It’s been almost two years since Disney premiered Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and fans are still trying to process the things that went wrong with the Skywalker Saga’s conclusion. While the first two films of the new trilogy drew people back to the franchise, the ninth film solicited a polarized consensus, with a few fans even trying to wash the memories of the last three episodes off their heads.
In commemoration of Star Wars month, we decided to dive back into the discourse and expound on the things that made The Rise of Skywalker crash down from expectations.
One of the great things about the original trilogy is that each entry took sufficient time to establish the characters, the locations, and the story. George Lucas used extended scenes to acquaint fans with the dry wilderness of Tatooine, the frozen landscapes of Hoth, and the mechanical labyrinth that is the first Death Star. The same cannot be said for The Rise of Skywalker. The movie hops from planet to planet with reckless abandon, not even bothering to spend time exploring the great expanse of every locale.
Moreover, a lot of elements were left unexplained, and at best, incoherent with the story established by The Last Jedi. Episode IX did not take enough time to discuss how Emperor Palpatine survived his demise from Return of The Jedi and managed to build an armada of battleships to wreak havoc across the galaxy. While Star Wars: Battlefront explained that the dark lord created a failsafe protocol dubbed as Operation: Cinder in the event of his untimely death, you really can’t expect all moviegoers to have knowledge of the games’ lore.
The pacing also felt very frenetic that we weren’t given space to process some of the events – and deaths – in the movie. Suffice to say, if only Disney decided to split the finale into two parts, the conclusion would’ve had a lot more room to breathe.
What I loved about The Last Jedi is the fact that the film subverted all expectations and established Rey as, well, a nobody. Contrary to theories across YouTube, Episode VIII revealed that Rey was sold into slavery and abandoned by her parents in Jakku. Most fans surmised that the revelation is simply a sign of the franchise breaking away from the Skywalker trope.
Alas, we were proven wrong.
Kylo Ren revealed to Rey in Episode IX that she is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, which explains her tremendous affinity with the Force. His father is an unnamed son of the dark lord, whom he renounced sometime between the events of Episodes VI and VII.
It would have been perfectly okay if Rey had actually been a “nobody” and Palpatine still wanted to use her as a potential vessel. She didn’t need to be his granddaughter for this to work, and in some ways, her being his granddaughter makes it a more unwieldy plot point. For instance, why didn’t her parents take her to somewhere safe like the New Republic or Luke Skywalker and instead sold her off into slavery?
It was explained in The Force Awakens that Ben Solo is a member of the Knights of Ren, a mysterious enclave of Force adepts that emerged to fill the void left by the death of the last Sith Lords. According to Star Wars’ official guidebook, the organization roamed the galaxy to cause wanton destruction as devotees of the dark side of the Force. Aside from their mastery of the Force, each Knight of Ren wields a unique weapon to enforce their master’s will – in this case, Supreme Leader Snoke.
Sadly, the group didn’t really live up to their definition in the guidebook. Instead of being portrayed as the Force adepts they were supposed to become, they were treated as mere grunts and not given sufficient time to acquaint themselves with the audience. Rey and Ben simply tore them apart and moved to the next fight like it’s a Tuesday.
With the final film packing up a lot of juice, it would definitely be impossible to even incorporate actual convos between our protagonists and the Knights of Ren.
Here’s my problem with the final season of Game of Thrones: Most of the protagonists in the show remained unscathed throughout the entire season, with only a handful of characters meeting their demise at the end of the series. The season simply lacked a sense of danger evident in the previous years of the show.
The Rise of Skywalker had the same problem. The movie didn’t really bother to play with the fans’ emotions and give our protagonists a real threat. The original draft of Episode IX (titled Duel of the Fates) killed off a slew of characters from both sides, including fan-favorite R2-D2. Unfortunately, these plot elements will never see the light of day.
The Rise of Skywalker has gained notoriety for its non-apparent attempts to develop some of the characters in the new trilogy. For example, the movie fails to explore General Hux’s rationale for becoming a mole within the First Order – after a defiant Reichstag speech that inspires the First Order to decimate a group of planets in Episode VII. Worse, he was demoted in Episode VIII as a comedy relief, which begs to question the amount of communication between the films’ writers.
Another case in point: Rose Tico. She is easily one of the finest characters in The Last Jedi, helping out the Resistance outplay the First Order in dramatic fashion. Surprisingly, she was sidelined for the rest of Episode IX, with her total screen time being limited to less than 10 minutes. Rose was an established character with a major role and an important relationship with Finn. She should have been with Finn and Poe and Rey when they went out to find the Sith wayfinder. Full stop. Rose should have been there, even if she ended up staying on the ship for some scenes to hold down the fort.
But she wasn’t. Come on, Disney.
Episode IV had a very anti-climactic final battle that felt really rushed at the end. Truth be told, the build-up to the destruction of the Final Order’s mega fleet is just nowhere near as fun as the whole Endor moon sequence in Episode VI. Say what you will about the Ewoks, at least we had some cool sequences with the rebels fighting on speeder bikes and taking down the deflector shield prior to the actual attack on the Death Star.
In this movie, however, the Resistance is already sieging the Final Order recklessly, with a massive fleet of ships appearing – deus ex machina style – at the nick of time. Not only that, Emperor Palpatine had a deadman switch that easily prompted the entire destroyer fleet to self-destruct, handing over an easy victory to the rebels.
Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker isn’t the conclusion fans have hoped for the new trilogy. This is not a space opera film that will be remembered, especially considering Disney will most likely make 30 more Star Wars movies in your lifetime.
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