The Rise of Skywalker – fan service or forced apology?

You can’t talk about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker without talking about The Last Jedi, for it is here that a major disturbance in the Star Wars fanbase was fully realised.

Collage from Marvel comics of all main characters in the final star wars trilogy

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When older fans expressed their dislike for it, it was a shock to hear some people say that Star Wars was no longer for a particular generation and that it was time to grow up and move on. Because Star Wars, has always been for everyone.

After The Last Jedi came out people were split down the middle, they either loved it or utterly hated it. There was all this talk of social justice, inclusion, diversity, entitled feminism and “toxic fandom”. Suddenly Star Wars wasn’t for everyone at all, it had turned into a politicised mess and the arguments raged across social media.

Sure, fans had squabbled in the past that prequel trilogy could have been a lot better. They came to terms with George Lucas’ obsessive tinkering, where the ghastly 90s CGI he dumped all over the original trilogy did not date nearly as well as the old practical effects. However, these minor gripes had minimal effect on the harmony between people united by a mutual love for the franchise.

Star Wars these days is a long way from humble beginnings as a kid’s movie about a ragtag bunch of democratic rebels taking on the dictatorial might of an ambitious Empire.

Star Wars and Disney are the Empire.

George Lucas sells out!

When Lucas sold the farm to Disney in 2012 for $4.02 billion there was a disturbance in the fan base who believed that their beloved Star Wars had turned to the dark side. The deal actually made George Lucas one of Disney’s biggest shareholders. Interesting in the context of him running his mouth about how he’s not happy with the direction of this or that because Star Wars continues to contribute to the value of his share portfolio.

It’s foolish to think that Star Wars exists these days to do anything other than meet key performance indicators of putting bums on seats in theatres and shifting merchandise to satisfy the fat cats at the top of their corporate beanstalk. There’s nothing wrong with that, nobody makes a movie with the intention to go broke! However, they made a terrible mistake setting those KPIs before they had a complete story to work with.

It’s not you, it’s them!

It’s bleedingly obvious that this trilogy had no idea where it was going. At all. The plot flip flops like a fish out of water at the end of a Faith No More video.

If The Last Jedi was Star Wars breaking up with a particular segment of the fan base then The Rise of Skywalker is it’s letter of apology.

“Dear fans, we’re sorry. We thought we’d be happy seeing other people but we had no idea what  we were doing”.

Then they throw poor old Rian Johnson under the bus. And you know what? Fuck that guy! You can’t unsee Luke Skywalker drinking green titty milk from the Thala Sirens on Ahch-To no matter how bad you want to.

Director JJ Abrahms was but a ten year old boy in love with Star Wars when it first graced the screen in the late 70s. He has been appointed as the custodian of Disney and Lucasfilm’s apology. For all those Disney shareholders, it makes good business sense to indulge in a little fan service here.

What’s it about?

The Rise of Skywalker does the best it can in just under two and a half hours to undo some of the problems created by the previous film for those who hated it, hopefully keep those who loved it engaged and attempt to debunk the old saying that you can’t please everyone.

The fact is, you can’t. And if you try too hard… this is the kind of film you end up with.

Audiences will get the answers to questions that JJ thinks need addressing. For the remainder they kind of just have to accept the fact that a significant amount of time has passed between this film and The Last Jedi and things must have happened in the parts we didn’t see.

Kylo Ren is still off being this emo evil dude, Rey has become so powerful with with the force she has hit god mode, which is problematic because there is no point in the film where she seems to be in any kind of danger. Poe and Finn are lumped with being the loveable rebels flying sorties against the first order and Rose, who had a decent sized role in the last film seems has been benched, she is barely in this film. I don’t think anyone would consider it a spoiler to be told that Emperor Palpatine is back because you’ve seen him in the posters and he is the common evil that our heroes now face.

The cast

The strength of the recent films has been just how likeable the cast and characters are. Where the story seems to have broken the franchises back, the actors have held it up and they are to be commended as to how easily they have slipped into Star Wars canon. This is in contrast to the prequel trilogy, where audiences were forced to endure Annakin Skywalker carry on like a whiny bitch for three movies making it almost impossible to accept he would ever amount to the all time classic villain that Darth Vader was.

Oscar Issac is excellent as Poe Dameron. John Boyega restores Finn’s character from the previous film. It’s wonderful to hear Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and see Billy Dee Williams return as Lando. Daisy Ridley is superb as Rey and Adam Driver is sensational as Kylo Ren. Ian McDiarmid phones in his performance of Emperor Palpatine, but all he needs to do is that voice and fire off some force lightning and fans will be happy.

All of the cast are hamstrung by the choices the story has made for their characters but they are masters of their craft and do an awesome job nonetheless.

It’s bitter sweet to see Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia one last time. It’s apparent that they were stretched to improvise with the footage they had from the past two films and she looks cut and pasted into every scene. But as far as fan service goes, she needed to be in this movie and Abrahms needs to be applauded for doing the best he could with what he had.

The verdict (long version)

The Rise of Skywalker is not the worst Star Wars film but there are many plot holes that audiences will just have to suck up.

The biggest criticism is how quickly it needs to move through stuff in order to bring audiences to a satisfying end. Also (minor spoiler) how it alludes to characters being dispatched in one scene only to bring them back within minutes, leaving no time for the audience to have any kind of emotional response.

There’s some cool new characters like Balbo Frik and there’s enough moments in here to make audiences feel like they’re definitely watching a Star Wars film. This may be good enough after all they’ve been through.

There’s also some moments where they expect too much suspension of disbelief that will extract audible groans from any fanboys in the audience. Like how there are such large chunks of the Death Star left after it was obliterated in Return of The Jedi? How does Rey (who was brought up on a desert planet) somehow able to master the art of sailing through a 100 foot swell on her first attempt? There’s a shitload more but we’ll try and avoid major spoilers. Perhaps these things would have been better explained if they outlined the plot from the beginning rather than making shit up as they went along?

The verdict (short version)

The Rise of Skywalker is like getting back together with a partner who cheated on you. They look and feel the same, but things are going to be different. It’s up to you whether or not you can leap that mental hurdle and enjoy them again. Many will walk away thinking, thank god that’s all over.

Either way folks, it’s better to have Star Wars’d and lost than to never have Star Wars’d at all.



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