The Rise of Skywalker: A Tired Trilogy Comes to an End

Have you seen the TV show Arrested Development? The first three seasons aired on Fox and was canceled after the 3rd season, encountering fan outrage. The first three seasons were so good. Netflix decided to revive the show and created a season four, which was horrible. They then released the fifth season on Netflix a few years after the fourth, where they tried to right the wrongs, listen to fans complaints and bring the show back to what it was. It was better, but not by much.

This is how the Sequel Trilogy has felt for me. I thought The Force Awakens started strongly. It took it’s time, it was carefully done, the characters were fleshed out and it was a solid movie. It had faults, but overall it was good, one of my favorites. The Last Jedi felt like the revived Netflix version of Arrested Development. It was a train wreck and frustrating to watch such potential crash and burn. The Rise of Skywalker attempted to pull together the mess that was left and make sense of it as best it could, similar to the fifth season of Arrested Development. It worked, it’s fine, but it was time to end after the chaos was created by TLJ. My feelings for these past three movies pretty much mirrors how my emotions played out with Arrested Development.

What Disney has done with the Sequel Trilogy looked great on paper when they first bought Star Wars. They thought creating a trilogy with different directors at the helm of each movie would provide different perspectives and a Star Wars for a new generation, but still acknowledging the older fans. I will gladly admit I thought it was a great idea too. Where I was misled, or didn’t understand completely, is that they didn’t have an overarching storyline to guide these directors. The original trilogy had a different director for each movie, but Lucas was there guiding it and had a story that he knew would run through the movies. This was the (obvious) key missing in this new trilogy. With each director coming in with a new story, it’s plays out like the old EU novels, which is acceptable in books – but not in a billion dollar movie franchise. This was a huge opportunity that Disney wasted; they should have kept JJ Abrams (or another director) signed on for all three movies. At the very least, the story wouldn’t feel rushed and disjointed. If anything, it may have even been able to hold up to the other trilogies. Imagine that!

I knew going into this movie that Abrams was left with the huge task of taking scattered pieces and plots of TLJ and creating an ending that remained true to the characters he formed in TFA, try to right the wrongs that fans felt Johnson created with TLJ, and make a movie that flowed…somehow. I also knew this was an impossible task.

 

The Rise of Skywalker started out fast and choppy. You jumped right into action with Kylo Ren finding the Emperor (wow, that was fast, especially as we hadn’t heard one thing about the emperor in the previous two movies) who was not dead, somehow. Palpatine is, uh, indescribable. Not a zombie, barely alive, but yet seems quite fully alive at the same time. Yeah, beats me. He sets Kylo on the task of killing Rey, but knows that it probably won’t happen as he predicts later in the movie that Rey will eventually seek him out and lead the Resistance to this planet Exegol.

If you’ve been following any of the books that have been coming out since TLJ, or even before TLJ, there have been a lot of references to the Unknown Regions, of something happening “out there” in the fringes of the galaxy where no one can get to. It’s explained now – the Emperor had a backup Empire there, which he called the Final Order. Tons of Star Destroyers and also a weird lab where he himself is waiting and where he created Snoke.

Rey, meanwhile, is training under Leia to become a Jedi. She decides to pickup the quest that Luke deserted – finding Exegol. The movie then becomes a mysterious quest, with Poe and Finn who go along with Rey for a bit to find clues along the way. It reminded me strongly of Lord of the Rings. This feeling that everyone is on a quest to find a solution to the mystery, but swear to remain together until the end. The only time we’ve seen something even slightly similar is in Attack of the Clones, where Obi-Wan’s plot is to figure out who is trying to assassinate Padmé and goes on a hunt with little clues taking him around the galaxy, eventually finding Jango Fett at Kamino. However, that was more a secondary or concurrent plot, so it mostly worked. To make it the main plot of this movie was harder because in order to be invested in this quest, you had to care. And I felt like I didn’t care. The emperor was thrown so randomly into this movie with Rey trying to figure out clues and I was, for lack of a better phrase, “over it”.

The rest of the movie falls into Kylo Ren chasing Rey, Leia being somehow Force connected to Ben (Disney loves this; watch Frozen II) and dying when Kylo gets stabbed by Rey, but then Rey heals Kylo Ren with Phoenix tears (kidding, with the Force), which somehow Ben is able to do later on?

In the midst of this, we have a new annoying Imperial officer, because for some reason Hux wasn’t good enough (I loved Hux, one of my favorite characters) so they had to kill Hux. (Are you scratching your head yet?)

Rose is completely forgotten as a character. Yup, Rose has almost no role in this movie. I didn’t love Rose, I didn’t love that they used her as a love storyline for Finn, but after having her kiss him and save his life, she seemed like a strong power player in this series. No. Nope. Not at all. She gets shunted to the side and a new ex-stormtrooper like Finn, Jannah, gets to play Finn’s female sidekick. Why does Finn always need a female sidekick? With Rey in TFA, it seemed important and it drove the story. But in TLJ and TROS, it feels like the directors don’t know what Finn’s role is or why he’s in the movie. Is he there for diversity? Is he there because they want three heroes like the OT? To shed light on the First Order as a defector? (You’re bewildered at this point, right? Me too.)

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Rey is a Palpatine (I’m not going to go into how that is possible in this post because it would make it longer than it is. But if you want more speculation and info, this article could whet your appetite). Here’s what I will say about this, and I have a lot of mixed feelings: this entire trilogy created Rey to be one of my favorite characters, and they did not let me down with TROS. I thought after finding out she was a Palpatine, they would have her fall to the dark side. But she didn’t. She may have edged toward it, but she never fell. At the end of the movie, when Rey confronts Palpatine and it’s eerily similar to the throne room scene in ROTJ, does she agree to become empress? She nods, but was she just stalling? I don’t think she gave into the dark side like Luke did with his anger. And I was so, so, so happy about that. She did what Luke could not. I always felt a stab of pang when Luke gave into the Emperor’s manipulation and used his lightsaber against him and turned on Vader in a rage. I knew he was better than that, but he cared for his friends too much. Rey was able to hold her own conviction, see the larger picture, and not be tempted to the dark side. It makes you wonder – if Luke had held firm, would he have destroyed the Emperor completely and thoroughly?

I love that Rey still was working through her feelings in this movie, coming to and understanding of her role in the galaxy and how she was going to move forward. I like that she tested boundaries of her power, felt the consequences, but never gave up. She pushed through even though she had the hardest role in the galaxy to play. I liked seeing this realness, watching her internal and external struggle between what may not a good choice, but the right one. When she heals Kylo Ren after stabbing him, I think she’s an idiot. But by doing so, she plays a huge role in his redemption so that he can turn back to the light side and in turn, repay the favor at the end of the movie. Yes, after she healed him, his storyline was predictable, but I still liked it.

I am happy that Rey is still a character I love and adore…I just wish I could say the same about everyone else. Poe’s role was still necessary as the Resistance did need a new leader. Finn, as I said before, seemed superfluous and his only function was as Rey’s friend but we never did find out what he was going to say as he fell into the quicksand. Maybe he loved her. Who knows? We’ll never know because the directors didn’t know what to do with him (again). Chewie was, well, Chewie. No complaints. Threepio had a wonderful role and I enjoyed his comic relief. Artoo and BB-8 were shunted to the side a bit and the new droid, D-0, has a small role and clue that keeps the plot going but we could have found that out in another way. As I mentioned, Rose is shoved aside, Jannah is brought in (why?) and even Poe gets a random love interest in Zorii. But again, why? Why did Poe need Zorii? Her role was important, in a way, but the bombardment of underdeveloped new characters was not thought out well. Again, this scrambling to make a movie was too much and frustrating.

In terms of Leia, I appreciate what they did to keep her essence living on in this movie. I am trying to figure out if I was watching the movie with no knowledge of Fisher’s death, would I notice how awkward it seemed at times? She was very stiff because of how they had to edit. I will not cast stones on Leia because that was one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle to work out and Abrams did an excellent job. Her role was expanded in some ways and we learn that she did try to learn the Force and become a Jedi, which was interesting (and seeing younger Luke and Leia made me smile).

I honestly, truly believe that if JJ had been at the helm for all three movies, this may have played out much better. He would have had more time to delve into the characters and the plot and flesh it out. Introducing new characters in a trilogy doesn’t feel as cumbersome when the main ones have a firm foundation. Instead, this felt rushed and like Disney and Abrams had a cluttered movie. I wish they hadn’t introduced any new characters but instead focused on the ones they had, given us more to feel and understand with them.

I will, of course, see this movie again in the theaters to come to a better understanding. And maybe a few more times. But did it entertain and delight me? No. Not with the first viewing. Other than Rey, I felt this movie was a disappointment. Not as bad as The Last Jedi, which I still feel like was a travesty. Yet I also know that I was uncomfortable with The Force Awakens the first time I saw it but grew to love it with a passion. However, I do believe that TFA was handled a lot more carefully and thought out a lot better. This movie doesn’t give me that feeling.

Time will tell, but for now, the Force was not with The Rise of Skywalker.

20 thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker: A Tired Trilogy Comes to an End

  1. So when Rey was confronting Palpatine, she did give in at that point because she felt like she couldn’t win. When Palpatine showed her how the Resistance was being defeated by his forces, she agreed to become Empress Palpatine. It was only until Ben reached out to her with the force that Rey realised he was coming to help her, to save her, to be by her side as Ben Solo after turning back to the light side of the force (or at least, embracing his destiny as Ben Solo, not Kylo Ren). I thought that was the reason why she was nodding to Palpatine and agreeing to do what he wanted because she felt she did not have the strength to defeat him on her own. Maybe I saw it differently, or perhaps I read that scene wrong, but that is what I thought had happened.
    You do make a good point about Rey’s character, but I still find that her development throughout was always a lot more disjointed than say, Luke’s. I am also beginning to think that Rey was powerful because of her bloodline connection to the Palpatine family and I think it was perhaps out of desperation that they had to use the Palpatine plot point to give her the background she needed to justify how strong she was in the force. That was probably poor writing carrying on from TLJ. A lot of fans were calling Rey a “Mary Sue” and I was in agreement with this then but at least now they have given Rey a backstory that actually makes sense.
    I agree with your point about JJ being at the helm as well. The disjointed and almost “messy” story-telling across all three films could have or would have had a lot more cohesion under one writer and one director.

    1. Oh that’s interesting on your point of view with Rey. My husband agrees with you by the way. He also wants me to tell you that I tend to misinterpret a lot of moments in movies and project my own thoughts onto a scene haha. I think I saw it as she was stalling. I thought it was vague enough that it wasn’t certain she had turned. She had agreed but I looked at it as nothing is set in stone until she actually commits! 😂 I thought Luke was a lot more clear cut and JJ purposefully left Rey’s situation as a verbal agreement instead of a signed contract. 🤷‍♀️

      I think Rey’s development was disjointed because of the different directors. One is hinting at an important background, one is saying she’s nothing and that’s hard to go far when the character is getting yanked around emotionally. I know a lot of people thought she was a Mary Sue but it didn’t bother me. I guess this is JJ’s way of explaining it but I really wish Palpatine had been introduced a lot earlier in the storyline. I don’t mind that he’s in the movies and I like that it brings out full circle but I DON’T like that there was no mention of him or real reference other than Luke’s condensed history of the Jedi in TLJ before now. There is if you read some of the novels, Alphabet Squadron goes into some Palpatine recordings, but not in the movies and I think that’s more important to establish.

      I just think, at the end of this, Disney squandered a huge opportunity with this trilogy. It’s hard for me to look at this as one movie currently because I’m dragging in my feelings for TLJ as well. I think it’s better than TLJ by far but now it just almost emphasizes issues with the entire trilogy.

      1. Thank you for your detailed reply 🙂 I agree with all of your points about the disjointed development of Rey and the general “messy” overall storyline that was produced for TRoS. I’m still not quite sure what I expected from JJ and Chris Terrio mostly because I don’t know Chris Terrio’s work and all I know about JJ’s writing is that he co-wrote a lot of the Lost episodes and that’s about it. I will say that I thought TFA was a strong way to start the new trilogy and I was quite happy with that film once I had had time to think about it and watch it a few times. Without a doubt, Kylo Ren was the best thing to come out of the ST and I think that’s a fairy safe bet to make as far as the overall fandom goes. The Star Wars polls on the official website had his character with 98 percent of the vote with Rey following with 2. So I think a lot of fans are just not happy with the way Kylo’s character development was handled in the last film even though his character was by far the strongest character in the entire trilogy. I just don’t know what they were thinking doing what they did with Ben Solo. I don’t think I’ll ever understand their choices, and I feel the same way about Luke in TLJ.

    2. So this is interesting… I’m reading up online about reactions and people seem very split. It seems like some people think the closest she turned to the dark side is actually when she and Kylo Ren fight and she stabbed him. But then she turns away from it by healing him. I’ll continue to read up on this. (by the way, I always write my reviews before reading anything online so that my thoughts are my own, pure feelings)

      1. Hey! Yeah, I’ve read similar things about her turning to the dark side. I don’t think she actually turned when she was talking to Palpatine, but she did agree to do what he wanted in exchange for th lives of her friends which anyone would have done imo. I don’t think anyone can fault Rey for making that decision. She was clearly up against one of the stronges dark force users in the galaxy if not THE strongest, there was just no way she was going to beat him on her own without help. And again I think this all ties into the whole “Mary Sue” thing that started back with TFA. I don’t know if this is something JJ personally wanted to address in the film but I have heard interviews from Daisy Ridley where she is pretty ticked off for fans calling her character a Mary Sue and for not supporting her character better. I remember one interview where she said something like “Why can’t Rey just be powerful with the force? Why can’t she just be stronger than Kylo?” I didn’t support the Mary Sue opinion but I did wonder how she was able to beat Kylo Ren in TFA without a lot of effort and no help from anyone else.

  2. Overall, I came away feeling satisfied with the ending. There was a lot of course correction with too many new characters added when established characters should have been given more time. I was extremely worried about how Leia’s role would be handled, and considering what they had to work with I felt she received a proper sendoff and tribute. I actually liked how none of the three leads got a romantic perfect ending (I was momentarily furious at the kiss between Ren & Kylo). Considering how much I hated TLJ, I left the theatre feeling pleased that this movie tried to fix past wrongs.

    1. I agree with all you say. And I was annoyed /frustrated with the kiss too! If they wanted a romantic storyline, i wish they had developed Finn and Rose’s.

      I’m fine with the ending of this trilogy… There wasn’t much hope of having a spectacular movie after TLJ. I think I just keep coming back to how I wish there was more time to develop this movie. Because it was so rushed, there were glaring plot holes or things that could have been explained a lot better if JJ had the entire trilogy to work with. But instead, we got Rian’s TLJ which left many fans bitter and have JJ a ship that he had to try to right AND create a satisfying ending. Impossible.

      So I came away feeling more like, “well I’m glad that’s done and we can take a breather and focus on new material that won’t have as many consequences if a director pushes boundaries.”

      1. There was only so much JJ could do to right the ship. I’m just shocked that Disney didn’t have a consistent framework for the three movies. They were so uneven! The Marvel movies seem to have a plan that lets each new movie fit into the others, so why didn’t they do the same for the Star Wars movies?

        1. Yes I think that’s the hardest part for me to accept. I’ve talked to quite a few people over the past 2 days who have said, “but they succeeded so well with marvel… Why not star wars?” I’m glad we’re getting a breather for a few years!

  3. Your ‘Arrested Development’ analogy is so perfect! My first thought after reading it was, “That’s brilliant!” My second thought was, “Damn, I wish I thought to make that reference myself.” Because it captures the whole entire experience so perfectly! Boom – you win all TROS analogies on the internet.

    I wonder if Disney will learn anything going forward. You know? Will they look at their next trilogy and take the time to have one creative team do it right? Or will they continue to do this botched approach to narrative-by-disjointed-committee type of storytelling? I can only hope they’re willing to learn.

    I also wonder if we’ll see Rey, Finn, Poe, and (hopefully!) Rose again. I get this was *the end* but I think these characters have so much untapped potential, largely because TLJ made this trilogy such a disjointed mess. I’d like, in the right hands, for them to get the chance to face a new threat completely disconnected from the OT. Maybe something like the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, since they enjoy borrowing from the EU anyway? I don’t know. It’s just, as we’ve discussed, watching this has made me ponder what a missed opportunity this was and, because of that, I’d kind of like to see them get another – clean, fresh, focused – go round.

    1. Omg I’m glad SOMEONE responded to my arrested development reference and glad you agree and feel the feels. What’s so weird is that I left the cinema just feeling drained and like… Well that was better but not near as good as TFA. And then I’m thinking, where have I felt this before? And I pondered and pondered and then it came to me and I was like, YES! I have, indeed felt these feelings before. Haha but I’m glad you totally know what I’m talking about.

      You know, I wouldn’t mind seeing some Rey, Poe and Finn movies/stories that are unrelated to the Skywalker saga. Because I think they could be an interesting trio when not tied to life or death situations on a galactic scale. Or tied to beloved OT characters. And also when Rey isn’t weirdly walking off with a hypnotized look in her eyes with no explanation.

      It’s so weird that I didn’t like Rose in TLJ at all but the fact that she got pushed to the side in this movie with no screen time angered me MORE so now I want her back. Lol. Be careful what you wish for fans!

      I don’t think they’ll ever bring the Yuuzhan Vong into the movies. I feel like for the movies they like to flirt with the EU/legends but not be completely overt with using it. But goodness… These movies kinda makes me miss the messiness of the EU novels lol! At least then I could psychologically disconnect myself from it since it was only the books.

      I’m looking forward to your post. 😁

      1. I’m working on it! I’ve got the outline but now I’m trying to find all the articles/sources I want to include. As a lifelong comic fan, I remember Marvel flirting with bankruptcy back in the ’90s and I read all these articles through the years about what they were doing, Disney expressing interest, Disney buying them, etc. But it’s hard to sort through everything online that isn’t just Disney and the MCU now. But I’m on it!

        I agree with you about Rose. I never really understood the “controversy” about her. I never loved her but she never drove me crazy. She was just sort of there. But I was so annoyed by how they treated her in TROS. The last we saw of her in TLJ, she saved Finn’s life and then they kissed. They kissed! And they never address the kiss here?? And Finn gives her *a freaking shoulder pat* as he leaves for Pasaana with Rey and Poe?!? NOT EVEN A HUG??? That seems like some hardcore, abrasive Friend Zoning and it made me cringe a bit.

        You’re right about the ability to disconnect with the books too. There’s just something different about the films. Maybe because that’s how Star Wars was born? Maybe it’s because that’s the stories most people see? I don’t know. But this trilogy does feel every bit as awkward and convoluted as the EU became at it’s worst. But I think we all kinda expected better from movies with billions of dollars invested in making them…

        1. Wait, this happened in the 90s?? Why did i think it was late 2000s?

          And Rose… You said it perfectly. She had such a dramatic ending in TLJ and as a character she was eh, but you can’t leave a character like that! So weird. And pulling in Jannah as a clear replacement was cruel. I’m sure they’ll have an excuse and write a book/comic of what happened to their doomed love but that’s just a cop out.

          1. So Marvel started to struggle financially in the ’90s and they looked for all sorts of different ways to get out of it and there were rumors about different people/companies looking to buy them all the time. I remember having anxiety as a kid that all the comics I loved would just stop! Marvel even officially declared bankruptcy in the ’90s. But then Disney would come in and buy them in the 2000’s, as a “boy line” answer to their Disney Princess “girl line.” Then with the Disney backing they really started to take off with Marvel Studios and the MCU, which was something they started to try and turn their comics into films themselves and make money off of that.

            And yes! Using Jannah like that was cruel! I like the idea of Finn finding other First Order defectors but there was NO REASON Rose couldn’t have been with him when he met them and there’s NO REASON they didn’t address their romantic connection in TLJ. I just read an article where Chris Terrio said the reason Rose was in so few scenes was because they thought she was so important they wanted her to be the character to interact with Leia. But then some of the scenes didn’t edit in a way that looked realistic so they cut them. Uhhhhhh, sure. That seems far more patronizing than it does realistic. “Hey, we loved her so much we only wanted her in 1:30 of the 2+ hour movie! We couldn’t do more with her but she’s the best!”

  4. Haha you got my thoughts perfectly when you said you were “over it.” I’m not going to be able to see it again in theaters but I really don’t care. It was fine, I was entertained, but I don’t really care if I don’t see it again.

    1. I have no idea what scene it was but I did have this thought cross my brain where I remember being like, “this is too much. I’m over it.” in TLJ I remember having this thought, “I’m bored,” during my first viewing. These thoughts are almost always immediately followed with a cringe and furtive cover up by other thoughts that go, “this is star wars! You’re not allowed to think that!” ha!

      I think I do want to see it again in theaters to see if it can change my mind. I wrote this before reading any other reviews by others but now that I have, I’ve seen a few things that changed my mind on certain points.

      I read this article yes that summed it up better for me: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/12/star-wars-sequel-trilogy-explained-no-planning.html

      People are telling me to look at it by itself because it’s a good star wars story but I don’t know how I can do that. They are meant to be a trilogy and have an overarching story. And it was a debacle.

      1. Good article, I agree with the explanation. It is entirely baffling that they didn’t tap someone to helm this trilogy to make it cohesive, like the MCU. The OT had different writers and directors, and there was definitely a bit of making it up as they went, but at least there was one vision behind it.

      2. I have held off writing any of my own thoughts out yet, and will eventually in a post, but I wanted to mention that I love that you use the word “debacle” to describe the trilogy as a whole. Another good word to use would be “fiasco.” It just seems soooooo obvious at this point that no one truly sat down with a plan or vision beyond “lets make movies about Star Wars.” I’m fine with different filmmakers using their gifts to make movies that feel unique, that comes with the territory. It is what Johnson did and while I didn’t agree with all of TLJ I could appreciate that he was applying his own craft to the film. But what they needed was something more comprehensive, someone – or a story group! – saying “lets start here and end here, and agree on some basics across the board.” That Rey goes from a nobody (which was great!) to a reeeeaaaalllllllly big somebody is just ridiculous. And who she happens to be makes it even MORE ridiculous.

        Anywho, I’ll write about it in detail soon. I haven’t fully processed it and besides, I’m uber methodical in how I write.

        1. I always try to write my initial thoughts right away before I get swayed by other people’s opinions. I also know that my feelings can change over time too like with TFA. But with TFA it was more that I was hesitant at first, not so much over it.

          I think it seems like we’re on the same page. I, too, thought the idea of different directors could be really interesting and similar to what Lucas did with the OT. But the lack of a storyline makes me so frustrated. That seemed 101 to me and I took it for granted/assumed that they’d have a cohesive storyline they were working off of. Or, you know, a story group – imagine that!

          I look forward to your post. I am not methodical! Haha I used to be but not so much anymore.

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