For many people, Star Wars just isn’t fun anymore. But whose fault is that, really?
I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on opening night, and I doubt I could’ve been less excited for it. So much venom had been spewed at the Star Wars brand by this point, so even mentioning the name of certain chapters came at the risk of actually losing friendships. What’s more, its release signaled the start of what all of my work supervisors assured me would be the most hectic few weeks in our theater’s short history — now, of course, I would practically kill for those days — and my sense of dread was simply too powerful to ignore.
The fact that I turned out to not like the movie was just icing on the cake, though I could hardly be surprised. Save for a few precious souls, so many of the actors seemed like they would rather be anywhere else. The first half especially feels like a non-stop exposition train, constantly dismantling the tracks both in front of and behind it, barely scraping by at any given moment. The needless ridicule of C-3PO came as an unpleasant surprise. The inability to commit to even its own chain of events, let alone what came before, makes for a movie with virtually no finality to it, to the point where all of my capacity to become invested had eroded completely, right at the moment when it was needed the most.
That’s how I felt upon first viewing, and I still stand by all of it. In the months since, however, I’ve realized that I was going down a path I vowed to never go down before. Nearly every mention of the movie would immediately fill me with contempt, and I wouldn’t be caught dead without making my hatred known to everyone around me.
It occurred to me that I was turning into the exact thing I had come to despise over the past two years, since The Last Jedi, well, happened. The condescending nonsense that all sides of the argument have had to withstand has tragically come full circle. I’ve gone on record as saying that Star Wars, as an entity, just isn’t fun anymore, and when I realized that I was contributing to that, I knew that I had to put a stop to it in whatever capacity I could.
Months went by, and I decided that the time had come to go back. Now that we’re several months removed from most of the passion (and that’s putting it lightly), my goal was to rewatch TROS as independently from the rest of the saga as I could, and to see if I could find anything in it worth salvaging.
Hell, I wasn’t a fan of The Last Jedi when I first saw it, and now it’s my favorite of the entire saga. With this latest movie, I knew that any shift in opinion certainly wouldn’t be as dramatic, but why not give it the best shot I could?
As it turns out…still not a fan, but there are certainly things I do like about it. The imagery and visuals, generally speaking, are legitimately striking and unique. The Sith planet especially is a world I really enjoyed, and even the new desert planet feels like it has its own history, for however briefly we get to be there. I’m a proponent of many of the action sequences as well; everything on the Death Star is cool, as is the visceral scale of the final battle.
I found it very interesting to think about how the entire crux of this chapter is based on chucking our hatred and moving beyond outdated and irrelevant sources of conflict. It’s almost as if the storytellers are shining through in brief glimpses, to let us know how upset and frustrated they are.
Of course, I may never know for sure, but what I do know is that I’m no longer impressed by hatred (from myself or others), so that narrative, for whatever ramifications it may have in a larger context, is one that I can at least get on board with in theory. In a better world, the movie around that philosophy would’ve lent it a lot more heft (frankly, I think we already mostly got it), but I can only be so upset with how this angle was handled.
I sympathize greatly with nearly everyone involved in the production; I wonder if anyone could’ve crafted something special and ubiquitous with this list of tasks to contend with. Star Wars is so many things to so many different people, and it shouldn’t be any particular chapter’s job to be ALL of those things, whether it’s actually trying to be or not. I didn’t care for this entry, and that’s fine. It’s a shame that things have gotten to the point where art and storytelling are apparently the item of least concern, but here we are.
The damage has been done, and it really sucks, doesn’t it? Not even the actors and filmmakers have any delusions over how miserable things have become in the many corners of the Star Wars discourse. My only hope is that we can learn something from all of this. We all know that anger leads to hate and that hate leads to suffering, and I think it might be time to remind ourselves of that.
If there’s one consistent theme that the Star Wars Galaxy has taught us time and time again, even in the somber conclusion of Revenge of the Sith, it’s that there’s always hope, new or otherwise. All we have is to take what we’ve learned and then do our best. I can’t wait to see what that looks like. May the force be with us. Always.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now available to stream on Disney+.
Sam is a frequent contributor to Cinemaholics, former co-host of Anyway, That’s All I Got, and currently hosts the weekly Extra Milestone podcast. He’ll watch anything once, but makes no guarantees about whether or not he’ll remember it.