay. I think fans will like it. I didn’t mind it. Leave me alone now so I can get your fries!” and then he ran away. With that vote of supreme confidence, we tucked into our food and after 45 minutes of uninspiring trailers, the movie began!
Now, like I did with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, here are some random thoughts that occurred to me during this film. They are arranged in no real order and are laced with spoilers throughout. This new trilogy has been pretty spoiled already, so it shouldn’t matter. (Amirite?! Hah! Anyway…) And with that incredibly easy and poorly written joke, let’s dive into the many confusing moments of The Rise of Skywalker!
- It is going to be bad if I laughed at the title crawl? “The dead speak!”? When did they do that? Did I miss something? Is there an Episode VIII.5 The Last Jedi Strikes Back Again that was direct to video that I didn’t know about? Was it a secret message in either of the Ewok movies? Now if The Emperor spoke offscreen at the end of The Last Jedi as kind of a teaser…oh now that would have been interesting… “The Final Order…can now begin! Heh heh heh…” But that didn’t happen, so we’re just chucked into a film where I spend most of the runtime half-heartedly going “Okay. Sure, why not?” because I shouldn’t be thinking while watching.
- I’m 15 minutes in and we’ve been to around 7 different planets on two different ships with a dozen characters. I suppose that just letting scenes play out would be ridiculous as that would expose the hodge-podge nature of this film’s production.
- John Boyega has been sorely shafted by these movies. In many ways, Finn is the most interesting character from Part VII. Expanding his arc and letting it flow would have been quite satisfying over the course of these films. You had him reject his Stormtroopering, join the Resistance, and then you could have had him question those decisions or wonder if he is a First Order spy or sacrifice himself in Part VIII or see this saga through his eyes as the audience or anything. But instead, nope. He tags along with Poe, gets in a conflict with Poe that is never explained but then gets resolved, he’s made a general because…he’s a general now, and then rides space horses on a Star Destroyer. Of all these actors I feel the sorriest for Boyega. He deserved better.
- On that note, I think all these actors are better than these movies. What is it about Star Wars that ensures that good actors are given crap to work with? Look at this list: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Cushing, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, etc. Now all these actors have certainly risen above their given Star Wars material over the years and have shone in other projects to be sure. (Even Hayden Christensen has shown chops in different films.) So, I cannot pick on Disney Star Wars in this area. But I also see that the trend was not reversed by Disney Star Wars either, so I can pick on them for that.
- Thank you, Episode IX, for not killing off Billy Dee Williams. Oh, I know you wanted to, but you didn’t. Not that 82-year-old Lando was a tentpole throughout the entire movie, but it was still damn good to see him. Oh, and thank you Lucasfilm for killing off Han, Leia, and Luke already so Lando would have no one to interact with from the movies he originally was in. And it is a different dude in a Chewie suit, so he doesn’t count. Not even Bored Force Ghost Luke couldn’t talk to Lando for any reason? No? Well, still good to see Williams bring some much-needed class into this entry.
- Keri Russell was supposedly in this film as former flame of Poe’s. I say “supposedly” because I watched the whole film and 97% of the time, her character had a helmet on that covered her whole face. Let me put it this way, Russell is barely in the movie more than me, and I’m not in it. Good prank, J.J.!
- Adam Driver is one of the few actors in this trilogy who I think shines through and through. Despite the emo-moments and such, I ultimately care about Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s journey and his conflicts along the way. Driver gives a good performance and his was by far the most interesting character in this entire sequel series.
- And I wish I could say the same about Daisy Ridley. Not that I loathe Rey, but I loathe that she wasn’t given enough to do to grow as a character. I have no issue with her being the granddaughter of Palpatine, although that raises a whole other series of questions too. (Like did Palpatine know that his clone was busy moving and grooving, making relatives along the way while trying to take over a Republic, rule an Empire, build a Death Star, etc? How’d Clonepatine find the time?! Was this all going on when he was a Senator making a Nabooty call? Obviously, this was happening sometime before Return of the Jedi unless there was another clone running around making Li’l Palpatines. Is there going to be a sequel prequel trilogy that will talk about the Clonepatine family hijinks? Too many questions!!!)
- But I can see why the Mary Sue tag gets hung on Rey. Just because she’s now revealed to be a Palpatine, it doesn’t mean she can automatically do the things she can do. Luke was a Skywalker and showed no real Force abilities prior to meeting up with Kenobi. Leia either for that matter. Yet we know there were younglings being trained in the prequels and Anakin showed Force potential early on, but everything came easy for Rey because…the scripts said so. Why wasn’t this paced out better? Could it be that her being a Palpatine was not the plan from the start? Rey could have had such a great arc with true inner conflicts with the Dark Side and instead, she can beat everything because she can beat everything. Ridley does try over these films, but a clear character arc and some rewrites would have certainly done some good for Rey to be sure.
- Speaking of Palpatine, let’s give some love to Ian McDiarmid once again as The Emperor! He’s a delicious menace and even though he was jammed into this storyline haphazardly, he still brings a wonderful presence as the Borg Queen Palpatine, all connected by wires, cables, and pulleys. Then again, just by being here, it means that the entire climax of the first six episodes means absolutely nothing, so once again thank you, Disney Star Wars! Remember that whole Anakin Skywalker plotline? Well, thankfully that now is rendered pointless! Yay! Oh look, X-Wings!
- Palpatine has been masterminding…what exactly? He started the First Order but then has also been mustering his own army and fleet on this separate planet that’s beyond The Great Barrier-lite? There are Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers that have nothing to do with the First Order just being collected and built in secret for at least 35+ years now? Hm. But I must ask: why? Wouldn’t the First Order be enough of a threat? It seemed to be doing just fine over the previous two movies. And he’s been cloning Snokes because…he’s been cloning Snokes so I should just shut up?
- And how does Palpatine secretly recruit these thousands of troops and officers on this very hard-to-reach Sith planet to staff all these Star Destroyers and fighters? Couldn’t there have been just a throwaway line (I know, there were plenty already, but just bear with me) that said he’s been getting back into cloning Stormtroopers just like from Episode II or III? Hell, even using Episode I battle droids would have been preferable and sadly more believable. (Imagine a Star Destroyer being operated by those “Roger, Roger”-uttering bots! But paint ‘em black because they’d be even more eviler!) If they were all operated by battle droids, it would then make more sense to have a central navigation control than needs to be taken out, right? Like when Anakin took out that control ship near Naboo? Ahem. (So, Lucas’ ideas for this universe again are better? Hmmm…seems they keep getting ignored during this regime at Lucasfilm…)
- How did planet-destroying Star Destroyers make it out of Unnavigable Sith Planet to get blown up outside of the forest moon of Endor or Bespin? Or were those even planet-destroying Star Destroyers or just regular ones? I’m really confused at this point. I was shrugging like everyone else in the theater, going “Sure. Okay.” I think making the death of the Ewoks a top A-1 level priority for Palpatine would have made for an interesting if not slightly amusing plot development for this movie. Just have McDiarmid scowl about how those “furry rebel scum” must be exterminated with extreme prejudice and show the older, wiser Wicket standing tall against this latest threat!
- Thank you for showing Wedge Antilles for a line during the last battle. Thank you for not putting him in a helmet either so I could say that I think I saw him for a split-second.
- Thank you for not having characters tell Finn that a ground assault on a Star Destroyer is interesting enough on its own so he certainly doesn’t need to bring space horses into it. Because space horses racing on the hull would be ridiculous.
- Thank you for having Kylo’s memory of Han Solo show that Han had even more beard stubble now than he did when Kylo killed him.
All right, all right. I must stop. I must. I could go on for even longer, as my wife can fully attest by how she’s plugged her ears from the moment we left the theater, but I’m stopping here, avoiding other plot whatzits and head-scratching moments in this movie. Besides, practically every single issue I have with this film stretches back to two cornerstone lynchpin moments from Lucasfilm.
1. Why wasn’t there a firm storyline in place prior to making these three movies or for that matter, a producer that could control this franchise with steady guidance, letting plot dictate the day?
Imagine if a storyline was in place from the get-go. They knew they wanted to do a new trilogy with legacy characters popping in. They had incredible amounts of goodwill prior to starting. And even after the mind-boggling success of The Force Awakens, they still didn’t have a firm storyline in place. Oh, they had ideas, but the producer didn’t set them in stone and instead allowed whatever creative team to do whatever with each installment, only to backtrack and question their decisions along the way.
Now you can somewhat get away with this on something like Rogue One, a standalone story, independent of the Episode saga. But even George Lucas had a plot outline for the prequels, a trilogy that certainly had its fair share of other problems. Lucas and Rick McCallum stuck with the story that they had and saw it through to the end, such as it was. But they knew where they were going and how they would get there.
Kathleen Kennedy could have been that firm hand, but it didn’t happen. She could have allowed for three years for development between installments, like 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm did in the past, but she didn’t. She could have had a fixed story in mind and had subsequent directors follow it, but she didn’t. Instead we ended up with a soft reboot of A New Hope, a follow-up that said plot threads hinted at in the previous movie were worthless, and a follow-up to that follow-up that said the first follow-up was wrong and now we’re done! Explosions! A new cute droid! Yay!
2.Having Princess/General Leia alive at the end of The Last Jedi was an incredible mistake.
Yes, I know this hinges on the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher. This was the unexpected twist that could hamper any production. Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016 almost a full year before the initial release screening of The Last Jedi on December 9, 2017. This means that Lucasfilm knew two things: 1) that a lead actress from this series was dead and 2) that their Episode IX had Leia alive for it. This was a crucial moment…and yet…
They did nothing.
The Last Jedi came out and no alterations to account for Fisher’s passing were made. In the Star Wars universe, Leia lived to fight another day and Rian Johnson wasn’t directing Episode IX, so never mind! This was a huge in your face, incredibly obvious, shining and blaring error. They could have certainly reworked the story so that Leia passes away in the film and dare I say it: Luke could have lived! No, really!
Besides, Leia had the perfect out with her being blown off that bridge in the beginning of Episode VIII. Just having her die right then and there would have be shocking but needed. It would provide yet another motivation for Luke to get off his duff and help Rey and the Resistance. And Leia for the most part is just in a coma anyway once she Force floats back onto the ship. This was an easy fix with editing and script juggling. It would even make more sense that Holdo doesn’t trust Poe because he worked for the now dead Leia, not her! She would of course be wary of Poe and it would work narratively. Imagine that!
The most we would be robbed of would be that great scene between Luke and Leia on Planet Saltlick. Beyond that with reshoots and editing, Leia could be removed from the narrative and Luke could step up, still be force projecting with Kylo, and then not vanish during the Porg ‘N’ Milk Creature Island sunset. Yes, you would have to retool Episode IX since Leia was gone, but that’s nothing compared to the plot headaches that Colin Trevorrow deftly avoided by not directing Rise of Skywalker.
Kennedy used reshoots everywhere else with Lucasfilm products, why not in The Last Jedi when you have a full year before release to fix this narrative?! Instead you now must suddenly backpedal, say that old unused vague footage of Leia can successfully accomplish Rey’s Jedi training, and then just have Leia decide to die because of the most supreme ailment of all: ultimately running out of already shot film clips.
Ye gods, this could have been a simple fix. I mean, c’mon doesn’t it make more sense that it would be easier to deal with an alive Mark Hamill instead of a deceased Carrie Fisher. And I’m just a schlub that owned an Ewok Village and I figured this out.
With some tweaking here and there and a focus on story, this could have been at the very least entertaining. The compromised Episode IX ends up taking the brunt of the blast trying to furiously tie everything up between the prior two movies that conflict with each other. But they made this mess themselves and that’s exactly who Lucasfilm can blame. Ultimately this is the epitaph for this sequel trilogy: a frustrating waste of potential.