It’s a wrap! After 42 years and nine movies, the generation-spanning Skywalker Saga has come to an end. Is The Rise of Skywalker a fitting finale? To quote Obi-Wan one last time, it all depends on a certain point of view.
In a nutshell, fans of The Last Jedi will loathe it, while haters of Rian Johnson’s fandom splitting Episode 8 will love it.
And therein lies the problem – we were given three different films written and directed by two vastly different filmmakers.
Sadly both The Rise of Skywalker and the sequel trilogy suffer because of it.
Rebel Briefing will probably receive a one-way ticket to the Spice Mines of Kessel for saying this, but the trilogy missed the influence of George Lucas or someone of his stature.
With no creative deity overseeing production, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker are a mishmash of story ideas. It’s clear Disney did not have a game plan for the trilogy.
Blasters to Stun
Before you set your blasters to stun (or worse), the original trilogy (OT) gets a pass.
Yes, you can argue Lucas did not have the OT mapped out from the beginning, but he did have a vision. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were based on stories by him – Luke Skywalker learning to become a Jedi to defeat the Empire and redeem his father.
It doesn’t matter that Empire and Jedi were made by different directors, Lucas, The Maker, was in charge. He was the constant. Because of this, the trilogy felt cohesive.
It’s the same with the prequels.
Like the Emperor, Lucas exercised total control over his universe. In true auteur style, he handled every creative aspect of production.
Again he knew the story he wanted to tell: how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, and how the Empire rose to power.
Love or loathe them, there’s no denying the prequel trilogy had a coherent and cohesive story arc.
The films gave fans new stories that expanded the Star Wars galaxy.
In contrast, the sequel trilogy feels thrown together and not uniquely original.
The Force Awakens borrows heavily from A New Hope, and The Last Jedi is The Empire Strikes Back.
The Rise of Skywalker takes us on a lightspeed journey of story and plot corrections that bring us back to the same place in Return of the Jedi, with our heroes killing Palpatine at the end.
No Jedi Master
With no visionary Jedi Master overseeing production on the sequels, JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson had the freedom to write what they wanted.
As a result, the trilogy never seems to know where it’s going.
Abrams may have had a plan for what came after The Force Awakens, but he surrendered it when he handed the baton to Johnson on The Last Jedi.
Johnson even admits there was no story map given to him beyond the first instalment and that he was allowed to take the story in a new direction. As a consequence, his brave efforts to write and direct a different kind of Star Wars film subverted what Abrams established in The Force Awakens.
For many, he changed the story too dramatically…
Perhaps Abrams (or someone else) should have mapped the trilogy from beginning to end before handing it to other filmmakers.
We know George Lucas had an outline for the new trilogy before he sold it to Disney. It’s intriguing to wonder where he would have taken the story.
Return of the Sith
In The Force Awakens, Abrams treated us to his mystery box of puzzles – who are Rey’s parents, and who is Snoke?
These mysteries were answered by Johnson in The Last Jedi, leaving Abrams nowhere to go in the final film. He was painted into a corner.
As a consequence, and to possibly appease to fan anger, he walked back much of Johnson’s work.
The best example is the question of Rey’s parentage, which was laid to rest in The Last Jedi.
Instead of being a nobody from nowhere, we are told Rey is the granddaughter of the Emperor. This is despite there being no allusion to the presence of Palpatine in the previous films.
Admitting he was hamstrung by the killing of Snoke, Abrams says he had no better choice but to bring Palpatine back.
Why not make Kylo Ren the supreme villain of the trilogy? So much for a coherent plan from the beginning.
This is a shame because, at the end of The Last Jedi, we are told bloodline didn’t matter. It implied that the Force isn’t just the domain of a few notable and noble families, but a power able to manifest itself within anyone, from the lowest stable boy to a lonely desert scavenger.
What’s more, Palpatine’s return reduces the sacrifice Anakin Skywalker made at the end of Return of the Jedi.
After all, the previous two trilogies were about the rise and fall of Anakin.
Most annoying of all, his contribution was reduced to a single (off-screen) ethereal line.
The Safe Zone
For many, The Rise of Skywalker was a welcome relief after the shocks and revelations of Episode 8.
But by returning to the safe zone established in The Force Awakens (coupled with the return of Palpatine), the trilogy takes a step backwards rather than a giant leap forward. It goes back to a place of thematic and emotional safety. There’s a frustrating lack of imagination – The Rise of Skywalker feels like an attempt to correct what went before.
What we are left with is a trilogy that does not connect with the previous two. Because of this, the Skywalker Saga feels out of balance.