What we predicted has come true: Disney, with its unlimited resources, has created the Callback Masterpiece in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. This film’s callback game is so deep, it calls back other franchises. It is like Scary Movie, only with Star Wars. There is a callback to Avengers that makes me cringe. This being the last film in a trilogy of trilogies, Rise calls back to every film in the series, bringing together eight movies into one. It could come off as the Remember When? Reel if not so brilliantly realized by JJ Abrams. The trick here is to refer to the callbacks without spoiling any details from Rise. That’s easy, as long as we avoid any mention of new material, of which there is a considerable amount. I will attempt to mention any callback that occurs in chronological order, starting from New Hope, Empire and Return, then Menace, Clones and Revenge, and finally Awakens and Last Jedi. Let us use the Episode numbers to keep track. And in case you are wondering, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follows the Yellow Flick Road like a zealot.
4: A New Hope - We see a gross amount of fan service referencing Hope: A droid carries an encrypted message for the Rebellion. A visit to a moisture farm on Tatooine. Force choking. Doors are locked, move on to the next one; “You don’t need to see his identification.”; Stormtroopers looking for someone; A cantina scene. Han shot first. The fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy is in a constant state of disrepair; Let the Wookie win. Jedi training in a helmet with the blast shield on. “I feel a disturbance in the Force.” The Millennium Falcon is tractor beamed into an Imperial hanger bay. “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you!” “This is some rescue!” The Battle at Yavin 4. Single-handedly taking on full companies of stormtroopers. “I sense a presence in the Force. Something I haven’t felt since…” “Noooo!” “The Force is strong in this one.” “The Force will be with you. Always.”
5: The Empire Strikes Back - Because Empire is such a fave of fans, many considering it the best of all the Star Wars films, a lot of fan service is played to it. Lando’s emergence from obscurity is key to this. What has he been doing this entire time? Why is he not part of the Rebellion? His presence is a convenient plot device, like so many things that occur in Rise: “Everything is proceeding as I predicted”; “Apology accepted, Admiral. You are in command now, Captain Needa.”; “I have a bad feeling about this”; “What will I find in there?” “Only what you take with you.” A Jedi has the power to levitate very large objects, like spaceships. “Then all is lost.” “No. There is another.” “Obi-Wan has trained you well” “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.” “Did something happen to your droid?” “I’ll never join you” *jumps* Actually, there is a lot callback to Luke vs. Vader in Rise when Rey and Kylo go at it.
6: Return of the Jedi really gives us a sense of the temptation of the Dark Side that really inhabits the Prequel Trilogy. That tone is referenced heavily in Rise as we see Rey struggle with her power. Again, lots of fan service for traditionalists: Fighting an abused chained monster using only your wits, because you don’t have your lightsaber. The Sarlacc will eat anything that falls into the sandpit.“Boba Fett?” By the way, Boba was the only character in the Star Wars universe who could fly. Was. Shooting blind. And hitting your target. “Count me in too” “This is madness!” “Then I am a Jedi” “Not yet. You must face Vader”; Speeder chases. The ground force attacking the control tower on Endor’s moon to deactivate the force field that protects the Death Star; “Your emotions betray you.” It’s always fun to watch a Jedi lose control. And still win a confrontation, weakening the argument that a Jedi’s power flows through the Force in measured tones. More on that later. “Strike me down!” Tossing your lightsaber away as a sign that you will not turn to the Dark Side. The reward? A face full of Force Lightning! Sacrificing yourself to save others. “I feel it.”“It is too late for me, my son.” “You love him.” “Of course I do… he’s my brother.” “And, now, young Skywalker… you will die.” There is still good in you.”
1: The Phantom Menace - “I will be watching his career with great interest.” Actually, Rise nearly trips over itself to avoid any deliberate mention of this film, in support of the fan base, who wishes Menace never existed. But there is a big sloppy nod to Darth Maul, perhaps the best thing about Menace. And also the impossible Force leaping that is turning the Jedi into Kryptonians. All that other nonsense - battle droids, trade agreements, treaties, Royal decoys - are left at the side of the road where they belong, at least in the eyes of many fans.
2: Attack of the Clones - If you blink, you will miss all the callbacks from Clones, which as films go was like eating sloppy joes with no bread and a butter knife. Thank goodness, the References stick to the following: Cloning is a thing. Jango Fett may be gone, but his spirit lives on. A Jedi fights in the rain. Two against one - always big fun.Go back for people, even if it ruins the plan.
3: Revenge of the Sith is both a good film and a bad film, reviews by fans being mixed. That being said, beheadings are at an all time low since Disney took over. (Side note - I wonder what Highlander would look like as a Disney product? There can be only everyone?) The very one delight of every prequel film were the constant beheadings, as if to remind us that the films are in an earlier, less civilized time frame, when in all seriousness, the original trilogy has more in common with Mass aMax than Bladerunner. Nevertheless, there are obvious callbacks to: the opening space fight; crash landing on Coruscant with no injuries; heartfelt reunions; bad dreams; blind to the obvious threat in the room. “Power! Unlimited Power!” Committing an act that deliberately leads you closer to the Dark side. Using the Force to keep someone from not dying. Falling from a great height and surviving a la Yoda.
7: The Force Awakens - New Force powers! Again, each trilogy offers some precious nugget that redeems it’s overall value. For the JJ films, it has to be how use of the Force has evolved. Kylo Ren stopping blaster fire in midair is sobering, but the speed in which Rey develops is bordering on implausible. We are teased with Finn being Force-sensitive; unfortunately, that avenue is unexploited. Poe is offered as the new Han, also opening the door to Force sensitivity. All of this is unexplored again in Rise, only on a larger scale. Again, our Jedi and Sith are augmented to Kryptonian levels, superhero landings and all. Fighting on disintegrating planets is nothing but stimulating.
8. The Last Jedi - The title suggests that Rey and Kylo represent a graduation of sorts from Jedi and Sith to a new class of Force user, which would’ve been way more satisfying. We don’t get that - we get Jedi and Sith on steroids. New Force powers! This ForceTime communication between Rey and Ren is super entertaining and fully explored in Rise. No pecs flashing, though. We do explore this unnatural chemistry between Rey and Ren, that feels creepy at best, since we don’t know Rey’s parentage yet. Callbacks include: Poe led space battles, Finn’s irrational overprotection of Rey, who can clearly take care of herself, especially without his help. Referencing to the original trilogy ad nauseam. Pogs. All the new characters introduced and discounted. Rey and Ren fighting side by side.
About the icons: So much referencing toward the objects in the Star Wars universe that is markable as merchandise. Yes, these items are monetized, but the imagination that triggered in fan’s minds based on these MacGuffins, of which there are several, cannot be dismissed as simple Stocking Stuffers. They do have a deeper meaning.
The Millennium Falcon - Starring in two-thirds of the triple trilogy and a Solo movie, the Falcon is a character of its own, having as much personality as any of the other characters. The Falcon plays a prominent role in Rise, as much as it did in the original trilogy. Let’s not get into how a Corellian YT-1300F could last as long as it did without falling completely apart, or how a vehicle as important to Lando Calrissian languishes on a desert planet without his knowledge. Let’s ignore the near misses, or how the Falcon could survive the numerous trips through hyperspace over the decades without Malachi crunching an asteroid or another ship. What’s important is how this one ship is integral to the triumph of the Rebellion continuously, destroying two Death Stars and a Star Killer, rescuing multiple characters from certain death, hiding our stars from discovery, and having a consistent reputation as the “fastest hunk of junk in the Galaxy.”
Lightsabers - becoming a meme of its own, Lightsabers are the Swiss Army Knives of the Star Wars universe, capable of performing any task, and foolproof when it comes to marketing. Who wouldn’t want to own a lightsaber? And yet, you would think these coveted devices grow on trees, with the number of times they are lost or purposefully discarded in the name of principle. In the original trilogy, there were only four lightsabers: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, Anakin Skywalker’s, Darth Vader’s and the one Luke Skywalker built. The Prequel had more lightsabers than we can count, and I have a question: After Executive Order 66, what happened to all the lightsabers of all the Jedi that were killed? Palpitane didn’t strike me as the type of personality who would dispose of anything with value. Are they in an Imperial vault somewhere? By the JJ trilogy, old dusty lightsabers are popping up like flies: the Anakin one Luke lost fighting Vader in Empire, Kylo Ren’s blatantly phallic cross guard design.
Blasters - Only in this new fangled day and age of Disney and budget, are we concerned about a blaster losing power. What made sci-fi sci-fi was unlimited shots during a gunfight. I suppose we need that handicapped if our protagonists cannot miss.
Droids - are people, of course. And why should not be treated as such? They have free will, they have opinions, helping or hindering in equal quantities. Many often used in plot devices, C3PO, R2D2, BB8, Let’s call the whole thing off.
To be clear, The Rise of Skywalker is Episodes 4, 5 and 6 stitched together with some new characters updated for the 21st century.