The Rise of Skywalker I saw (and nobody else did)

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.

“Ha! Isn’t this great? You don’t want to see some boring story about a Chosen One discovering a shocking secret lineage and fulfilling their Destiny as the galaxy’s saviour!”

“Of course not, why else would I be watching a Star Wars movie? Now please do something about all these ghastly space-ships.”

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.

“So what I told you was true. From a certain point of view.”

But here’s the thing, he says something like “Your father was Palpatine’s Son, just as my mother was Vader’s daughter” but 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?!

“No. There is another another.”

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…

Damn.

But wait, who possibly have gotten him to forget Padmé long enough to…

Ooooh…maybe.

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…”

“Fuckin’ Skywalkers…”

30 comments

  1. I dunno man, I think if Johnson was trying to say Star Wars was silly he wouldn’t end his movie with kids being awed by Luke’s story and a little boy looking at the stars with hope and wonder. But, I get why people do.

  2. I’m in the rare camp that liked both Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker just fine. They entertained me for a few hours, and I’m up for watching them again. Star Wars in general is A-Okay in my book. Give me some laser swords and cool aliens and I’m down for whatever.

    But I grew up during the period when the Original Trilogy was done, the Prequels were but a sinister glint in Lucas’ eye, and SW in general wasn’t a big deal anymore. And my favorite movie in the trilogy was Return of the Jedi, which for sixteen years was the “bad” Star Wars.

    So in my life I’ve gone from being uncool among normal people for liking Star Wars, and uncool among Star Wars fans for liking the bad Star Wars, to being cool again among Star Wars fans because we must set aside our differences to better hate the prequels, to being told that the prequels are fine now because we hate the new trilogy. And we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. So I just don’t take the drama seriously.

    The real shock here is that Palpatine got lucky at some point. Not normal looking Senator Palpatine either, the monster version. I can only assume whatever luckless Sith Groupie got that job was both a looker and had some strong genes to produce Daisy Ridley a generation on down.

    1. I think the best we can hope for is that the conception of Rey’s father was a consensual act. Dark side of the Force, after all . . . . 😦

      Mouse, I rather like your head-canon. It certainly fits in with the soap opera tendencies of Star Wars overall.

    1. You know…… nothing that in the films explicitly contradicts this and that’s good enough for me to accept this as canon.
      #releasesthemousecut

  3. It could have been worse. Mouse could also have known that, canonically, it was Palpatine who used the Force to conceive Anakin within Shmi…

    I’m in the very happy place of having loved each of the sequel trilogy movies. 🙂

  4. “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.“

    I have to say it seems like the factions forming are “people who blame TFA and JJ Abrams for Skywalker” and “people who blame TLJ and Rian Johnson for Skywalker.” I’m in the first camp BTW, it remains to be seen if Star Wars is ever going to recover from TFA’s reset.

  5. Merry Christmas!

    And whatever we may think of Rise of Skywalker, as separate as our viewpoints on it may be (joke’s on you guys, I haven’t even watched it yet), let’s all be joined in our surely shared collective contempt of the Cats movie!

  6. I feel I should point out that since Palpatine is hinted to be Vader’s true father through force manipulation (it’s outright stated in the canon comics), Rey kissing Kylo is still technically incest!

  7. I’m going to be covering the problems I had with the sequel trilogy as a whole rather than pointing the blame at a single director, after I do a season review of The Mandalorian. Long story short, there’s a benefit to planning ahead which is something Disney definitely didn’t do when starting this trilogy.

    In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you and your mouse family!

    1. Not like Lucas was exactly the planing ahead type.Remember Obi calling Darth Vader “Darth”, asif that’s, like, his name and not the equivalent of “general”? Remember Han not believing in the Force even though he would have been about 12 when the Jedi owned the galaxy?

      1. It’s important to remember that Lucas didn’t even know if there’d be a sequel to the first film. He was still figuring out how his galaxy worked. And by “Empire” he had a general idea where he wanted his story to go. Heck, the “Episode IV-A New Hope” wasn’t added until the 1981 re-release.
        The sequel trilogy had an established universe by this time and a lot of different sources to draw from. But they didn’t do any planning ahead of time and it REALLY shows.

  8. Honestly my metric for franchise pieces at this point is “Are most of the characters I want to be alive still alive?” “Do I hate them now?” *cough*Game of Thrones except Sansa, Arya, Brienne, and Jon*cough* TLJ fails on both fronts: Luke for one, Poe for two. I love love Poe in both TFA and ROS. In TLJ he’s an idiot for no reason to further the plot.ROS gets a pass for Lea because of the tragic real life hand they were dealt with Carrie’s passing and both the vets and the new kids (and the new kids’ new friends for that matter) remain likable throughout. Also I HATE subverting expectations as a substitute for good storytelling. Your twist isn’t good if it wasn’t set-up well or it doesn’t fit with what we know about the characters up that point.

    It sucks that Rose got downgraded and Oscar Issac’s campaign for StormPilot wasn’t successful but it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without something to be mad about. I come down on firmly on the “I enjoyed it” side and I’m satisfied with it as a conclusion for this set of stories, messy as it was to get there.

  9. Now, the sheer batshit insanity of that particular twist would’ve made a TROS better experience for me and my gf. (Then again, we’re saying this as big fans of TLJ who may be casting about to raise a peasant jacquerie against JJ Abrams in particular.)

  10. The large amount of people who felt chastised by The Last Jedi makes me feel kinda funny and dead inside, because it makes me wonder if I never really connected that much to the original trilogy’s myth. See when I first heard the complaint that TLJ made fans feel bad for wanting a basic story my reaction was a dismissive snort, perhaps even a haughty chortle and an adjustment of my suddenly summoned monocle as I thought “well duh, we already have Star Wars movies that told the old story- what’s the point of making a new story unless you do something new with it? Goodness, who’d ever clamor for a movie that’s just doing the same old as the two trilogies before it?”

    A whole lotta people, turns out.

    Still, I can’t say I ended up caring much for the end-results of either TLJ or ROS. TLJ aimed high but often stumbled on the execution of its many ideas, but that it HAD ideas in the first place kinda endeared me to it. So when ROS shows up and turns out to have NO ideas (except do the thing people liked before, making ROS into Return of the Jedi like TFA was A New Hope), I just… didn’t even really react. There sure were cool or funny moments but like… I already go to Marvel movies to see visually cool things happening, and I found myself thinking “was anything that happened here even half as cool as Doctor Strange’s city-bending scene?” And I had to answer “no”.

    Which feels kinda wrong, doesn’t it? I should be invested in these characters because I should be invested in Star Wars, our nerdy origin, the primordial soup from which we crawled out of. The history of the franchise alone should instill in me an automatic reverence and investment. I shouldn’t be sitting here making comparisons to a Marvel movie whose character I had NO prior history to. But… that’s what happened. Because the movie turned itself into nothing but spectacle, and the spectacle itself turned out to just be decent. Nothing really memorable. Nothing really character-infused and heartfelt. It was just mid. A 5 / 10. A meh. I feel like that’s not the emotion Star Wars should give me. Maybe if they’d have gone all out with the potential of “all the Sith / Jedi are in me”, just go full on DBZ and have Palpy throw whole Star Destroyers at Rey who uses the force to telepathically coordinate an entire space fleet to blow up those ships, or like summoning Ghost Samuel Jackson like a JoJo Stand in order to use his Force Fist powers or whatever it was he did in the clone wars cartoon to punch apart attacking Tie Fighters, THEN there’d be something in this movie no other Star Wars movie before it had done, THEN I’d have SOMETHING to latch on to. Instead I have nothing. And that’s not a good note to leave out on.

    And while it’s not really MY thoughts, I came across this post by Film Critic Hulk:
    https://www.patreon.com/posts/32504876
    And I think that if I thought longer and harder about the movie and truly analyzed it I would agree with it and it’s assessment of JJ Abrams weaknssses as a director… but as is, I will settle with simply saying ROS is just a middling spectacle, and therefore unsatisfying.

    Then again Rey DID transform into a succubus and drained Kylo’s life at the end, so I guess that’s SOMETHING.

  11. In my opinion the biggest issues of Last Jedi were that it was so depressing considering bunch of planets had just blown up in prior film too and we had just watched the boring suicide film Rogue One. The whole galaxy just seemed to be filled with death. Also it didn’t open much doors so the whole series should have been pivoted to have four films instead of three since now the last had to cram so much material in so fast it suffered. I mean Finn still didn’t have time to do much, not even tell Rey what he was trying to (and I honestly liked Rey/Kylo but though the end still should have been Rey/Finn since the series needed some hopeful romance to end with) and we don’t know where Palpatine came form or who he had relationship with. Or did Lando just find a daughter or a girlfriend. And have Rey do what Luke didn’t and establish the Jedi again (and again give the series some hope and fun).

    But I still liked both films even if the series didn’t accomplish much as a whole and was messy. However Mouse the movie is tracking just to be barely over billion which is actually bad compared to other films.

  12. Mouse, let me put it this way – when you have UNLIMITED POWER, unlimited action is never out of the question no matter what you look like (Quite frankly I would be astonished if Rey’s progenitor was the only Bastard Palpatine out & about in the Galaxy).

    On a more serious note, having finally seen RISE OF THE SKYWALKER last night I think we can safely say it’s not the sequel THE LAST JEDI needed but Definitely one THE FORCE AWAKENS might reasonably have expected – quite frankly as individual films the Sequel Trilogy make enjoyable viewing, but as a trilogy they are an unholy mess (now and quite possibly forever).

    For the record, my verdict on RISE OF THE SKYWALKER is largely positive; while somewhat messy and definitely not the Best STAR WARS, it cannot be called the worst and most definitely had its Moments (especially with regard to the cast, who continue to do well with every odd twist & turn thrown at them).

    On a completely irrelevant note, I am absolutely delighted that the lovely Miss Daisy Ridley has finally been given a chance to show off the fangs we all suspected were hiding under that slightly-terrifying Game Face of hers! (No lie, whenever Rey gets ready for an action scene I get the impression she’s about to bite someone’s jugular out – I’m quite relieved someone else got that impression too).

  13. Maybe it would be cooool if (because we don’t see Luke dating anybody on the big screen) If Luke gets with his girl Mama Jade, she turns out to be a Palpatine, his daughter, they have Rey. BAM Rey is a Skywalker and a Palpatin. Although that is almost too amazing Rey would overshadow everyone. (That’s what the Spanish girl at work told me… love doesn’t happen for years… then BAM it happens.) Anyone who is a Palpatine is a Pal of mine.

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