Subject: doctorlit reviews Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (spoiler warning)
Posted on: 2020-01-06 20:32:50 UTC

Yeah, saw the final(?) Star Wars, and it was good. Getting reeeaaaal tired of seeing massive amounts of negative press about movies and such, and then actually watching them, and they’re fantastic.

Big spoilers foooooor sheesh, let’s just say the entire Star Wars nine-ology. That should be safe.

Man, that opening title card and text crawl still give me such tingles when I see each movie’s version for the first time. Weird to drop the first mention of Palpatine’s transmission during the crawl, because it feels like the sort of thing we should have seen the characters’ reactions to. (Plus, it would have been even more Ian McDiarmid voice, the sexiest sound there is.) On the other hand, it does feel very original trilogy, since A New Hope’s crawl basically skipped over what would later become Rogue One, and The Empire Strikes Back pretty much skipped over how the Rebels reached Hoth. At least it jumps straight into very clear goals for both the Resistance and Ben Solo. (I officially refuse to refer to him as Kylo Ren any more.)

I don’t usually pay much attention to actors in movies, but I sure got excited to see Dominic Monaghan in the early scenes of this movie. And with Greg Grunberg still around, it’s like a mini reunion from the very first episode of Lost! I am a happy fanboy, even though Grunberg’s character gets killed at the end of this film. I’m annoyed that Rose got sidelined from the main action so much in this movie. Clearly, the powers that be cowed before the whining of the fans who disliked her so much the first time, for reasons that I still don’t understand. Her romance with Finn seems to have been entirely dropped as well, which I would normally appreciate for making things more aromantic, except . . .

. . . that Finn and Poe are rather suddenly vying for Rey’s affection? Where on Earth in the galaxy did this come from? I did get the feeling that Finn was a little smitten with Rey in The Force Awakens, but that didn’t really get picked up in The Last Jedi, and Poe barely knows Rey at this point, since the only met at the end of TLJ. I know some time has passed since that movie ended, but it still feels out of nowhere. And it goes nowhere too, because Poe has his helmeted lady friend at the end of the movie, and Rey clearly has feelings for Ben. Even with Ben dead at the end, we don’t really see any romantic connection between Rey and Finn by the end of the movie, so that little subplot felt very hackneyed and unnecessary. Plus, that would have left us with three neat pairings among our power trio, so let Rose have her Finn smoochies! I guess I am suddenly a shipper now?

It was super-fun seeing Billy Dee Williams return as Lando! (And another Lost alumnus, yay!) He brought the same great energy to the role as he did in the original trilogy; what a great treat and honor to have him on again. I love his rapport with Chewbacca, and also the fondness he shows for Leia. And speaking of Leia . . . I almost don’t even want to talk about the matter of Leia being all archive footage. I tried very hard to accept her scenes at face value, but I was unable to refrain from reading into her dialogue as the cut conversations from TFA that I knew they were. But let me clear: I don’t blame the filmmakers for doing so, or for using the editing tricks they were forced to in order to include Carrie Fisher in the film. Fisher clearly had such a big emotional investment in being a part of SW that it would have been shamefully disrespectful to leave her out, or write her character out between movies. This was the right choice, and I think they did the absolute best they could within the circumstances.

I’m also glad Harrison Ford came back one last time to play Ben’s memory of Han, despite him being a lot more over SW than Fisher was. That scene was great, and a beautiful mirror image of Han’s murder in TFA. Actually, the entire character arc between Ben and Rey is pretty magnificent throughout this movie. I very much wanted Ben to come to the Light Side, but wasn’t sure how it could be done realistically after the way TLJ ended. I love that the final death of his desire for the Dark Side comes from a dual effort between Leia and Rey, with Leia making him feel her love for him even after what he did to Han, and Rey sparing his life after fatally wounding him. I, at least, found his shift to the Light very believable, considering all he has gone through. His willingness to give up his entire life to the Force in order to save Rey at the end is such a powerful moment, and really cements how far he has come from the fearful follower of Snoke we met at the beginning of TFA.

I also liked the turn General Hux took towards trying to dethrone Ben by supporting the Resistance. It makes him more complex than he seemed as the propaganda-spewing mouth he was in TFA. It’s nice to see SW villains with a little more dimension to them.

But speaking of villains, let’s get to the Big Boy. Oh man. I feel like I should actually be disappointed a bit, considering I felt like TFA rehashed too much material from the original trilogy, and here we have the original trilogy’s villain at it again. But I just can’t say no to Ian McDiarmid’s sexy, sexy voice. And even being hooked up to a machine with his eyes clouded over, he commands such a presence once he’s on screen, just through that voice alone. I loved the early moment where Palpatine mentally spoke through the voices of Snoke and Vader to show just how deeply his orchestration runs. It also informs the end of the original trilogy with a new meaning: we’ve always assumed that him telling Luke to “Strike me down” was just to make Luke surrender to his anger, but now we know the Emperor literally wanted Luke to kill him, so that he could possess Luke. There’s a frightening alternate timeline to think of! My one quibble on the subject of Palpatine is that indistinct crowd that was watching his confrontation with Rey. “Always two there are,” so presumably they aren’t all Sith . . . but then who are they? Fans? Cheerleaders? I mean, they’re obviously bad guys, but they didn’t lift a finger to help Palpatine when the protagonists got the upper hand. Maybe their job was to protect the bleachers from boulder damage? If so, they performed their duties admirably.

Big props for actually using C-3PO in an emotionally stirring way. I’ve generally enjoyed C-3PO’s presence throughout the other movies, but I was actually starting to find him a bit grating throughout the beginning of this one. (I don’t think he works as well without R2-D2 in the same room.) But the prospect of having to eliminate all his memories in order to save the galaxy . . . that actually stung quite a bit. Even though his memories of the prequel trilogy had already been wiped, the fact that we as the audience know he dates back all the way to ten-year-old Anakin makes him such an anchor in SW, and the threat of him maybe not coming back as the person we knew ever again was surprisingly hurtful for me.

Some small moments that especially spoke to me: -Chewbacca’s reaction to Leia’s death is utterly heart-breaking. Leave it to furry bear-man to get across the closeness of the main characters’ friendship, and the pain of their loss. -Throughout the rest of this series, stormtroopers have always defaulted to being male (other than Captain Phasma). This is the first SW where we hear a diversity of voices coming from under those helmets. -We get to see Porgs again! We get to see Ewoks again! We get to see Jawas again! -But the absolute best thing in this entire movie is when Rey reaches out to the past Jedi in order to connect to the Force, and pretty much all the major Jedi actors reprised the voices for it. I heard Luke and Yoda and Qui-Gon and Anakin and Obi-Wan and Mace and I think Ahsoka? I never watched the cartoons, but there was at least one female voice, and I don’t know who else it could be. But it was a glorious, powerful moment.

So. Extremely good movie. Don’t care what the critics say. There’s only one thing more for me to say: Let Star Wars end now. I don’t mean no new content forever. We can get side stuff like The Mandalorian, totally. But this galaxy far, far away has been through so much strife and violence. It really feels like it has reached an end to its wars now, and I hope, for everyone who lives in it, that it maintains that peace from now on. The theme of peoples from literally all across the galaxy, including former Stormtroopers, rising up to stand against the fascist forces that have been hellbent for decades on subjugating everyone . . . it was beautiful, and I don’t want that victory to be marred by further movies that bring back more fascism, more loss of life and limb, more exploding planets. It’s time to take the “Wars” out of Star Wars, and let minor conflicts fuel future stories from now on.

—doctorlit was wrong about Hayden Christensen being an on-screen Force ghost, but he did technically reprise Anakin in this film!

“I will earn your brother’s spoiler, someday.” “I will earn your brother’s spoiler, someday.”
“I will earn your brother’s spoiler, someday.” “I will earn your brother’s spoiler, someday.”

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