So, I have taken to writing pieces in advance and publishing them later. I started writing this on January 18, 2020. As of this writing, I have not seen The Rise of Skywalker, and I am not sure if I will.
And if you’re wondering, how can I have spoilers for a film I haven’t seen, the answer is, the internet.
If you’ve read anything I’ve read about the Sequel Trilogy, you know that I sensed a presence of a familiar villain from the past. He was laying in wait, planning destruction, chaos and suffering. And no, it wasn’t Palpatine.
It was JJ.
I have never forgiven JJ Abrams for what he did to Star Trek, when he butchered it and sucked the marrow from its bones for sustenance. I refused to see TFA in theaters, partly because I am not a Star Wars fan, but more importantly because I had no desire to see JJ Abrams’ take on it.
I strongly suspected and feared that JJ would take the safe and easy way out in ending the films. I wish I had stated that more strongly than I did (though I still stated it strongly) but it is pretty clear if you look at the timeline of the films. I haven’t written anything about Star Wars since July, even though people read those posts. I couldn’t bring myself to care enough about episode 9 to do it. The trailers didn’t make me excited to see what would come next.
Then I saw the reviews. And the spoilers.
I have mentioned in passing my hatred for the scene in Star Trek Into Darkness, when JJ rips off Spock’s death by killing Kirk in the same way. (Don’t worry, JJ Abrams finds a way to cure death and bring Kirk back. And yes, we have now cured death in the alternate timeline of the Star Trek universe but don’t think about that. Look! Flashing lights! Loud noises! If the plot moves fast enough you won’t think about how I cured death!)
Sorry, still very bitter.
Thinking about this scene now, and The Rise of Skywalker, it is clear to me that this scene represents the utter limits of JJ’s “storytelling” ability, such as it is. He knows people like the death of Spock in The Wrath of Kahn, but he does not know why that scene works in the original. So when he tacks it in his movie as a cheap moment of manipulative nostalgia to disguise is creative bankruptcy, he fails to create the emotional impact of the original films. Worse, he often creates the opposite emotion intended.
This is very clear when I read about the last scene in The Rise of Skywalker.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey ends the trilogy exactly as she begins, alone in the desert.
Rey was not happy in the desert. She was living a hand to mouth existence, all the while dreaming that her family would come back and rescue her. There is a moment in TFA when Rey looks at an old woman on Jakku with horror. She is clearly wondering, “What if my family never comes back for me? What if I grow old and die here?”
We also see her in TFA an TLJ marveling at green planets and see her joy at experiencing rain. She loved that.
So she ends her arc in the desert?!?!
Furthermore, Rey wanted a family. She wanted belonging. She wanted it to a completely unhealthy degree, because she stays on Jakku, even though she could have left at any time. Maz recognizes that Rey seeks belonging, and assures her that she cannot find belonging in her past, but rather in her future.
So she ends the trilogy alone, with ghosts and a droid?!?!
Lastly, Rey in TFA is emotionally stunted. She has a doll in her AT-AT house and playfully wears a helmet. She literally has the same hairstyle that she had as a child. (Women reading my blog, how many of you managed to go through your entire teenage years without ever changing your hairstyle once?)
TLJ explored Rey’s coming of age and adolescence, in ways that Freud would have LOVED. (Think about it. To have her dark force vision, Rey has to visit a hairy, wet hole.) TLJ also has Rey change her hairstyle to a more grown up style.
So Rey ends her story back in her childhood hairstyle, sliding down a sand dune, completely reverting to a childlike state?!?!
And to everyone who says, “Well Rey is going to leave Tattooine, she’s not staying there,” I say the following.
First of all, that’s us doing the work of the storytellers. The storytellers chose to end Rey’s story alone in the desert.
Second of all, film is a visual medium. What the audience remembers is what the camera tells them. The Rise of Skywalker shows Rey ending her journey alone in the desert, and that’s what the audience will remember.
Lastly, imagine if The Return of the Jedi ended with Luke going back to Tattooine to play with his toy space ship and complain about getting power converters. Reverting to a childish state.
The message of the end of The Rise of Skywalker is that nothing has changed, and nothing has mattered. Rey is no better off for going through her adventure, and arguably she is worse off because she likely has PTSD.
So if nothing changes and nothing matters, why should I waste my time? It’s not even a question of money, because I actually have a free movie ticket for Cleveland Cinemas, but I don’t want to spend over two hours just to end up exactly in the same place, except arguably worse.
The Rise of Skywalker makes clear what I have known since college: Star Wars is NOT for me.
Star Wars is a series for people who like flashing lights and loud noises and don’t care about stories. I DEFINITELY have issues with The Last Jedi (I have written about them before), but I found myself defending it largely because most Star Wars fans watched it and said, “What if we took out the good ideas in TLJ and replaced them with BAD ideas?” Well, the Star Wars fans got their wish. They got a film chock full of awful, lazy, recycled ideas that are stripped of the original context that made those original ideas function. I don’t even feel like playing Script Doctor the way I do with TLJ because there aren’t even any salvageable ideas in the script. What would be the point?
I opened my review of TLJ by talking about how I agree with Rich Evans from Red Letter Media. He asserted that the Star Wars’ universe is very small and limited, and that nearly all good stories are “too smart for Star Wars.” I had to admit, watching TLJ, that the parts of TLJ I liked the most were the parts of the movie that were the least “Star Wars-y” and I hated the parts that were the most “Star Wars-y.”
Star Wars fans are happy watching meaningless flashing lights and loud noises. I demand more from my films.
Maybe, by the time I post this, I will have seen The Rise of Skywalker. But I kind of doubt it.