This Is the End??

When news broke that JJ Abrams would helm the final Star Wars movie, I knew we were in trouble. Not that he isn't a talented filmmaker; he's made some amazing movies, like Mission Impossible 3. I enjoyed The Force Awakens four years ago, and I have watched it multiple times since. But I was uncomfortable with how insistent it was to be a remake of the original Star Wars. Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi took the franchise in an unpredictable, exciting new direction. Rather than answering directly questions posed by The Force Awakens, Episode VIII said, "None of that matters."

  • Who were Rey's parents? Nobodies.
  • Who was Snoke? Nobody.
  • Who's going to be the next Skywalker to take the family tradition forward? No one.
In fact, as Kylo Ren says to Rey near the end of the film, and it's echoed by none other than Luke Skywalker, it was time for the Sith and Jedi to end.
Leave the past behind. Kill it if you have to. - Kylo Ren
We learned in The Last Jedi that Rey and Kylo were equals in the Force. Luke confirms he had never seen anyone with such power. Ever. Not the Emperor, not Darth Vader, not Yoda. No one. Oh and Rian Johnson began writing Episode VIII before Episode VII was completed. Start to finish, Johnson has said it took four years to complete the film.

So yeah, when Disney announced they dumped their previous hire for the last film and replaced him with JJ Abrams I knew there would be trouble. It was obvious to me JJ would want the answers he posed in Episode VII answered; even if Episode VIII said they were no big deal.

Oh and a couple of final thoughts I shared before I saw the film: I said The Mandolorian would be better than Episode IX; and I predicted it would fall somewhere around Attack of the Clones in a ranking of Star Wars films.

You are now entering spoiler territory.

For real.

Further scrolling will reveal stuff.

Our family saw Rise of the Skywalker on the opening Friday. I left feeling disappointed and more than a little disjointed. I had so many questions. Then I saw it again this past weekend in Houston. For my second screening I brought pen and pad into the auditorium. I used about half of the tiny pages writing questions, which could be summed up as:
Here are some of my questions. There are many of them, and you may be better suited just bailing out here or scrolling past the bullet points:

  • A new fleet of Star Destroyers; thousands of them. Where did they come from? Who built them? How was this kept secret? 
  • The Emperor survived Return of the Jedi? How? He's been hanging out for more than thirty years??
  • Palpatine says to Kylo Ren that Rey "is not who he thinks she is." That's it. Not even five minutes in to the movie, it's clear JJ is bringing back the questions of The Force Awakens. Kylo doesn't debate this?? And why doesn't he just kill the Emperor right there since that was his purpose in the first place? He just decides to be the Emperor's pawn, even though we know he is more powerful than Palpatine. And Palpatine wants Kylo to kill Rey. Even though that does not jibe with his entire plan. We are in major trouble before we've even started.
  • Cut to Poe and Finn and Chewie on the Millennium Falcon. "Light speed skipping" to evade Tie Fighters. We've never sen this before; Han Solo was super cautious about jumping to hyperspace without accurate calculation through the navi-computer. But OK. Here we go.
  • "How do you know how to do that?" This question is raised, I believe by Finn. I can't remember the context, but it's early. It's a question I asked over and over again. Where did this new ability come from? I've never seen that before. The movie makes no effort to ask or answer. Gotta keep going!
  • Cut now to Rey, training with footage of Leia shot before her death. Disney made the decision to incorporate these scenes digitally, even though they don't fit with the narrative the series took in the recent film. Because they could??
  • Anyway, we learn Leia is not only a Force user, but a Master Jedi who trained Rey because Luke couldn't.
  • By the way, the movie never references Luke's death and the final battle sequence of The Last Jedi. Not a word. It's like they didn't happen!
  • In fact, I thought of the relationship between Episodes VII and IX this way: you know when you are wrapping a gift and you either don't have enough paper or you cut your paper too short from the reel? Now there is a gap so that the box is seen between the seams of paper. That's how this movie is. It tries so hard to ignore or change The Last Jedi but the box underneath is exposed. The result is just sloppy.
  • Anyway, Rey, and in a later memory Luke and Leia, train wearing a helmet with the blast shield down. And the remote that zaps you with lasers. These were used by Luke in the original film, because he was first learning to use a light saber on the Millennium Falcon and Obi Wan Kenobi found them in a drawer and thought they would be helpful tools. They are not standard issue! So why do they show up here? To give us warm feelings for the original film.
  • Later Rey studies the Jedi texts she saved from the last movie, even though Yoda said she didn't need them. But she does!! She learns stuff from them that help move the plot forward. Yay!
  • Leia says to Rey, "Never be afraid of who you are." This is spoken again to Rey later. Why are we so concerned about who she is? Why can't she answer that for herself? Just claim her identity and move forward??
  • Oh and then Kylo repairs the helmet he destroyed in the last movie. Because he all of the sudden finds value in it again! It does set up a comment later from Rey but it's just not necessary.
  • Lando Calrissian! Why? Because we can! and Rey immediately knows who he is, but she thought Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were legends in the first film. 
  • Now we are looking for a wayfinder. Along the way we'll find a dagger that will unlock a door or something. Find a thing to find another thing. Instead of you know, using the Force.
  • By the way, these new films do very little to teach about the Force. We sense that Finn is Force sensitive, but nothing is done with it. So why make it a thing?
  • Then Rey kills Chewbacca, only she doesn't. Whew! Useless grief is always a great plot device. Someone on a podcast mentioned that Kylo shows no emotion when Chewy's transport explodes, even though Uncle Chewie certainly helped raise him. Gotta move on!
  • Oh The Knights of Ren, who made an appearance in The Force Awakens as mysterious dudes but were absent from The Last Jedi, are back as well! But they serve no purpose. Bring it on!
  • Kylo to Ren: "Your parents were nobodies..." I was right in the last movie! Except: "...they chose to be." Turns out your dad was the dead Emperor's son. You're a Palpatine! A somebody! Yay??
  • Rey says, I think to Kylo, although it may be the Emperor: "People keep telling me they know who I am. No one does." Yes! So why are we wasting our time on this question that's been resolved?
  • When Rey speaks to Luke's Force ghost he reveals that both he and Leia knew about Rey's parentage but didn't tell her. You knew she was the Emperor's granddaughter and didn't think it was important to tell her. Just like Obi Wan knew Vader was Luke's father and didn't tell him. See?? Continuity with the original!! But that's just as dumb and cruel in 2019 as it was in 1977.
  • The end of the movie is just dumb. The Emperor has a new fleet of ships, each of which can destroy entire planets. So he once needed a Death Star-- two of them-- to have that power. Now a single ship can do that. How?? Doesn't matter! Just blow them all up because they can't really fly until one ship tells them to.
  • Rey kills Kylo, but brings him back to life. Don't know how or why, but it doesn't matter. Kylo brings Rey back in the end; same question, same non answer. 
  • Rey back on Tatooine is just fan service. Claiming the name Skywalker over Palpatine doesn't mean anything at this point.
Wow, if you made it this far you are dedicated!!

Just because. That's really the whole message of the movie. Because. Reasons. It needed to happen this way to meet an impossible schedule and impossible expectations. Instead of writing an original movie that builds on what happened before, they tried to fix what Disney and Star Wars fanboys perceived as problems. Making a movie of this scale requires time and patience. These are gifted filmmakers, but the story is always the most important. This movie has Disney executive fingerprints all over it, and I get it; Disney needs to sell toys and Disney+ subscriptions to satisfy its shareholders. But Star Wars deserves to be special. I liked the movie, messy as it is, the first time I watched it. I laughed and I cried. It pulls at the emotions. But the second time I just couldn't deal with it. There's a decent chance I will never watch it again.

Maybe I am done with Star Wars? I don't know. I really enjoyed The Mandolorian. I hope Disney closes shop on the film franchise for several years. Looks like investment is being targeted only for Disney+ mini-series. I think that's a good thing. If Rian Johnson still gets his announced trilogy of films outside of the Skywalker saga I'm there. But I doubt that will happen now.

For new Star Wars people, I would say: just watch, in this order, Rogue One, the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. If you want an extra bonus check out The Last Jedi, but don't worry about The Force Awakens or The Rise of Skywalker. The backstory and re-backstory of those films really add up to very little.

A final ranking of the Star Wars films:
  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Last Jedi
  3. Star Wars
  4. Rogue One
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Force Awakens
  8. Solo
  9. The Phantom Menace
  10. Attack of the Clones
  11. The Rise of Skywalker
Episode IX is last because it offers nothing new or interesting. At the same time it's too fast and it's lazy. Every other movie had something to check out again, or an interesting story, even if there was messy dialogue or the film itself is unnecessary. This one just doesn't.