Part 1: In which the author recalls “Star Wars” in its pristine state circa 1977
I think it’s important to understand my biases right away.
It’s the day after Christmas 2019 and I’m watching the credits of The Rise of Skywalker flash onto the screen. It’s the end of the nine-chapter “Skywalker saga” that began during the Jimmy Carter administration.
42 years earlier, I remember the thrill of a majestic score and our heroes standing before a grateful Rebellion leading to similar end credits. It was a surprise and an experience that left me energized and excited. This little summer movie called “Star Wars” promised lasers, robots, princesses, evil knights, space ships, and fun. I was 6 years old. It was a glorious time to be alive because NO ONE knew anything about the Star Wars universe. There weren’t even toys to fill in the details about the cool and scary creatures all over the place. I came out of that movie thinking “Death Vatter” was really scary and that I wanted a laser sword like “Luke Skywaters”.
At its core, Star Wars was just a fairy tale in space, unburdened by generations of mythos and expanded universe factoids. There wasn’t even an “Episode IV” tag or the subtitle “A New Hope” because that came later. Everything outside the frame of the film was created in the imagination of the viewer.
Like almost everyone in my second grade class, my wardrobe, lunchbox, school supplies, and bed linens were covered in Star Wars.
Then George Lucas began licensing vehicles and action figures for every character from lead hero to background extra, anything that was on the screen for more than a single frame was pressed into a plastic mold and sold by Kenner. Not only was that a genius move for Lucas, who owned a huge chunk of the merchandising for the IP, but because every child in the civilized world was going to begin the three year journey filling in the vacuum with their own stories, reading and committing the nuggets of Star Wars mythology to memory off the back of a blister pack, toy box, or trading card.
Part 2: In which Star Wars becomes Modern Mythology and Saint Lucas loses his way.
Everything in the Star Wars universe was designed like a Disney property. Everything in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi had to have a back-story, a connection to the growing history of a galaxy far, far away. But even then, there were only a few books and comics, a radio show and a newspaper strip to fill in more of the story. According to Lucas, though, these were all unofficial stories. But we ate them up and over 40 years built this impossible wall of expectations and standards for what those 2 1/2 hours of screen time MUST be in order to make a “good” Star Wars movie.
In other words, the movie was never going to be judged by any objective filmmaking or storytelling standards. It was always going to be judged by fans against their own imaginations and the stories kids played out in the sandboxes and playgrounds of their youth. For me, these stories will always be “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” because that’s what the chapters were supposed to be. The prequels were ret-conned to set up Luke and Leia’s story and the final trilogy was to pass the Skywalker legacy on to the next generation of Skywalkers and Solos. That’s how it was in the expanded universe until Disney pulled a Star Trek 2009 on continuity.
But that’s cool. Star Wars is at its best when Lucas stepped back and let other creatives build the movies around his basic ideas. The second and third films prove that by building depth of character and story into what was originally a fun, but simple homage to old sci-fi serials. Lucas made a brilliant decision to leave the details to people who write characters like real people and scenes meant to propel the story rather than introduce new toys to sell.
Lucas sold his mythology to Disney after it was clear he couldn’t tell the story he wanted to tell without fans spitting on the plate he prepared for them. He had elevated the importance of his own franchise to the point that he could no longer reach the pedestal fans raised for him. Further, he was unwilling to share creative control of the prequels with others as he had before, which led to effects-heavy messes that further muddied the concepts of The Force, Jedi and Sith ending in the inevitable bummer shoehorning events that don’t make sense when you think of a logical link to A New Hope.
But those films made BILLIONS even before the tie-ins and merchandising.
By this time, we had cartoons, comics, novels, games, and other media that embraced the aesthetic of the franchise and kept people interested, kept the franchise growing into a second and third generation of fans. Even though the films – became sloppy and dumb, fans forgave it all because Star Wars had transcended story and character. The creative input of Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kirshner and Richard Marquand gave these characters a life that aligned with how fans were making them out in their heads and adding details that thrilled the imagination. Relationships and connections between events between films kept fans looking for clues in the official merchandise and interviews. Even now, the universe remains a way of life, a philosophy, and even a religion to some. The Expanded Universe, the novels by Timothy Zahn, in-universe cartoons – canonized by Saint Lucas – allowed the franchise to survive even the dumbest of creative choices on the big screen.
Which brings us to the newest trilogy.
Part 3: In which Disney does what it does best; copy the work of others and poorly. (Featuring Patton Oswalt)
JJ Abrams directed a dumb, but fun movie with The Force Awakens. The film basically told me – an original fan – that everything our heroes did after Endor was a failure.
In a way it was like Patton Oswalt’s bit about George Lucas which I will invite you to enjoy here. (I’ll wait. Swear Words, beware.)
In The Force Awakens, Abrams basically said, “Hey, kids. Did you love it when Luke Skywalker stood up to the Emperor, redeemed his father, and helped restore balance to the Force? Yeah? Well, here’s a movie where he fucked all that up, turned his nephew to the Dark Side, burned down his Jedi Academy and then exiled himself as a new Imperial threat rose to replace the empire, forcing his friends back into a long ‘resistance’ against growing tyranny. Oh, and he shows up at the end, has nothing to say, and looks like total shit.”
“Hey, kids. Did you like it when Leia and Han finally hooked up, fell in love and helped bring down the Empire together on Endor? Yeah? Well, here’s a movie where they split up some time after losing their son to the Dark Side, Han is back to being a pirate and smuggler on the run from other pirates and smugglers and Leia is presiding of a shrinking band of resistance fighters who somehow COMPLETELY MISSED the rise of a new Imperial Order.”
“Hey, kids. Did you love it when the Rebellion struggled, sacrificed, but ultimately prevailed in their battle against a SECOND Death Star bringing a firm end to the Empire once and for all and restoring peace and freedom across the galaxy? YEAH?! Well, HERE is a movie where all that goes to hell and we meet our heroes after they totally miss the rise of a new fascist order, a military fleet to support that order, and a THIRD AND BIGGER MULTI-PLANET KILLER THAT WIPES ALL THOSE VICTORIES OUT – FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY.”
“Hey, kids. Did you like Lando Calrissian? Yeah? Well, fuck you.”
And that movie went on to make almost a billion dollars domestically and over TWO billion worldwide. Because, at the expense of our original heroes, we have a trio of new and young heroes who are more interesting to look at and listen to.
And, again, that’s okay. I realize that the original heroes are a little too mature to be sprinting through CGI obstacle courses and Force-leaping across whatever stupid desert planet they’ve written this time, but did Abrams have to “Alien3” the original trilogy to give the new heroes space? I suggest he did not. But in order for him to ape as much of the original film as possible, he had to sideline our heroes somehow. Otherwise, it made no sense how the Republic could have not seen the rise of the First Order or the construction of a planetary weapon.
I accepted the undoing of my childhood heroes and looked for these new kids to restore order and freedom to the galaxy from the space Nazis. Again.
At risk of overthinking things, I would have thought that the destruction of an entire planet would have taken the piss out of at least the financial stability of any galactic menace, but…
The point is that even George Lucas approached the first and prequel trilogies with a “serialized” concept. He may have altered his ideas across the first trilogy after he realized he did actually have a franchise, but that worked out for him. For all its faults, the prequels had a plan and an arc that made -structural- sense and got us from A to C with some internal logic.
This trilogy? It’s a parade of stupid. Yeah, it’s fun. And if that’s all Star Wars was in the eyes of its owners, they wouldn’t put any more thought into the story and structure than that of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But a trilogy is more than just saying “We’re making three films.” It is a conscious choice that the three parts tie together organically in a plan that is set up at the beginning and has contingency plans for things like poor audience response or the death of a leading actor. A trilogy is basically taking a single film’s Three-Act structure and committing them across three films. It’s not an original or unique concept.
Part 4: In which we discuss the Bullshittery of “Subverting Fan Expectations” to obscure a series of awful creative choices
So when the “behind the scenes fantasy” of how The Last Jedi was somehow a creative subversion of expectations by a creative but naughty writer-director, Rian Johnson, I only see the marketing for Disney spinning a critical failure of internal leadership and logical for the franchise. The second film in the trilogy wanted to give audiences a shock the way The Empire Strikes Back left it with a somber feeling at the end, that second act feeling that all is lost except for perhaps a small glimmer of hope.
It may be surprising to know that at one point Empire was regarded as the weakest of the three original films. This was due, in part, to being in 1980 and emerging from the theater not knowing what the hell was going to happen for another three years. So many questions! Much sadness! Many waitings!
Return of the Jedi was a cathartic experience for audiences who immediately praised the film for restoring that same cheery buzz they had for the original. Serialized cliffhangers of the kind Lucas aspired to emulate were great… if the next chapter dropped the following week, but three years was a long time to ask fans to wait for a story to dramatic when there was relatively nothing else out there to keep fans distracted beyond toys and a few board games. Not even a VHS collection to go back and scrutinize every frame for secret meaning! TORTURE!
Now, with the ability to sit through all three movies back to back, we can see the Second Act strength of that middle movie and rightfully consider it to be the strongest when compared to Muppet Aliens and Ewoks.
While Disney would like audiences to believe the tonal shift and darker story of Last Jedi was planned all along, it didn’t seem that way on the screen. While I think it wanted to evoke the uneasy feelings of The Empire Strikes back the way the previous movie aped every possible beat from A New Hope, it felt like a horror writer in a chain story took a look at what the previous writer penned and decided something like “Okay, Dean Koontz, let me show you how Jack Ketchum writes a REAL fucking horror story.”
It felt like…no. It actually undermined “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker” by making our hero a cynical failure and complicit in both the seduction of his nephew to the Dark Side and the rise of a new fascist order in the galaxy so powerful that blowing up their Death Planet (and presumably millions of First Order leaders, troops, and military assets) still leaves them with enough coin and pew-pew to chase the Resistance to near-extinction.
The Last Jedi was not only a darker film in tone, but further devalued the original cast. Han was dead. Luke was a failure who wanted the Jedi to end. Leia was, once again, a glorified Mon Mothma. The plot was a warmed over episode of Battlestar Galactica (“33” from Season 1 of the reboot). The film challenged George Lucas for the largest number of gratuitous aliens in a single scene. It tried to wrestle social commentary at the expense of the main story and those digressions ended up failing so – what was the point? Looking at the arc of our heroes, Finn doesn’t grow or change. He doesn’t even earn the honor of sacrificing himself for the Resistance because Rose does something incredibly stupid to stop him that ends up helping no one. And Luke dies. Oh, and Poe ends up leading dozens of Resistance fighters to their deaths and depleting their military force by disregarding orders only to be punished with a slap on the face.
By the end of the second film, Finn has no more story to tell. Poe is incompetent but still held in esteem by the Resistance for some reason. Rey is told she’s nobody important. Kylo pouts and rages a lot. Luke dies. The Jedi Cathedral burns. And the Resistance is left to fight on its own. It would be cool if there was a glimmer of hope beyond the fact that Rey can lift some rocks and there are some little kids out there who can move mops with their minds.
But that flick went on to make $1.3 BILLION around the world and sold a metric shit-ton of toys.
PART 5: IN WHICH HE FINALLY GETS TO HIS REVIEW OF THE NEW MOVIE.
The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that comes after Disney spent years torturing marketing analysts with figuring out how to write a story that would please three or more generations of Star Wars fans. It had the impossible task of un-fucking the story and presenting a cohesive and satisfying end chapter while insisting it was never fucked in the first place. It also had to be something amazing to end a nine-film epic: the third, third-act’s final battle.
Bringing JJ Abrams back as director and co-writer was a no-brainer. Abrams is a professional bullshit artist who can weave depth and meaning into the dumbest concepts and make audiences believe there is symbolism and complexity in things that are high but invariably empty vessels. He waxes philosophical about Star Wars in a way that inspires fans and validates their emotional investment in the franchise.
The fact that he took Star Trek and turned it into a flashy, dumb version of itself as an unofficial audition reel for directing Star Wars sometime in the future was no problem for fans. He was the perfect returning hero to make the franchise right again – even though nothing was really wrong with it. He’s a fan’s director who insists that he is a fan FIRST and a major Hollywood director…somewhere down the list. In fact, he is P.T. Barnum. He wears the top hat of Steven Spielberg to the audience while waving the cinematic showmanship of Michael Bay. He has the benefit of eight films, countless cartoons, an entire streaming service, and the biggest and most ruthless marketing ever to exist pandering to a culture that has accepted Star Wars as a necessary part of its identity.
George Lucas never intended Star Wars to be Dune or The Lord of the Rings. He never tried to tell fans that that there is a secret meaning to the Jedi texts or some grand unified theory of The Force or that there is a message at the heart of the saga that only the most dedicated of fans can understand. George made movies to advance his sound and FX companies and enrich himself on merchandising. At his height, he aspired to tell good stories with the original trilogy to reward an audience that only got to dig into that universe once every few years, minus a Holiday Special or variety show appearance.
Disney is about wish fulfillment and imagination. It wants people to lose themselves in the experience and then come back to the real world and surround themselves with reminders of that experience. T-shirts. Bottle openers. Diapers. And with Star Wars, that experience is fully-immersive.
SO, Abrams returned and assured everyone that the Skywalker Saga would end as an unquestioned triumph.
The opening crawl says “Fuck it…all this stuff happened and The Emperor is back. In fact, he’s always been around. Somehow, he has built – in secret – a massive fleet of planet-killing Star Destroyers. (AGAIN with the planet killers? Fucking hell, guys.) And now he has tasked Emo Vader to find his crush, Orphan Rey, and bring her to him. Why? Well, if you’ve studied enough from the Abrams School of Rehashing the Plot of Other Films you probably can figure it out. This is, after all, where he has to ape everything possible from Return of the Jedi.
Why Palpatine would warn people he was coming is anyone’s guess. I would have thought he would just send out his ships, park them in orbit, maybe blow up a few to prove his point, and demand Rey pop a squat in front of his throne before he ordered the rest to start popping other systems like zits on a greasy teen’s forehead. But Stars gotta War.
Because spectacle takes priority over common sense, Palpatine has the fleet rise dramatically not from a cloud of ice or a crimson nebula but SOLID ROCK. Hundreds of “Sith”-branded star destroyers rise out of his secret planetary headquarters/stadium/cathedral of hate into an impressive backlit space cloud that not only provides awesome contrast but oxygen and survivable air pressure. Because that’s important later.
Our heroes return from confirming the Emperor’s plans with some key details thanks to a spy whose identity is telegraphed through the entire film. Yes, it’s Hux. No shit. Leave it to a whiny ginger to betray the sexy emo in the bad boy club.
Here is where I think the crew had the most difficult…no. They had the impossible task of making Carrie Fisher into a lead character in this movie. She is not only the leader of the Resistance, but suddenly she’s a Jedi Master training Rey. And the two have conversations that are just a bit more realistic than a Dickie Goodman record.
The Rise of Skywalker is 142-minutes but the story occupies about a half hour. Everything else is a meandering quest, a flashy scavenger hunt with many improbable connections that lead us to new characters who kill the momentum of a story that made a POINT of including not one but several ticking clock elements.
This trilogy, but Skywalker in particular, introduced characters who bring little or nothing to the core tale of Kylo and Rey and their journey of discovery.
And if you came to see Poe or Finn or any of the glorified extras introduced and then abandoned throughout the story, you’ll have to find the cartoon, comic, or Disney+ series that will – okay MAY – tell that story someday, but only if Disney sees people buying their toys and merch.
Maz Kanata? She was supposed to be an important new character in the saga, but by the final movie she is one of about a half-dozen characters in a chorus of exposition. She is there literally to tell the audience about very important and solemn events – but that’s it.
Beaumont Kin? Remember him? No, because he JUST showed up to be the member of the chorus to set up the question for another member to answer. Also, he’s the former Hobbit turned heroin addict who told Desmond that the vessel coming was not Penny’s boat. So that’s how he got that job.
Couldn’t get enough of “Snap” Wexley? Apparently Abrams couldn’t because he’s back to have an awkward scene with Leia and Rose that falls flat. He’s there to be the voice of doubt and despair, setting up the chorus of optimism and heroism.
Lieutenant Connix? Yep, she’s back, too when its time to warn people that ships have arrived or the battle is going south.
Rose Tico? I guess the angry bros were right about her being a useless character because she’s committed to the voice of “moral support when needed”.
Jannah and Zorii Bliss? Strong women of agency who pop in and out of the story like special guest stars from another movie who exit stage right when their role is complete.
By this time, we don’t have much to look forward to with the original heroes. Han and Luke are dead (but, yeah…never really gone). Leia has been reduced to a less emotive version of Mon Mothma.
Even the main characters, aside from the thirty-minute story of Jedi versus Sith and Choice versus Destiny, Good versus Evil, etc., seem like they exist to tease other adventures that will explain why they take up frames in this 2.5 hour movie. Finn’s arc ended at the end of the first movie. Poe’s journey from scoundrel to General wasn’t really earned; it just required the flip of a switch in the story and a quick pep talk from one of the original heroes.
My problem with this is that the characters and their actions were always supposed to INSPIRE the desire to learn more outside the main films, not REQUIRE it. Boba Fett was a cool character who actually did things before he ended up Sarlaac chow.
But I see this as the natural extension of the original trilogy’s three-year story gap where all the fans bought the action figures and scoured the trading cards, comics, and trad mags for clues regarding the cliffhanger ending while filling in the story gaps with head-canon.
Long before selling out to Disney, Lucas recognized that he could capitalize on that gap by creating cartoons and expanded universe materials. By the time The Phantom Menace rolled around, you had characters like Darth Maul who had minimal screen time but leaped off the screen, making people go out and consume all the stories that filled in his backstory. To the casual viewer, however, he’s just a cool stuntman with bitchin’ tats and horns.
Disney recognized this value in the franchise and has stuffed these films with pointless characters that pad the run time and slow down the story, but represent launching points for different target markets.
Star Wars has ALWAYS been about selling toys and merchandise, of course. But the original stories were subtle about it. Even the prequels were careful about making a character or vehicle or place just visually distinct enough to pop out when it appeared in another medium or on a store shelf.
The Rise of Skywalker, even more than the two films before it, represents the first fully-rendered toy and merchandise catalog. Every scene is a commercial, either for an action figure, a spin-off series, or another character fans can identify with and buy up their merch. It is 142 minutes of commercials wrapped around a thirty-minute story we pay $11-20 a head to experience.
But what about the story?!
The Emperor is back. Somehow, he’s always been there and there’s no rhyme or reason to his timing. Supreme Gollum Snoke was a construct of The Emperor because nothing rallies the galactic Aryan elite like a disfigured, twisted weirdo no one has ever heard of before. Why not just create another Palpatine clone who shows up on Endor’s moon unscathed to say, “HA! I am invincible and eternal!”
Instead, he lives in a Sith bunker, withered and wired into machines tended to by short, ugly beings that worship him. They’ve built an entire fleet of plat-killing star destroyers that impressively, but perplexingly RISE FROM UNDERGROUND into a gas cloud that apparently creates air pressure and life-sustaining oxygen (because that’s important later on.)
So Rian Johnson “subverted expectations” by having Supreme Cheesemonster Snoke killed at the end of his movie, elevating Kylo to the throne of the First Order. This was, in hindsight, a good thing because Abrams could step in and make Darth Sidious the puppermaster all along. All nine of these films are, therefore, the result of secret machinations of the dark lord behind the scenes. Bringing Palpatine/Sidious back is logical even if how they did it is not. Tying him to Rey was a smart re-direct of the “you’re nobody” sting of the second film. She WAS born of no one in particular, from a certain point of view (HA!) but she was the GRAND-daughter of the big galactic bad himself. Connecting her to the corrupted son of a Skywalker makes this a great story – noth three films worth of story, but probably the most Lucasian of all the story elements in play here.
The Return of Sidious makes little sense when you think about it for a moment, but the film doesn’t give you a chance to do so. It is pushing you through a winding queue of exhibits and set pieces designed to titillate and distract you from the lack of structure or cohesive storytelling. It is as chaotic as some of the obstacle courses the Falcon and the Resistance fleet take through space. Blink and you’ll miss a new thing, but that’s okay because there will be an entire episode of a cartoon dedicated to that plot thread sooner or later.
Abrams’ undoing of Johnson’s Bullshittery was obvious in most places. Having Luke catch Rey’s lightsaber as she tried to destroy it was a nice callback and Luke’s character seems more himself again. He even says of his conduct in the previous film, “I was wrong” which is nice, except that it doesn’t excuse him benching himself while his sister and friends were picked off by the First Order and nearly obliterated. The Jedi texts being intact was a cheeky pivot on the nihilism of The Force and artificial constructs like Jedi vs. Sith. Abrams restored the original system and that’s good.
Resetting Rose Tico was a bad move. If nothing else, she should have had a heroic death scene. Her treatment in this film validates the criticism of the worst kind of Star Wars fans who harassed and terrorized the actress over the role. In my head canon, she’s captured on the Star Destroyer by an First Order officer who berates her lowly station, paraphrases one of the many racist and sexist message board rants and ends with her outwitting him and jettisoning the officer into space. THEN she could sacrifice herself, touching the pendant she wears to her lips before the reactor core explodes, the star destroyer shuts down and our heroes escape. Love, after all, is how they win, right?
Other random observations:
- Leia’s death was… odd. I’m still not sure why she had to message him across space and time and why it was THAT moment rather than any time in his life. It was good of Harrison Ford to come back and give the boy forgiveness and closure. Yeah, I cried a little at that. I image that was the scene Carrie Fisher was to perform before her death and it would have been lovely to see her appear to her son, forgive him, and give him the strength to reject the dark side, join Rey, and beat the Emperor. It would have been nice for Rey to stand on Tatooine and see not only the spirits of Luke and Leia (the latter of whom never set foot on that planet in the films) but Han and Ben as well representing the extended Skywalker family.
- Richard E. Grant is a delightful boilerplate ‘British Nazi’ character. He’s snarling and dead-eyed, chewing up his small scenes and taking out that simpering ginger Hux once and for all.
- Poe is Han Solo. The backstory is the same, it was just told out of order.
- The Knights of Ren were about as useful and interesting as a dead spider hanging by its own web. I guess we’ll see them on Disney+ someday.
- Warping space and time for the Rey/Kylo conversations was cool. Being able to snatch her beads and have Vader’s mask reveal her location explained how material items can be transported by the Force when the bodies themselves were only projections. It also set up Ben’s redemption fight nicely.
- Horses on the hull of a space ship. Maybe there was a throwaway line to explain how this worked but it was lost in the CGI spectacle or I happened to blink for too long and missed it. But it felt silly in the trailer and context did not improve things.
- Finn and Jannah seemed to have more chemistry than he and Rose. But it’s a shame that Rose wasn’t with him on his mission to blast the command deck. Jannah’s loyalty in the face of death didn’t seem earned, but maybe her experience as a stormtrooper allowed her to understand what Finn was trying to do.
- Speaking of Rose, I disagreed with her character’s “demotion” to the Greek Chorus.
- Understanding that this is a space opera and I should make like MST3K and repeat to myself it is just a show…BUT…if I were in a big space battle to stop a bunch of planet killing spaceships from launching and there is a sudden, devastating energy blast disables all the craft on one side of the battle, I would have ordered all fire down onto the planet as soon as that energy blast ceased. The window was open so ONE ship could have taken out the Emperor right there. Yeah, Rey and Kylo/Ben would have been down there but…y’know…
- Lando’s return was fun. I like that his initial disguise was a nod to the helmet he wore in Return of the Jedi. His reference to his adventures with Luke sounded more fun than the movie I was watching, though.
- Speaking of Lando, what was up with that final scene between him and Jannah? Maybe I’m applying the smooth, younger Lando over the grandfatherly character, but was he hitting on her? Nah. This was probably the set up to her story. Jannah and Lando search for her homeworld and parents. I hope that Finn joins them.
- I hope Poe and Bliss work things out and we get to see her whole face someday.
- I was disappointed that we didn’t get a Baby Yoda or Mandalorian reference given the whore-like nature of Disney to pack every other reference into the narrative. It would have been a way to tease future seasons of a show that is frankly more watchable and fun than the last SIX Star Wars movies.
- C3PO’s sacrifice…sigh. Like Kirk’s death in the shitty reboot of Wrath of Khan, it was negated by weakness of conviction in the story. I would have had Threepio agree that accessing the forbidden language in his memory would not just be a reboot of his systems but punishable by wiping him out altogether. But I would have only agreed to that if Artoo were there to say goodbye.
- The crew must REALLY hate Artoo’s design. He’s just around in these movies when before he was essential to the story. I get that BB-8 is faster and more agile, but Artoo had only as much to do as Leia. Though some of Artoo’s reaction shots seemed more natural.
- Wait, Chewy was ON A DIFFERENT TRANSPORT?! No. There was no other transport. They were all standing in a desert in line of sight of the ship with Chewy in it. I call DOUBLE bullshit. Once for even SUGGESTING Chewbacca died like a bitch and, two, for resolving it like a bitch.
- Poor Chewbacca. It’s just him and the droids now. Well, and Lando if he sticks around. Maybe he’ll help Jannah and Lando in their new animated series when that debuts on whatever basic cable Disney thing exists in the next couple of years.
- And Leia waited until she was DEAD to give Chewy his medal?! What the hell was that about? She’s been carrying it with her since Yavin?? Here I thought he had one but it was given off-camera. Confirming he never got the award he earned alongside Luke and Han was just – a dick move. So, I’m going to add this to my head-canon as such. Sometime after the Battle of Endor, Chewy and Leia got into an argument about what Han would do when forced into some domestic dilemma. Chewy bet his medal that Han would pull through and do as asked while Leia sad he’d find his way out of his responsibility. Chewy lost. That horrible sitcom sketch is better than the implication that Leia waited until her corpse was cooling under a blanket to give Chewbacca a medal. Maybe it was Han’s medal? I don’t know. It was a weird moment.
- And is death really sad if you can talk to our heroes at any dramatically appropriate moment? Shit, Han Solo wasn’t force-sensitive (that I know of from the films) but there he was. Kylo says he’s just a memory, which I guess distinguishes him from a Force Ghost, but it was too personal a moment to be Kylo’s wish fulfillment. Han forgiving his son was a great moment between two great actors. Adam Driver’s vulnerability and pain in that scene was met with unusual paternal warmth from Ford. I totally bought the scene.
So that’s it. Nine films and 42 years. We’ve gone from a small, but brilliantly-executed space opera about a small group of rebels fighting space Nazis to a 142 minutes toy catalog and commercial for an expanded universe. Sitting in a darkened theater or under a massive drive-in screen back then, I never would have imagined that I would be sitting alone, the day after Christmas in 2019 to see the last of the Skywalker Saga and be subject to so much visual and aural input that I was numb, detached from the character and unbelieving of basic human connections and actions within a universe where spaceships jump across the stars. Six year old me might have seen the future eight films as a natural extension of the flash-bang-zoom experience a kid that age craves.
For The Empire Strikes Back, I was nine and so understood the world a little better. It wasn’t always about black and white, but the shades of gray in between were just as important to explore. So that film made sense and showed me how characters could grow and change across stories. I saw the frustration and hopelessness that comes in the long battle and I learned that there is NO happily ever after, even in a fairy tale.
I was 12 when Return of the Jedi played and it was a strong bookend to the saga and time to move on to other stories. The future of the Skywalkers and Solos would continue, but I wasn’t necessarily interested enough to keep up with the growing universe. I had reached an age where knowing all the bit players and aliens in that universe held no value for me or my circle of friends.
By the time the prequels arrived, I had the same interest in them as Patton Oswalt. I don’t care ablout how the stuff I love is made, I just love the stuff I love. Knowing how Anakin Skywaker turned into Darth Vader was dramatically uninteresting to me. The convoluted “ways of the Jedi” were silly and changed based on the needs of the story.
I didn’t even see Episodes 2 or 3 in the theater. I didn’t see The Lask Jedi, either, after coming out of The Force Awakens feeling like I’d been subjected to an infomercial for better stories I wouldn’t get to see and feeling like the heroes of my youth had been disrespected and their stories undone.
As the credits rolled on this last film and some of the audience applauded, I felt empty and indifferent. The Empire, so to speak, has won. Generations of people who don’t care about the films as a source of strong cinematic storytelling but as a touchpoint for their personal experience with the brand will mean another trilogy will emerge soon, offering more confusing plot points, disjointed narratives, contradictions in character and goals, all of which are designed to appeal to a broad audience and get them to tune in to shows and products aimed at their particular market demo.
I no longer possess a sense of wonder about that galaxy far, far away. My heroes are gone, their stories over. The new generation had three films to remind me and engage my need to escape and feel that wonder again.
I’ll find it elsewhere.