The Rise of Skywalker and the End of Star Wars (article)

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My plans were to write this article sometime in January, but due to having to move and then settle in to my new surroundings, this has meant several of my projects I had for this year have been shelved or delayed. I was also hoping to see The Rise of Skywalker again to see if I got any new perspectives on the film. Sadly this hasn’t happened, so I’m going to have to rely on my memory of the single time I watched the film in late December.

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I quite enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker when I saw it, but it was afterwards when I thought about it, I found I had all these questions about the film: How did Palpatine come back? Is he a clone, like what happens in Dark Empire? What was the point of him trying to corrupt Rey so he could possess her, when he could drain her of life energy all along and use that to revive himself anyway? Surely that’s more of a Sith move? If Rey is his granddaughter, when exactly did he get someone pregnant? Why is the Empire/First Order so obsessed about destroying planets? Surely if you have a galaxy-wide empire destroying planets is just a waste of precious resources? And why bother destroying planets when a single Imperial-Class Star Destroyer is perfectly capable of reducing the surface of any planet to molten slag? Also surely equipping thousands of Star Destroyers with superlasers is just overkill anyway? What is it with J.J. Abrams and MacGuffins? In The Force Awakens it was the map to Skywalker and in The Rise of Skywalker it’s the Sith Wayfinder, so why bother having some wild bantha chase for it when in the end they don’t really need it anyway? Also how did The Resistance put together such a large fleet in such a short space of time?  See, lots of questions….

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All these questions aside, I have some unease with this film. I really liked the Last Jedi and I think it stands out as the best film of the Sequel Trilogy. It left the fate of the Star Wars galaxy at a very interesting juncture. It was daring and unpredictable. However with Abrams back at the helm, he seemed to go back on Rian Johnson’s ideas for the second film, and took it back to a rather predictable storyline. It struck me as both lazy thinking/writing and fan service. One of the messages of the second film was that you didn’t have to be from some impressive lineage to be the Chosen One. Rey was the child of nobodies who sold her for gambling money, but Abrams walked back on this idea, and instead made her the grandchild of Palpatine. I’m not sure if that was what was originally planned. For me it felt contrived. More than one person laughed out loud in the cinema when it was revealed.

My feeling was Palpatine was brought back to give the film an antagonist, with Snoke being killed off in The Last Jedi. I had assumed that the central conflict in this film was going to be between Kylo Ren and Rey. That’s the impression I got from the ending of The Last Jedi and where the end of the trilogy seemed to be heading. Clearly Abrams had no desire to go down that path and instead inexplicably brought back the previously dead Sith Lord, which in effect cheapened Anakin Skywalker’s sacrifice at the end of The Return of the Jedi.

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I think Disney was very aware of the backlash from a very vocal minority of the fanbase regarding The Last Jedi. To me, The Rise of Skywalker, seemed to be a film that tried placate this fanbase by giving them what they presumably wanted, and also to pander to the feelings of sentimentality audiences have towards the Original Trilogy. In the end they came up with a film that really didn’t work.

There were some parts I enjoyed. It was nice to see Lando Carlrissian, and also Wedge Antilles (however briefly) reappear in a Star Wars film. Rey’s Jedi training at the start was fun to watch (you do wonder had Carrie Fisher not died if her role would have been larger in this film). At the end celebrations there was also a kiss between two women, so hooray for lesbianism in Star Wars!

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As a creative type I don’t think writers, or filmmakers for that matter, should necessarily be pandering to the expectations of their fanbase. They don’t owe them anything, in my view. If you do pander to them, then you’ve entrapped yourself. You have now enmeshed yourself in other people’s ideas and then you’re stuck appeasing them for the rest of eternity as you are now too scared or lack the confidence to stick to any original story of your own. I think writers and artists should stick to their original vision and follow it to what end they come to, regardless of what anyone else thinks. They should have faith in it. If it’s any good people will like it. If it isn’t, you can always try again with something else. George Lucas got a lot of stick for the Prequel Trilogy, but I admire him for it. Instead of doing an endless rehash of the Original Trilogy, which is what the “fans” wanted, he stuck to his own vision and told the story he wanted to, regardless of the howls of annoyance from the fan community. Good on him, I say.  The films weren’t perfect, but I liked them and so did many others. They introduced a lot of good things into the Star Wars Universe, and they finally explained the Jedi, the Sith, and what the Clone Wars were about. But even the toxic fan rage got to Lucas in the end, and he walked away from it all.

These days fandoms have become toxic entities. Fans peddle their own ideas of what should constitute a Star Wars film, and get upset and even abusive to the filmmakers when they don’t deliver what they were expecting. They call themselves True Fans, whatever that means, and think they know better than everyone else what Star Wars is and what a Star Wars film should be. In the minds of these people, the filmmakers should be making the films they demand of them, rather than the filmmakers daring to have their own ideas… I honestly believe now Star Wars would be better off without a lot of its fanbase. This fandom has become a millstone around the necks of the filmmakers and Lucasfilm itself. Filmmakers will now forever feel like they need to appease them and be forced to release new material just for these “fans”, rather than the general audience. It isn’t just Star Wars either: Star Trek, Doctor Who, and other franchises are all in a similar situation.

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The Star Wars Saga are just movies. Lucas said this himself.  I like them because they are fun to watch. The have been a major influence on me virtually my entire life. Occasionally it is enjoyable to switch off and watch something reasonably mindless but enjoyable. I treasure the escapism they offer. I often daydreamed about being a Jedi and hurtling through space. The problem is when people attach special significance and meaning to these films to the point they almost become a cult. I don’t envy Disney. Star Wars is probably seen as a poisoned chalice to them these days. No matter what they bring out, it won’t satisfy the entirety of the fan community. Some will like what they release in the future, and others will vehemently hate it and rage about if indefinitely on social media, and then spread that hate even to the actors in the film and the director.

Maybe Disney will just end up playing it safe and continually release films like The Rise of Skywalker for the foreseeable future, which to me demonstrated a major loss of nerve on behalf of the filmmakers in trusting their own ideas. That would be the end of Star Wars.

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Further reading:

Rey and the Force Awakens

Thoughts on The Last Jedi

 

 

Please donate! 🙂

 

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©2020 Joanne Fisher

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19 thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker and the End of Star Wars (article)

  1. I have to admit, I haven’t seen this last movie, but I have heard a lot of criticism about it. And you do make a very strong point about the demands of the fans, like they *own* the franchise. No, they don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been a Rey=Palpatine conspirator since 7, and I think it fits the narrative of the 9 movie total very well. I also (personally) think it was the original plan, but it doesn’t really matter how good an idea is if they just take it and smear poop all over it. Oh well – not like I could have done better.

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      1. The crazy Palpatine people had proof from film 1 – most of us thought that film 2 abandoned a lot of the original principles, and I personally expected film 3 to be a shitshow because the first 2 clashed so hard.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The only thing I noticed was Rey’s lightsaber technique (if you wish to call it that) in The Force Awakens which was similar to Palpatine’s in Revenge of the Sith, which did make me wonder at the time. Though how someone uses a lightsaber doesn’t necessarily mean anything, or so I thought at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Other things were:

        1) Accent
        2) Only evil people would leave their kid on a shitty planet, or people who would want to *hide* a kid on a planet so she wouldn’t be found
        3) The theme for Rey takes some notes from the Palpatine theme
        4) Always hints that the dark side is strong for Rey, and Kylo be jelly

        Probably more, but lazy and haven’t watched it for a while.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. To be honest after I saw The Force Awakens I tended to believe that Rey was Luke’s daughter. I thought there was quite a lot of evidence at the time, which then got shot down in the next film of course, but I was able to live with that.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t get me wrong part of me loved seeing Palpatine in the film. He’s one of my favourite characters in the film series, and I like using his dialogue in pivotal moments when I’m playing Magic the Gathering, but it could have been handled better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joanne, I think you’re looking at the fan situation backwards.
    All the Disney films up to ROS had been made to pander to groups outside the established fan base. That’s fine IF AND WHEN it’s done correctly. In the case of Star Wars, they completely trashed not only 40 years of extended universe canon, but the older characters as well. Han went from cynical but good guy inside to pretty much a self centered bum in the Disney movies. Then they killed him off in a stupid manner also. Luke went from the guy who was the eternal optimist who would do anything to redeem his father, to somebody who would kill his twin sister’s son with barely a second thought. Lando went from smooth talking ladies man to completely sexually confused in Solo…
    Comic book companies have done worse, like Marvel trying to make Steve Rogers an undercover Nazi to justify giving the mantle of Captain America to the Falcon (as one egregious example). The MCU shows the Falcon can stand on his own as a character IF he’s properly written.
    I truly believe that the vast majority of fans do NOT care if there’s a gay or lesbian character, or whatever other group you want to insert here. What they object strongly to is destroying existing canon and characters to do it. *I* write lesbian characters. I like your characters. I don’t care half as much about their gender identity as I do how well written and developed they are.
    People object to Rey as a character because she’s a Mary Sue on steroids. I think it’s only the strength of Daisy Ridley’s acting that keeps the character from being disliked more. I play “The Old Republic”. It has a fairly large player base for it’s age and the only knock I hear about Rey is “Ultimate Mary Sue” on in-game chat channels. Leia also went from no visible Force skill or awareness in The Force Awakens to strong enough to survive a missile hit and prolonged exposure to a vacuum.
    Then there are other canon issues like suddenly there’s no real light or dark to The Force. That’s just Hollywood inserting it’s moral relativism into the canon, and using Yoda to do it no less. Teh same character that spent half of Empire Strikes Back lecturing Luke on the dangers of the dark side. Why does it matter? Star Wars is supposed to be Space Opera; exaggerated good vs evil on a grand scale.
    At the very least, when somebody wants to make these kind of extreme changes to long established canon, the only proper way to do it is via slower organic change and growth.
    Also, while casting stones at fandom, don’t forget that Disney’s initial response to criticism was to call it’s fans ignorant, bigoted, homophobic, closed minded, etc… That drastically escalated the fan response. Star Trek’s writers did the same thing to it’s fans when they dared criticize the drastic changes to Klingons and Vulcans in Discovery.
    It’s all good and well to say don’t pander to fans. Actions have consequences though, and in a commercial setting that means customers won’t buy the product. It’s their right to vote with their wallet.
    So yeah, long rant short: Don’t destroy canon out of nowhere, organic story development is a far batter option. Same with characters. If an existing canon needs a lesbian character (going back to that example), introduce a new character and make her as compelling or more so than the old ones. Fans will eat it up if done that way.
    I will grant you that there are a few extreme voices out there that are over the top and should be ignored. Most of the alienated fans fall well within the rationale above though. There’s a lesson there for all writers.

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    1. “All the Disney films up to ROS had been made to pander to groups outside the established fan base. That’s fine IF AND WHEN it’s done correctly. In the case of Star Wars, they completely trashed not only 40 years of extended universe canon, but the older characters as well.”

      I’m afraid a lot of that canon was rubbish. There were some elements that were fine and a shame to see go, but overall I don’t miss it. I think it was fine for Disney to do a clean sweep of it, considering all the baggage attached to it.

      “Han went from cynical but good guy inside to pretty much a self centered bum in the Disney movies. Then they killed him off in a stupid manner also. Luke went from the guy who was the eternal optimist who would do anything to redeem his father, to somebody who would kill his twin sister’s son with barely a second thought.”

      This is called character development. Both Han and Luke showed changes, as what happens to people over time. If they had been exactly the same people then they would be two dimensional cardboard cutouts. I think they showed realistic character advancement. Luke did have a second thought about killing his nephew, THAT’S WHY HE DIDN’T DO IT! It was a perfectly understandable lapse of judgement. Something we all do.

      “People object to Rey as a character because she’s a Mary Sue on steroids.”

      No she’s not a Mary Sue. She is force sensitive and already had pilot training prior to the The Force Awakens. A Mary Sue is a woman who is good at doing things with no explanation why. A lot of male fans objected to her as she is a strong female character. So they called her Mary Sue to belittle the character. You could level the same accusations at both Luke and Anakin Skywalker in their respective trilogies, but no one calls then Gary Stus (the male variant of Mary Sue) do they? Of course not, they’re males so no one has any problem with it.

      “Leia also went from no visible Force skill or awareness in The Force Awakens to strong enough to survive a missile hit and prolonged exposure to a vacuum.”

      Leia showed in ESB and RotJ that she could sense people. She did the same in Force Awakens when Han Solo died. As she was a Skywalker she is definitely force sensitive, and in that 30 years between Jedi and Force Awakens she may have undertook some training.

      “Then there are other canon issues like suddenly there’s no real light or dark to The Force. That’s just Hollywood inserting it’s moral relativism into the canon, and using Yoda to do it no less.”

      I think you seriously misunderstood that. The Force itself can be used for good or evil. It depends on what the user does with it.

      “Also, while casting stones at fandom, don’t forget that Disney’s initial response to criticism was to call it’s fans ignorant, bigoted, homophobic, closed minded, etc… ”

      I’ve had a lot of arguments with other fans on Facebook. And a lot of them fit those descriptions. Honestly. Many of them objected to having gay characters in Star Wars films saying things like there shouldn’t be gay people in Star Wars to me.

      “It’s all good and well to say don’t pander to fans. Actions have consequences though, and in a commercial setting that means customers won’t buy the product. It’s their right to vote with their wallet.”

      My point was if you just aim things at the fans then only the fans will watch it. If you make a film that everyone can watch then suddenly you have a much bigger market share than just the fan community, which is small in comparison. Yes try to make it film for fans to like, but also for others to like as well. For example, look that the very first Star Trek film. It was primarily aimed at the fans and thus didn’t do as well as hoped.

      Same with characters. If an existing canon needs a lesbian character (going back to that example), introduce a new character and make her as compelling or more so than the old ones. Fans will eat it up if done that way.

      Like

      1. I accidentally posted this before it was finished.

        “Same with characters. If an existing canon needs a lesbian character (going back to that example), introduce a new character and make her as compelling or more so than the old ones. Fans will eat it up if done that way.”

        It would be nice to think that, but with my experiences I know many in the fan community would just bitch and moan if you had an openly lesbian character in them. They would say things like “PC” or “SJW” blah blah blah….

        Anyway that’s my view of things. I consider myself a fan, but a bit more adaptable to change than others seem to be.

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  4. Agreed on Rise of the Skywalker. I think a lot of the film ended up feeling like Abrams was going, “Okay, how can I roll back the last movie?” and yes, suddenly bringing back Palpatine just felt lame to me. First trilogy: There’s a creepy overlord in the shadows pulling the strings. Force Awakens: There’s a creepy overlord in the shadows pulling the strings. The Last Jedi: No. We’re not doing this again. Now then, let’s actually do something different. Rise of the Skywalker: *ahem* So…sorry about that folks, as I was saying…there’s a creepy overlord in the shadows pulling the strings.
    And yes, bringing him back cheapens so much of how the original trilogy ended that it’s just silly.
    I also agree in your opposition to the complaints of The Last Jedi. My favorite one is always, “Oh, so Leia is suddenly super strong in the force? How does that even make sense? She never showed any force abilities.”
    And I’m like, “well…Luke went from ‘some guy on a desert world’ to ‘guy who helped to take down the empire’ and that happened in the time of three movies, so you’re saying that THAT makes PERFECT sense, but Leia having that much growth over the next few decades…well…I mean, clearly that’s just pushing the boundaries of one person can be expected to believe?” I just don’t understand the logic.
    And I was actually very pleased about the initial, “Rey is just some girl from some planet. She’s special because…well…the force is mysterious.”
    I really hoped they were going to keep it there because by the time it played out, I was like…”Oh…so…there’s a creepy gun in the shadows pulling strings and he’s taken down by his apprentice and progeny of a historically known force adept…wow…that’s like…wow. Who could’ve seen that coming?”
    It was like, “Hey, you guys remember when Palpatine was killed by his apprentice and his apprentice’s son? Well, buckle up, because after three more movies, we’re going to give you this: Palpatine is killed by his apprentice and, oh…oh…oh…switcharoo…it’s his OWN DAUGHTER. Yeah, we went there. Boom. Star Wars.” *mic drop*
    And that’s the problem I had overall.
    Force Awakens I liked because it was just fun, and I didn’t mind that it was like, “hey, remember the first movie? Would anyone mind if we rehashed that a little as a jumping off point for this new trilogy?” And I was like, “Nah, that’s cool.” It was a fun movie, it had good pacing. It conjured things from the originals that I liked.
    The Last Jedi felt great because it went, “Okay, no that we got that out of our system, lets actually go somewhere different for a change, yeah?” and I was on board for that.
    And then the last movie came out and was like, “KIDDING! Remember how we rehashed A New Hope? Well, how about now we rehash Return of the Jedi!”
    It all felt anticlimactic.
    We literally ended the new trilogy five feet away from where the original trilogy ended and it made me leave thinking, “What was the point of that? We were already here. This was already how it more or less ended.”
    Anywho…my two and half cents on the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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