5 Ways to Defend Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
By George Rose
January 21, 2020
You didn’t think I was going to let Rise of Skywalker come and go without getting my two cents in, did you? Just because it’s a new year (heck, new decade) doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about the final blockbuster of 2019. If anything, it’s more critical and relevant now that we’re about to enter World War 3. It’s about time somebody slapped some sense into all the haters out there. When it comes to Star Wars, it means so many things to so many people. It’s hard to argue anyone is right or wrong in this day and age, where everyone is entitled to their opinion and people’s life experiences have a dramatic way of affecting their emotional response to any content consumed. And with so much political tension around us as it is, maybe we all just need a small reminder to start being a little more kind. You know, spread some positivity and whatnot.
While part of me wants to tell you how I felt about Rise of Skywalker and why, I’m really using this space to address some of the concerns and questions I’ve seen pop up most on the interwebs. More than any of the beliefs I hold for myself, one problem I have most in this world is bullying. Right or wrong, no person or brand THAT HAS BEEN BY YOUR SIDE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE deserves to be ganged up on. There are peaceful and proper ways to hold a discussion, and so few franchises deserve that respect more than Star Wars. Disney, too, for that matter. So, friends, we are not here to discuss the 5 Ways to Prep for the film you spent decades with already. We’re here to find the 5 Ways to Defend that galaxy far, far away. Buckle your seats and get ready for light speed because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
1) WHO SOLD OUT FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?
Solo? That was Disney and Kathleen Kennedy’s fault, and it wasn’t even that bad. I kind of like it. Rogue One? Good movie but also Disney. Oh, you thought Force Awakens was too much like New Hope? You blame Rian Johnson for the errors of Last Jedi? You didn’t like the retconning of Rise of Skywalker? Well guess what, your problems aren’t with Rian or JJ Abrams or Disney. Sorry, friends, your beef is misplaced. Take it up with George Lucas.
That man promised us a trilogy of trilogies. It was born as his vision and it was his alone to complete. Let’s be honest, the prequel trilogy wasn’t that great and nobody had a problem blaming him. Then he gets too old and tired to finish his story so he sold it off to Disney for BILLIONS of dollars. Oh, you’re mad Disney didn’t take notes from Lucas and should have made what he would have done? Too bad, he sold out. You’re mad Disney went the way of merchandising, catered too much to nostalgia, rushed the ending, pandered to the fans, went against the fans, blah blah blah the fans. YOUR PROBLEM IS WITH GEORGE LUCAS!
You should be kissing Disney’s ass for buying the franchise. They have the most money and resources, and if you think that meant you were getting the best Star Wars you’re wrong. You’re getting THEIR Star Wars and just be happy someone even tried to finish the story, because the beloved creator couldn’t be bothered to end it the way you wanted. And if the prequels are any indication, Lucas already burned out. I really enjoyed Episodes 7-9 and I don’t have to defend why, just as the haters aren’t wrong for disliking the latest three entries. Any displeasure you have shouldn't be targeted at anyone other than George Lucas. Regardless of his reasons, he sold out long before Disney sold out by catering to the toy collecting crowd and you should keep that in mind next time you want to blame the wrong person.
2). DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING… OF THE END
I’m seeing a lot of reviews complain at how Princess Leia’s scenes felt written around whatever footage they could salvage from the prior films. Well, yeah, BECAUSE SHE DIED! Carrie Fisher is dead and nobody is happy about that. Rise of Skywalker may not have been the movie you were hoping for but, guess what, it’s also not the movie Disney wanted. You don’t think everyone involved hoped Fisher was going to be in this final outing? Maybe we’d get a Leia lightsaber battle? Maybe an emotionally crippling reunion between Leia and Ben Solo? There was tons of options of where Episode 9 could go and they all died with our beloved Leia.
I challenge every one of you to raise the money needed to buy the Star Wars brand and then raise more money needed to film a special effects extravaganza. I’m sure after all that effort and money, and expectations of worldwide fans, and the pressure you’ll never be George Lucas (the man who bailed), and cast members dying before production, I’d love see what you come up with. Fan fiction is great and that’s all Disney’s version of Star Wars is. It’s their fan fiction. We don’t have Lucas and we don’t have Fisher. We’ll never know how the Skywalker saga was really meant to end and that’s ok because we don’t have a choice but to accept it. The truth died with those that left the franchise willingly and those that had untimely departures.
3) YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT BUT IF YOU TRY SOMETIMES, WELL, YOU MIGHT FIND YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED
There’s something beautiful to be said about the death of Fisher and (in a way) Lucas. Had they survived, we would have gotten to see the Skywalker end as intended. Unfortunately, as the prequel trilogy showed us, not everything made by the creator is good. The most exciting part of the saga ending was getting to see what came next outside of the expected nine film saga. With those early departures, we are getting a taste of the most magical part of the galaxy a few films early: the unexpected! And even though it bothered many that their final trilogy isn’t going how they hoped, it’s fun to see what the outsiders have done to this storyline.
The funny thing is, the galaxy is infinite, is it not? In this place where anything and everything is possible, you’d think fans could accept any outcome and enjoy the thrill of this unknown. People didn’t like Luke drinking the milk from the space cow in Last Jedi, right? “Ewwww, so gross!” Except, don’t you think in this infinite galaxy that there’s a space cow whose milk gets consumed? And on this third-world planet run by alien monks and infested with Porgs, that there may not be a dairy farm needed to bottle that milk first? It’s probably the same blue liquid Luke drank in New Hope but suddenly watching him drink it from the source is the problem? Luke didn’t do anything we don’t do here on Earth but everyone raged on about Rian Johnson’s decision to include this. Was it unnecessary? Oh, for sure. But was it an interesting, unexpected example of the possibilities that could incur while on a space journey? You betcha!
When Lucas screws up, we laugh it off with “well that’s what the creator wanted and even though it’s not good we’re just blessed that he made it and let us watch it.” When Abrams or Johnson have a go at it, we judge them for not giving us what we wanted, which we were never entitled to as fans not in charge of the script or the budget. You don’t think in the universe there’s a gambling planet where horses and kids need freedom, but maybe it was easier to free the horses? Or that an Asian woman with a bad haircut and sexual inexperience may be the one to free them while having zero chemistry with the black guy next to her that she’s apparently interested in? I’m attracted to people all the time I have no chemistry with! And sure, Rose was the first not-white woman in a leading Star Wars role and deserved better, but there are annoying, prudish, unkempt women all over Earth. Is representing them not also ok? Damn, people, you’re white privilege is showing! Maybe have some respect and leave that poor girl alone. Stop harassing the actress and go shit on George Lucas’s doorstep or something.
I love that those most critical of the possibilities of space are also the ones using racial slurs on Kelly Marie Tran’s (aka Rose) social media. What right do fans think they have over an imaginary galaxy when they can’t even be kind to their real Earthbound neighbors? You want a universe where anything is possible but hate every outcome, and then you look around the reality that you’re actually living in and also hate the variety next to you that isn’t just like you. Soooo, basically, you don’t want to watch Star Wars and see where the wind takes us, you want to see only the Star Wars you want that caters most to the life only you yourself have led. Well that movie sounds like a big pile of bantha poodoo if you ask me.
There’s nothing wrong with watching a great, good, decent or even bad Star Wars film. Every entry is a blessing Disney never had to give us and I look forward to all the unexpected and uncomfortable moments the new creators show us. They may not be the moments I wanted but they might be just what I need to expand my mind to all the possibilities of a limitless existence. The Skywalker saga is over. Lucas’s vision has long been over. The box office as we know it is over. There’s a lot of change coming and the variety of Star Wars could prove to be the way we learn to accept all of the unknown ahead. And maybe if you can wrap your heads around an infinite galaxy, you’ll finally learn how to be kind to everyone here on Earth.
4) OHANA MEANS FAMILY
Have there been poor choices made in Star Wars? Absolutely. Do they deserve your pure hatred and incessant whining? No, not even a little bit. Fans seem to be treating Star Wars like a stranger or some pesky troublemaker. They are stories and characters most of us have known and loved for our whole lives. I’ve known the brand longer than some of my own family members and I even like them more than some of those relatives, too. Star Wars isn’t just an annoying friend you see once in a while; it’s family. We may like some members more than others, but they deserve the same undying loyalty as anyone else in the top tier of your heart.
I told a friend the other day that going to Star Wars movies is a lot like going to all my siblings’ weddings. One might have better food than the other, the services are all different lengths of time, there may be a larger audience at one, some are destination affairs that take you to new places, some have familiar faces you like, some have family you hate, some pander to tradition, some go against tradition on purpose, and they can all be ranked on a list of best to worst. They are also, however, all amazing family affairs. You wouldn’t go up to the bride and groom after the party and talk shit about it to them, would you? You’d tell your spouse or friends about it later in private. You wouldn’t blast it online for the world to see, because hatred is ugly and it’s more polite to be someone who talks trash behind people’s backs.
It’s ok to feel a certain way about the outcome of each Star Wars story, that’s natural. But you go to the show, you like what you like, dislike what you don’t, and then look forward to the next one. You don’t give up on family. Sometimes you fight and don’t talk, but you always come back together during the holidays to try and fix the past and move forward on a better note. You’ve got your immediate family (the Skywalker saga), your cousins (the spin-off films) and your distant relatives (TV ventures). Don’t you want to see them every year around the holidays? A six month break isn’t enough (says Solo’s experience) but more than a year is too long. Although distance makes the heart grow fonder, it can also eventually make people grow apart and we definitely don’t want that happening.
No matter how many or few members you like, there’s always at least one worth sticking around for. You can have your favorites but the group as a whole is what’s key. This is your family and you can’t give up on them just because of one rough holiday, one underwhelming wedding or one nasty fight. It amazes me how people claim to be such diehard fans of Star Wars but then bail at the first sign of disappointment. Those fans were never really family and they were barely ever fans. You’ll know who the real ones are when you’re sitting next to them at the theater during the first post-Skywalker saga film. Those are the lifelong fans. That’s our Star Wars family. Those are the ones that deserve to enjoy this universe long after the Skywalker’s have passed. If you’d rather be alone during the holidays, that’s ok too. Just keep that ratchet trolling to yourself because you chose not to have a family that’s willing to listen.
5) ONLY THE SITH DEAL IN ABSOLUTES
I’ve actually read in reviews some people say, “I will never watch another Star Wars movie again.” Why?!?! The point they tried to make was that so many classic characters were used for the effect of nostalgia in Rise of Skywalker that they don’t trust them anymore as anything other than heartstring tuggers. Like, the only point of having Chewbacca is to invoke old memories and positive responses. Why is that a bad thing? It’s the end of the Skywalker saga, did you really think Disney wasn’t going to pull out the big guns? Of course Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, RD-D2 and C3-PO we’re going to be in it. Of course it was for fan service. But as a fan, wouldn’t you rather be catered to than ignored?
Was anyone paying attention this whole time to the themes of the Jedi vs the Sith? It’s been said in Star Wars lore that only the Sith deal in absolutes. Why would any real fan, any real Jedi, any real family or friend ever say such nonsense like, “I’ll never watch Star Wars again,” and expect us to support such an aggressive decision? I understand we live in this age of toxic fandom and internet terrorism, but is it really that easy for you to give up on the stories that helped raise you into the person you are today? I pray to God you never have children and they never turn on you for not being the perfect parent. I pray the world shows you what forgiveness and second chances are, because you seem to have forgotten the ways of common decency.
I’m not saying we have to like the new Star Wars, the last one or any of them at all. All I’m saying is you can have your opinion without trying to ruin the good time the rest of us are trying to have. I, for one, LOVED Rise of Skywalker. I also have several issues with it, but those problems didn’t stop me from enjoying my time and they certainly didn’t stop me from crying twice during the movie. I loved the unexpected nature of The Last Jedi and I loved that Rise of Skywalker forced in storylines that let me properly say goodbye to the trilogy of trilogies that taught me about hope over the last few decades. What may have bothered me about the problems within the last three entries is far outweighed by the excitement I feel for the endless possibilities of the galaxy outside of the Skywalkers.
If Disney+’s Mandalorian is any indication, there is a lot of life left in this brand and so much more to discover. The fact that Solo’s losses may prevent further spin-off films in the future saddens me, and falls right into that notion of absolutes. It’s crazy one underperformer could halt production on future movies. The problem wasn’t with Solo so much as it’s release date, as it proved maybe at least a year is needed between entries. There are growing pains to be expected with Star Wars under Disney leadership and I’d hate for them to give up the same way fans might potentially give up on the franchise. It’s sad, this whole fan vs brand bickering is sad. Support the ones you love, give them second chances, and they will be by your side forever. Give up at the first few signs of trouble and you’ll find yourself all alone during the holidays.
The cheer of the Christmas season is over and the new year is underway. There’s no Star Wars, no Avengers, no guarantee of a massive blockbuster this year. Disney had a handful of billion dollar blockbusters in 2019 and there’s no promise of any in 2020. The day where cinema dies at the hands of streaming services may be closer than you think, and when that time comes you might just find yourself missing the days of a decent Star Wars movie. Though it’s fading fast, Rise of Skywalker is still one of the top movies in the world and there’s time to catch it on the big screen. I’m not saying you have to like it but you really should decide for yourself before you let misguided reviews and whiny fanboys change your mind.
Don’t see it to get in on the conversation. Don’t watch it to see the best Star Wars movie. Don’t go because you think the is the finale we’ve been expecting since the first days when George Lucas said he had a vision. See it to say goodbye. Goodbye to one of the biggest franchises in cinema history. Goodbye to Lucas’s vision that’ll never come to pass. And goodbye to all you think you know. Don’t worry about that big galaxy out there because the world here is about to change. Forget the Clone Wars because the streaming wars are here… and probably World War 3. Keep in mind, Rise of Skywalker isn’t just a goodbye to Star Wars, it’s a goodbye to classic cinema. No matter what happens next and how many things are about to change, I find peace in knowing that in one form or another the Star Wars brand will live on. If not, I’ll still always carry it with me in Jedi spirit by choosing to be kind, choosing to have hope and defending what’s right. It’s that or the Dark Side. Take your pick and make a New Year’s resolution worth fighting for. This is the way. I have spoken.