Alright. I gave you space. I gave you time. I gave you every chance in the world to get yourself up to speed. I’m ready to risk the heartbreak, the arguments, and most of all the spoilers.
It’s time we discuss Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker – also known as Episode IX (or 9).
I am guessing 99% of you know what film I am talking about, but if you crawled out from under a rock or was marooned on a deserted island for the half-century, let me just give you the scope. I am, of course, talking about the epic space opera Star Wars. Starting with eponyms 1977 film, moving making and special effects were radically changed on the back of a storyline and characters that were so easy to love that it was easy for any five-year-old to follow it for the rest of their life. As the “Episode” suggests, this was the 9th and final in the original ‘trilogy of trilogies’. There is a plan to make more movies, and the scope of the Star Wars universe is handled in different media, most publicly these days in the Disney+ show “The Mandalorian”, less publically by the now canon 1978 holiday special, but from the scope of the original plan by the show’s developer George Lucas, this was the last of it.
So how did as a Star Wars loving public handle it? Well, like we handled most Start Wars things for most of the life of the Star Wars Saga … with a lot of bellyaching.
For the record, I loved Rise of Skywalker, but let me get back to it.
The second film released Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) is commonly considered the best of all nine films. Heck, Empire is sometimes placed on a level with the greatest films of all time. Keeping that in mind, seven films followed, none which matched the greatness of Empire. The problem I have is that it can be an unfair comparison. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) was very good, but was hated by some in the nerd community because of Ewoks – little furry creatures that save the day late in the movie. Are Ewoks as cool as droids? No, but that’s no reason to spread hate on a film.
Now, for you Star Wars fans, this isn’t leading me to start to defend Jar Jar Binks — I think we all know where is going to go. After nearly sixteen years waiting for a new Star Wars movie, the initial crawl told us we would be reward with – a trade dispute. The trilogy of episodes I, II, & III wasn’t good, to say the least, but they aren’t without their positives. Those films failed due to poor dialogue and stale performances through all three movies. In hindsight, however, much of the mythos, story, and breadth of the Star Wars universe was established in between the whining and establishing the high ground. The biggest was in The Phantom Menace (Episode I) when … well … let me get back to that point.
After another twenty years, we were finally rewarded with sequels. I was incredibly excited about this because regardless of what you thought of the prequel trilogy, it was a story we already knew. I had literally gone nearly 40 years without learning something new about the force, the galaxy, any of that. The Force Awakens (Episode VII) was a reward. Some liked it, I loved it.
Where the controversy arose came in the next installment The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) released a couple years ago. The Star Wars production team made a change in the writer, director, and everything – and many feel this was a problem. So, I stand by my opinion that I liked the film, though I like it less now than when it first came out. Again, it was new, it was the world I liked. It was better than the original trilogy because the performances were energetic, heartfelt, and rich with depth. It just went in some odd directions. Rotten Tomatoes, a site that tracks film reviews to see how people feel about a film, pointed out that film reviewers loved The Last Jedi, but the fans didn’t. I kept saying “if you don’t like this film, then you don’t deserve nice things”.
This brought us The Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX). Released in December, I sat with my 3D goggles on hours after it’s release soaking in the IMAX screen for one last go at it. In short, I loved it. There were a fair bit of things they did for fan service, but I am a fan and I liked to be serviced. This film made me laugh out loud, it made me cry real tears, and it made me think about life itself – and put simply, that makes for a very full set of emotions. I wouldn’t say it stuck the landing the same way Avengers: Endgame did earlier this year, but it was still incredible. The thing is, the original trilogy was good because actors (even unknown actors) were given the freedom to throw themselves into loveable characters. One of my favorite moments in all nine movies was the “Light Speed Skipping vs. Dropping a Tree on BB-8” banter near the start of this film – timing, comedic, and rich against sounds dubbed in later was gold.
Then, of course, I started hearing the bellyache. There was anger over the surprise return of the villain. There were a lot of beefs about the surprise powers showing up throughout the film. There were complaints about the ending and open questions. But most of all, I have heard a lot of people making a stink about the “Diad”.
Put simply, the last three episodes centered on two opponents. One a Jedi, one a sith (or a bad guy like Darth Vader). These films focused a lot on how the two seemed to be drawing together but were challenged by their commitment to their side of the force. In this last film, they gave that a name, calling it a diad. Some pointed to it and tried to say it was nothing but a forced love interest. I pointed to it that the whole nine films was leading to that final conclusion.
From nearly the first words spoken about the force, they said it was what creates balance in the known universe. The balance was the keyword. During most of these series, the dark side controlled things, which sent the force out of balance. However, Episode I starts with the Jedi in full control of the force without a single Sith lord known. They even suggested it was that way for generations. My argument was, that it was out of balance as well. The whole of the story followed the rise of dark, the overzealous need to control it, then it’s fall; however, The Force awakened to search for balance and it used the diad to find it.
Granted, tons of questions arose from that, but the bellyaching needs to end. We were given a massive treat in what this set of movies became. We were lucky to be given these films, and I feel blessed to have seen them all in the theatre when they were first released. Star Wars captured my imagination long ago in a small town far far away, and you won’t catch me bellyaching about that.