Friday, December 27, 2019

What I Loved About The Rise of Skywalker... And The Other Stuff


Okay, that's done...

I really hate that going to see The Rise of Skywalker felt like a chore. The amount of negative press and online comments about it over the course of a week (I guess two weeks counting the leak time) had me bummed out about it well in advance, and I was well aware I could go see Knives Out instead.

On the other hand, my expectations were so lowered that I had a good time watching it where I maybe wouldn't have. Who's to say? And this is The Last Star Wars Movie Until The Next One, how could I possibly resist?

So here's the stuff I liked:

Paging Papa Palpatine

Much like in Revenge of the Sith, Ian McDiarmid was an absolute treat reprising his role as Emperor Palpatine. He was creepy, evil, and creepy evil in all the right ways, effortlessly subverting Kylo Ren's mastery over the First Order to reassert his rule as the absolute Lord of All Evil in the Star Wars universe. And he did all this while he was basically a dangling corpse on a stick!

The movie also retroactively clears up Palpatine's one big moment of stupidity, namely his attempt to corrupt Luke Skywalker to his side. Originally this wasn't obviously effective - Palpatine basically seemed to be goading Luke into killing him, on the basis that once he was on the Dark Side the Emperor would somehow be able to bend him to his will. Now, it's clear that Palpatine's goal was to fill Luke's heart with enough hate that he'd be able to body snatch him at the moment Luke struck him down - the same goal he has with Rey. From now on, Palpatine's only flaw will be that he's a bit too happy with the Force lightning, and honestly, wouldn't you be?

Eff Hux

Did anyone else get hype when the Senior Nazi shot this little weasel? Remember kids, Nazis eat their own as readily as anyone else, and no one is immune. Goodbye Hux, hope the door hit your ass on the way down.

The Final Order

Palpatine's private army can come off as incredibly stupid ("He built this whole thing in secret? All the Star Destroyers have planet-killer guns?"), but I honestly loved it because it's exactly the sort of insane evil secretive thing Palpatine's been known for through the Clone Wars and two Death Stars. And the shots of all those ships floating in a nightmare void outside of normal space were, well, chilling. It's a shame they ended up being a bit of wasted potential (we'll get to that).

The other cool thing was that we finally got to see the Sith front and center in a main Star Wars film. The Sith have always been one of the coolest things about the Expanded Universe, old and new - a cult of evil fallen Jedi and wizards out to overthrow and supplant the established order. The Rise of Skywalker is the first film that makes the Sith as a force beyond just Palpatine feel like the nightmarish horror they should be, and it was great to see.

Ben Solo

Make that Ben freaking Solo. Once Kylo Ren throws off the Dark Side he starts doing what comes naturally, and it turns out Han Solo's son actually inherited a lot of his father's charm, roguish fighting style and intermittently bad luck. (Ow.) Adam Driver absolutely nailed the transition and even though it was brief (we'll get to that) it was a lot of fun to see Ben come out to play.

And Then There's The Rest

With those pluses acknowledged, I've got to admit The Rise of Skywalker is not the best movie in the Star Wars series and is probably the worst of the current trilogy, although that doesn't make it the worst Star Wars movie either (which is a subjective thing and some might disagree). There are and will continue to be many takes on what's wrong with the film - that's Star Wars fandom - but as far as what stood out to me:

  • The pacing is completely shot, jumping from scene to scene like the editor was high on meth. They packed a million things into this film and focused on none of it, which is fine for Disney and the EU going forward but makes watching the movie feel like a roller coaster ride, and not in a good way.
  • It's hard to argue J.J. Abrams didn't just toss The Last Jedi in the trash entirely when he came on for the third movie. Rose is a wasted character, Poe has to relearn the lesson he spent all of TLJ learning (except not as well), Finn's reduced to chasing after Rey the whole film and is maybe Force sensitive for no good reason, Rey's back to being a child of destiny to the film's detriment, Snoke loses what little character he had - the fans of TLJ are pissed for a reason, is what I'm saying.
  • Poe Dameron's character does another complete swerve in this movie for no good reason. This has been a problem for Poe, period, but on the third movie it sticks out really badly and doesn't add anything to him.
  • We didn't need Jon Favreau's scene. At all.
  • How do you completely miss a second transport ship?
  • The stakes of the combat never seemed high, except for stopping Palpatine. Everything else came off as a distraction, which is bad when you're fighting a full-blown apocalyptic army.

And then there's the death of Ben Solo, which came out of nowhere, served no Goddamn purpose and seems like it was done just because the production was over time and over budget and couldn't figure out how to get Ben off Escargot and said "fuck it". And as far as I'm concerned he's not dead, Leia or the Force just snatched him away to give him a chance at redemption without getting shot or thrown into a dark hole by the Resistance, because FFS what else do you do with Kylo Ren at this point? But even if Ben's irredeemable (and that's a whole separate post I'm not going to write), he's a character who still deserved a chance to shine in the EU. The choice to just wave a hand and end that was horrible, and fans of Reylo are quite justifiably furious. I fully expect Ben to return in the books at some point soon, although whether his story will continue forward is an open question, and I'm not optimistic. But it absolutely should.

So, yeah. Flawed film, I've seen worse, there were certainly some good bits, and it certainly brought things to an ending. Not a final one, though.

Bring back Ben Solo.