Folks, I watched that new Star Wars. Like a lot of people on the internet, I didn't like it that much. My sister bugged me as to why I didn't like it, but I always have trouble saying my thoughts. I'm somebody that prefers to say things through words, so here it is, my thoughts on Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
A few days ago, my mom heard that the new Star Wars came out and she wanted all of us to go see it. We all saw The Force Awakens a few years ago, but we didn't see The Last Skywalker. My mom didn't really care, she wanted to see this movie anyway.
So, immediately after my late night shift at my job where the last thing I want to do is to go anywhere public or see another human being, we went straight to the movie theater. Apparently in the past year or so the nearest movie theater switched out its seats for recliner seats, so I at least felt relaxed watching this.
I've had a weird history with Star Wars. When I first tried watching Star Wars I was probably in middle school. The problem was that I was unaware that the original trilogy started with IV, so I ended up starting with I. I sincerely didn't like it that much. From what I remember, I was bored a lot and there were a bunch of stretches where it felt like nothing interesting was happening. I remember liking pod racing, though. I haven't watched the movie since, but I'll probably still think it's bad for different reasons.
Going in chronological order was a mistake but I ended up liking the original trilogy. My dad had a VCR and Goodwill always has an abundance of VHS tapes, so finding videos of the original trilogy was easy. By the end of my experience I liked Star Wars, but not enough to really dig into all the extended universe stuff.
I liked the Force Awakens. I hadn't seen the Last Jedi, but with the utter shitshow that happened around it for some reason, I have the broad strokes of it through social media osmosis. So, knowing that everyone on my Twitter timeline hates this movie, I couldn't wait to see what exciting conclusion JJ Abrams had for us.
Rise of Skywalker immediately opens with the contrived reveal that Emperor Palpatine is alive. Nope, it's not a force ghost, he's just alive somehow, which is fucking baffling. Old man should be dead as shit but he just kinda handwaves it off as ancient Sith magic. Guys? You can't fucking do this. You can't immediately open with the survival of a character that was thrown into a reactor and was blown to smithereens and expect us to be alright with that.
So folks? Were you not impressed by the original Death Stars being able to destroy planets? Were you not impressed by The Force Awakens' version of the Death Star that can destroy whole systems? Well guess what motherfuckers, we got at least a hundred battleships that are each equipped with a Death Star laser, because this is a sequel and we have to keep escalating the threat levels. Much like his own survival, Emperor Palpatine's ships have been top secret and they're ready to take over the galaxy again.
We go to the Resistance base and everyone's freaking out about the reappearance of Palpatine, as conveyed by a traitor in the First Order. For like, a minute, anyway. There's really no time for anyone to linger on the fact that the horrible leader that ruled the galaxy's previous dark age is just fine.
Which leads into one of the movie's biggest problems to me: the pacing. We're flashing from one plot point to another with little time to linger on it, to the point that almost everything but the big battle at the end kinda coalesced into an amorphous blob in my memories. By going through everything quickly, there's a lot that just doesn't have an impact. Oh, our heroes are going to look for a sign leading to a key. But uh oh, there's a festival going on! The movie even goes out of its way to mention that it happens every 42 years, so it must be special! ...And it really isn't because our heroes leave the festival grounds within minutes for an Epic Chase Scene. Like god, it's not even an Epic Chase Scene through the festival. We've already moved on, it doesn't matter.
Here's another example. We meet a figure from Poe's criminal past, Zorii, and she and her gang are still upset that he ditched them for the resistance. Our heroes effortlessly beat down the gang and then Zorii is suddenly cool with them. No satisfying sense of conflict? No problem. Eh, Poe's past? Who cares, we got a cool girl character in here to reaffirm Poe's heterosexuality even though we barely know anything about their relationship.
But the second-most aggravating case of the movie's pacing is Chewbacca's "death." Rey and Kylo do a game of Force tug-of-war with a ship that's holding Chewbacca prisoner. However, Rey goes too far and accidentally channels her lineage (more in a bit), destroying the ship and making her think she killed Chewbacca. Then like two minutes later it's revealed that Chewbacca's fine, Rey just blew up a separate ship that was coincidentally there. The viewers are quickly assured that everything's fine, and the movie doesn't even play this for dramatic irony because shortly after meeting Zorii, Rey senses that he's fine without putting in the time to grieve about it. Like, it's not even a dramatic moment for the sake of drama because it gets subverted so quickly that it doesn't matter.
The most aggravating case of the movie's pacing is actually the reveal of the traitor, to me. It turns out to be Hux, aka the closest to being Kylo's second-in-command. Why is he betraying the First Order? Well, he wants Kylo to lose. There's no development or follow-up to that plot point because the dude just gets executed minutes later and nobody even mentions him for the rest of the movie. It's absurd because Hux is the reason why our heroes are going on this quest at all - if he didn't warn the Resistance, the villains would have won. So the fact that this very pivotal character gets little time for reflection is just batshit.
So on the subject of hastily revealed things, how about that twist? Toward the end of the movie, it's revealed that Rey is indeed not a Skywalker... but a Palpatine, because I guess the Force just has to be family inherited. And like, this reveal reminded me about another cursed continuation to a big franchise:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
One of the big plot twists in the Cursed Child is that the OC villain is revealed to be the child of Voldemort. And that's just inherently ridiculous. It's a dumb twist because there's no reason for Voldemort to have a child because his whole deal was wanting to be an immortal ruler. Why on Earth would you need a lineage if you could rule forever?
And it's the fucking same with Emperor Palpatine. At what point did he fuck? Did he ever foresee a point where he would be taken down and needed an heir to body jack in the future? Like, the only example I could think of is that he wanted Force-sensitive heirs to drain later to prolong his life.
Which also makes the body jacking thing he wanted to do to Rey stupid. Like, when Rey and Kylo show up, he's like "oh never mind that plot" and drains their life force. Why bother with the dumb ceremony and theatrics. Just fucking kill them and live forever in your own body, you don't need to have Rey norted.
And the way I see it, the thing that makes the iconic "Luke, I am your father" moment work is that it has the time for viewers to process that and speculate what it could mean for the future, since it was the twist of the big middle part of the trilogy. Again, with the movie's pacing, there's no time to process that and little time for the characters to reflect on this.
And speaking of a "Luke, I am your father" moment, the movie really goes out of its way to invoke a lot of things from past Star Wars films. I thought that all of you were exaggerating about it being like a nostalgic theme park, but it absolutely is a nostalgic theme park whose pace demands that you quickly go from one attraction to the next. Here's Lando for the sake of it. Here's a group of people that fight with comparatively low-tech weaponry to mirror the Ewoks, who also get a quick cameo at the end. Here's the ruins of the Death Star. Hey, did you see the exhibit showing off Darth Vader's mask already? Here it is again! Here's our grand finale that shares similar plot beats to Return of the Jedi! If it's not a reference to a past Star Wars movie, it's a structurally similar beat to a past Star Wars scene.
But honestly, the cherry on top of all this was that there was a scene that goes out of the way to give Chewbacca a medal to make up for the fact that he didn't back in A New Hope. I mean like. He deserves it, but combined with everything else in the movie, it extremely reeks of pandering for the sake of pandering.
In sticking so close to Star Wars canon, it also subverts one of the few things that I know about from The Last Jedi: the idea that anyone could be a jedi. JJ Abrams said "nah" and made the underdeveloped twist of Rey being Palpatine's granddaughter. The problem with this is that Finn is clearly attuned to the Force with how he can just sense things, so the movie upholding the idea that having Force powers is tied to lineage makes his clairvoyance baffling.
And speaking of Finn, man, did they really do him dirty. He really just feels like Rey and Poe's sidekick in this movie than a character with his own arc. His arc of being a defected Stormtrooper is briefly touched upon when the gang encounters a group of defected Stormtroopers when investigating the ruins of the Death Star... but again, the pacing does not linger on it! He's shooting the shit with Janna, the leader of the group of traitors, and then we're back to Rey's adventures. And by the way, Janna feels like she's supposed to be Finn's 2nd heterosexual love interest, but for some reason she and Lando are flirting at the end even though they never talked to each other? Huh? Is it because they're both black, JJ Abarams??
But hey, you know who wasn't done dirty even though he doesn't deserve it? Kylo Ren gets the redemption arc fans wanted and Reylo fans got the satisfaction of seeing him kiss Rey before he died. But folks, doing one last cool act before dying does not redeem you. Saying that Kylo Ren is personally responsible for killing dozens of people would be generous. Dude was a high ranking official in the First Order, he's probably responsible for hundreds to thousands of deaths. You can't just act like he's redeemed here. I mean, yeah, the same thing happens with Darth Vader, but at least Darth Vader killed (well, I guess he didn't) Emperor Palpatine with his bare fucking hands. Kylo's actual sacrifice is giving Rey his life force so that she could live, because this movie does not believe in meaningful consequences for the main characters at all.
I said it before in all my YIIK stuff and the thing about redemption is that you have to make things up with the people you've hurt. There needs to be accountability and dying just takes away the burden of being held accountable for your actions. Kylo Ren did not earn this redemption. The dude sucks.
And on a far lesser note, the Knights of Ren also suck. Look at those fucking losers with their medieval nerd weaponry.
And the thing is, I haven't properly seen The Last Jedi. I don't know how much stuff from that movie goes unaddressed or gets retconned by this movie. I don't know how much more disappointing this movie would be if I had actually seen The Last Jedi beforehand.
There's no emotional takeaway from Rise of Starwalker, both because it was very paint by numbers and because of the pacing. If there's anything to remember, I'll probably remember the action scenes. But hey, action movies can still have memorable action and emotional catharsis. I'll always remember Oldboy's hallway fight as well as the sheer disgust and horror I had toward the ending sequence. With this... there's just nothing. Well, I laughed at C3PO's jokes and felt sad about Leia's death, but the latter was partly because of the actress' death.
I left the theater feeling really underwhelmed, which is probably not the feeling you'd want viewers to have leaving your movie - let alone the ending of a big trilogy. My after movie selfie isn't me smiling because it happened, but smiling because it's over. Would the Rise of Starwalker be better if it was longer and gave its various plot points more time? Maybe. At the very least, I'm glad that the Game of Thrones guys got fucking owned and won't be working on whatever Star Wars trilogy we have next, because I know that those guys will somehow make a movie worse than this one.