|:: A trilogy of fan-fic set after Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and inspired by George Lucas' historical draft concepts ::
|Nat's thoughts on 'The Rise of Skywalker'...
31st December 2019
Overall, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is certainly fun and exciting and exhilirating.... but it's not without its faults, and those faults, as with TFA and TLJ, simply 'pull me' out of the enjoyment. Considering LFL's plan was to re-generate the movie franchise with a "new generation", and then, controversially, "close down" what has become known as "The Family Saga", they have now completed this task with slick popular films. With Carrie Fisher's untimely death, the added challenge of incorporating Leia into a storyline for IX was a monumental one ; the use of deleted footage from TFA (and possibly TLJ) and some CGI, and clever plotting around those scenes, worked well (though not without its flaws) to honour her and preserve a sense of encompassing story. LFL and JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio should and can be congratulated for the challenge this episode presented ; yet it could have been better, and perhaps fans deserved better ?
TROS felt like a sequel to TFA, a 'grown up' version of TFA, and although it did not completely disregard TLJ (it took some of its ideas and flew with them), there was also too much that did not flow on from Episode 8 ; of course, Rey's parentage being the most obvious one, even from "a certain point of view" !
There's an overwhelming sense of the bonds of friendship and the strengths of camaraderie and teamwork. Daisy Ridley was captivating and strong throughout, we saw Rey go through much more of a character arc I think ; Finn was developed further into a more positive and courageous soldier with potential leadership qualities ; the comedic verbal sparring between Rey, Poe, and Finn was unexpected, refreshing, lovely, and a clever ploy to show that time had passed in their company, and that this was reflected in their companionship. The hint at Finn's recognition of his own potential Force ability was interesting ; I'm not sure if it was entirely necessary, but perhaps it should have been spoken explicitly, and early on, to give Rey the opportunity for her to invite him to train with or under her "when they get back" to set up a sense of potential loss if their mission ahead doesn't work out so well, which would add to the sense of jeopardy. I confess, on first viewing I thought that he wanted to declare his love for her, but subsequent viewings allowed me to pick up on the many references to him having a "feeling" about things. But, as it stands, unspoken and unresolved, it seems unecessarily frustrating, especially for a "closure" story, so it begs the question why this could be clarified directly ?
It's lovely to see Leia once more, and I'm so glad that this character was indeed preserved. Although her scenes were clearly contrived and shoe-horned into the scenes and story around her - or vice versa ! - it's inconceivable that there could have been a version of Episode IX without Leia. Even more so, I really enjoyed and appreciated the brief flashback scene with voice-over provided by Mark Hamill of the younger Luke and Leia in training. A much needed scene that provides a glimpse of personal backstory, as well as 'solidity' and 'validity' in tone and emotion to the rest of their story.
As with Carrie, it was also lovely to see a greater role for Anthony Daniels' See Threepio, which was much more relevant to the legacy of his character as annoying interpreter droid : although contrived and probably over-convoluted, it was clever to utilise the droid for his translation skills in decoding the Sith Dagger. The balance in tone and timeliness of the humour was probably just right, not too much and not too little, and I imagine it must have been quite a challenge to find that balance and his role in this subplot. It was a pity, though, that Artoo couldn't have accompanied them or been used more, though of course his astronav insight if not his mechanical savviness was put to good use later.
For me, it is always a delight to see Chewbacca ; I appreciate that his character as 'loyal savage' and 'incommunicable friend' is a vitally important cog in the classic (Campbellian) heroic group. It was a clever ploy to utilise the classic "switcharoo" seen in films such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK to suggest an early demise for Chewie ; however, even on first viewing, knowing the imagery chosen for some of the promotional trailers, I knew we would see Chewie once more. It was lovely to see his reaction to Leia's death, though frustrating how brief it was and in long-shot format. This sort of makes up for the poor direction / blocking when his path crosses Leia's on D'Qar at the end of TFA, and the two 'blank' each other ! I found, going in to TROS, that I was quite nervous how the secondary legacy characters' fates would be resolved if LFL was adamant that the 'Family Saga' was being closed down. These legacy characters of Chewie, Threepio, and Artoo, were, in a way, just as important as Luke and Leia and Han, or at least visually and culturally, and I did fear that they would be 'killed off' too ; thankfully, as befitting such 'side' characters, they can now go off into the proverbial sunset. I do wonder if, in a hypothetical future story and timeframe, these two droids (and perhaps even the Wookiee) do indeed relate the recent cataclysmic events to the Whills.... as George Lucas had once intended !
I admit, with TFA, I struggled empathising with Kylo Ren and appreciating much of Adam Driver's performance, much lauded elsewhere. However, I think it's fair to say he 'grew' into the role through episode VIII and into IX. Although his final scenes were mostly silent, there was a subtle shift in his portrayal of Kylo Ren to that of of Ben Solo, and not solely attributed to make-up and lighting. Overall I found Driver's portrayal oddly flat and subdued and 'controlled', and perhaps I was wanting or expecting more outbursts, more a 'live-wire' character, rather than physically tightly delivered lines.
I've found, oddly, I haven't really developed much empathy and interest for all the lead characters, and perhaps the important question is why is that ? Although their stories are engaging, I'm not finding that the characters themselves are ; I'm realising that I couldn't really care less about their fates. Perhaps it's because of the structure and characterisation and plotting of the ST that I haven't come to love - and be fearful for - this new generation ; I feel that combining them into the wise-cracking team seen in TROS should have been done much sooner in TLJ, if not TFA. I think, also, for me, knowing by Episode VIII that Rey was not to be a Solo (or a Skywalker), and therefore in my eyes not a direct and intrinsic part of the "family saga", it became a given that her fate was less importent - if she had been a familial relation, then I think I would have 'rooted' for her more. I fully understand Rian Johnson's intention to illustrate that a Hero does not need to be spurred or bound by lineage, but I think, within the blatantly proclaimed framework of "family", and the 'modern greek mythic canvas' that Lucas has created, that Rey did indeed need to be related. As I've indicated before, it's like presenting the HARRY POTTER series from the point of view of Ron or Neville ; or the GODFATHER films from the point of view of Michael who isn't a Corleone ! I still hold to the idea that any deliberate 'experimentation' - by Abrams or Johnson - should be relegated to the proposed 'stand-alone' strand f Star Wars movies or product.
Although it was indeed lovely seeing Billy Dee Williams once more, I felt that his involvement was dictated by the untimely death of Carrie Fisher : if she had been alive, allowing a greater focus on her, as per any original plan by LFL, then, with no prior involvement in the ST, I don't think he would have ever returned ; similarly with Denis Lawson as Rebel General Wedge Antilles (who was dressed in an old OT style rebel pilot outfit ??!), who seemed 'shoe-horned' in ; and I recall a reported interview with Denis Lawson after TFA that revealed he had no wish to return. Lando's portrayal in his first scenes seemed a little flat and tired and mumbled ; yet, even when his character had indicated his "flying days were gone", he clearly 'brightened up' once he was piloting the Falcon again ! One hopes this was a deliberate and subtle choice of direction and execution ? With Carrie's death, it felt too much as if his character and subplot had also been shoe-horned into the story. It was certainly a convenience that Leia - who had had "no friends or allies" in TLJ - had still been in touch with him to the extent that he could rendezvous at Passanna, and that he had happened to be on the same historical mission with Luke as Rey was now.
Of the flaws, once again, as I've indicated before in my critiques of TFA and TLJ, they primarily come across as 'lazy writing', or where the outlines or scripts have not been closely reviewed before being 'greenlit'. It seems astounding and unbelievable to have a self-proclaimed 'LFL story group' yet not have a coherent story plan for the three films, nor the knowledge to correct the script prior to production the glaring holes within the SW lore ; one can't rely on post-release tie-in ref material to clarify or, even worse, 'retcon', mistakes : there should be as few mistakes as possible in the first place, and any clarity should be given within the film for it to stand on its own merit, and any additional material should just enhance what's already been presented. I've been writing fan-fic for the last 15 years or so, and I do my hardest to ensure that the "Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted", and I feel it my duty to myself as a fan to be able to provide some logic and justify situations within the 'rules' already set up by George Lucas. To be able to create new 'rules', new Force powers or ship propulsion or whatever, and justify it as creativity when all it is is 'magically' resolving a narrative block, and not being creative within the rules of the world, is tantamount to treason, or at least, blatantly ignoring and disrespecting all that has gone before. As before, if you provide new 'superpowers' to people and things, it may help the writer out of a 'corner' short-term, but one must always acknowledge a 'rising cost', of sorts, a knock-on effect, that once granted can't easily be taken away ; there are ramifications to the immediate story and characters and to the future by 'cheating' with new and easy solutions. The 'ground-rules' are bent, and that affects everything. In the case of 'playing' in Lucas' sandbox, the restrictions implemented by the world rules and what's gone before should encourage creative solutions, not stifle them to the point that the writer feels the only answer is to create new rules.
In TFA, I raised the concern that no-one independent of Rey had positively commented on her flying ability, since it was decided that her scavenge scooter was to be ground-based and not fly [contrary to some of the conceptual art for TFA] ; at least in ANH, two separate people applauded Luke for his piloting before we see him fly the X-Wing. Starkiller Base relies on its sun to power its super-laser, yet it drains its sun twice. The three primary villains are left for dead on an exploding world [Lucas allowed a shot of Vader spinning away from the DS1 and stabilising his ship]. Leia blanks Chewie would be mourning her husband and his closest friend. In TLJ, there was the issue that the FO could "only now" track ships through hyperspace... yet how did Vader pursue Leia from Scarif to Tatooine, or the Guavian Death Gang track Han from Nantoon to Jakku ? In ANH, Han comments on the Star Destroyers being fast big Corellian cruisers, but his smaller weaker ship, with modifications, can just about outrun them - big engines, big speed : yet, the FO fleet seem unable to overtake the four smaller Resistance cruisers. There was no airlock separating the damaged bridge from the main corridor, nor any attempt to use the corridor as a makeshift re-pressurising airlock. Surely vessels can be controlled by astro-nav droids - certainly X-Wings can, as Artoo offered to fly to the rebel rendezvous point after the Battle of Hoth - so why pilots (and Admirals) needed to be on board doomed vessels beggars belief : this was a convenience to justify Holdo carry out her suicide run, which could have been left to an updated astro-droid. There was a conveniently unscathed FO shuttle at the far end of a wrecked hangar bay. Along with such 'faults' in TROS, I can't help but feel that had George Lucas still been involved with the preparation or execution of the ST, such mistakes wouldn't have arisen simply because he knows his world inside out - certain proposals will feel odd if you intrinsically know they don't belong, or, even better, they won't even cross your mind in the first place.
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER seemed to have far too many of these 'lazy' faults, perhaps because of the short preoduction time (throughout the ST), and obviously compounded by Carrie Fisher's untimely passing ; as well as the loss of writer-director Colin Trevorrow. However, just before TROS opened I read online an outline of Trevorrow's idea for Rey's backstory - making her Leia's servant girl, or the maid's daughter - and I admit I'm glad that didn't play out as proposed !
Let me list some of the in-lore issues I spotted, which, for me, 'yank' me out of the immersive enjoyment of TROS.
- Although it was great to see the 'world-building' at the beginning, it was so fast-paced and exposition-dense that it was difficult to follow, and it was frustratingly anonymous. I don't have a problem with lightspeed micro-jumps per se (presumably the fact that they're so short negates any concerns about "jumping too close to a supernova and ending their trip real quick" [ANH]), though TROS showed us that for all three skips the Falcon ended up in a dense hazardous location, ; also, the Falcon's pursuers - unless we're told otherwise - are short-range fighters and can't travel in hyperspace (we don't see any capital ship that would ferry them or track their prey). Also, I remained frustrated that no PT or OT aliens were seen except for a Mon Calamar. Yes, it's a "big galaxy", but sometimes seeing a familiar 'face' can help anchor the viewer into this fantastic world.
- With Kylo Ren's opening battle scene there's a corpse lying to the left that is so straight armed and legged and not 'posed' that it's laughable ! What with the fuss over the secod wayfinder, it seems relatively easy for him to get this first one. Also, I read recently that this world is supposed to be volcanic lava-strewn Mustafar, but surely the forest environment wouldn't be there for what we know and expect of the locale ?! It may be a simplistic approach, but GL has always given us exotic locales based on typically one striking feature (deserts, jungles, oceans, etc). What with the glimpse in ROGUE ONE and the recent VR game releases, why couldn't this location have been Vader's Castle ? This would have given the audience another opportunity to explore such a tantalising locale, one associated with such an iconic figure too. It would have made more sense for an important artefact like a Sith Wayfinder to have been held securely inside the castle... or an explanation is needed in-film as to why it's in the middle of a forest !
- Seeing two Snoke heads in the (?)cloning vats was a useful ploy, but after the other two films I feel we really needed to have much more explanation. Brief dialogue leaves us to assume that Snoke was clone, and orchestrated by Palpatine, but couldn't this have been made clearer ? Snoke was, after all, the visibly primary villain of the ST until now, with frsytratingly little backstory, and the audience deserved to know more. When we're introduced to an Admiral of the old Imperial Empire, it starts to beg the question why he didn't lead the military might of the FO, or why Palpatine himself didn't return earlier ? Why an 'independent' figurehead with no immediate connection to the old Imperial Empire ? Why are there sentient figures (technicians) moving around on the apparently dead and backwater world of Exogol ? Why not droids ? Droids can be programmed to be safe and data secure ; if they're good enough for Vader's birth, then surely they're good enough for Palpatine's puppet and his own re-birth. In hindsight, I wish we had had Kaminoans there, or in fact re-located Exogol (or at least Palpatine's life support) to Kamino : this gives an existing precedent and familiarity to the concepts of cloning [which if I recall correctly from AOTC was a facility that was rare], and would have incorporated more explicitly an element from the PT, thus tying together the saga as a whole. For me, especially with the pre-TFA rumours involving Luke's hand and lightsabre, this seemed a perfect opportunity to say that the hand had in fact been recovered from Cloud City and taken to Kamino - also, if this star system location had been removed from the Jedi Archives, and presumably there are other 'public' star charts available, then if Palpatine as Emperor had decreed a 'shipping embargo' of sorts and fully hidden the system, he could have had his own secret laboratories there - and thus DNA from Luke's hand could have been used to restore Palpatine or create Rey, or both, and if Rey, then that would have explicitly made her a 'Skywalker' ; it could also have allowed for an opportunity to reveal Maz's story "for another time" as to how she got the lightsabre.
- Maz. What purpose did a thousand year old inn-keeper and underworld 'ear' have on the Resistance Base (whose location we currently still don't know !!!). I hated her role in TLJ - "fighting unions" was nonsense and lazy ! - as well as the fact that the implication in TLJ was that Poe had thought of calling on her, even though he had never met her !! Maz was under-used... or should never have been used in either TLJ or TROS ; or, as suggested above, her throwaway line from TFA should have been explored here to thread the ST more tightly.
- From what I recall there was no or very little reference to the PT (potentially less so than from TLJ !) ; and if the Sith have been absent for "a millennium" at the time of the PT Jedi Order, and notwithstanding ancient history books referring to a "Sith Empire" [ROTS], and with very few people aware of the mere thousands of specialist peace-keeping Jedi stationed across the galaxy in the PT, and even less being aware of them at the time of Han Solo - I still don't know why Rey of Nowhere-Jakku would know of Luke or the Jedi - my impression is that the Sith would be even more unknown or a shadowey 'scare story' - but, no, rebel techies know all about the Sith.... Tie-in material indicates that Monaghan's character was an historian of sorts, which would have underscored his apparent knowledge of the Sith, but there was no indication of this whatsoever in the film : another example of lack of clarity in the source material, and reliance on the potentially overlooked tie-in reference material.
- Rose Tico was woefully under-used, especially after the tentative romance presented between her and Finn at the end of TLJ. The Dominic Monaghan rebel techie character had more input than Rose ; in fact, all of his lines could have been delivered by Rose. A blossoming character in TLJ with much potential ahead, she was relegated to the sidelines and reduced to background filler. Her inclusion in TLJ may have been odd, and as I suggested in my review for that film, once the Home Ship was damaged, she could have been instrumental in helping to fly it from the new locale of an 'engine room' as it were, but by the movie's end, there were certain expectations set up by the classic tropes in story-telling that allowed the viewer to have an informed guess as to where her fate may lead her. In TROS, if that fate was to 'maroon' her on the rebel base for much of the duration, then we needed to see her use her time productively, rather than just a throwaway line. I have since read online that there were indeed more scenes involving her, but at the rebel base, and with Leia, but the footage with Carrie (or its use) wasn't of a good enough quality ; being cynical, one wonders how true this was, considering how much preparation work went in to reviewing Leia's scenes. Surely, if this explanation is true, as soon as it became apparent, the Monaghan lines could have been re-recorded against green screen, and the newer character could have been relegated to the background. As it is, it's painfully obvious that the new character receives more significant screentime and lines than an established character, one from a film that became a controversial episode.
Also, the Opening Crawl indicates that broadcasts have been heard across the Galaxy heralding Palpatine's return. But when we catch up with the heroes at the rebel base, it's implied that they're hearing this [and in a non-english language] for the first time : if this is the case, then what was the point of the information in the Crawl ? To whom was that directed ? The First Order and Kylo Ren only ? And if the rebels already knew of Palpatine's imminent return, surely that would have made their strategy different... and thus how the opening of the movie would play out.
- New secondary character Zorri was interesting, and provided a useful insight into Poe... but it seemed unnecessary to have her briefly return for the space battle at the end. Also, it was far too convenient that she would have had some sort of 'pass' - the "FO captain's medallion" - to allow unrestricted travel, or that it would have interfaced so neatly with a non FO ship. The 'droid repairman' Babu Frik was fun, but seemed very much a favoured 'pet'of Abrams', especially when he reappeared with Zorri at the space battle.
- Hux as a spy : I sort of buy into his jealousy of Ren, but to actively support his sworn enemy ? Even if he "doesn't care if they win or lose", only the previous year or so - with and without red-rimmed eyes ! Argh ! Make-up continuity ! Grrr ! - he had been going hoarse screaming to his troops on Starkiller Base ; it's as if Hitler had thought, let's tell Churchill what I know about the Russian or Italian troop movements. I think not only did JJA and CT struggle with resolving his character, once they decided on the turncoat role, they needed the Admiral Pryde (!) character to be introduced to take his place : by killing off one character they had to pre-introduce a new one ! Surely they could have kept Hux - spy or not - going throughout TROS ? Perhaps even have Ren - against whom Hux was apparently acting - finally take him out, not a blaster-toting Grand Admiral.
- I'm still not sure how I feel about Lando's return. To me, it was clearly a "scrabble around in the dust now that Han and Luke are gone and Carrie is dead" to get an OT character back in to 'anchor' the familiarity. But perhaps the 'need' for such an anchor belied a weakness in the story ? Couldn't it have stood on its own now without yet another OT character conveniently returning ? There were Leia and Luke (and Han) returning after all ! Sure, it was fun to see him, though for me he was very 'stale' in the first scenes, and became more 'alive' in the Falcon at the end battle - especially when he had only just proclaimed his flying and fighting days are over. I'm also not sure now how and when he re-located from Passanna to the rebel base ?! It's a mighty convenience (obviously) that Leia is still in touch with him, and that he and Luke had been doing some investigative work.
- Much was made within the film of Finn having an 'unspoken' declaration for Rey. At first I felt it was one of love, but further viewings, and reading online comments and interviews, supported by the character's comments about "having a feeling", and Jannah's "awakening" from the First Order, made me realise it was indeed his own blossoming sense of Force atunement. But why leave this so hazy and unfulfilled ? Why not have this suspision and realisation earlier in the film (or even in TLJ for that matter), and then start developing it in actuality with, for example, 'mind tricks' or 'Force pulls', relatively 'simple' exercises similar to what we've seen other students apply (eg, Luke, Rey, Anakin). Additionally, it might have generated an interesting moral dilemma foisted upon Rey if she is now regarded as, or believes she is, Finn's Jedi mentor, at a time when she is distracted by, and feels overwhelmed by, the mission before her ; then, at the end of the film, she could say to Finn, "Yes, I will be your tutor now".
- Poe continued in his new role, begun at the end of TLJ, as leader and figurehead. The opening scenes re-enforced the idea that he is a great pilot, and the banter was fun, especially the 'accusations' from Finn ("bad mood always") and Rey ("you're difficult"). Presumably, from a character-development point of view, there is little room for maturing further when illustrating a 'leader' personality. I am somewhat irked by the apparent need to mould him into a new Han Solo, for the revelation that he used to be a "spice runner" is not a million lightyears from being a "spice smuggler", and both occupations are presumably criminal ; whereas earlier movie tie-in reference material promoted him as a morally positive and loyalist rebel hero. The hints at his backstory, and romantic involvement with Zorri, were intriguing, welcome and refreshing, but again felt as if this had been contrived purely to 'allow' for his hot-wiring of the speeders on Passanna.
- Chewie & the droids : it was interesting how they were given the 'moment of jeopardy', presumably because they were the remaining 'classic' characters. In the run up to the film's release, I had actually been quite worried how their fates (and that of the Falcon) would be resovled, since the 'Skywalker Saga' that they had been associated with was closing down, and potentially they would be too. For one, Chewie and Threepio were utilised much more and more befitting to their characters and actors ; Artoo was once more less involved, but I do appreciate how difficult it is to write good material for the droid duo. However, neither characters' 'jeopardy' was overly believable to me, and therefore significant, especially having seen the numerous trailers where we were expecting to see Chewie in the Falcon with Lando later, and Threepio, though loveable, has always been regarded in-lore as an expendable nuisance [as per GL's intention for the galaxy's perspective on droids], and I suppose we would expect some means of being able to mechanically return his memory. With Artoo doing just that at the end of the film (though presumably only from Artoo's perspective (!) ), does that mean Threepio now has a Prequel-era memory again ??
- Ochi and Palpatine, his descendents, and Rey and Kylo Ren : there was a LOT of exposition, some confusing, some deliberately guarded / misleading. Why hide the fact that Ochi was to transport the girl-Rey from Jakku to Exogol ? Why would Ochi believe the parents' exclamations that Rey wasn't on Jakku ? Why couldn't he - a supposedly skilled "Jedi hunter" - hunt down Rey ? Was Ochi Force-Sensitive ? The 'Jedi Hunter' label reminded me of the Art of TFA 'Jedi Killer' concepts, and another possible favourite motif that JJA was desperate to recycle from TFA. And of the parentage, we surely need to know explicitly if the father (or mother ??) was a biological descendant of Palpatine, or a clone, or if they were surrogates to a cloned Rey ? Also, if biological, then what specific timeframe did all this happen in (pre- or post- Order 66 ?), and what are their ages ? Much online chatter understandably chills at the thought that the disfigured Emperor was procreating !! By creating this plotting LFL / Abrams / Terrio opened up yet more questions, and by not stating it explicitly, it remains vague and murky. Once more, not enough exposition where explanation was desperately required !
- The 'Sith Dagger' seemed like a confused concept, though perhaps that's because I think I had read online an early rumour saying something like the dagger, being Sithly, took on its victims' strengths or spirits or whatever, which might have been more interesting. It was clearly a 'combination' macguffin device, one to allow Rey to sense its history, another to provide directions to the second wayfinder, but perhaps having this one plot device serve two things was too much ? Why have the DS2 location inscribed on a Sith dagger ?? And when was it inscribed ? Prophetically before the DS2 was built, or in the last 30 years, and if so, why inscribe it to mark the route towards the recuperating Emperor who wants to stay hidden ? The inscription points to the Endor moon, but then, again conveniently and unlikely, the blade design and protactor thingy happen to line up on the exact outline of that bit of the crumbling DS2 from that exact angle of view. Far too much significance was given to the dagger - once more, keep it simple, and telegraph one idea. Utilising Threepio in his capacity as translator, and thus instrumental for this plot device, was indeed clever, but the sense of jeopardy of the memory wipe, only to have it re-loaded by Artoo later, seemed a little cheap - was such a threat actually necessary ??
- I can sort of cope with medieval Sith magicks as it were - the wayfinder, the dagger, the dyad - but once again it can't really be 'sprung' upon us. If the ST had been planned out in more detail, then such elements could have been 'seeded' sooner in the overall story. Too much, again, seems destined for further explanation in tie-in books, and one can't really make a film (or film series !) always relying on extra-curricular material, it's surely lazy or bad story writing ! I've discovered that all three ST films have required supplemental tie-in ref material [the Visual Dictionaries] to try to provide clarity, and that's wrong. Such material should enhance and elaborate, but the original source material [the movies] should deliver all the clarity one needs.
- Why the ocean moon Kef Bir ? Why couldn't it have been the Endor moon ? If LFL/JJA/CT are going to go to the trouble of illustrating the Ewoks on the Endor moon at the end of the movie, then 'kill two birds with one stone' and combine the two moons. The ROTJ painting of the Endor moon has lakes and seas. The heroes - with Chewie and 3PO - could meet the ewoks again, possibly with Jannah and co as stranded Imperial / FO deserters, and then they go on from there to the DS2 wreck. Astronomically-speaking, why would the wreckage fall to a further away gravity-pulling moon and not to the closer Endor moon, which hosted its protective shield generator ? And such wreckage could be used to show 'environmental devastation' on the "forest moon of Endor", and be a sly critique of, say, global warming or mass deforestation. Lucas was known to subtly use Star Wars as a vessel for commenting on social or technological concerns, and this seemed ripe to illustrate the environmental disaster that surely would have befallen the 'paradise' of the Endor moon and its native ewoks.
- I found the 'new' Force powers intriguing, I didn't necessarily have a problem with the healing power per se, nor the 'teleport' power (especially if this is something that is only happening between Rey and Kylo), but it might have been nice to have perhaps stated that this is 'new' to the Force 'awakening' and 'blossoming' in strength recently, or if they are unique to these two, or if the powers have always been there but we haven't seen them yet. I actually really enjoyed the visually physical 'jumping' of locales between the two combatants, and their effect on their immediate surroundings ; of course, they physically touched in TLJ and there was rain/sea water on Ren. It took me two viewings and reading internet chatter to realise (!) that not only was Ren simply injured and winded on the DS2, and so Rey was able to pass only some of her Life Force energy to him, but that with Rey dead on Exogol, Ren had to transfer ALL of his Life Energy to Rey - and thus die ; it felt very much like a Romeo & Juliet moment, which might have been good or bad, I can't really decide. Perhaps the story would have been more interesting if Ben Solo had lived, with or without Rey dying. For sure, Ren/Ben was likely to be redeemed, but he still had to account for his actions. Where Vader was redeemed and died, although it was satisfying that Kylo would redeem-and-die, a newer direction would have been to keep him alive and see how those who remain regard such a villain - he's not conveniently taken away from the audience, but instead has to atone in some manner. Perhaps Ben Solo killing Palpatine, or in conjunction with Rey Palpatine ; or that he does something from his position of Supreme Commander that shuts down all First Order activity with an executive command. Obviously, this would have created a much longer story, or further sequels, but it could have allowed for some ripe story-telling, and tie in a little more with GL's original ST ideas. But then again, LFL seemed bent on closing down the Family Saga, so allowing for Ben to survive was not an option.
- I really liked the flashback to the younger Luke and Leia, even if the plotting of the scene seemed contrived (because of circumstance). I found it refreshing and welcome, and much needed backstory, though frustratingly brief ! I think it's this kind of material that many fans had been yearning for at other times in the ST. But I felt that JJA/CT and ILM had handled it remarkably well.
- Ren destroys the second Wayfinder but the first one, in his TIE ship (his second TIE ship !), is presumably immune to fire (!) - Rey even says something to the effect of how indestructible they are, which goes against the earlier scene of her adversary crushing it in his fist. I liked seeing the porgs on Ahch-To again, but wished we had also seen a caretaker or two bemoaning the 'mess' that Rey was making on their beloved island ; and I had hoped to see a permanent porg nest in the Falcon. There was something 'cheap' about Luke lifting his old X-Wing - perhaps because I wondered why Rey couldn't do it herself, and thus be another clear example of her mastery of the Force - but it was a nice echo back to TESB, though I railed at the thought that a submerged ship really shouldn't be able to be operational like that ! Also, TLJ had subtly showed us that Luke had used one of the ship's wings - or wing hull plates - for a door to his hut, but this ship seemed perfectly aerodynamic ! Once more, I'm frustrated that what appears to be "Luke's X-Wing" can only be the one he left behind on Cloud City. Luke grabbing his old lightsabre from within the flames did seem a counter to how we had seen him regard his father's weapon previously (in TLJ), though I think he makes a comment or apology to that effect. First impression does make one think of a divisiveness between Abrams and Johnson !! The move also reminded me of certain religious / biblical stories of a figure in a burning bush, etc.
- I liked the 'Dark Rey' vision on the DS2.... but I didn't like the hatch that operated on a defunct station. I appreciate it was all part of the vision perhaps - akin to the Dagobah Cave - but if it was just a conduit, couldn't she have just come across the encounter in one of the many corridors, or a corner of the throneroom itself ? Perhaps where Luke had hidden from Vader, all those years before ? Or even before she finally reaches the old throneroom, perhaps have the Dark Rey goad her and lead her to the throneroom and then disappears ? The wayfinder itself had no reason to be in an anteroom, it surely could have been sited in a corner of the throneroom ? I think I recognised the remains of the throneroom elevator, but she then entered the throneroom from a long corridor - I think however this was from the side, so perhaps it was a second access way ?
- Why was there such a heavy FO presence on Kijimi ? Was it to take more children ? Surely that had already happened one or more years ago ? If the children were being taken to crew the new Imperial/Sith Fleet, then, age-wise, surely all the crews would have been 'harvested' at least twenty years before to allow training and aging ? Was there any real reason why Kijimi was later targetted by the FO, and not another world ? Presumably it was a Sith Star Destroyer with its big planet-wrecking gun that destroyed Kijimi ? Why weren't the other ships deployed away from Exogol whilst the control tower was in operation ? Was it because they only had crew enough for one ship ? In which case, where is the threat from the rest of the fleet , or why raise vulnerable ships premateurely ?
- The red nebula as gateway to Exogol was intriguing but I wasn't sure if it was some sort of wormhole type thing, or just a hyperspace 'egress' point, and if the latter, then why go through it, and not around it, or was the jump to and from hyperspace restricted to within two nebulae ? Presumably the larger and more numerous ships of the Resistance fleet and the 'Populist' fleet would have had to negotiate through the tight corridor as well ?!
- Kylo Ren / Ben Solo is left stranded on the DS2. But then he uses a shiny new classic-style short-range TIE fighter to reach Exogol ! Did he get this from the TIE wrecks within the ruined hangar bays of the DS2 ?
- I still don't know what to make of the fleet of Star Destoyers. Why were they hidden under the 'top soil' of the planet ? If they've been been built over the last 30 years, and crewed by FO or FO stolen orphans, then why aren't they in the design style of the FO Star Destroyers ? I'd be curious to learn of the pre-production design justification for this appearance. The 'red sith troopers' were pretty pointless, no 'Sith powers', just conventional white stormtroopers in red. And we only briefly saw them fighting, shooting, and dying on the hull of the Star Destroyer. The idea of the 'air traffic control tower' seemed a bit odd and lame, more so when they just simply switched it to Pryde's ship ; I concede it echoed the flaw in the Trade Federation's battle droids from TPM, but that was 60+ years ago, and AOTC (or deleted scenes in AOTC) even resolved that weakness ! Likewise, it was strange to have manual controls on a hull gun turret that allowed Finn and Jannah to target the command bridge. Of the Star Destroyers, I grudgingly accept "planet-destroying" weapons... I tihnk it was conceptualised in the Art of TFA and/or the Art of TLJ books.... but Han did once say "not even the whole Imperial fleet could destroy a planet", but perhaps this was a case of re-deploying the DS technology (from Starkiller Base) into Star Destroyers, in which case did it need more clarity ? Perhaps, then, there should have been less ships but bigger, to accomodate the greater weapons technology ? The concept felt rushed ; perhaps more thought to the next new fearsome weapon needed to have been given. I have also since heard online that an Imperial loyalist secret fleet had been set up in the official comics and novels, and so, if this is the case, why wasn't it dovetailed into the movie, utilising the same characters ?
- How did Palpatine survive the DS2 ? Was he a clone when he went to the DS2 ? There is a very brief passing reference by him of "dying once before". Who are the 'Sith Acolyte' followers chanting along to Palpatine ? At first I thought they were ghosts (ie, Sith ghosts, either Sith Lords or Sith followers), but then when the cavern starts collapsing I couldn't tell if they were attempting to flee or if they were 'disappearing'. Why couldn't Palpatine have been a Sith Ghost ? Although this in itself would have gone against what Lucas has indicated in the past, it would have perhaps provided a 'cleaner' explanation rather than have someone believed to have died 30 years before to suddenly re-appear. I think all of this subplot required much more explanation and clarity, perhaps trimming other sections in favour of the necessary exposition earlier in the film. As regards killing off and resurrecting the villains, clearly with Sidious and Maul now, one must decapitate a Sith Lord to prevent him from returning (!). I didn't feel much threat from Palpatine or the new fleet, possibly because their presence hadn't been telegraphed in the previous episodes, perhaps because the fleet needed to be seen in action ? Another weakness of the writing if the audience does not feel sympathy for the endangered heroes.
The way the plotting plays out, it seems that Palpatine's recognition of the Force Dyad was pure serendipity, having wanted to either kill Rey or be sacrificed by her to take up the title of Empress. Once he realised that a Dark Jedi and a Light Sith (as it were) could be combined and their power stolen, for such an omniscient tactical mastermind, learnéd in the lore of the Force, it seems somewhat short-sighted for him not to have realised this before. The whole Dyad and power-draining thing smacked to me of Harry Potter and the Dementors, and a very convenient contrivance. As with Palpatine's backstory (and descendents), I think there needed more opportunity to set up the Dyad ploy and for the audience to understand it. Maz, Luke (if not Leia, for obvious reasons), or even Rey and the Jedi Texts, could have all been narrative vessels to telegraph this idea sooner ; instead, with no obvious mental connection, it's Kylo Ren that recognises the power in a Dyad ! In hindsight, the Dyad of two very powerful beings coming together begs the question why wasn't it around (potentially) for Anakin and Sidious, or Mace and Sidious, or Yoda and Sidious, or Vader and Sidious, or Luke and Vader, or Luke and Sidious ? Or even Luke and Leia ?! I appreciate this is all retrospective in-lore stuff, but it just shows you can't easily create a new plot contrivance without considering its ramifications on what's gone before.
For me, it was too 'Hollywood' to 'kill off' the hero (Ben Solo) and then have him crawl out of the pit almost unscathed ; even Rey seemed mortally injured and then rose again. Any sense of jeopardy is diminished if the Hero - or the Villain - continues to return for more action, a dramatic ploy all too relied upon by 'Hollywood' in making the climax all the more exciting : in doing so, it implies that the first encounter wasn't dramatic enough ! Rey was able to defend against the full might of that super-charged Lightning holding one lightsabre one-handed (where, I think, the likes of Mace and Obi-Wan had to use two hands), though I did like the 'pulsing' pushes she exerted as she threw the lightning back at Palpatine. Presumably the conceit of the ST hero, and of her being related to the villain, meant that she had to be the one to kill Palpatine - and to do so in a way that meant she wasn't attacking him in any aggressive or sacrificial way - but, as proposed above, I do wonder why Ben couldn't have been with her too.
- The Knights of Ren were a wasted opportunity, and should have been Force adept, either trained by Snoke or by Kylo Ren ; they came across as just highly skilled mercenaries. Snoke's Praetorian Guards should have been these Knights, and they should have been fearsome and deadly. Again, they seemed to be a 'pet project' by Abrams who desperately wanted them back into his story (just like Snap Wexley who was absent from TLJ, and to a lesser extent Maz) ; pre-TROS rumours implied that Snap had been drafting help for the Resistance, if so then we needed to see or hear of that ! Such forcibly re-inserted elements, small, secondary, inconsequential, seem to be another example of a divisiveness between JJA and RJ. Also, the implication is that the KoR, in their very small and exhaust-heavy ship, had tracked and followed the heroes to Kijimi... but as per the confusion between R1-ANH and TLJ in regards to hyperspace tracking, how would this have been possible ? Or are Passanna, the asteroid belt, and Kijimi all in the same interstellar neighbourhood ?!
- A minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, but, as in TFA, why do we need to see rebel crew and pilots running around, doing spot-welding, and passing rucksacks to each other ahead of a space battle, when all we really need to see them do, if we even have to, is climb into the ships and put their helmets on [as per ANH] ?
- It was indeed nice to see Wedge, though I do wonder what happened in production to entice him back in considering (I believe) he had flatly ruled out any return for TFA ; for sure, it was a cameo, and for all we know, that's all Denis Lawson had requested, but one feels that his time was so short to seem worthless, it's a pity there couldn't have been a few more scenes with him, or a clear shot of him at the celebrations afterwards. We don't really see the Ghost properly, nor its crew, which seemed a wasted opportunity, having been identified in the trailers ; I don't know why Babu Frik - a droid repairman and clearly a pet 'creature character' of Abrams' !!! - turned up in the space battle, nor how or why Zorri had survived the destruction of Kijimi. Within the apparent small timescale, Lando and Chewie had obviously been very successful in scouting for help from the Core systems (!), especially when until now, "no-one was answering the rebels' plea for help". When the Falcon swoops in to rescue Finn and Jannah it certainly looks as if the ship is positioned wrongly : in other words the top hatch has moved to behind the cockpit, or the ship should have been rotated to be consistent with TESB ! It was a shame that, with this apparent final opportunity, we didn't get a chance to have more of the Falcon's interior be revealed, or understand more of its internal connectivity (which may even have been incorrect for SOLO).
- Rey and Ben's kiss seemed out of place and unecessary, even for the emotional circumstances of the moment ; that might be simply because they had been aggressors until recently, and there had been no sense of romantic allure between them other than a sense of curiosity - the emotional change was too fast for their arc, even if the story was coming to an end - a heartfelt embrace might have been better, or at least more sufficent ? He was also, until recently, the primary villain, with horrific actions against the Galaxy, and against her, to his name.
- Why are there FO Star Destroyers over the backwater worlds of Bespin, Endor, and Jakku ? Why not Coruscant or Naboo or Corellia ? And why do they just 'fall out' of the sky ?
- The Lars farmstead should have been a burnt out ruin. If we are to see the effect of dune movement over time and no house maintenance, and the local woman even says the place has been deserted for "some time", then it was last seen as a smouldering wreck at the hands of the Imperial troopers. Likewise, metal-sniffing jawas would have raided the remains of the farmstead, and certainly the vaporators, which should have been skeletal 'spines'. Alternatively, the lady who interrogates Rey should be the new owner, thus validating the upkeep of this ruin.
There's a certain amount of confusion as to whether Rey now takes up residence at the Lars farmstead ; the closing shot of her standing regarding the twin suns, such a visually iconic moment, implies, because of the two previous instances, that her foot is now firmly planted there. Perhaps a more successful arragement would be to have had the Falcon fly overhead towards the sunset, and towards those horizons that young Luke was forever yearning.
Does 'Skywalker' live on, now, but as an adopted name with Rey ? Is she now not a Palpatine anymore ? Is there Darkness in her that might rear its ugly head in the future ? I'm aware that although Ani was supposedly created by the Force [not by Plagueis, then ??] , his mother carried the 'Skywalker' name, and that - the preceding history - intrigues me just as much as what happened to her great-grandchild.
- Why only hear the Force Ghosts, why not see them as well ?? As per online chatter, I agree that some of those chosen seemed very random, but at least it sounded like the real actors speaking (Liam Neeson, Samuel L Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Frank Oz, etc). There's a tell-tale line from Anakin, something to the effect of "Rey, bring balance to the Force... like I did", which perhaps tells us more about the flaw of the plot, and losing an opportunity to find something more original, even if it echoes the beats of what came before : surely, a clever story-teller would find a way of mirroring what had gone before in such a way as to not appear to be a blatant carbon copy ?
- I was saddened and suprised to find no new 'main theme' of music from John Williams. Perhaps the maestro couldn't discern a melody ? But I really missed having a TROS theme. It was lovely - though inevitable ? - to have familair music, though once again only OT music I believe, and no Duel of the Fates or Battle of the Heroes that we might have heard over the trailers. I now have the CD to the score, and have listened a little, but still nothing much jumps out at me, I'm sorry to say. The clear motif theme, 'Rise of Skywalker', is lovely and has a soft and subtle climbing crescendo to it, but it doesn't seem to have the strength or in-film presence as previous primary themes have. As always, it was lovely to hear Rey's Theme, and variations of it.
In the time since my three viewings, I have found myself mentally re-constructing TROS, clarifying the overall plot, trimming what seems extraneous, honouring what has gone before. If the Opening Crawl says that the Galaxy has heard of Palpatine's imminent return, then the Resistance could be pro-actively investigating this : perhaps seeking out the known haunts of the Emperor, such as Coruscant, Naboo, or the DS2 wreck on the forested Endor moon ; likewise, Kylo, equally concerned, could be searching Vader's Castle on Mustafar - there could even be a clash between FO / Kylo and the Resistance / Rey on the lava planet. Alternatively, Kylo Ren, already aware of Palpatine's broadcast and his history, might seek answers on Courscant, and then on Naboo, where he might discover more about his grandmother, which not creates a pull back to the Light, but links more directly with the PT. If Palpatine was resurrrected through cloning, then Kamino could easily have played a prominent role. The Heroes might seek out Maz in her new home to determine how the Skywalker sword ended up in her possession. Wayfinders as maps or even portals [for Force-attuned only ??] could have been found at such locations as Coruscant, Mustafar, and Endor, all pointing to the Sith Capital of Exegol. Perhaps any new super fleet, or new weapon, could have been at a separate location, and be bait for the Resistance. If this new arsenal was not guaranteed for the FO, and Palpatine wanted to eliminate both galactic players (just as he had done with the Separatists, the Republic, and the Jedi decades before), then perhaps Hux's resources would also be entrapped, forcing the combatants to act together.
I appreciate that Rey-the-unknown-as-Hero was the agenda from Rian Johnson, but the way TFA was presented to us - the hero structure, the weapon, the deliberate mystery - to my mind it made Rey a significant figure ; to also place her in what has become known as "the Family Saga" forces those connotations and connections. My feeling is that LFL / JJA / CT felt like they couldn't courageously go with the 'Unknown Hero' line, and returned her to a lineage of significance... but for whatever reason, originally planned or not, they opted to make the connection to the 'Big Bad' villain, Palpatine ; this in itself was quite shocking and original and clever... but the plotting to get her to that point was painful, and felt contrived and constructed 'on the fly'. On the face of it, there was no sense of over-arching grand plan in the approach to the story-telling across the three episodes, for if there had been, surely there would have been more and better seeding and telegraphing of ideas, laying down hints, for example, of Rey's connection to Palpatine or the Darkness within her, or even to Palpatine covertly controlling Snoke and the First Order.
I'm still frustrated that the apparent current plan is to "close down" the "Family Saga" ; as I've said before, I really can't see why we can't have the same or similar moral conundrums echoing down through the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, and so on. For me, following such repercussions on a greater generational scale would have been fascinating (and open-ended !). Much has been said over the years of the religious and mythic parallels (originally deliberate or not, it doesn't really matter now the juggernaut has moved on) with the SW Saga ; the christian Jesus analogy in particular, but I'm sure there are echoes with Zeus and Odin and Mohammed and Buddha and Shiva, and so on : so my question for the SW writers is, for example, what was life like after Jesus' crucifixion, how did his followers adjust, what was the socio-political landscape like ? In turn, how did the offspring [if any] of, say, Hitler or Himmler or Stalin or Gengis cope and live in the shadow of their fathers ? And then their children, and so on. It's THIS that could be ripe for investigating on a Star Wars tapestry !
For me, I'm saddened to say that 'Star Wars', and the 'Family Saga' in particular, will now only ever be Episodes 1 to 6, with 7-9 as 'spin off' adventures ; they're slickly made and enjoyable, but have no coherence with what has been developed by Lucas. Although they will no doubt grow on me, I'm sad that this is the product we're left with, and I really do NOT consider them as part of a nine-part whole (in much the same way the PT detractors disregard 1-3 !!). They should have honoured Lucas more, and retained more of his ideas, working them in and around the ST construction. The ST as a whole seems rushed with 'lazy' writing (even more concerning since one assumes there are unlimited resources available to the creative teams) ; perhaps the sense of being rushed lies solely at Disney's door and imposing too tight a schedule, and, regardless of their financial investment, they should have provided for more development time ? I'm curious as to what product LFL will create in the years to come - TV and movie based - but I fear the 'heart' and 'spirit' of Star Wars has now gone with the closure of the Skywalker association. As ever, I pose the question, "What makes Star Wars 'Star Wars' and not some generic Sci-Fi franchise ?" Yes, it's fun and action-packed, it's space battles and gun fights, it's spaceships and creatures and exotic locales ; but it's also Jedi and Sith and lightsabres and the Force ; it's also moral dilemmas and subtle history lessons ; it's episodic, moving forward, an evolving story and predicaments and characters.
There's nothing in TROS that suggests to me that LFL/Disney were beholden to pro-actively finish what has become known as the "Family Saga" ; that new or similar moral challenges could be presented to the 'younger' generation, and, as I've suggested before, like a 'TV soap opera', the family's exploits internally and externally could have carried on down the generations. So, for me, the decision by LFL/Disney to close down the 'Skywalker' strand of stories seems perplexing. Yes, I'm intrigued by new material due to come from LFL, but, specifically now that the Skywalker story has been 'told' (badly in my opinion), I feel I'm in no rush to explore a new corner or timeframe of the galaxy. If such stories could 'hang' from a Skywalker character, then I might have been more interested. Skywalker is who started this journey for Lucas, and is what, I think, helps to identify the strange entity known as 'Star Wars'.
I think it's bittersweet that Lucas sold to a company he admired and would have seen make 'star wars' type films decades before, but who then threw out his ideas. The extreme online views seem fixated on the midichlorian world idea, when we know it would have been this PLUS space battles, gunfights, lighsabres, exotic locales... and a subtle history lesson in post-tyranny politics and socio-economic rebuilding (star wars style) . This last point he referred to in old interviews, namely, how do you rebuild structurally and morally.
Regardless of arguing over the Creator's work (and plans for his ST), I feel that Disney / LFL / the fans ought to accord him a little more respect... the ST feels like such a slap in the poor man's face.
|Nathaniel Reed, 31st December 2019