The Rise Of Skywalker, And How Star Wars Is Junk

The Rise Of Skywalker, And How Star Wars Is Junk

Star Wars is junk.

No, no, I know, but bear with me.

Junk, let’s just say this now, is not necessarily a pejorative.

Junk can be wonderful. Have you ever been to a junkyard? An old-timey one with appliances and cars and secret treasures buried throughout? Have you ever eaten a cookie, or had ice cream? They’re junk, too. Ever seen a kid play with an empty box? An empty box is junk. But what they do with it — I mean, it’s a pirate ship, a boat, it’s knight armor, it’s an action figure base.Some junk is just trash, admittedly. But some junk is artful. Masterful. Just because it’s old — or cobbled together from various pieces — doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it junk.

Star Wars, particularly the original trilogy and the new sequel trilogy, live in a galaxy of junk. Tatooine to Jakku, trash compactors to Jawa crawlers, it’s a galaxy of junk. A glimmer of the upper echelons of Cloud City swiftly give way to its bowels, of hissing steam and grim industry and those little junk monkeys, the Ugnaughts (sorry, Kuiil), who turn C-3P0 into, you guessed it, junk. (C-3P0, whose one leg was already junk, in fact. And later, an arm, too.) The prequels have a little bit of junk, of course — Anakin is born into it. But the worlds there are mostly shiny and new, and the CGI reflects it, having eschewed practical SFX built out of, well —

Junk.

The greatest piece of junk in Star Wars is the Millennium Falcon.

It’s a hunk of metal, lumpy and odd. It’s routinely shown being cobbled together at the same time it’s been damaged left and right. It’s name, the Falcon, is an ironic one — it looks less like a falcon and more like a, I dunno, a manhole cover. It’s not a sleek fighter. It’s a cargo ship. It carries things.

It’s also the coolest ship in the damn galaxy.

And that, to me, is Star Wars. Star Wars is the Millennium Falcon — they both are ill-fitted, cobbled-together hunks of space junk that carry a lot of weight and somehow still fly crazy fast, pulling off unbelievable stunts time and time again. And we love it. Despite its look, despite the junk, we love it.

Star Wars is junk.

* * *

I saw the Rise of Skywalker, and it is, indeed, junk.

It’s junk cobbled together from all the other detritus and debris from this galaxy — in many cases, literally so, as it endeavors to climb to the top of the pile of this wonderfully broken galaxy and culminate both three films (this trilogy) and nine films (the trilogy of trilogies). It makes this attempt, and mostly, gets it right. “Gets it right,” is subjective, obviously, and I’m not making any declarations here for how it objectively does this or that. Some people are going to love this film and some are going to hate it and all of those people, I think, could stand to remember that Star Wars is junk, and so is this movie. Just as Return of the Jedi was — just as, in a way, all of them are. Some are more “elevated” than others. Certainly Empire is often thought to be the pinnacle of Star Wars storytelling — and then comes along scrappy ROTJ, to bork it all up. I say that lovingly. Empire is the better film. Jedi is my favorite of the two. Just as The Last Jedi is probably the best of the sequel trilogy, but also, my favorite is (so far), The Force Awakens. Sometimes it’s good to see the art in junk and regard it as such, while also acknowledging that sometimes it is not the most artful things that spark joy.

We like what we like, you know?

So, before we begin any spoiler talk, my assessment of Rise of Skywalker is that it fits in neatly in the tradition of being delightful junk. It also remixes Return of the Jedi, same as the two earlier Sequel Trilogy films are broken mirrors of the first two Original Trilogy films. It does a lot of heavy lifting. It wants to show you so many things that it has cobbled together (put more crassly, it wants to show you its junk, hurr hurr, hurr hurr), and it’s like an eager kid telling you a story. AND THEN THEY DID THIS, AND THEN THEY WENT HERE, AND THEN AND THEN THIS AND THAT AND THIS AND AND *deep breath* AND THEN THIS. It is almost desperate to please you. (And, mostly, for me, that gambit paid off. I was indeed pleased and tickled. Mostly.)

Is it good? I dunno. It’s junk, and I liked it.

Does it have high points? It sure does.

Does it have low points? Well, yeah, it has those, too. And for all the wonderful talk of The Last Jedi, that has low points, too. CASINO PLANET, while admirable, doesn’t work for me in execution, only in idea. DJ is a stuttering cipher who has no meat on his narrative bones except to be a carrier of theme — he’s not a character, he’s a purpose. It’s fine.

(We don’t have to love a thing entirely to still love it.)

Does Rise of Skywalker hit emotional beats? It does, it really does. I got misty-eyed at parts, because these are films I love dearly, and someone like JJ Abrams — like Rian Johnson before him and *checks notes* JJ Abrams before him — knows how to orchestrate feelings even when they can’t always orchestrate plot. Are sometimes these emotional beats right on the edge of manipulative? They are. And you can almost feel it, but it’s like how you know a roller coaster is designed to elicit your thrills — it doesn’t stop the thrills from happening.

So, if you want to stop reading here, that’s it, that’s my capsule review. I liked it. It’s junk, wonderful junk. I’ll see it again tomorrow, and I’ll see it dozens more times and dozens more after that, because I am a sucker for Star Wars, and I love these characters, and Star Wars, like pizza (another junk food), is great even when it’s not great.

But I like also to pick apart story, to see what lessons we can learn as storytellers.

And that part comes next.

Which means: spoilers inbound.

Spoilers, spoilers, spoooooiiiiilers. These will not be encoded with ROT13 as I do on Twitter, but rather, BOLD, FACE-SLAPPING SPOILERS. Ye be warned.

* * *

Let’s start off with pacing.

Pacing is hard. Doubly hard in action or adventure films.

Star Wars does pacing badly. Almost always. Even at its best, the films are nearly always paced super goofily. Now, there’s two aspects of pacing — what I would consider external pacing, and internal pacing. Internal is about the passage of time in the story itself. External is how we, the audience, perceive the rhythm of that passage.

Example:

Empire is amazing, but it kinda shrugs away how much time they’re spending in different places. So its internal pacing — the timeline — is confusing. How long is Luke on Dagobah? Does it perfectly line up with how long Han and Leia are on the lam? Ennnh. Answer unclear, ask again later. But the film does external pacing well! We feel a nice ebb and flow of narrative, we get moments of tension and action, and we get moments of conversation and exploration. In a video game sense, think of how Bioware encourages these long conversations with the other characters that seem like filler but are arguably the point — the treasure! — of the game. It’s not the shooting. It’s the talking. ESB does this well. So does, I’d argue, TLJ — though TLJ also has a muddy timeline, it does have a powerful rhythm to its narrative architecture.

On the other hand, TFA feels paced like the whole film fits in its own running time. Both internal and external pacing are largely in a rush. And that’s true here, too, at least for the first half — the first half of Rise of Skywalker is fucking breathless. It doesn’t stop. It just goes from place to place, from plot dongle to plot widget. It hastily hard-charges through the story and through action scenes without much pause. The second half is better paced. It takes more time. It is willing to stop.

And Star Wars is best when it’s willing to stop.

Think, if you will, of Luke regarding the binary sunset to the swelling score.

Think of Anakin in ROTS, staring out over Coruscant, clearly broken, but not realizing it.

Think of Rey in the desert, making her dinner, looking up at the sky.

These are moments of quiet contemplation — of, in SW terms, peace and purpose. And it does serve a purpose: it gives us a moment to catch our breath. To regard the vastness of the universe and the truth of these characters. In a more stripped down sense, these moments fill the room with oxygen — they are not building tension so much as they are building to the building of tension. We fill the room with oxygen so that eventually, we can set it aflame. We can blow it up, swallow it. It also gives us time to root ourselves, to care about the characters. Stories like Star Wars thrive on moments of quiet contemplation.

And Rise of Skywalker has too few of these moments.

* * *

I want the four-hour version of this film. I’m told one exists — a long, possibly clumsy cut. But I want it. Because there’s so much missing here.

Let me backtrack and explain: as I said, this film endeavors to culminate both three films, and nine films, and it does those things well. Sometimes, too well — it tries very hard to please everybody. Did you like TLJ? This film synthesizes it. Did you hate it? This film answers it. Did you want Leia to be a Jedi? Done. Did you want Rey to be both Somebody and Nobody, a Palpatine, a Skywalker? Done. All of it! Boom! Did you want Reylo? Done. Did you want Ben Solo’s redemption, but also, not too much of his redemption? Done. Palpatine? He’s back. Did you want Luke to catch a lightsaber instead of throwing it away? Done. But also, porgs? Yep, porgs. Han Solo as an almost Force Ghost? Fuck it, why not? Christ, are you still mad (as, admittedly, I was) that Chewie never got a fucking medal in A New Hope? WELL, THIS SHIT FIXES IT. It just throws everything at the wall. Sith! Jedi! Skywalkers! Death stars! Desert planets! Forest planets! Ewoks! AhhhHHHHHaaahhhh *hnnngh* narrative orgasm *hrrrrgggh*.

But as a film, it also forgets to be a singular unit.

It forgets to conclude itself.

It introduces things, and then… forgets them entirely.

Finn has something important to tell Rey. It’s referenced multiple times!

And then, forgotten.

Finn has a destiny, is maybe Force sensitive! But it’s mostly a plot thing. More a “cake and eat it too” component, or a piece designed to simply urge the plot forward (“How do we get from A to B? Uhh, Finn has a ‘feeling’!”).

Finn and Poe are at odds for… reasons? Maybe romantic reasons?

And then it’s gone.

Chewie is dead, but then he’s not… somehow? I have to see it again, but I don’t remember there being two transports. And Rey certainly should’ve been able to sense his life presence — as she is able to do literally 20 minutes later in the movie.

The film seems to forget that it has characters whose arcs need an end. It mostly eschews them to finish off Rey and Kylo’s arcs — Finn and Poe and muddled. Poe seems to be relitigating his same lessons from the first film, oh he’s a hothead, and now also he’s an ex-criminal which makes him shady. Finn is Force-sensitive, and maybe loves Rey, but maybe doesn’t, and maybe he loves Rose, but maybe Jannah, but then, nah, nobody. None of it concludes. Poe maybe loves Zorii Bliss, and she wants to kill him until conveniently she doesn’t want to kill him anymore For Reasons, and then even at the end, Poe doesn’t get to kiss anybody, which seems like a crime punishable by the Hague. Doubly so because it’s not Finn he’s kissing, because at the end of the day the two characters with the most onscreen chemistry are those two. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the LGBT thing.)

Lotta love in the air.

None of it fulfilled.

Except between Rey and Kylo — by then, Ben. I don’t know that I’d say it’s forced. I think it’s there, and it’s not surprising, and it’s earned. But it then fails to address that there should be complexity and consequence to that choice. By redeeming him and kissing him and then watching him die, Rey has gone through some shit. And there’s no real consequence for that because by then, we’re at the end of the film, and there’s little more to see, or do, except to see our trio of friends back together one last time. Which warms the heart, and brings the tears, but also makes me wish for more with these characters. I want to see them navigate that fallout in a way that’s real, that’s earned. I’d honestly want to see them be together — romantically. Either earn the earlier tension between them, or dissipate it by bringing them all together, literally, romantically.

The film earns an ending to its trilogy.

It somewhat earns an ending to the trilogy of trilogies.

But it doesn’t really conclude itself. To thine ownself, it is not true.

And I think it could get there with another 20-30 minutes — or, ideally, a whole other film, way the last Avengers film was split in twain. But I suppose we won’t get that. I’ll always wish for it. I’ll always wish to see the bigger emotional panorama, because it’s clear a lot was flayed from the emotional meat in order to accommodate the swiftly-moving plot.

* * *

Small stories are why we care about stories.

It’s not big stories. Big stories are too big. They’re just architecture — when done right — for small stories. Luke as a kid who wants off a planet, who is struggling with finding out he has a bad dad. Han as a gambler with debts, selfish to selfless. Leia as a princess without a home.

Rise of Skywalker cares about Rey’s small story. Maybe Kylo’s, too.

It mostly forgets about everyone else’s small story.

Their stories are lost in the crashing tides of the galaxy’s churning narrative seas.

* * *

It suggests, perhaps, that films are no longer the best way to tell these stories.

Ironically, Mandolorian (so far) feels stretched thin over its episodic structure (though Chapter 7 was amazing), but Rise of Skywalker could play better over 8, 10, even 12 episodes. Gosh, I wish it would. Could you imagine seeing this story told more in the framework of Avatar: The Last Airbender? As a structure, how amazing would that be? To give the big emotional beats the time to percolate, to boil over, to be earned?

Alas.

* * *

Babu Frik forever. Babu Frik for life.

* * *

Palpatine fucks, I guess? Ew.

* * *

Okay real talk I thought we’d get more, there. Thought we’d learn that Palpatine created Anakin, we’d hear more about Plagueis and his ability to never die, thought if Rey was part of him at all she was like Anakin — manifested from the living Force, or drawn from the Dark Side. Not that Palpatine literally fucks. Because I guess he literally fucks. What the fuck.

Seriously, what the fuck.

I don’t want to bow-chicka-bow-wow that wizened scrotal Sith goblin. Ugh. JFC.

* * *

Okay.

Ahem.

Let’s reset.

* * *

The last thing to talk about is the worst thing to talk about. Not worst as it, unnecessary. Worst as in, the least satisfying aspect of the film.

There exists a much-vaunted LGBT kiss in the film. It’s about a half-second of screen-time. I guess to their credit, it’s at least a named character from TLJ — er, though I confess, I forget her name. But it’s hasty. It gets less time than the banana slug. It gets less time than nearly everything. You might miss it. Many probably did.

The reasons for this are potentially so it’s easy to cut out for Chinese censors — but even that feels like an excuse. Because a film could always be cut in a way to excise that. Not that one should do so just to make money, to be clear! Only that, we still could’ve gotten Finn and Poe tongue-fucking in a Millennium Falcon cargo bin and they could’ve clipped that for Chinese audiences. This sort of thing should be present. On-screen. And I joke about the tongue-fucking, but it doesn’t need to be explicit — LGBT characters should be allowed to exist in this universe, on screen, in a lived-in, live-there way. Not backgrounded. Just present. Always present. We can have aliens and robots but not LGBT representation? C’mon. We watch a lot of cartoons with our kid, and they’re doing it better. Way better! Craig of the Creek! We Bare Bears! She-Ra! Dragon Prince! Steven Universe! Star Vs The Forces Of Evil! C’mon, Star Wars. Get it done. JFC.

Certainly others are better equipped too to talk about the film’s representation in other directions. Finn being largely underused, chasing after Rey, is not ideal. Poe being hot-headed again and now, a criminal, and having to re-do the same character arc as before — that’s not great, either. But Jannah and Finn have good moments. Lando, too. Rose being totally sidelined? And I mean, totally sidelined?

Oof.

It’s certainly a place where the film could’ve done more work.

A lot more work, probably.

* * *

Star Wars is junk, and so is this movie.

It’s a candy bar, but a really good one.

It’s a junker car, but one that feels great when you’re driving it, even if it sometimes looks janky as fuck bounding down the road.

It’s the Falcon, it’s Threepio, it’s the Jakku desert. Junk strewn everywhere, but often to artful purpose, to articulate a feeling, to paint a picture.

I know the cool thing to do is “rank” the films — I’m always dubious of that because my rankings fluctuate wildly. And also I have two rankings: how much I like a movie, as noted, is not always the same as how “good” I think the movie is. I guess if I had to rank this one, right now it’d fall somewhere in the middle? Above nearly all the prequel films (including RO and Solo), but below a lot of the others. It satisfied me like a Snickers, but like a Snickers, it did not always feel like a complete meal — satisfying texturally, satisfying to the dopamine hit, satisfying in its sweetness and its crunch, but not in how long it leaves me feeling good. Maybe sometimes too sweet. Maybe other times not enough. And maybe sometimes I question my decision to have eaten candy in the first place.

I look forward to the next thing. Because I always do. And perhaps the greatest compliment I can give this movie is it makes me want to write Star Wars again — not to fix anything, not to patch over this film, but to play in the galaxy again, to extend out what was done here, to keep seeing these characters come back. Because I don’t want their tales to be done. Their tales can’t be done. There has to be more — otherwise, whatever was the point?

I could say more. It’s Star Wars, after all. Gimme a pot of coffee and a slice of pie and we could sit at this diner all night. But I’ve said my piece. And as with all these movies — which mean a lot to me, for good and for ill — I’ll keep thinking about them, and finding things I love, bits of preciousness among the debris. I’m sure you will, too.

For now, we rest.

And wait for the ending of the Mandalorian because NO BABY YODA NO I LOVE YOU BABY YODA I WILL GIVE MY LIFE FOR YOU AHHHHH ahem.

What I’m trying to say is:

MTFBWY. See you on the other side of the (Star) War.


71 responses to “The Rise Of Skywalker, And How Star Wars Is Junk”

  1. Agreed with all points and would like to add another – this film does the same thing badly-done superhero show episodes do, and that is *forget the powers of the characters.* Rey can levitate! She doesn’t need to do half the things she’s doing! Cut the skimmer scene and let the ocean be there to keep everyone away as the Reylo stuff starts heating up!

    aaahhhhggghhnnnnggg

    But I got my Leia. I fucking got my Leia. I am fine. 🙂

      • It’s not just the ocean – it’s all the climbing, and in particular the false tension of her stepping on that thing that fell off the pole, which drove me a bit bonkers. I say cut the skimmer scene because it’s not necessary; you could have Jannah say “she stole a skimmer?” cut to the skimmer entering the big cut between two huge walls (I’m fascinated at how often this visual metaphor came up) and go straight to Rey entering the control room with the secret door.

    • We had this conversation last night; before Palps became Uncle Wrinkles, he was a very powerful and very charismatic politician. And some people are attracted to power.

      We know that Palps became Uncle Wrinkles in 19 BBY, and that Rey was born in 15 ABY. If we want to assume that Palpatine’s son is born pre-Uncle Wrinkles, that would put Rey’s dad at around 34/35 when Rey is born. So, it works.

  2. Fantastic review. But there were two transports. And I could argue that Rey felt people dying & might not have realized that one of them wasn’t Chewy. But otherwise, yeah.

  3. Great review.
    I just can’t get past force healing. It obliterates Star Wars.
    With force healing, Darth Vader surely doesn’t die after throwing the Emperor. Not anymore! Gotta save Padme? Meh, no need for the dark side. Heck, who’s Dark Vader at all? Anakin’s mother wouldn’t have died and so no need to wipe out a village – except maybe just the mean ones. With force healing there’s no Star Wars saga, at all. None of it. 🙁

      • Where did force healing exist? AFAIK, this is the first time it shows up as canon. And if it did exist, why did they never use it but instead use robot healing beds and things? blah.

        • On screen and in new canon? It’s in Mandalorian, specifically the episode that aired the day before TROS came out. They make a pretty big deal about showing it, which I’m assuming was meant to set the precedent for what we see in the movie.

          But in old canon? It’s in sooooo many books. So many.

    • My understanding from the RPG is that different Jedi have different specialties. Leia is better at sensing people and emotions than Luke is. Ezra Bridger was astoundingly good with animals because of his ability to connect with them. Rey can heal. Luke can do a strong Force projection. There are a lot of aspects of the Force, and not everyone is equally as strong in all of them.

      • I know we’re kind of getting nit-picky, but “better than” doesn’t mean not at all. I’m surprised so few people care the healing when so much of the Star Wars story is based around people dying when no one needed to die.Anyway, thanks for your response.

  4. What I want to know is, why is redemption only possible through death in Star Wars. Surely it would be more meaningful if they were made to live with their past? Now they always get the easy way out. And I absolutely agree that it was shameful how Rose was sidelined with new characters being brought to divert Finn and Poe from the core friendships they spent two movies building. Oh, and there was another transport ship when Chewbacca was taken away. I paid special attention on the second time I saw the movie. 🙂

    • So, SPOILERS HERE FOR NEW CANON AND OLD CANON!

      I haven’t watched the entirety of Clone Wars, so I don’t know if there’s any examples in there. But in Rebels? A huuuuuge redemption plot is Agent Kallus. He’s one of the biggest baddies of the Empire in the show, loyal through and through. He’s done some really shady shit. Then we start to see him question a few things, there’s a really awesome episode of him helping out one of the main characters, and then! Then he becomes a spy (Fulcrum) for the Rebellion. We get to see him helping out, while also dealing with his past.

      Speaking from old canon (I really need to start getting better versed in new canon), we do see redemption without death in the books.

      So, obviously, SPOILERS FOR OLD CANON.

      One example I can think of is Kyp Durron; he goes hardcore Dark Side (via heavy influence by an evil Sith spirit) and winds up destroying an entire PLANET. Luke helps him on the path of redemption, and Kyp becomes an amazing Jedi. But his past always stays with him. Like, always. We see a lot of references to his time on the Dark Side, and his destroying Carida comes up quite a few times as well.

      Another example is Mara Jade; she’s an Emperor’s Hand (spy and assasin that’s loosley trained in the Force) and her mission from Palpatine is to kill Luke Skywalker. We meet her after the Emperor has been killed, but she still has his missive to kill Luke echoing in her head. There’s some really great tension between Luke and Mara in several books, and after Luke finally comes to his senses (after a string of really, really weird relationships), he and Mara get married. But before that, Luke does help Mara along the path of redemption and she too becomes an amazing Jedi (who will eventually help train Jaina Solo, one of Han and Leia’s kids).

      She and Luke even have a kid, Ben, who has his own minor-ish arc of redemption.

  5. Agreed. The film felt more like being rushed through an exhibit by a guide who had to pee really bad. “Okay here’s some things… here’s some more things… and here’s some other things. Okay? Good.”

  6. So… if Palpatine created Anakin, and Rey is also Palpatine’s granddaughter… doesn’t that technically mean Kylo and Rey are related?

    To quote a Slayer… raise your hand if eww.

    • Well, we don’t actually know Palps created Anakin. I don’t think that’s canon — it’s just been suggested at, hinted at, for a long time. Anakin is basically made of nothing and no one — or at least is fatherless. But we don’t ever get that confirmed, I don’t believe.

        • Lucasfilm story group, as well as the writer for that issue, have stated that’s not the case. That Anakin was deep in the dark side, and that the dark side is not a reliable narrator.

          https://comicbook.com/starwars/2019/12/24/star-wars-darth-vader-emperor-palpatine-father-darth-plagueis/

          [QUOTE] “This is all in Anakin’s head … I can tell you definitively, as someone who worked on the comic, that is 100% not the intended implication,” Martin said. When someone questioned Martin’s interpretation of the scene, as Martin did not write the comic, Martin tweeted, “It’s part of my job to ensure the stories are aligned with the overall vision of Star Wars. If the intention was to make a direct connection between Palps and Anakin’s birth, I would have had it removed.”

          If that wasn’t enough, the person who did write the comic stepped in to confirm Martin’s statements. “I am, in fact, the writer,” Soule tweeted. “Matt and I worked closely on this series and this point in particular. I hate explaining stuff in my work in too much detail, but you need to understand the scenario happening here. The Dark Side is not a reliable narrator.” [/QUOTE]

  7. Great write-up.
    For me, I cannot get past force healing. It obliterates the entire Star Wars saga, imho. With the existence of Force Healing Darth Vader doesn’t die after tossing the Emperor. Heck, there is no Darth Vader because healing Padme wouldn’t require the dark side, and Anakin’s mother survives anyway! Yoda fading away but you need more training? Not anymore! Clones are dying left and right on the battlefield? Well.. not really, they just need a patch up.
    Ugh. It just rips out the entire foundation of everything Star Wars. 🙁

    • Here’s the thing about Star Wars that a lot of people seem to ignore; it’s a HUGE GALAXY. Not everybody has the same Force abilities.

      Again: Not everybody has the same Force abilities. Luke doesn’t heal Anakin/Vader because he doesn’t know how to use Force healing because he had such limited training from Yoda.

      I don’t know if there’s any mentions of them in the prequel movies (maybe?) but there are Jedi Healers. I think they get brought up in the Clone Wars show, for sure.

      And Force healing itself is established pretty firmly in old canon (and new) as something only the Light Side can do. Manipulating the Living Force by Dark Siders has the opposite effect – which it should.

  8. One thing I can’t help but notice is that Force powers are getting a bit too powerful in the need to keep raising the stakes. Now Rey and Kylo Ren can duel remotely! They can teleport things! Rey can stop a transport from taking off! Force ghosts can use the Force just as easily as living people! (so, um, Luke, Yoda, maybe come help stop Palpatine?). Palpatine can EMP the entire armada with his fingertips!

    Another couple movies and they’d be able to physically travel across the galaxy and hurl planets at each other with their minds.

    • Force powers always escalate, though.

      Rey and Ren dueling remotely is a smart, cool escalation of their link — from when they touched hands. Not weird they can physically interact.

      Rey stopping a transport from taking off — well, first, she’s apparently a Palpatine, but also, we’ve seen Jedi be able to do that before.

      Force ghosts using power — Yoda did it in TLJ, and given that Force ghosts are relatively “new,” not too odd to see those powers grow. (Be nice to see that addressed, though, as in, “Hey, this is a thing.”)

      Palpatine’s EMP is admittedly pretty big — but he also has star destroyers that can blow up planets now, I dunno, this is Star Wars.

      • Palpatine had also just drained, like, 99.9% of both Rey and Ben’s Life Force. So it’d be like drinking a million 5 Hour Energy Shots to amp up his power. And he mentions having all of the Sith within him, another boost.

      • Admittedly, the remote dueling WAS cool as hell to watch.

        I’d prefer the ghosts to have limited interaction with the physical world and remain more as guides for the living characters. I did like Yoda’s lightning strike in TLJ, and Luke catching the lightsaber was a great moment. But I think Rey could & should have lifted the X-Wing out of the water herself.

  9. My biggest problem with the idea of Poe being a Spice runner, and then “for some reason” walking away to join the resistance is that considering who his parents were, it’s not weird at all. Shara and Kes fought literally alongside Luke and Leia and Han in Shattered Empire. He’s not an ace pilot because he had to be to be a successful smuggler, it’s because Shara took him up in an x-wing when he was hardly old enough to walk and showed him the stars. I can’t see there ever being a moment of doubt that a kid of a pair of war heroes who grew up on Yavin 4 would join the Resistance.

    • I know that Poe gets directly recruited by Leia to join the Resistance while he’s a pilot for the New Republic. But I’m still trying to figure out where the Spice running fits in. Then again, Han is also running Spice as he gets caught up with the Rebellion.

      • Whatever. They couldn’t be running anything that wasn’t stolen from Herbert? Designer shoes? Porg skin hats? Anything original?

  10. Silly fans. Star Wars exists only to promote radical left-wing politics. You actually expected a story when there’s pseudovirtue to be signalled?

  11. I had to admit I thought of you, Chuck, when Snap Wexley met his valiant end. You were the one who gave him a character, a history, so that instead of being mistaken for Porkins Mark II like I suspect most of the audience considered him, those of us who read Aftermath felt something when he bought it, so thank you very much for telling that “small story”.

    And I concur: it was storytelling at breakneck speeds but I would have absolutely loved more time spent with the characters to let the narrative breathe, so that we remember why we care so much about them. If there is a four hour cut, I’m in. Any theories on how the Sheevmeister survived being disintegrated on the second Death Star, though?

  12. In slimming down the film from the four-hour cut, they seem to have cut a bunch of small-story threads. But with at least one of these they only cut *most* of it – so perhaps this happened with more of them.

    The one I’m fairly certain had more beats and was more fleshed out was the Lando-Jannah connection, which had to do with a discarded scene of Lando supposedly mentioning that he had a daughter who was kidnapped by the First Order or some such. Knowing that turns the scene between them that they LEFT IN from what I saw as a well-creepy and entirely inappropriate chat-up into something quite poignant. But they left it out, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    So like you I wonder if there’s not a whole long spoil of other snipped threads out there, perhaps one showing the small story that led to the celebratory kiss, and another for Finn, and dare I hope even one for poor, poor Rose, who deserved so much better than being the awkwardly tolerated child from a previous relationship.

    And also like you I loved that hunk of junk – and can’t wait to see it again.

  13. It could have been a colossal steaming trilby full of bantha shit and gamer gate apologists and I still wouldn’t be able to hate it because CHEWIE GOT HIS FUCKING MEDAL FINALLY.

    Also his reaction to Leia’s death was us all, I think.

  14. I feel like a BUT THE BOOKS! person so often. I old canon and what I’ve read of new canon there are some really great LGBTQ relationship that are just there- normal and present. I totally agree that this needs to be reflected on screen so a wider audience can see it. Maybe in the Disney+ shows, or the future standalone movies?

    And I know this may be me reading a lot between the lines and also projecting my opinions onto things, but I (and my husband) got SERIOUS poly-triad vibes from Finn/Poe/Rey throughout the entire movie, but especially at the end. It’s not individual hugs between them, its ALL of them hugging together, and a clear shot of Poe and Rey holding hands.

    Again, it’s probably a lot of me projecting my opinions onto the situation as my husband and I are poly ourselves. But I know I’m not the only one because of how much Finn/Poe/Rey fic is out there.

    I would love to see it become canon. Health poly relationships based on trust and communication are such a healthier way to resolve love triangles.

  15. I’m sticking with the idea that Palpatine fucked back when he was a senator and had a wife and kid to maintain the facade of a respectable man, then she was abandoned or went into hiding when he became emperor.

    • The math works; Palps gets all ugly in 19 BBY, Rey is born in 15 ABY. Rey’s dad could still have been born prior to ugly Palps and still have only been around 34/35 when Rey was born.

  16. Good points. My friends and I all agreed that the pacing was difficult. It was just too much, too fast. I felt like a force-fed goose. Cheers!

  17. I really like the candy bar analogy. As a kid, my life revolved around Star Wars. I saw the first one (not the fourth one) in theaters when I was six, and the original trilogy dominated my childhood.

    As kids, we love us some candy bars and never stop to question what’s in them…we just want more. As an adult, I found myself not as enthralled by the prequels, and found myself over-analyzing them. Once I sat down and watched them with an eye for just enjoying them, I had a lot more fun with them.

    Sure there are issues with ROS, like how they just happened to be at the perfect spot where the dagger would up with Death Star wreckage, and why would a dagger be inscribed in an ancient Sith dialect about the location of a Sith artifact when it was just in a room on said Death Star 25 years ago, and who created the dagger post Death Star wreckage, but overall I had fun and that’s what matters.

    Any movie can be nit-picked to death if you want to…especially ones that held such a huge part of my childhood, but I choose to just enjoy it. Just like a candy bar.

    • I think I could have enthusiastically liked ROS if it weren’t for that damn dagger. It was the flaw that made others all the more visible.

      Yeah, I know there are potential lore explanations (it was made by an ancient Sith seer, it was created by Palpatine as a secret Rey-only test key, etc) but by that point I… just… couldn’t… do it.

  18. Palpatine could easily have had an entire “perfect family” and led a dual life as a Senator from Naboo and a Sith Lord, pre-Emperor-grossness.

    Granted, it would make more sense for Rey to be his great-granddaughter in that scenario. But as you say, Star Wars time is wonky. Also I don’t know the average lifespan of a native Nabooian human. Also not every culture bothers with “greats” for generational titles.

    So I can explain Palpatine fucking. But it takes adding in my own extrapolation.

    And Rey being one bugs me because it negs Luke’s entire “the Force is for everyone” lesson from TLJ. But whatever.

    Overall, yes. It’s junk. And I loved it.

  19. I did not enjoy the film, but it’s totally fine if other people did. You said it, we like what we like. And there are moments of brilliance. When Kylo says, “Dad.” And Han says, “I know.” DAMN. That was a heavy hitter. That’s a brilliant reference to the older films.

    This one movie had probably two films worth of story shoved in which is probably the single biggest problem. There’s a lot of setup with no payoff in the movie. You referenced at least two of them: Finn’s words to Rey and Poe’s background. Finn’s last words not ever getting a payoff annoy me, but Poe’s are the worse. We can at least guess what Finn’s going to say, but Poe’s background is meaningless in the context of the story. This information doesn’t impact the characters or the plot in any way. Like it would make more sense to have Poe’s old spice runner buddies show up to help in the final battle. Then his background actually means something to the plot.

    The homages to older movies mostly didn’t work for me. I felt like some of the bigger emotional beats, the moments that were supposed to be tense, were re-treaded and lacked weight. Kylo’s turn is super similar both writing wise and through the cinematography to TFA scene. It wouldn’t make sense to show it the same way if they were going to do the exact same thing, so I saw the turn coming. I don’t know, it just didn’t land for me. Later, there’s a direct reference to the throne room scene in ROTJ, but this time with Rey, and the Emperor uses the same tactic of “Strike me down to save my friends.” But it didn’t work for Luke, and I never really bought that Rey would go for it either.

    And there’s constant back and forth of huge, consequential decisions that are immediately reversed. As Michael Scott would say, SNIP SNAP SNIP SNAP…you have no idea the emotional toll when you constantly take back emotional moments. It was such an interesting decision to have Rey kill Chewie…I was like holy shit…this is crazy. How is she going to handle this? Is this going to push her towards the dark side? Nope, we the audience find out Chewies fine like 5 minutes later. C-3PO needs to have his memory wiped and has a super emotional good-bye to his friends before the wipe–but his memory comes back later, so it doesn’t matter. Kylo gets thrown down a pit, but comes back later. Then Rey dies, but Kylo brings her back to life, then they kiss, but no, Kylo dies. Like there just doesn’t feel like there are any consequences to the character’s actions.

    But I’ve ranted too long already. I wish, so wish that this had been two movies, or at least a longer 3-hr one like Endgame. I think there are good, emotional story beats in there, but in it’s current form, it just didn’t connect.

  20. I liked the movie fine, for the junky thing that it is, but I can’t get over how it has the same plot, basically (and ending) as A Star Is Born.

  21. Thanks very much for going to see this and describing it as accurately as you did. Every single thing you said about it is why I no longer watch contemporary movies and have moved on from being stupid enough to think about writing another movie, to writing books where I get to write about what I want to write about the way I want to write about it, and I get to make sure there’s none of the crap you just described between the covers. (and telling any of the Hollywood morons who ask if the rights are available that FUCK NO THEY’RE NOT AVAILABLE AND THEY NEVER WILL BE!!!)

    As least now I don’t have to turn if off for having my writing sensibilities offended by the moron stupidity of this collection of corporate product – that’s what Star Wars has become, not movies: corporate content. Widgets.

    I’ll still go see the good one, the first one, for the 41st time and have my writing sensibilities jazzed rather than offended.

  22. Since I don’t really have anyplace to put this right now: I’ll always be sad Stormpilot didn’t happen on screen, especially since Oscar Isaac pushed for it and RESISTANCE REBORN set the stage for it. I loved the movie, mostly for the way it made me feel. I come at Star Wars like a little kid, and so many moments made want to shout with excitement. It gave me all the feels, but I was hoping to see myself represented on screen. I’m glad I’ve finally gotten that in Star Trek Discovery, and I’m grateful for you Chuck, for adding Sinjir to the Aftermath books.

  23. When they did the Chewie dying takeout the only thing that kept me from jumping up and screaming,

    “That’s not how Chewie dies fuckers! In the books he died screaming defiance at a fucking moon falling on him! You don’t get to kill him like that”

    Was remembering we hadn’t yet seen him and Lando flying the Falcon, so I knew he wasn’t dead.

    I did think he and Lando were going to go out in a blaze of save everybody glory in the Falcon though. Kind if glad they didn’t. Very glad he got his medal.

  24. We were going to go see it and then we were like “I don’t know, sounds like it’s not good.” Now we’re like – Chuck says junk. We trust Chuck. My two cents – I find it amazing that people who have access to all the resources, talent, money – anything they need to make a good movie – fail to make a good movie. Why should I pay money for that? Going to see Bombshell tomorrow instead. Watching Mandalorian now.

  25. You’re right that in trying to big-up the peril to literally Galactic proportions the small stories get swamped. But we can care MORE about the small stories than the fate of the Galaxy – just bloody slow down and focus on them!
    And sometimes they should really pay attention to continuity & logistics (because hell, we do). The Falcon is severely damaged time and time again but back up & working in the blink of an eye, despite being far from any hanger & maintenance facility. And that massive Final Order fleet? How the hell did that get built? To reference Clerks for a sec, Exogol is a desolate wasteland, not a hub of a million skilled contractors (who also need feeding, downtime, etc.) which now makes me think of Hank Scorpio in the Simpsons.
    It’s one of the things that works well in Aftermath (and literature in general when compared to movies) – more thought is put into making a story, a character, a world actually WORK. Movies are like magicians, distracting your attention from the mundane to the amazing.

  26. Ohhh, a series to do it justice! I would so love to see that. I came away feeling that it was lacking in depth, even though I loved it as well. I would have liked to have seen Hux’s story expanded as well, not just those on the Light side, and exploration of why he turned/wanted revenge.

  27. Thanks for your response.
    I have learned of a theory that makes sense – the skill was mostly lost after ROTS, then the Jedi Texts trained Rey how to Force Heal between TLJ and TROS.
    I don’t see how/why Anakin would’ve had any fear for Padme’s life when he was at the Jedi Temple which surely was teeming with Force Healers, but other than that…

  28. I love the honesty in your assessment. Too often, it’s either/or: The film has to be trash trash and can’t be enjoyed, or it was completely flawless. You hit the nail on the head, and, from a writer perspective, made the excellent point of small stories being integral to big ones. That’s a great reminder for those of us seeking writerly insight Like, I knew that but needed to see it spelled out.

  29. Great writeup, Chuck. Huge fan of your work and your views. You crack me up.

    I agree with most of what you said here. I am thoroughly entrenched in the fandom and have been leading online groups/forums for years. This fandom is bonkers and the complaints are usually linked to headcanon not being fulfilled, or some deep-seated sexism/racism/misogyny/homophobia/hatred of some sort. I feel like TROS was a direct response to all the hatred/complaints about TFA and TLJ.

    Rey being a “mary sue” is “fixed” by having her related to a big bad. That explains her powers, even though most Jedi aren’t related to anyone powerful. That takes away her agency and a lot of character development, not to mention a theme that was setup of anyone can rise to the occasion and be a hero no matter their background.

    Leia doing the “spacewalk” to save herself got a TON of hate in TLJ, so why not insert a scene of her training as a Jedi to prove that she can use the force AND this “allows” her to be a master to train Rey (and her reasoning for quitting her training contradicts what is in the external canon, too? confusing…but i know not everyone reads the external canon)

    Rose got SO much hate in TLJ…so they “fixed” that by sidelining her hard. Very unfair.

    Stormpilot was hated by homophobes…so let’s add a Zorii as a beard for Poe and make him AGGRESSIVELY heterosexual. Oh, and forget him being a pilot in the new republic…he was one a spice runner…Han Solo 2.0!

    The people who were angry about Snoke and his origins got an answer, kind of? It was Palpy boy all along! GOTCHA, BITCHES!!

    People hated Kylo Ren for killing Han. (“hE dEsErVeS tO dIe!!!11one”), so let’s have him be redeemed like his grandpa and just fucking die. The Rise of Skywalker ends with all the skywalkers fucking DYING. Star Wars has always been about hope, but no one in this family got a happy ending. We’re in an era where we can handle a redemption story where people atone for their bad deeds, and I feel there was an important (and missed) opportunity to tell that story. I mean, hell, Kylo Ren’s redemption could’ve really shown kids that if you’re labeled as “bad” you can become good – that YOU control your own destiny and can live past being “bad”. but nope. Not here.

    This movie ends with Rey as she started – alone and in the desert with a droid. All she wanted was a family, and it ends basically where it started…..And that breaks my heart.

    I have never left a movie theater feeling so deflated and disappointed. I really, really, want to love this movie, but I feel like they just gave us a fast paced feast of memberberries and placation to haters, and I can’t really get behind that.

    Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox. Chuck, I really hope you get to write Star Wars again. Your stories are incredible and I have gone back to them several times. Thanks for your contribution to this lore. Maybe write some spicy Pulpy Palpy fanfic so we can get a 4-page description of that sithy scrot? I mean, we saw what happened to his face……

  30. I haven’t even seen any of the new Star Wars movies as my nephew saw “The Force Awakens” and promptly told me everything that happened. Which, in a way, I was grateful. I didn’t want to watch any of them, if they’re killing off my favorite characters. I think they should have followed the novels…they would have made such incredible films. (And yes, I did notice that Chewie didn’t get a damn medal after the Battle of Yavin. It always irritated me )
    As for everyone yelling about Force-healing, no, I had never heard it mentioned in the films, but it is a big part in the novels. Only Jedi can do it though…heal themselves and help other Force-sensitive people. If they can’t feel the Force, then they can’t be healed that way.
    So I’m glad I never bothered to watch them…I’ll just keep reading the books, as the storyline is better, and more importantly, the majority of the characters I love are still alive.

  31. I don’t know if you talked about this elsewere, but… what is your take on Temmin’s death in Riso of Skywalker?
    I just read your books a few months ago, and seeing Snap die was gut wrenching

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