Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Review of RISE OF SKYWALKER with Karissa and Mary
I just literally got back from the theater and I'm ready to hash out my thoughts about Rise of Skywalker. I have to confess, I was less excited about seeing Rise of Skywalker than I have been about the other movies in the newest Star Wars trilogy. I think it's because my disappointment in The Last Jedi was pretty profound, and time had only made it worse. I was excited that J.J. had taken over the reins again as director, but there was a lot of damage control to be done, and I didn't know if he could do it. I know saying that will already have fans of The Last Jedi protesting. As I get farther into this review with Mary, I think my thoughts on why The Last Jedi was disappointing will become more evident. I certainly don't expect people to agree with me, and I'm more than okay with that. I'm a long-time fan, but I welcome the fact that we have a variety of opinions.

I'm so privileged that Mary saw this on opening weekend (opening night?) and was available to talk to me the moment I walked out of the theater.  I'm so glad she was willing to share her thoughts with me for this post. I have a hard time processing movies on my own. Also, my son has turned out to be a great font of Star Wars knowledge and I'm glad he watched it with me. Some of his knowledge also contributed to our discussion. Thanks kid!
Mary and friend on opening weekend
Me a few days later (I hate opening night crowds!)

Now, for warnings. This post is SPOILERIFIC. There will be no holding back, no hedging, no hints. We're going to talk openly and blatantly about this movie. If you haven't seen it yet, stop now. Go back. Run Away, Run Away!!!!!
Karissa: So, Mary, where to we begin?
Mary: Hmm, where do we begin? Let's start with the elephant in the room: REY. Her identity has
been the core of fan discussions since she first turned up in The Force Awakens. Theories abounded afterward, spurred in no small part by the inclusion of the Skywalker lightsaber and how it calls out to her, thereby implying some kind of connection. Then Rian Johnson was like "jk lol" in The Last Jedi, which just made me facepalm.
Karissa: UGH ME TOO.
Mary:And now we have JJ Abrams retconning the retcon.
Karissa:YUP LOL
Mary: SO. Rey Palpatine.
Karissa: So, this is a good place to mention the spoiler I saw on Twitter this morning right before going to see the movies (Assholes!). Someone posted basically saying "Who would have sex with Palpatine? WHO?"
Mary: Ugh, RUDE
Karissa:We knew, or suspected, from the trailer that Palpatine was back. With that knowledge and that major spoiler of a tweet, I knew in an instant that meant Palpatine had offspring and that was going to wind up being Rey. And...I wasn't that surprised.
Mary:That's a real bummer. I went in cold, not knowing anything, but when it was revealed, I just rolled my eyes. I mean, it makes no narrative sense! And it's obvious they didn't plan it from the beginning. Knowing JJ's "mystery box" style of storytelling, I'll bet he didn't even know who he wanted Rey's parents to be (but the visual filmmaking heavily implied that she was Luke's daughter).
Karissa: That was my son's argument. He was so mad. "That just came out of NOWHERE," he said. I said, "Not nowhere. That came out of having to do damage control from the last film". In a sense, I kind of felt like J.J.'s hands were tied.
Mary: I don't know... if he was going to retcon, he could have retconned it to something that made more sense. Now we're left with several gaping questions: Who was Rey's grandmother? Was her father force-sensitive too? And if so, why didn't Palpatine capture him and turn him instead of killing him?
Karissa: I did wonder A LOT about her father. 
Mary: Disney's probably already planning a line of novels and/or comics to explain Palpatine's son. Hey Disney, if you're looking for someone who can write 'em, I'm an expert at patching up plot holes 
Karissa: So much storytelling...such limited time and space in which to do it. And that brings me a little early to another issue. I think J.J. was pressured to pick a non-Skywalker answer to satisfy the Reylo shippers. BUT LETS SAVE THAT FOR LATER. UGH
 Mary: OH GOD
Karissa: Are we ready to go there or do you want to finish talking about "The Problems with Palpatine".
Mary: In hindsight it makes me laugh that she gave him the literal kiss of death.
Karissa: ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Mary: Up to you where to go next! I could ramble on forever haha.
Karissa: Okay we'll circle back around to Reylo later. Another "spoiler" I kept seeing was "Justice for Rose" and I thought that meant she died badly or got jilted by Finn in a bad way or something. I think it simply meant she didn't get sufficient screen time or a satisfying heroic arc.
Mary: Yeah, she was severely sidelined. I'm going to give JJ the benefit of the doubt and say he just didn't know what to do with her character. Some bad-faith tweeters are saying he caved to the racist/sexist trolls who chased her off social media. I don't think that's the case, but I do think she deserved a better story arc. Basically, Kelly Marie Tran's acting transcends how terribly her character was written into the plot.
Karissa: My benefit of the doubt analysis was that it came down to (as many things in this movie did) not having the time or space for it.
Mary: And yet they had the time and space to give both Finn and Poe beards. Don't get me wrong -- I liked Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell's characters! But it was so obvious that it was like "people keep shipping these totally not-gay boys so let's give them girlfriends."
Karissa: Ha ha ha it's so true. At first I was okay with them just being buddies, but by this movie their chemistry is off the charts! And Yes I agree about Naomi and Keri. That was so obvious it was a bit painful. Covering it up with Poe asking to kiss her jokes was funny but we could see what that was.
Mary: Yup
Karissa: And I think that segues nicely into a discussion of Finn. Sigh. I love Finn. Let's talk about Finn's "secret."
Mary: Oh boy
Karissa: There were times throughout this series when we wondered if the writers were going to push
Finn and Rey together romantically. And when they were sinking in the quicksand and he said he wanted to tell her something, it's obvious they wanted us to think he was going to confess his love. I didn't buy that for a HOT MINUTE. And the longer the movie went on, I knew he was going to tell her he thought he was Force Sensitive.That's his secret. Right? And also that he loves Poe. Ha ha!
Mary: According to Abrams and Boyega, yup that was his secret. I gotta say, though, it doesn't make sense in context. Why is it a big secret? Why can't he say it in front of Poe?
Karissa: I agree
Mary: He thought they were going to die, and the thing he wants to say is "I have a power like yours"?
Karissa: It only makes sense in the context that it was trying to tug on romance strings, but that was not a good choice. It didn't work for me. It didn't work for you. Who did it work for?
Mary: It also annoys me how many times Abrams leaves things dangling and explains them away later. A film should stand on its own (he did it with R2-D2's awakening back with TFA)
Karissa: I feel like he was trying to satisfy too many people and satisfied no one, maybe. Unfortunately I have to bring up Reylo again here.
Mary: Let's dig into it!
Karissa: There were basically two camps (well 3). Rey+Finn; Rey+Kylo; or Rey all on her own as most Jedi are raised to be. It's like J.J. tried to make all those things happen. Ultimately, Rey+Kylo got a lot more than I ever wanted them to get. Sigh.
Mary: Indeed. I think JJ felt he had no choice after TLJ because that movie was literally dripping with sexual tension but I think he was setting up Rey and Finn in TFA.
Karissa: Uh...yeah (see my note above about TLJ being a disappointment for me. This was one of the many reasons why.) I agree about Rey and Finn in TFA.
Mary: Weirdly, TROS seems to both pretend TLJ doesn't exist while grudgingly picking up where it left off the whole thing about Rey feels like the two filmmakers flipping each other off.
JJ: Rey has a mysterious parentage that's going to be significant
Rian: Lol no she's nobody
JJ: Whatever, her parents were nobody because they chose to be but actually she's connected to the most powerful baddie in the galaxy.
Karissa: Yup, those were my thoughts exactly. It saddens me that so much energy had to go into undoing what a previous director chose to do. Look, I'm all for burning down harmful institutions. I don't like to think I'm a slave to tradition. BUT… In this case...I dunno. I was mad at Rian for trying to undo, in one movie, a whole world that I was devoted to and had been for almost 40 years.
Mary: Yeah, exactly. Critics were kowtowing the so-called originality. But I say if you want to be original, be original. Let Star Wars be Star Wars. Make your own damn franchise.
Karissa: Yup. I wanted that original story to be finished. Then you could tell a new story that turns the old tropes on their heads and subverts tradition.
Mary: Exactly. Or heck, even a spinoff. I thought Rogue One was quite original and it didn't fuck up the original universe.
Karissa: And I think in the end Finn's "secret" was also an attempt to satisfy fans of the last movie. HE was the "nobody" with the potential to become Jedi. That could have been set up from the start, though. It was obvious that wasn't the intention from the beginning, but it had to be done to make the three movies cohesive. I love the idea of Finn being a Jedi, by the way. I just wish that it had been set up in TFA.
Mary: Yes exactly! I thought it was kind of set up in TFA with Maz giving him the lightsaber.
Karissa: Oh, yeah, maybe. I kinda forgot about that. But it seemed to be forgotten in TLJ, perhaps.
Mary: Oh yeah, it was completely forgotten in TLJ. Overall, the trilogy needed more cohesiveness. Say what you like about the prequels, but at least Lucas was telling a single story.
Karissa: Indeed
Mary: I gotta say, though, the whole 9-film saga is a lot better if you think about it not as the Skywalker Saga, but the Palpatine Saga.I mean, if Rey was a Palpatine all along, and the 3rd trilogy was all about her, then it works!
     Prequels: Palpatine rises to power
     Originals: Palpatine's fall
     New trilogy: Palpatine attempts to come back via his offspring
Karissa: Sure. I'll accept that! Pretty brilliant.
Karissa: We haven't talked much about Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. We'd be remiss if we left him out
Mary: Indeed!
Karissa: So...did any of us doubt there would be a redemption arc for him? I never did. And, I think it went about the way I expected (except for that damned kiss!!!) (I love Adam Driver, by the way. I want to see him in more action films. His physicality is so impressive.)
Mary: 'Tis the Season of Adam Driver.
Yes, I liked his story arc overall. I liked that it was his parents who redeemed him in the end.
BUT. I thought it was incredibly lazy that he died
the whole death-as-redemption thing is as hackneyed as it is... well, lazy haha
imagine if he'd had to fix his mess
he's still the Supreme Leader.
Karissa: Yeah, I wanted to bring up that I had seen grumblings about villains whose redemption arcs were too easy. That death let him off too easily.
Mary: Imagine if he looked at the world he created, regretted it, and had to spend the rest of his life trying to make it right.
Karissa: Right. I would actually have loved to seen that. See him come back and be tried for his crimes and sentenced. Not to prison necessarily but to "community service" basically.
Mary: I remember even as a kid I was frustrated by the whole "death-as-redemption" arc you saw in so many stories. So much so that one of the first things I ever wrote was about somebody who fell to the dark side, regretted it, and had to fix it (and then lived in the end).
Karissa: Yeah, I'm guilty of writing death-as-redemption myself. Oops.
Mary: Yes, the Trial of Kylo Ren would have been a fabulous movie.
Karissa: I'm sure there will be fanfiction.There should be.
Mary:I mean, if you want to give Star Wars some originality...
Karissa: I also saw grumblings about how well all the old ships worked after being exposed to harsh conditions.
Mary: Hah, well never mistake Star Wars for hard sci-fi.
Karissa: Right. That required a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it was one I was willing to make.
Nostalgia is a strong force to reckon with. Especially for those of us who have been fans for the long run.
Karissa: My son, who is more familiar with extraneous Star Wars lore than I am (he plays the video games and such) pointed out an interesting fact to me. I'm glad he was there or it would have gone over my head. The significance of Rey's gold/yellow/orange lightsaber in the end--he explained to me that in the games that meant the force user was neither good nor bad but almost utterly neutral.
Mary: Oh, interesting!!
Karissa:That makes perfect sense because at the end of the movie, Rey is the only Sith/Jedi left
She must embody the balance of good and evil solely within herself.
Mary:I like that.
Mary: Now, how do we feel about "Rey Skywalker"?
Karissa: I'm still processing that! In the car ride home I told my kid that I hadn't made a decision about that.What do you think?
Mary: I didn't like it. I would have preferred she answer "Just Rey" or something.
thereby freeing herself from both legacies. It also doesn't exactly make sense that she would choose "Skywalker". She knew Luke for about 3 days and he was a jerk to her. Leia was her master
and Leia never claimed the name Skywalker. So if anything, it should have been "Rey Organa"
Karissa: Or even Solo because it was obvious she latched on to Han as a father figure right away. But that might have impeded on the Ben Solo romance factor, so...
Mary: oh god, if it had been "Rey Solo," it would have given such Star is Born vibes. I mean, "Rey Skywalker" already kind of did.
Karissa: I 100% understand not wanting to be Palpatine, but Skywalker wasn't right either.
Mary: Exactly.
Karissa: Skysolo? Solowalker? Ha ha ha just kidding
Karissa: Anything else you want to bring up? If not, I'm curious about your overall general thoughts about this movie as the endcap to a 9 episode saga stretching over 40+ years.
Mary: Well, I guess I've spent a lot of time griping about what didn't work for me, so let me just add that overall I did enjoy the movie in the moment. Loved the acting, loved the action sequences, loved the chemistry between the characters. And I really liked what they did with Leia. A wonderful send-off for the character. Also loved Lando's return.
Karissa: Oh yes Lando!!! I was glad he made an appearance.
Mary: Overall I feel like this 9-film saga deserved a better endcap, but it wasn't all TROS's fault.
TLJ really fucked things up. But at least they did their best to tie up all the loose ends and leave the saga in a place where you can comfortably say "the end."
Karissa: I wish I could reply to or comment on that, but you really just took the words right out of my mouth. Feelings are the same.
Mary: Hah! great minds.
Karissa: Oh, I forgot about Hux. Hux was the mole. And then his death was so comic.
Mary: Oh god that was annoying. It was a cool twist, but they did nothing with it.
Karissa: Right? I believed that he could be the mole because he hated Kylo that much but it was such a throw away. 
Karissa: I'm sure I'll have more thoughts as the days wear on (and upon future viewings) but for now, this was a pretty good wrap-up for me. A great way to decompress. I'm not gonna lie. I cried
Mary: Aww
Karissa:I cried when Leia died, although it was right.
Mary: Yes, I like that she died saving her sonan d I understand why she had to die (because there's only so much cut-and-paste Carrie footage lol).
Karissa: I cried when the "cavalry" showed up and saved the day. But that had more to do with me just needing to see good people defeat evil than anything particularly Star Warsy.
I did have one more big thought to discuss... So, I was really bugged by how in TFA it seemed the end of The Return of the Jedi was dismissed. It looked like the Rebel Alliance had not only failed but The "Empire", now the First Order, had never actually been defeated.That still bugs me BUT
I've also gained new perspective on that in the years that have come since TFA's release.
Mary: Sigh, indeed.
Karissa: Because we've been dealing in the real world with proof that history repeats itself--that the evil that you thought had been defeated all those years ago really was just lying dormant, waiting for an opportunity to re-surge. And after the past 4 years...maybe I can believe that Palpatine and the Empire never really were defeated. It just went dormant, biding it's time.
Mary: That's a very good point. I guess that movie was unexpectedly prescient. As were the prequels.
Karissa: Thanks for talking it through with me. You going to watch Rise of Skywalker again anytime soon? Or are you satisfied for now?
 Mary: Satisfied for now. I'll probably rewatch it at some point but I have no need to rush back to the theater like I did with TFA.
Karissa: I think I feel the same. I am, however, ready to see Knives Out again. But that's another post for another day.Thanks for chatting with me. I needed Star Wars counseling, and you're always the best therapist.
Mary: My pleasure!Thanks for the convo! I'm always up for talking Star Wars.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Great post! I really think they mucked things up a but by winging it with the trilogy, unintentionally having Rian Johnson and JJ NOT on the same page re: Rey. Kinda messy. Although I guess Trevorrow was the original plan for Ep. 9 and who knows WHERE he would have went lol. I guess Rey being a Palpatine but adopting the Skywalker name at the end... it could have been worse I guess. But I wasn't entirely sold on it either...

"I was mad at Rian for trying to undo, in one movie, a whole world that I was devoted to and had been for almost 40 years" I agree with this and I think it encapsulates my issues with TLJ as well. You guys pretty much said what I would have said, only better lol. My thoughts have been so muddled on these points at times. That sums it up well though!

Great points too about Kylo. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of how that character was handled trilogy- wide, but the idea of him living and having to clean up the First Order mess... how cool would that have been? You just KNOW he and rey would always have that uneasy dynamic!

And... your last point about how the original trilogy ended and evil going dormant. Oh my gosh right? It DOES seem so timely! Anyway... great discussion you guys, really enjoyed it. :)

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