Star Wars Episode IX: One Year Later

STILL DON'T LIKE IT A YEAR LATER 

It has almost been one year since Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker and my feelings are as muddled now as they were then.  I love the universe of Star Wars, the world George Lucas created has been one of my favourite things since I saw the original trilogy as a child.  The characters and the universe that Lucas created were so amazing, and now as an adult, I still appreciate it but some of the things I connected to have changed.  Yoda has become my favourite character and The Mandalorian has made it worse with the creation of the child (baby Yoda).  I will do a Star Wars film rankings article sometime soon and I know some of you might be disappointed with what takes first place.  I had such high hopes for Rise of Skywalker and the marketing, and the trailers had me so confident that I was left totally lost at the end of the film on my first watch.  In this article, I am going to talk about my reflections on Episode IX almost a year later after having seen it multiple times and heard/read other fans thoughts on the film.  I do not hate Episode IX (I have never hated a Star Wars film), but I know very confidently that I cannot count it as one of my favourite ones either.  This is my warning; the rest of the article will contain spoilers for Episode IX and for potentially all other Star Wars films.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME  

There are many things about the film that worked for me, almost as much as the stuff that did not work for me.  One of the choices that the script for Episode IX made, was to bring back Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious).  When it was first confirmed that Palpatine had come back during the first teaser trailer released during Star Wars Celebration (I was watching from work) I was excited.  After watching the film, I realized I did not like the choice to bring him back, on further watches I now like the choice but my issue was with the execution (more on this later).  Palpatine did not get a lot of screen time in the original trilogy but Ian McDiarmid was fantastic and, in my opinion, he became the star of the prequel trilogy.  To have him come back was a great idea and definitely gave them a villain that was truly frightening.  After Snoke was killed in Episode VIII, it left a hole in the villain category and there was no easy answer.  I think the decision though clumsily executed was the right one to bring back Snoke, the two other choices would be to create a new villain or go all-in on Kylo Ren being too far gone to be saved.  This is a "worked for me choice" even though I would have done things differently, I have hindsight to see it did not work.  

The return of Ben Solo and the demise of Kylo Ren was another choice the filmmakers did that I fully supported.  Throughout the sequel trilogy, I think Adam Driver has been fantastic as Kylo Ren, and we finally got to see his Ben Solo too.  Driver changed the way he moved as Ben Solo compared to how he played Kylo Ren and I am happy we got to see it.  Some people feel that after Kylo Ren killed his father Han Solo, he was unredeemable, but I think that makes his return to the light all the more important.  The scene where Harrison Ford reprises his role as Han Solo gets me every time, it was a touching scene.  Being to see Rey and Ben join forces in the climax of Episode IX was a highlight of the film for me, again the execution was lacking but I still enjoyed the scene.  

WHAT DID NOT WORK

I am not intending to make this article seem like a pile-on of criticism for Episode IX, but I cannot help but speak my feelings on the film.  Rose Tico being buried in the film is something I absolutely hated, I am not asking for her to be a central figure but I felt that the film just gave all the haters exactly what they wanted.  I am sure it was not the intent of the filmmakers to appease the internet trolls, but Rose was barely in the film and I think that was not a decision that will sit well with true fans.  Rose was a key character of Episode VIII and I think she should have had a little more to do in this one. 

The execution of bringing Emperor Palpatine back was another thing that did not work for me, I like the choice of bringing him back just the way the filmmakers did it is where I have issues.  The introduction of him returning in the opening crawl was a mess, to mention something that happened (his broadcast) that was only heard by those playing Fortnite was a bad choice. Having the Emperor's fleet come out of the ice was a great visual shot, but you have no idea where the fleet came from (dark side magic?).  The Emperor should have returned with his full power and not attached to machines; his body could have been still failing but not been as weak.  

The use of the Jedi in the film was very disappointing, the lack of Luke, Yoda or any other Jedi felt like a missed opportunity.  There were rumours that Annakin would appear to Kylo Ren or maybe even to the Emperor at some point in the film.  When I think of Empire Strikes Back, I remember Obi-Wan appearing to Luke on Hoth and I think why does Luke or Yoda not appear to Rey earlier in the film.  The only answer to that question is the filmmakers just did not want them to, there is something to be said about Rey needing to have her own journey but I think seeing more of Luke or Yoda would have been nice.  To have Han Solo appear but have not have Luke appear earlier is just a missed opportunity, I cannot imagine anybody saying the film could not have benefitted from more Jedi. 

Rey being a Palpatine was a choice I have no clue who thought that was a good idea, especially when it seemingly came out of nowhere.  My hope was that it would be revealed to be a grand-daughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi, which could have been explored in the Disney Plus Kenobi series.  In The Force Awakens, such a big deal was made when Rey picked up Luke's lightsaber and the voice, she heard was a combination of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor voices.  With little to no back story about Rey's parents given in the film, I cannot help but feel there was a better choice.  No matter who her parents were, it would not have made a huge difference.  Rey being a Palpatine did not lead to any great drama or tension and there was no payoff to her being a Palpatine.  

The Knights of Ren was another weird thing from the sequel trilogy, from the time they were first mentioned fans (myself included) wanted more of them.  Rian Johnson chose to ignore them in Episode VIII and the decision to have them appear in Episode IX had me excited.  The use of the Knights of Ren in episode IX felt like the filmmakers trolling us, I would have rather had them not brought up than what we got.  The viewers learned nothing about them, and we barely saw them, it feels like this was another missed opportunity. 

The last thing I will talk about is the one thing I cannot blame on the filmmakers; it is the lack of Princess Leia.  Carrie Fisher's unfortunate passing made handling her character in this film extremely difficult, I cannot blame them, but I wish she got her story.  They tried to give her a proper send-off and I think it worked (though it did not affect me while watching the film), it is truly sad to think of Carrie Fisher as being gone.  Out of all actors in the Star Wars films, I think Carrie Fisher handled it the best and had the most fun with it.  The few scenes we did get with Leila felt so manipulated that I did not find myself getting emotional.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

My final thoughts on the film a year later is that this film/trilogy of films lacked a cohesive plan, I think the three films all feel very different and not in a good way.  I think The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were great and entertaining films that felt betrayed by The Rise of Skywalker.  I do not think Episode IX was bad, but I know that I do not agree with a lot of the choices the filmmakers made.  I am planning to do a follow-up article where I will go more in-depth into what I would have done in Episode IX.  I know JJ Abrams was trying to make the best film possible but I think there was no plan at the start of the trilogy for the story as a whole and so that affected how Episode IX was made.  Before The Force Awakens started filming there should have been a story map for the trilogy.  I think my main issue is that I did not get what I wanted or expected, that is fine because Episode VIII did the same thing, but I loved that movie.  In Episode IX's case, I look at the decisions of the filmmakers and see that I disagree with so many of their choices it makes it hard to watch the film and not think they could have done better. Colin Trevorrow's script for Episode IX leaked and we got to see what his vision for the film would have been had he not gotten fired.  I will not give details since they will just make me sad, but Trevorrow's script was a lot darker and super metal.  After seeing the details of that script, I wonder how they thought what they made was better.  My final thought is that WE NEVER FOUND OUT HOW MAZ KANATA GOT LUKE'S LIGHTSABER.

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