The Long Read: Defending Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker

by Oliver MacNamee
I wasn’t going to post anything about Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, given we have our own movie expert and EiC, Erik Amaya onboard and his in-depth review posted only yesterday,  but there’s so many people out there who seem to be hating on it that I can’t stand it anymore. For what it’s worth, here are some personal thoughts on this new film that may make you rethink your own opinions, if you’ve already seen it. And, if you’re reading this before watching it, then here’s hoping you may take these points onboard when you head out to the cinema over this Holiday season.
 
There be spoilers ahead, so be warned…
 
Firstly, let’s remember what JJ Abrams had to do with this film. Not only wind it all up, but undo a lot of what Rian Johnson had put into the last film which angered fans so much. Personally, the more I re-watch The Last Jedi, the more I like it. I know I may be in a minority here, but each to their own.
 
Of course, there must have been a whole rethink after Carrie Fisher’s passing. The fact she barely registered in this film, when it was supposed to be her story, must have put a spanner in the works and required a whole new way of thinking this through. 
 
Then, there’s the internet. It wasn’t around when the original trilogy came out was it. Interesting how all 6 films created since, and in the age of the internet, are hated, even dismissed, by so many. When we look back at the original trilogy, it’s amazing how we dismiss the fans collective hatred for Ewoks then, and now. But then, nostalgia has a strange way of messing with our mind and making us remember the past in a very hazy, fluffy way sometimes. Oh, and when the original trilogy came out, I was still a kid. remember, these films are aimed at ALL age ranges. It’s no surprise that this whole trilogy tried to pander to us older fans while trying to appeal to a newer audience. Which, if my daughter’s reaction is anything to go by, they’ve achieved. Like Emperor Palpatine, our time is over. And, if you’re still hating on Star Wars, this film gives you an excuse to walk away. Y’know, if you really, really feel that strongly. 
Yes, there are some awful additions to this film in order to tie up loose ends, no more so than when we finally learn of Rey’s parentage. A friend of mine had guessed this over a year ago, and at the time I laughed. It really is a rather clunky bit of storytelling to say the least, and while it is central to the story and tantamount of importance to the end of this saga, it’s not the greatest of additions. I mean, when did the Emperor EVER mention he had a kid who then went on to have his granddaughter? Like I said, rather clunky exposition to say the least. Snoke’s origins being another good example of this too, as he is dismissed away by Palpatine early on in the film as nothing more than a clone puppet he was working from afar.
But, this was never going to be a perfect film and trying to pander to fans was always going to be a difficult job to pull off. When we all calm down in time and look at it again, maybe, just maybe, there will be a reconsideration of this film. And, here’s some of the reasons why.
As well as a conclusion to Rey and Kylo/Ben Skywalker’s story, we finally get a conclusion to the whole Jedi/Sith centuries-old battle and a clearing of the way for a new guard and a new direction. Star Wars film of the future are free to follow their own path now, even though they’d be daft to jettison all that is familiar and integral to the Star Wars universe such as the Jedis, which I doubt they’ll be doing any time soon, given this ending and a promise for a brighter future.
What’s more, there are some great echoes of classic Star Wars moments of the past too. When Rey is shown the Resistance’s ships being torn apart by the First Order’s Sith powered fleet I the third act, it’s reminiscent of Luke’s own temptation in Return of the Jedi, as Palpatine then, as now, tries to get the young Jedi to turn to anger, to hate and to the dark side.
It’s not the only nod to the legacy of Star Wars film of the past, and it’s no doubt intentional. I really think Abrams, as a fan himself, wanted us to make this link to the original trilogy. After all, they do return to Endor, even if it’s not the moon of Endor and those bloody Ewoks. Although, they do get the briefest of look-ins in a montage scene, again, similar to those introduced into the remastered 1997 special edition of  Return of the Jedi showing the whole galaxy celebrating what they then thought to be the fall of the Empire.
There’s also the inclusion of Lando Calrissian, of course, and remember how stoked we all were when we first heard Palpatine’s unmistakable voce in the original teaser? His inclusion, for me at least, was a great way to tie everything up. Even of his dismissal of Snoke as his own creation was another crappy inclusion. But, these are minor niggles for me as I sat through 2 hours of adrenaline and action. And, isn’t this what Star Wars should be? It’s certainly my memory of how the first film played out when I originally wanted it. It should never be overthought, and not by kidults how simply cannot let go of what they think they remember where faultless films. New flash; they weren’t.
Plus, we finally get to see the Sith home world and design elements that harken way, way back to Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs for the Emperor and his lair. That has to please others as much as it pleased me. It’s not the only amazing piece of design in the film. And, I think, this can often be overlooked. This does the job of including design element for all of the previous 8 film to give Star Wars its unmistakable ‘lived-in’ look.
There’s also the familiar narratives of Star Wars, redemption, hope, nature versos nurture and courage all play their part and while Kylo Run ain’t no Darth Vader, he’s certainly has a similar narrative trajectory to Anakin, even if it only took three films to tell his story and not six. But, at the end, I do think you’ll feel for Ben Solo. And if so, job done. Taking another flawed person who’s succumbed to teh dark side and who we are supposed to despise, only for us to rally to his side in the dying moments of the final battle, is a hard trick to pull off, but I think JJ Abrams and company succeed.
As for THAT cameo, when familiar face from Ben’s own memories steps forth to offer him comfort at a crucial moment; how can you not feel a tug at your heartstrings? If you didn’t, then this film really wasn’t for you. As for me; I can’t wait to see it again.
A fitting ending to a space opera that was seen as a write off by its own creator, even if it was a long time ago. This film really does offer up a new hope for future Star Wars fans and film-makers alike.

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