Spoilers for The Last Jedi from the outset, spoilers for Rise of Skywalker after the jump.
I sense a great disturbance in the fandom…
Rise of Skywalker has begun its inevitable conquest of the global box office and people are about as mad at it as it is possible to be at something while still giving it a billion dollars. Call me Nostradamouse but I have the feeling this is going to end with two extremely angry, polarised factions dominating the fandom, those who love The Last Jedi and those who love Rise of Skywalker. And, while history shows that eventually the changes to canon Rise of Skywalker has wrought will be grudgingly accepted just like the New Editions, Midi-Chlorians, Leia being Luke’s sister, Jar Jar and the Ewoks…things are still pretty raw right now.
This is not my review of Rise of Skywalker because I’m not going to be doing a review of Rise of Skywalker because other than the occasional obscure bit of media here and there Star Wars is a picked clean zebra carcass on the Serengeti of the internet. Honestly, I don’t think I have anything to add by reviewing any of these movies. But in the coming great Jedi/Skywalker debate this is where I am:
Rian Johnson tried something bold, gutsy, admirable and radically deconstructive with The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, he did it with Star Wars, possibly the one major franchise least suited to that kind of take. Star Wars is very purposefully echoing the ancient tales laid out in Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. They are supposed to be hero tales of the very oldest sort. What Johnson did was give us a fairy tale where the prince finds out he’s actually the heir to a small pub in the Netherlands, then gets eaten by the dragon, and the Princess frees herself and goes on to found a successful chain of business schools. It’s…different. Certainly. It subverts your expectations, no doubt. It’s probably got something frightfully clever to say about privilege and gender roles and such but it is also, on a very fundamental level, unsatisfying. During Last Jedi I felt the following conversation was taking place.
As for Rise of Skywalker, while the desperate back-peddling Abrams carries out to undo two of Johnson’s most significant choices would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bloody artless, I do kinda feel for the guy. Johnson left him with some very large corners to paint himself out of and precious little paint to do it (may cover that in another post). And yeah, Rise of Skywalker is a big messy, fan-servicey mess of fan-service (I’m a writer, me) but you know what? It’s fun. It’s got Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley having adventures and shooting flying storm troopers with C-3PO and Chewie and that is a good time. And Star Wars should be fun. Last Jedi feels like a slog, slowly watching our heroes being winnowed down and ground under by disappointments and betrayals.
Rise of Skywalker is like your typical Irishman. He has faults, and be God he has many of them. But he’s mad craic.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the version of Rise of Skywalker that I saw and no one else did…
Spoilers for days from here on in
So what do I mean by that? Do I mean that my hyper-attuned critical skills allowed me to experience the film on a higher level than ye common plebes? Or have my years of schilling for the Disney corporation finally paid off and I was treated to a special showing of an alternate version of the film full of shocking reveals?
No, my friends. I mean that I’m a DUMBASS.
See, I misheard a single line of dialogue and it rather drastically changed my understanding of the movie and my reaction to it. I’m…honestly not sure if it’s better or worse. Put it this way, if you loved what the Last Jedi did with Rey and hated The Rise of Skywalker’s changes, then you really would not like the version that played in my head (we’ll call it The Mouse Cut). But I kinda feel that the Mouse Cut’s changes to canon are so audacious, so jaw-dropping and so absolutely crammed with unanswered questions begging to be answered by spin-off after spin-off that it almost justifies it. I mean, why indulge in fan-service when you can drown in it, right? Go HAM or go home.
So what’s the change? Alright, so in The Rise of Skywalker Kylo Ren basically says that, yes, while Rey’s parents were low-life nobody junk traders they were also hugely important somebodies on the run from the Empire because Rey’s father was actually Palpatine’s Son.
But here’s the thing, he says something like “Your father was Palpatine’s Son, just as my mother was Vader’s daughter” but I heard it as…
“Your father was Palpatine’s Son, and your mother was Vader’s Daughter.”
So, while everyone else in the theatre is processing the fairly big news that Palpatine had a son and he was Rey’s father, I’M processing this as well as the absolutely mind-blowing revelation that DARTH VADER HAD A SECOND DAUGHTER. THERE WAS A THIRD SKYWALKER CHILD? HOW? WHAT? WHERE? I THOUGHT LUKE AND LEIA WERE OUR LAST HOPE?!
VADER HAD A SECRET DAUGHTER AND SHE SHACKED UP WITH PALPATINE’S SON. OMG. OMG OMG. OMFG.
And suddenly my mind is awash with questions. Vader…Vader was still able to…y’know…he still had a…y’know…the lava didn’t…y’know…
But wait, who possibly have gotten him to forget Padmé long enough to…
Did Palpatine know? Did Vader keep his daughter secret from him? Was this an arranged marriage to join their dynasties or secret forbidden love…
Holy moly, this explains why Rey is so crazily strong in the force. One grandfather is the most powerful Sith who ever lived and the other is the guy whose mam was knocked up by the force itself.
Which means that Rey is also a Skywalker, so The Rise of Skywalker means…okay, okay. Makes sense.
So this one misheard line of dialogue completely changed the movie for me. The whole business of Kylo and Rey being a “force Duo” or whatever it was made a lot more sense since they were now cousins. The final moment where Rey takes the name “Skywalker” felt a lot more reasonable because she’s just taking her mother’s maiden name.
There was one moment, however, where the Mouse Cut definitely made the experience worse. There’s a moment close to the end where Rey is holding a fatally wounded Ben Solo in her arms and, before he passes, she plants a big wet one right on his lips.
At which point, everyone in the cinema cranes their necks to see why one random dude in the third row is going “Eeeeeeeuuuurrrrrrghhhhh!” (I can only imagine they thought I was a hardcore Finnrey shipper)
My brother leaned over and whispered to me “Dude, you okay?”
Still trembling from this sudden display of illict cousin-on-cousin action I turned and whispered back: “Fuckin’ Skywalkers, man…”