Rise of Skywalker — Held Back by Damage Control?

This article is by Derek Chuff.

How shall I describe Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? It’s a much better film than its immediate predecessor, and — despite what J.J. Abrams has claimed — it’s a complete retcon of The Last Jedi. In tone, character, and story arch, Abrams does his best to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, while being burdened with undoing so much of Rian Johnson’s folly in The Last Jedi.

Beware… spoilers lie ahead!

A Missed Opportunity

Early on the film establishes Emperor Palpatine as the omniscient puppet master behind the events of the previous two films. As Kylo Ren ventures into Palpatine’s lair, clones of Snoke float in a tank while Palpatine tells Kylo — complete with voiceovers — that he was every voice that Kylo ever heard inside his head. This scene is enough to give any true Star Wars fan the chills. It establishes the unfathomable power of the Emperor, and distracts, for a moment, from all the questions about his return (unfortunately, those questions go unanswered).

How J.J. Abrams can say with a straight face that he was not trying to undo The Last Jedi, while eviscerating its main points in this scene, is unfathomable.

Yet I still feel that not making Snoke turn out to be Darth Plagueis was a missed opportunity. While Snoke as Palpatine’s puppet is better than him being a random dead nobody, you’d be lying if you claimed that — deep down — you didn’t wish for another chapter in the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.

Old and New Friends

Next, we see Rey training as a Jedi, and it’s a nice introduction to her growing power set, which lets some of her feats later in the movie feel a little more earned. The use of the late Carrie Fisher as Leia is amazingly done. How Abrams pieced together unused footage from the previous films into a cohesive narrative for Leia is truly a triumph.

Later, we are re-introduced to the classiest rogue in the galaxy, Lando Calrissian. A companion book gives Lando a tragic backstory, explaining that he had a child who was kidnapped.  This detail adds further weight to the notion that there was no happily ever after for the original heroes, but — strangely — this backstory is missing from the film.

Much of the story is a quest to track down the Emperor’s location, to prevent his Sith fleet from laying waste to the galaxy. Along the way there’s a scene in which C-3PO’s memory must be sacrificed. For me, as heretical as it seems, I was not all that moved by this incident, as I never cared for that character all that much. I know he was used for comic relief, but I consider him nearly as annoying as Rose Tico and Jar Jar Binks.

One of the new characters in this entry is Jannah (who may possibly be Lando’s missing daughter). Jannah is what Rose Tico should have been. She has a competent, compelling story, but also has enough of an everywoman vibe that anyone could see themselves in her shoes. Jannah and Finn make a perfect pair as orphans kidnapped by the First Order who broke away and are continuing their fight for freedom.

A Plot Hole?

There is a game-changing duel between Rey and Kylo on the Ocean Moon of Endor. This fight, although too short in my opinion, shows the progression of Rey’s talents, as her lightsaber skills have improved considerably.

An unexpected – and dramatic – occurrence stuns Kylo, who drops his lightsaber and gets impaled by Rey. Using a previously unknown power, Rey quickly heals him, while maintaining that she always wanted to take his hand — Ben’s hand. In a well-thought-out move on Abrams’s part, the scar on Ben’s cheek from The Force Awakens is healed, as well as the impalement.

Of course, if Anakin had known of this healing power, maybe he wouldn’t have been turned by Sidious so easily. It’s hard not to see this as a plot hole, especially since Ben gets the same power at the end of the movie.

Better as Ben

Once Kylo Ren is banished and Ben Solo takes his place, we get to experience one of this film’s highlights: Adam Driver’s performance as Ben.  Driver always played a conflicted and vengeful Kylo Ren well, but it is when he becomes Ben Solo that his acting chops really shine through. From the way he walks to his wry Han-like shrug and grin, Adam Driver portrays Ben convincingly as a completely different character.

When one considers that Ben’s parents split up, lied to him about who his grandfather was, and sent him off to be trained by an uncle who nearly killed him – and all the while he was hearing voices – one can cut him some slack for going through an emo phase. Even if that means going all Darth Vader-ish.

The Holdo Maneuver Dismissed

Shortly thereafter, a ship from the Emperor’s Sith fleet appears above the mountainous planet Kijimi and destroys it, showcasing the fleet’s planet killing capabilities. A broadcast demanding the immediate surrender — or destruction — of all planets to the new “Final Order” is relayed to the Resistance. It is suggested that the Resistance should use the Holdo maneuver, which any Star Wars fan, including defenders of The Last Jedi, knows is a game-breaking move dreamt up by Rian Johnson (in which one ship rams a bigger ship at light speed, thereby creating a chain reaction that wipes out an entire fleet).

Thankfully, this idea is addressed and dismissed as a one-time oddity that cannot be repeated. It really does make you wonder if Rian Johnson ever thought about how such a move would break Star Wars. Why not let an X-Wing kamikaze run the Death Star, or at least its super laser?

Another Direct Rebuke

Meanwhile, Rey jets off to the hidden planet Ahch-To, the birthplace of the Jedi Order. She intends to spend the rest of her life in hiding, as Luke did, since she fears what she might become if she embraces the dark side.

In another direct rebuke by Abrams to Johnson, Rey throws her lightsaber away only to have Luke’s force ghost catch it, declaring that a Jedi’s weapon should be treated with more respect. Luke convinces Rey that he was wrong, and the destiny of a Jedi is to confront fear, not hide from it. This inspires her to head off to Exegol, where Emperor Palpatine is hiding, leaving a trail for the Resistance to find the Sith fleet.

Faceoff Against Darth Sidious

Rey arrives on Exegol and makes her way down to the Emperor’s chambers. He welcomes her and tempts her to take the throne. Rey is beginning to crack when the redeemed Ben Solo arrives. He descends into the Emperor’s lair to find Rey, but is intercepted by the Knights of Ren, whom he demolishes one by one. I’m disappointed that the Knights of Ren, who presumably murdered all of Luke’s Jedi students, didn’t have a bigger part to play in this film, likely because so much runtime had to be spent undoing The Last Jedi.

Once reunited, Ben and Rey faceoff against Darth Sidious, who shows that a few years of training is no match for the power of the Dark Side. He drains their life forces to restore his own, and then acts on a 30-odd-year grudge against the Skywalker line by throwing Ben down a cliff to his (seeming) doom. The Emperor then goes Super Saiyan and unleashes the mother of all Force Storms. I’d like to assume he got that extra juice from Rey and Ben’s life force, but it goes to show why Darth Vader never tried to fight the emperor before laying it all on the line to save Luke.

Rey channels ALL Jedi (the notable ones at least) and confronts Palpatine. In dialogue that should come complete with a signed legal waiver from the Russo brothers of Marvel fame, Palpatine declares himself to be all the Sith and then, with dramatic pause, Iron Man, err…Rey, says, “…and I am all the Jedi” and pushes the lightning back onto Palpatine, killing him (I wish they would have clarified if Darth Sidious literally — at this point — had the power of all the Sith, or was he just the most powerful Sith?).

Rey proceeds to collapse and die, as no amount of training could prepare her for a no-holds-barred fight with Palpatine, despite channeling all the Jedi. However, Ben arises from the pit and crawls over to find her. He then uses the recently introduced healing power to bring Rey back to life. The redeemed Ben gets his long sought-after kiss, and then fades into the Force, as it seems there are no longer any rules about who can become a Force ghost.

Not a “Mary Sue”

Earlier in the film, it is revealed that Rey is not “a nobody,” but is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter. This seemingly undermines one of the main tenets of Rian Johnson’s film, that anyone can be a Jedi.

I, for one, am glad she’s revealed to be a Palpatine.  The greatest problem with Rey as a character is her seemingly outrageous power level. This at least gets partially explained by her being the granddaughter of the possible literal embodiment of the Dark Side.

It should also be noted that when she fought Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, Kylo was weakened from a bowcaster shot that was strong enough to send storm troopers fifty feet in the air upon impact, killing them instantly. Also, he had just cut himself off from the light side by killing his father and was very unbalanced. So I think the criticism of her being a “Mary Sue” is a little off base.

It is also clear that Ben is superior to Rey in Force ability and lightsaber combat in this film. The way he visibly held back and essentially threw the fight at the end of their duel is hardly a smashing victory for Rey.

Held Back by Damage Control

Overall, this film was held back by the damage control that J.J. Abrams had to do because of The Last Jedi. There were too many missed opportunities. For example, we never get to see Grand Master Luke Skywalker in combat because of Rian Johnson’s complete misunderstanding of what makes Star Wars great. I would have loved to see more of Ben and Rey together, but this film was marketed as the end of the Skywalker saga, so you knew Ben had to die.

The Rise of Skywalker tries to honor what we love about Star Wars while wrapping up a host of storylines. Given the circumstances, Abrams did the best that could be done, and for that he should be applauded. Just don’t read the leaked script from Colin Trevorrow’s version of Episode 9, because I think that film would have been a lot better.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker? Would it have been better without the baggage created by The Last Jedi? Or did the previous film take the franchise in the right direction?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Derek Chuff is an attorney and film aficionado who knows way too much about Star Wars.

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FifthView
4 days ago
Kalshion

nywho, for me my biggest issues with the last three films had a lot to do with how the main character (Rey) was portrayed as being superior in all areas. While it took Luke three films to master his techniques, it seemed to only take Rey one (maybe two) and she was able to beat someone more experienced than she was. To me that put a bad taste in my mouth, as I wanted to see a character struggle, not one that had it all figured out.

Yep.

For me, the biggest problem was the way the creators of that final trilogy attempted to recreate the original trilogy, giving it a few "tweaks" to make it seem "fresh." But the original was better, heh. The reboot Star Trek movies did something of the same with Khan, only this time "killing" Kirk rather than Spock. What is it with directors thinking fan service=mere repetition? Annoying.

For me personally, Rey seemed most likely, of all of them, to turn to the dark side. She was very dark throughout the movies in the way she handled her abilities. Very aggressive, very angry at times. It was off-putting. In the first two trilogies, that kind of attitude/approach was always a signal of being in danger of going to the dark side. (First w/ Luke, then in the young version of his father.) But this aspect was simply ignored or brushed over too lightly in this latest trilogy. There was no authentic fear/suggestion that she might go dark.

Kalshion
4 days ago

I find this rather interesting, everywhere else I've been people were at each others throats. Yet here there is meaningful discussion! Granted its still only page one but still! 😛

Anywho, for me my biggest issues with the last three films had a lot to do with how the main character (Rey) was portrayed as being superior in all areas. While it took Luke three films to master his techniques, it seemed to only take Rey one (maybe two) and she was able to beat someone more experienced than she was. To me that put a bad taste in my mouth, as I wanted to see a character struggle, not one that had it all figured out. It was also why the way they portrayed Luke really rubbed me the wrong way.

Having read the novels, and even some of the comics, at no point was it ever shown that Luke would act in this manner. He came *close* in one of the novels, but pulled himself back and didn't fall to temptation. Killing his own nephew *is* a dark side decision when it comes to star wars, which means that the way it was shown meant that Luke had been falling to the dark side when he tried to kill his nephew which again makes no sense.

Sadly, based on what I've read so far about the way Disney has chosen to treat the character, I think this was done more to try and get him out of the series. So that the other characters would have more screen time. I'm not against that, but if they wanted to get rid of the character, they should've remained true to that characters story and personality.

FifthView
25 days ago

I'm weird I guess. I'm not a huge Star Wars fan to begin with…but I loved The Last Jedi and think it was the best of the three. (Rise of Skywalker, the worst.)

Black Dragon

However, I felt that it really missed the mark with the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. I found it hard to believe that the Luke of the original trilogy was the Angry Hermit of TLJ.

Having grown old and curmudgeonly myself, it spoke to me. Heh. So I could buy it fairly easily. In that mad world, isolation like he found appeals to me as well. :sneaky:

Reaver
Reaver
1 month ago
pmmg

I wanted…really wanted… to like the new Star Wars stuff, and even went to see this movie on opening night. I have nothing nice to say about this movie, and after a lifetime of being a fan, I truly feel Star Wars is dead to me. I will never return. I could list out a lot of reasons, but I would have to use words that would be impolite, and would not likely illicit receptive responses.

But you have asked for some feed back…

First, I had forgotten most of my feeling on the Rian film, and after reading this I am reminded that I also thought that film was terrible. I am personally disappointed that JJ Abrams gets to do both Star Wars and Star Trek, I much preferred these two space stories to come from different minds. I don't know how I can say this, but I miss George Lucas, and I've been pretty down on him since the prequels. I was interested in his vision. I don think this is that, and I have no use for this new stuff.

I agree with the statements in the article. I liked Adam Drivers conflicted Kilo Ryan presentation, that was the only decent part of the entirety of the films. I wish I found this movie and story wrap-up to be worthy of working out the deeper hidden meanings of all the choices, and how now that we know X, that means this to Y, but I need better than this for that. Palpatine back…weak. Better to let him stay dead and let Vader and Luke struggle to be meaningful.

I would call this whole movie Hollywood garbage, it will be the first Star Wars movie I will not personally own, and will be the last one I see.

A much better example of someone taking a franchise that has been hurt by recent additions, and brought back to cool is the most recent Terminator Movie, which took some bold moves and made a better story for everyone. Cameron is the best. Abrams…so far he has made two movies that killed an entire series for me.

I've heard some talk that Rian had a personal stake in undoing some of Abrams work, and I have seen him personally make comments that he was sorry for mistakes in the last film and did not think his poor choices would mean so much, and create so much disappointment. I can forgive him, but perhaps best would have been to push the movie aside and the way Cameron did, and go on as if it did not happen.

I too was impressed that manage to get Carrie Fisher to fill out the movie. What a tragedy it has been that she passed on. But I must say, I question the ethics of that. With CGI no is really gone. When I saw Grand Moff Tarkin on one of these films, I was like…Wow… that’s really impressive, but also I wonder, should his legacy include stuff he did not actually do? Its weird world we have now.

This movie, however, is not worthy of articles, and for me, Star Wars ends in disgust.

PS: C3PO was never really one of my favs either 😉

In my mind, Episodes 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9 are nothing more than some Endorian mushroom trip that Luke had upon his return to Tatooine after Return of the Jedi.

Reaver
Reaver
1 month ago
Steerpike

Is Lucas' vision available online anywhere?

Yes. In a galaxy far, far away.

Brian DeLeonard
1 month ago

I don't have any interest in dwelling on what I liked or disliked about the movies. But I did feel the new trilogy was mishandled from the start. All three Lord of the Rings movies were filmed before the first one aired. That's also what happened with Infinity War and Endgame. I felt that Star Wars should've followed that precedent. Nevermind the Rian Johnson vs. J.J. Abrams thing for a moment. It's my understanding that the decision to bring back Palpatine happened after The Last Jedi went into theaters. If you're telling a three part story that's just too late in the process to be making a decision like that.

Robert MacAnthony
1 month ago

Is Lucas' vision available online anywhere?

Antonio del Drago
1 month ago
pmmg

I don't know how I can say this, but I miss George Lucas, and I've been pretty down on him since the prequels. I was interested in his vision. I don think this is that, and I have no use for this new stuff.

My understanding is that when Disney bought Star Wars, George Lucas presented them with a story treatment for the new trilogy. It laid out the broad strokes of his vision, for Disney to flesh out. I recall reading that Lucas was disappointed when he learned that his planned story arc was essentially thrown in the trash.

Personally, I would have loved to see his vision come to fruition. My biggest problem with the prequel trilogies were 1) not enough Darth Vader, too much little boy Anakin and 2) poor direction of actors, resulting in stiff, wooden performances (with the notable exception of Ewan McGregor, who somehow managed to be terrific). Yet the overall story was interesting, and could have been great if the actors were handled by a different director, such as Spielberg.

If Disney had taken Lucas's story treatment for the new trilogy, fleshed out the story and brought in great directors, it could have been amazing. Instead, the decision to allow each director to take the story in his own special direction with no planned arc proved to be disastrous.

On the whole, though, I did enjoy Rise of Skywalker. It was fun and kept my attention, which is hard to do. But if there had been a narrative arc in place from the beginning, it could have been so much better.

pmmg
pmmg
1 month ago
Black Dragon

To be clear, there were many things that I enjoyed about The Last Jedi. However, I felt that it really missed the mark with the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. I found it hard to believe that the Luke of the original trilogy was the Angry Hermit of TLJ.

Luke Skywalker was willing to sacrifice his own life to bring his father back from the dark side. He never gave up on Darth Vader, even when Vader had killed millions of people with the Death Star. In contrast, the Angry Hermit of TLJ was on the verge of murdering his own nephew while he slept, simply because the young man was being tempted by the dark side. This behavior cannot be reconciled with the philosophy of Luke Skywalker. It's so inconsistent that it's nearly impossible to accept Luke and the Angry Hermit as being the same character.

Worst of all, TLJ robbed many fans of what we were most looking forward to: scenes of Jedi Grandmaster Luke Skywalker using his refined skills to kick First Order ass. This never happens. Instead, we get countless sequences of Angry Hermit chasing kids off his lawn, and then an illusion at the end. And then he dies… just like that. It made my heart sink.

All in all, The Rise of Skywalker was a definite improvement. But The Last Jedi so seriously effed up the character of Luke Skywalker that it made it hard for Rise to recapture the magic. Luke Skywalker never got the send-off that he deserved, and Rise wasn't able to undo that.

Join the discBlack Dragon,

I wanted…really wanted… to like the new Star Wars stuff, and even went to see this movie on opening night. I have nothing nice to say about this movie, and after a lifetime of being a fan, I truly feel Star Wars is dead to me. I will never return. I could list out a lot of reasons, but I would have to use words that would be impolite, and would not likely illicit receptive responses.

But you have asked for some feed back…

First, I had forgotten most of my feeling on the Rian film, and after reading this I am reminded that I also thought that film was terrible. I am personally disappointed that JJ Abrams gets to do both Star Wars and Star Trek, I much preferred these two space stories to come from different minds. I don't know how I can say this, but I miss George Lucas, and I've been pretty down on him since the prequels. I was interested in his vision. I don think this is that, and I have no use for this new stuff.

I agree with the statements in the article. I liked Adam Drivers conflicted Kilo Ryan presentation, that was the only decent part of the entirety of the films. I wish I found this movie and story wrap-up to be worthy of working out the deeper hidden meanings of all the choices, and how now that we know X, that means this to Y, but I need better than this for that. Palpatine back…weak. Better to let him stay dead and let Vader and Luke struggle to be meaningful.

I would call this whole movie Hollywood garbage, it will be the first Star Wars movie I will not personally own, and will be the last one I see.

A much better example of someone taking a franchise that has been hurt by recent additions, and brought back to cool is the most recent Terminator Movie, which took some bold moves and made a better story for everyone. Cameron is the best. Abrams…so far he has made two movies that killed an entire series for me.

I've heard some talk that Rian had a personal stake in undoing some of Abrams work, and I have seen him personally make comments that he was sorry for mistakes in the last film and did not think his poor choices would mean so much, and create so much disappointment. I can forgive him, but perhaps best would have been to push the movie aside and the way Cameron did, and go on as if it did not happen.

I too was impressed that manage to get Carrie Fisher to fill out the movie. What a tragedy it has been that she passed on. But I must say, I question the ethics of that. With CGI no is really gone. When I saw Grand Moff Tarkin on one of these films, I was like…Wow… that’s really impressive, but also I wonder, should his legacy include stuff he did not actually do? Its weird world we have now.

This movie, however, is not worthy of articles, and for me, Star Wars ends in disgust.

PS: C3PO was never really one of my favs either 😉

Antonio del Drago
1 month ago

To be clear, there were many things that I enjoyed about The Last Jedi. However, I felt that it really missed the mark with the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. I found it hard to believe that the Luke of the original trilogy was the Angry Hermit of TLJ.

Luke Skywalker was willing to sacrifice his own life to bring his father back from the dark side. He never gave up on Darth Vader, even when Vader had killed millions of people with the Death Star. In contrast, the Angry Hermit of TLJ was on the verge of murdering his own nephew while he slept, simply because the young man was being tempted by the dark side. This behavior cannot be reconciled with the philosophy of Luke Skywalker. It's so inconsistent that it's nearly impossible to accept Luke and the Angry Hermit as being the same character.

Worst of all, TLJ robbed many fans of what we were most looking forward to: scenes of Jedi Grandmaster Luke Skywalker using his refined skills to kick First Order ass. This never happens. Instead, we get countless sequences of Angry Hermit chasing kids off his lawn, and then an illusion at the end. And then he dies… just like that. It made my heart sink.

All in all, The Rise of Skywalker was a definite improvement. But The Last Jedi so seriously effed up the character of Luke Skywalker that it made it hard for Rise to recapture the magic. Luke Skywalker never got the send-off that he deserved, and Rise wasn't able to undo that.

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