They absolutely caved in to the most toxic, vocal, entitled part of the fandom – and we all suffer for it.
It’s folly (and just plain incorrect) to treat a feature film as being solely the work of an individual, even its director. But some of the problems in The Rise of Skywalker are trademarks found across JJ Abrams‘ work. So… yeah: blame the director is what I’m going with here.
JJ’s first entry in this new trilogy, The Force Awakens, is A New Hope remade as a fun nostalgia ride. The Rise of Skywalker, sadly, puts on full display how JJ’s most ’emotional’ moments depend entirely on what you remember from other films (Star Trek Into Darkness was, in retrospect, our canary down this mine). The ‘stakes’, such as they are, are Fan Service: references are substituted for story; nothing in ROS is earned – every moment, reference, threat, sentiment, resolution is entirely dependent on the work of the original trilogy to have any resonance here.
And while the OT most certainly had an abundance of horrid lines and laughably soapy story turns, but there was something else there – charm? Patience? Freshness? – to buoy us through them, that is sorely lacking here.
One gets the impression that the two directors are real-life friends – but their back-to-back films make them seem more like two kids squabbling in the playground, one-upping themselves and undercutting eachother with new made-up rules at every turn. ROS so undoes everything The Last Jedi undid before it – “Your parents are nobody!” “Oh no, they only told you that – your parents are really everybody!“; “I smashed Kylo Ren’s helmet!” “I’ll literally rebuild it!”; “No more Snoke!” “Fine, I’ll raise you a Palpatine!”; “Anyone can be a force user!” “Mmmm no only if they’re related” – that it seems JJ just wanted his Episode IX to be a direct sequel to his Episode VII.
The Force Awakens: “So Star Wars was pretty good, right?”
The Last Jedi: “Yeah, but what if Star Wars was GREAT?”
The Rise of Skywalker: “No, FUCK that and FUCK you. Star Wars is good and that’s it.”
— Max Marriner (@MrMaxMarriner) December 20, 2019
— viewinder (@viewinder) December 20, 2019
Universe < House
The Last Jedi‘s final shot showed a nobody (“Broom Kid”) using force powers. After a series of films all about sins of the father (even Boba Fett a got a dad), TLJ offered us the first, in-canon proposition that the concept of Jedi wasn’t localised to a gene pool. While I criticised it at the time for twisting Empire‘s key moments purely for the sake of being not-Empire, the idea of Rey’s parents being “nobody” – that anyone, even a nobody kid, can be a Jedi – proved to be both thematically important and narratively liberating in a way that’s vital to keeping Star Wars going forever (as Disney and Lucasfilm clearly intend to). However, this is all undone when ROS, in its fear of upsetting the most toxic, vocal, entitled part of the fandom, defaults to Palpatine – whose presence was not even hinted at prior to this in this new trilogy – as the big bad. It’s a “creative” move which is not only devoid of creativity, it suddenly shrinks the Star Wars “universe” down to the size of a house.
Speaking of caving in to that toxic fandom: there can be no other reason that Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) has been reduced to a featured extra. Are they trying to teach misogynistic, racist babies that if they scream long and loud enough, they’ll get their way?
While this is probably Daisy Ridley‘s best performance of the three films, Rey is her worst written. And what is it with JJ’s insistence on hiding the amazing faces in his cast? It’s criminal enough making Lupita Nyong’o little CGI Maz Kanata, but for ROS he brings back Keri Russell, his own Felicity – which you wouldn’t know if you didn’t catch her eyes for the split second they’re revealed or hadn’t seen, y’know, the credits.
She looks great pic.twitter.com/Arn48W3P2f
— ((( Danny ))) (@GiantsPod) December 25, 2019
While Lucasfilm is famously litigious, their policy allows not-for-profit fan films to be released. YouTube is full of them: independent, crowdfunded, lovingly-made, good-looking short stories set in and around the official “canon”. Over the years, as the gap has continued to close between consumer-level and pro-level tools for production and visual effects in particular, the quality of fan films has risen to meet the canon films they seek to emulate, and have begun to compete with and perhaps even surpass them. One thing that usually ultimately undermines fan films, keep them from ever really feeling like canon films: fan films often fall in the trap of fetishizing their (usually startlingly authentic) props and aesthetics at the expense of story; there’s something… cheap, if not in the visuals, certainly in the focus of (or lack of it on) the narrative. The stand-alone Star Wars “Stories” (Rogue One and Solo so far) blur that line by their very nature – what are they, if not Lucasfilm-funded feature-length fan films, attempting to colour in the edges around and between the canon films, fixated on things rather than themes? The new trilogy threatened to blur that line even further: TFA leans heavily into things; TLJ pushes aggressively, and not always popularly, back toward themes; and this tug-o-war effectively designates the third film as tie-breaker, the conclusion which determines definitively where (or if) the line between canon and folklore is drawn, and on which side the canon lands. The final film has no story to set itself apart:
The Rise of Skywalker about things, not themes; about references, not statements. The line, once blurred, has been erased: the canon is fan fiction; fan films may as well be canon.
Can I just say that I hate that the movie ends with Rey going to a location that has no emotional significance for her at all, just so we the audience can see a thing they assume we’re nostalgic about
— Kate (@bb_kate_art) December 22, 2019
More Star Wars Twitter Takes
And now presenting: A Bunch More Calls I Wish I’d Written (And One I Did).
The Rise of Skywalker is so brazen in its nostalgic pandering I’m surprised the screenplay isn’t credited to everyone that negatively replied to a Rian Johnson tweet in the last two years.
— Jordan Raup (@jpraup) December 17, 2019
I try to avoid Star Wars discourse but one thing I do find stunning is that Disney took this incredibly popular franchise, poured countless billions into it but did not take the time to sit down and plot out a three movie arc? just make it up as you go along? That's the plan?
— Rob (@robrousseau) December 18, 2019
the rise of Skywalker answers the question: what if you tasked a marketing team to write the last movie
— food truck drove away with my debit card (@fart) December 20, 2019
I'm sad to report that a year and a half ago, I called it. I was really hoping to be wrong about this one. https://t.co/EXaWebL0In
— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) December 19, 2019
Also if you wonder how the guy who created Felicity made this, you never watched the last season of Felicity.
(note: I like Felicity and Keri Russell is good in TROS)
— Film Crit Hulk (@FilmCritHULK) December 20, 2019
It’s an interesting experiment: can you trick an audience into thinking they’re experiencing a story by bombarding them with images that remind them of other movies that *actually* told a story?
— pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets” (@pixelatedboat) December 20, 2019
One positive takeaway from the disappointment of #TheRiseofSkywalker: the more creative, interesting fan fic springing forth to do the work the film didn't.
We are all Broom Kid. https://t.co/qmOZN0x6dR
— viewinder (@viewinder) December 27, 2019
Released a year prior to ROS, Patrick H. Willems’ (sweetly good-natured) looks at how JJ Abrams doesn’t really finish the stories he starts, and how understanding this might help predict what his conclusion of the Skywalker saga might look.
The TL;DR version:
I linked part of that video to Mike earlier and it’s crazy and scary even how on point Patrick was… pic.twitter.com/rE76eZrT4e
— B (@Benredemption) December 22, 2019
The full length video: