Cursed be the day upon which I must discuss The Rise of Skywalker and yet, that day has arrived, and it is the wee hours of Christmas Eve 2019, and HUGE SPOILERS
Overall, it was fine. I have a three-tiered critique to make.
Tier One: The worst things in/about this movie
COWARDICE. Oscar Isaac is right about Disney being cowards regarding Finn/Poe, but I’m not a shipper – I’m talking about the cowardice of sidelining Rose. Bowing to the General Huxes of your fanbase who hated what her race was and what her gender was and what she stood for is cowardice. Bowing to all the guys who are like “I didn’t like her character at all but I guess it’s bad that the actress was harassed” is cowardice. She should have been front and center. It could have been a quartet of friends instead of a trio. Cowards.
PALPATINE. Get out of this movie. Why are you here. Why am I pretending that Palpatine is reading this. Stop.
(I feel kind of bad because it’s an iconic character and the actor is doing his thing, but HE DOES NOT NEED TO BE HERE.)
WHY IS REY A PALPATINE. I was prepared to despise this twist (I definitely read spoilers going in, and I’m glad I did, it softened the blow). I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, but, it’s bad. Throwing this in undoes Rey Nobody, which was magical and meaningful. It also takes away a lot of Rey’s agency. Her curiosity of the dark side, and her own dark side, become things that aren’t about her at all, but are instead about her genetics. It’s not good. Rey Nobody could have plenty of dark ambition. She could be tempted in all sorts of ways. You just need a bit of an imagination to find them. You don’t need a force-important last name.
The other very unfortunate side effect of Rey Palpatine is that Kylo Ren’s redemption arc and role in general is way smaller than it should have been. He should have been the major villain. His redemption and survival would have been new and refreshing and lovely. A new take on Vader. A reason for both his parents dying, so that at least he could continue living, freed of the dark side.
I’m willing to be a little less picky about this than the other things, though – I think the redemption arc was as small and badly done as it was because Carrie Fisher died. Her death leaves a very noticeable crater in this movie. Honestly, though? They should have recast Leia. Maybe that’s an unpopular opinion, but if it had meant that the redemption arc could have been better and more emotional, why not?
Imagine having a villain + emotional redemption arc all set up for you, and then you just bring back the bad guy from all the other movies and full on sideline the interesting guy. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.
BEN DEAD. Come on. If you decide to be good now and then just drop dead that’s so lazy. You need to do the work. I want Groundhog Day but Star Wars goddammit.
WHY WAS FINN’S FORCE-SENSITIVITY SIDELINED. There were so many things they could have done with this, and what they chose to do was to have him not even actually tell anyone. And he’d been trying to do that the whole time. This is a choice that makes me question why any of us even bother making choices, ever. We should give up.
Tier Two: things I’m letting slide
THE REWRITING OF THE LAST JEDI, WITH CAVEAT. The caveat is the Snoke thing. Very stupid. Why are there more in a test tube? What else was he going to do with those?
But some of the other moments that I’ve seen people mocking on Twitter, I’m not so sure about. There’s the part where force ghost Luke catches the lightsaber Rey throws away and says, “Treat a Jedi’s weapon with respect!”
And there’s another moment where Finn decides he’s going to die if he has to, but he has to blow up one more ship in the meantime. At this moment, Rose, who is barely in the movie, shows up so that Finn can tell her he’s staying to sacrifice himself and destroy a ship. She looks sad about it and wants to stop him (I guess) but can’t.
People are interpreting these as petty rewrites of the same moments from the previous film. I think that’s an interpretation that comes directly out of listening to tiresome babies whine about these exact moments in The Last Jedi. “He tried to FIX those things and they did not need fixing!” people think.
I actually just think this is Abrams and his team trying to be poetic. I think it’s just an attempt at mirroring. Luke had a change of heart in TLJ after all, and his tossing the lightsaber was the first interaction they had, and the beginning of his whole “I’m not taking responsibility here,” thing. He gives that up and takes back his responsibility by the end of TLJ. Here, he’s showing up to guide Rey, who has lost faith like Luke did so long ago. She too has now given it all up and wants to die on an island. Because she’s a Palpatine. And that really sucks. Sister, I get you.
The Rose thing, too, seems like an attempt at a mirror. It doesn’t make sense, at all, and is very unnecessary, but I suspect the intention was to give Finn a mirror moment to “complete his arc.” It didn’t, at all. But it was, I think, an attempt.
Neither of these are particularly well done, so if they come across as petty to others, that is understandable. And maybe they are petty. I just think it was a flawed way of trying to connect the two movies that ultimately have very, very different souls.
THERE WASN’T ENOUGH TIME. I guess they couldn’t have made a fourth one, even though that would have made it an even 10 and everyone would have been able to be fleshed out, and breath a bit, and better Kylo/Ben redemption arc.
REYLO KISS. I really didn’t want it. I didn’t ship any of these people with one another, although I did enjoy a lot of the shipping material I’ve seen out there. But Rey and Kylo seemed like the worst of all of the ships. And I have to say, the theatre I was in was at least partly a little uncomfortable in that moment. Later, we all joked, “Oh, I wish they didn’t kiss.” “Yeah they seemed more like brother and sister.” “Yeah but that’s typical Star Wars with siblings kissing, that’s what they do.” “I thought that was going to be the next reveal after they kissed – guess what, they’ve actually been brother and sister all along!”
I also was fairly disappointed in how small and stupid the Kylo/Ben redmeption arc was, so any sort of kiss between them was, in my opinion, unearned.
However, I – well –
That was me watching.
The actors sold it. Their whole conclusion was not good, not long enough, dialogue fuckin’ free, but they sold it. He saves her life, takes way too long to do it, then they kiss and then he DROPS DEAD, but damn it, they sold it.
Give them Oscars. I don’t know.
Tier Three: things I liked
THE CUTE THINGS. D-O. Babu Frik. The children at the festival. Rey healing that snake and fixing D-O and teaching BB8 to help others. Finn and Poe. Honestly? The trio that should have been a quartet and their entire dynamic. Adorable. Well worth the price of admission. I just wish there was more of it.
LEIA AND HER BROTHER TRAINING. Finally?
SOMEONE SAID “HOLDO MOVES.” Yes. I’m so glad someone in the Resistance was like “That was awesome we should do more.” Even if the answer is, obviously we’re not doing that again.
“THEY’RE JUST PEOPLE.” This was good but it needed to be more of the focus. We already did the whole “nobody’s coming” thing, being surprised by Luke and his hero moment. Here, we just needed more explanation of why ordinary people were rising up. Like that whole thing on Canto Bight that everyone complained, stupidly, about.
DEFECTING STORM TROOPERS. A lovely thing that should have been a bigger part of this entire trilogy. The part where Finn and Janna talk about defecting was great. Why wasn’t it longer?
REY SKYWALKER. This could have been the thing she chose to say if she was Rey Nobody. My annoyance at her being a Palpatine doesn’t taint this, though. It was really nice. It reminded me of Anne Shirley being adopted by Matthew and Marilla, with Luke and Leia force-ghosting there.
OK that’s it.