Why Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker Failed Us
And how I regained my faith in The Last Jedi
I did not want to write this article. I was one the staunchest voices against the Last Jedi(TLJ). I wrote articles on it, I was against it on social media and I generally hated it altogether. But seeing the phenomenal bomb that was the Rise of Skywalker(ROS) I found my faith rekindled in Rian Johnson and for once I saw the light. This will not be a bashing rather a comparison between the two films and why TLJ is better.
1) The Villain
Let us start as all good stories do, with the beginning. The Last Jedi left us with Snoke killed by Kylo, Rey still searching for the good in him, a message to the stars asking for help and the Rebel fleet almost decimated. It seemed like fine basis for the start of a most profitable venture and insight into Kylo Ren's full entry as a villain. But then we hear the Emperor's message and find out he's been hiding out in the Unknown Regions. Not exactly out of sorts since we did hear his voice in the trailer and knew he was coming. But here's the problem. He says everything Vader, Snoke were just creations of his design. That completely took Snoke and destroyed his entire character arc, not to mention made Kylo basically his second hand man. The fleet of new Star Destroyers are ready for launch all if he kills Rey. Palpatine is a great villain. I love Ian Mcdiarmid and what he brings to the character. But this was Kylo's time to shine as a very nuanced character which was setup in TLJ. But here we get the same villain we've been seeing for the past 6 movies inserted randomly into the mix just for the heck of it. A backstory is completely ignored for Ren and his knights don't even do anything important in the entire movie. It seemed as if J.J wrote a plot, Rian took it further but in a different direction and then J.J butchered it in it's entirety. A really great villain opportunity is wasted. Not to mention it isn't entirely clear what Palpatine really wants. He tries to kill Rey first but then decides against it wanting her to be emperor with his spirit. That is so out of touch with everything Palpatine has ever wanted. Plus him having a child is just, wow. There is no evidence of Palpatine ever considering a line of succession, the clone bodies and mechanical contraptions are proof of what he wanted in the end which is the revival of the Emperor. Not to mention it is never fully explained in the movie or companion book how exactly he came to life except for using the same Force clone ghost mishmash in the Dark Horse comics. There is also the fact that Palpatine is able to drain the life of the dyad in the Force. If he really is so powerful, why not completely drain them. And how has no one been able to counter the lightning lightsaber reflection technique? Where is Palpatine's own lightsaber? And if he has these star destroyers that can bring down planets, why does he wait so long for them to deploy?
2) The Heroes
Rey and Kylo are both the heroes in this story. But after having Rey being revealed as someone who has no past or history so that the message is brought home that anyone can be a great Jedi or Sith, it is decided that only Palpatines or Skywalkers can have great power. Finn doesn't really do much in this story except leave the girl that saved his life for another that basically faced the same ethical and moral demons he did. Po is apparently all grown up now which is why he decides for a suicide plot against the Star Destroyers with expected plot armor of backup as his only solution. The characters don't really develop any true chemistry except for the first film or exhibit any great growth. Leia's death is touching but doesn't make much sense. Han could not turn back Kylo but apparently Leia dying could. While it was a great tribute to the late Carrie Fisher it carried none of the gravitas Luke had when he died protecting the galaxy. Kylo's turn to the light is not very believable because instead of gradually progressing towards a natural conclusion, he just decides randomly to switch positions and become all around good guy. Rey has no major objective or motivation except to save him and kill the Emperor. Which is kind of weird because first she says she won't but at the end she fries him in his own lightning. Why wouldn't his spirit enter her after that? Luke is even weirder because he says everything I said in TLJ was wrong, you go beat them Sith kiddo. Lando is the only believable character that actually saves the film from being an utter mess.
3) The Plot
The ROS had more plotholes than anyone could count. But let's just go over a few of them. If Luke is able to appear and interact with objects in the real world using the Force, why doesn't he fight the Emperor himself? Why does the Emperor wait so long to deploy the Final Order? And where exactly is the First Order. I understand that they don't have as many ships as Palpatine but they still had a sizeable fleet all deployed and able to fire. It's like they suddenly decided ah we won't take any part of this and backed off. Their entire involvement is very limited. Also the whole new fleet of craft that came to fight the Final Order was Mary Sue type behavior at best. The Star Destroyers are in thousands, as confirmed in the book. The idea that Lando could go to every available system, get millions of small craft and still be able to be back in time to fight everyone is amazing. Add to that the fact that they didn't have the weapons to fight the First Order even yet took them down after this battle anyways, it's basically a Return of the Jedi repeat. Rey actually leaves the galaxy to be a hermit at the end which is dumb because Luke just told her that she should not do the same. And at a planet she has no absolute connection to no less. Even Jakku would make sense.
4) The Force
The Force is the most bashed character in this entire movie. Instead of being a mysterious and guiding power it has become a quick cure to everything. Got a lightsaber hole? Use the Force to heal everyone. Want to hit a craft with some Sith lightning? Use the Force. There were levels of training to achieve before this movie. Only the greatest of masters could heal with the Force and the greatest of the Sith create lightning with their hate and even with the dyad explanation, she had no basic training. Nor did Kylo. If it was so easy to do so, every single character in Star Wars could have been saved. Yoda, the greatest master of them all would have all of his council back. Not to mention the fact that if Sidious was able to use Force Drain so well then he should have at least healed himself with other normal force users enough to get some bodily functions until he faced these guys. The Last Jedi showed us the power of the Force but even there Luke said I couldn't face the whole First Order with a lightsaber. And Force ghosts can apparently interact with everything and lift entire X-wings. Where did she get the fuel on that planet for that aircraft anyways?
5) The Conclusion
The real problem, I think, is how the movies were created. The Last Jedi was created to shock us. It was artistically beautiful film, with characters with human emotions and human failings. We felt Luke to be weak and lost, we felt the hopelessness of Kylo we felt the power of the Force magnified many times. We felt the burning of the old when the entire library of the order was destroyed. It broke away all our expectations of what Star Wars should be because the good guys did not win at the end merely got the chance to fight another day. It called on us to kill the past in order to go to the future. That light and dark are not always so mutually exclusive and people exhist in shades of grey. The Rise of Skywalker was created to be a homage. Disney saw the criticism of the fans and created what we wanted. An action packed film that brought us crazy visuals, returned all our villains, showed us all our toys again and exploited our nostalgia. This wasn't even the first of it's kind, fans have written tens of thousands of fanfiction regarding this very plot. But ultimately it makes TROS a very forgettable film. The ability to rewatch it is not as common as it was for TLJ. And here lies the problem. One is a film for the history books not just made for the fandom but for everyone that believed in the story. The other is basically lip service to an entitled bunch of kids that never grew up, myself included. Rian Johnson was the hero we deserved.