Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker

December 29, 2019

I am a massive, massive Star Wars fan. Bear with me for one blog post here, friends. There is just so much to the end of this trilogy with film number nine. I am trying to wrap my head around the challenges our heroes face in this last installment. And as Alan Rickman’s character the Sheriff of Nottingham once threatened, this movie will “cut your heart out with a spoon!”

Star Wars was the beginning of my love affair with the epic nature of good versus evil. Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. The Rebellion against the Empire. Han Solo versus himself.
It took a long time for me to understand the hard choices that characters face. Everything isn’t always as cut-and-dried as a hero with a lightsaber battling stormtroopers. For instance, Han has to decide if he will continue to be a smuggler, or if he will join the Rebellion and fight with honor. Luke turns from a whiny teenager into the man who becomes a Jedi Master and saves the galaxy, with a lot of help from his friends. He has to decide between listening to Master Yoda and staying on Dagobah, or rushing to Bespin to try to save his friends. Star Wars helped me to see that there are gray areas for each movie character, and every person. But no matter how much gray, how twisted the plot becomes, none of us ever escape the inner battle between true good and true evil.

And therein lies the magic of Star Wars: its relatability. It is a space opera with starships, aliens, a princess, a smuggler or two, a farm boy and an evil Empire. So, why is it so relatable? It is a story that embodies the best and the worst of humanity. We can all find something of ourselves in it. I like to see myself as having some of the feistiness of Leia, the innocence of Luke, and the determination of Rey. But I also look for the best in other people. So many of our generation could relate to Star Wars that it was almost like a secret code, a bonding through principles of light and dark, fear and love, and something to be cherished. I am afraid this last installment spells the end of all those shared feelings.
There are so many problems with Star Wars IX, so I will just highlight a few. First, all Star Wars movies should have the same director, or at least one director per trilogy. Just as Peter Jackson did for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, one director would have helped immensely with coherent visions for each trilogy. Directors choose the pacing, the camera angles, and often the editing style and this makes a huge difference in the feel of a film.

Second, everyone on Twitter and the wider internet is reeling from this latest reel: why did it end so badly? Spoiler alert. Ben Solo gets redeemed! And then killed! What the heck was Disney thinking? This could have been as big a cinematic moment as “Frodo Lives!” But instead, Ben dies! Just when things were finally getting interesting, we don’t get a happy ending. This is sad beyond belief. I think America really needed a happy ending, because as I said before, Star Wars can bring people together. For one shining moment, we could see an evil person changing their ways, admitting their failures, and turning back to the Light Side.
But the powers that be decreed otherwise. The end of the script was terribly disappointing and confusing. I can do nothing but pour scorn on the fact that Rey and Ben do not get a happy ending. America is more polarized than ever, and we could have used a bit more hope. Due to the plethora of streaming services that are starting to produce their own films, we may never have another story that so many people love and experience together.

Third, there was too much drama packed into TROS. It didn’t need to have an almost Romeo and Juliet-like ending. Rey finally finds out who she is, who her parents were, and more importantly, the identity of her grandfather. She battles her feelings of anger against Kylo Ren for almost the whole movie, and then gets to save the universe with a little help from the newly redeemed Ben Solo, who casts the lightsaber of Kylo Ren into the ocean and joins her in the fight against Palpatine. Kylo Ren fights his feelings of love for Rey during all of their raging sword fights, and is in a constant battle with himself over accepting his parents’ love for him. And I won’t even get into all the narrative teasers which were infuriating. How did Poe meet Zorii? Is Finn really in love with Rey?

I have watched hundreds of films in my lifetime (hey, I was a film major in college) and I have rarely seen anyone as magnetic onscreen as the towering Adam Driver. He plays Kylo Ren as a Force of nature, pun intended. In the fight scenes, he can literally sweep guys in heavy Stormtrooper armor off their feet. He’s a beast with that red lightsaber. He owns the screen with that swirling cape, mess of black hair, and rage like none other. He is just full of rage, and at the same time, he portrays a vulnerability that could melt the heart of Boba Fett himself. Okay, maybe not. But you get the point. The screen loves Adam Driver, and Kylo Ren is an easy villain to hate.

J.J. Abrams should get the best director Oscar for only showing us half of Ben’s smile after Rey kisses him. In film major parlance, Abrams chose this angle because it hints at Ben’s dual nature. But it is a smile like none other, for Kylo Ren never smiled during the entire trilogy, and it is as though Ben hasn’t smiled in decades. That little smile makes it all the more awful when he keels over dead right afterward. It really knocked the air right out of my lungs. Fortunately, as soon as I walked out of the theater and hopped onto Twitter, I found a very kind person who made their own edit of how this movie should have ended. Ben gives his life to save Rey, and Leia gives her life to save Ben. Then Ben and Rey move to Tatooine and stand together, watching the twin sunset. And thus, all is right with the world, at least until the next version of The Empire Strikes Back.

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