Pre-1977, top-notch director George Lucas, after releasing classics such as THX 1138 and American Graffiti, wanted to secure the rights to sci-fi serial and comic icon Flash Gordon and wanted to make a film out of that. He couldn’t secure the rights, though that didn’t stop him. Together with other luminaries like Gary Kurtz, John Williams, Gilbert Taylore, and Paul Hirsch, he just made up his own sci-fi story that’s heavily influenced by Westerns and samurai films.
That’s basically how Star Wars was born; people did not know what the heck the movie was back then, but they loved it over time. And with it a legion of fans who cherished the long-spanning franchise and media empire, to the point of vicious ferocity, record-keeping, gatekeeping, possessiveness, and control.
In October 2012, George Lucas sold his production company Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Company, as well as the Star Wars IP. This led to a new trilogy created by the House of Mouse starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and ending with Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker in 2019.
As you can tell from your go-to reviews aggregate site, the movie series is bookended with the energy and impact of a wet fart. And based on what a LOT of people have said and sworn to time and again, they usually state the following:
- Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker was a course correction film.
- The film it is course-correcting is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
- Most people still condemn Riann Johnson, the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for ruining the new trilogy.
To celebrate all things Star Wars this week since it’s 4th May, I’m going to talk about the most divisive films in the new trilogy. We still stand by our previous reviews of the series, but sometimes it’s always good to rewatch what we thought was bad and then figure out if there’s any good in them. Much like how Luke Skywalker found some good in Darth Vader even if he lost a hand doing so. Or nearly got Force lightning’ed to death attempting it again.
Let’s start off with…
The Last Jedi Isn’t The POS You Thought It Was
Star Wars: The Last Jedi sure as hell isn’t a cinematic masterpiece. Personally, however, it is a good movie that stays true to the original film’s message and mystical tone because it is following themes from the original trilogy while trying something new script-wise and direction-wise. You know, without being a copy-pasta version of a story that’s already out since the late 70s and 80s.
Hear me out:
-Having Princess Leia flying in space after the ambush is just an extension of Force powers within the Skywalker lineage from the original trilogy.
-Anything involving Luke and Rey’s training on that island is well-done and does tell us more about the Force while keeping things mystical.
-Poe Dameron’s character arc makes sense because he needs to learn how to be a leader beyond doing daredevil flight stuff and relying on bravado and luck to win. Hence, his X-Wing blowing and him getting taken down a peg by his commanding officer Vice Admiral Holdo while Leia’s in a coma.
-Luke Skywalker’s character arc in TLJ too was warranted and is keeping in line with the character, despite fanboys telling you otherwise.
In TLJ, Luke Skywalker wasn’t the perfect mentor and teacher to Rey; he never was to begin with despite his happy ending in Return of the Jedi. Things can change in-between Return of the Jedi up until the time he formed the new Jedi Temple, for one. Timeskips are the writer’s best tools so that they can make logical changes to characters assuming they did their research. And they did it well with Luke’s arc.
That flashback where he was about to kill a young Kylo Ren (then-Ben Kenobi) proved that Luke has always been a good guy. Had he killed Ben, then maybe Kylo Ren wouldn’t have slaughtered a lot of people in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, right? Just like in the original trilogy from his time in the farmhouse with his still-living uncle and aunt to his time with Yoda in the Dagobah swamp, Luke has always been too idealistic and naive, as well as impatient.
And if the climax for Empire Strike Back has taught us, he is in way over his head and has always faltered before doing the right thing. When Darth Vader said “most impressive” in that fight scene, he was genuine about it, but at the same time, he knew he can school Luke.
People took issue with the fact that he showed flaws and also how he ended things with Kylo Ren and the First Order in the film’s finale: with illusions and Jedi mind tricks. Well, that’s what the Jedi have been preaching since the original film: they don’t fight and create conflict. They seek knowledge and defend themselves. And in times of failure, they learn from it.
Luke isn’t that perfect: he’s been shown to be impatient and naive since the original trilogy. He only made the right decision at the end of Return of the Jedi when he did not give in to hate in the finale with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. It’s through all of this that the logical conclusion is to use his wits and extreme Force powers to hold off Kylo Ren and the First Order in TLJ’s finale.
And for those who wondered who gave the idea to turn Luke into a hermit? It wasn’t J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson: it was George Lucas. Both directors respected his wishes.
-The Jedi Order temple that was destroyed in that flashback? This hammered the point home that no matter how the story goes, the Jedi Order has always been a failure. That was proved in the first trilogy’s Jedi Order, to the point where Anakin Skywalker was frustrated with the system, hence him easily getting seduced by the Dark Side via Palpatine. Luke, with his vague impressions of what a Jedi Order should be, started his own and it turned out not so well.
TLJ’s flashbacks are just bringing up the series’ themes to light; to remind us that the cycle of the Light and Dark side needed to be permanently fixed with different methods.
-Do we really need to know more about Snoke beyond his role for The Force Awakens and TLJ? I think Riann Johnson cut his role short because he assumed fans would be smart enough to figure out that Snoke is just a stand-in for the previous Emperor Palpatine (in Return of the Jedi); basically, an archetype that’s meant to give way to a bigger villain; like Kylo Ren.
The movie still needed work and isn’t perfect, far from it. Personally, the casino planet needed to be trimmed down and didn’t need to be as stretched out as it should. When it came to Poe Dameron learning his lessons about being a better leader, the journey is a bit rocky and has some plot holes here and there.
I completely understand that people will hate Star Wars: The Last Jedi from their first viewing of the film. Guess what? People back in the 80s hated Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (the second in the trilogy, just like TLJ). But eventually, people loved it after repeated viewings and the second time they watched it. In fact, I daresay that if The Empire Strikes Back premiered to 2017’s audience and fanbase, it’ll definitely be vilified and picked apart for not sticking to conventions. Or whatever excuse they make up.
TLJ basically moved the series forward and its director and team knew what they were doing while sticking to the themes of the overarching original trilogy and prequel trilogy’s themes. Perhaps you should give TLJ another watch or so after seeing the rest of the original trilogy; you might gleam more from the shows.
Too bad Rise of Skywalker didn’t give a s*** about all that messaging and consistent themes, instead opting to “rectify” the “mistakes” of the last film.
The Rise Of Skywalker Isn’t As Good As You Think It Is
We’ve already talked about this film in our review and why it’s bad. A rehash of Return of the Jedi beat-by-beat, a lot of meaningless plot elements & cheap ploys crammed into an already-long film that should have been trimmed down (or needed a better crew of editors), and characters being reduced to nothing more than Lightsaber delivery boys for Rey in the finale.
Yet somehow the mass majority of people think otherwise. Do check out the user reviews if you want to see 50,000 posts that say absolutely nothing.
I’ll give the film some credit though:
- The effects and money shot scenes are a beauty to look at. I’m glad that most of the film still relies on practical effects to make its key scenes stand out and feel authentic. See the “Lido Hey” scene below for proof of this.
- The cast did the best they could with whatever crappy material they were given. Props to the actors like Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver for being huge sports and sticking through to the mess until the very end, while being professionals about it.
- The way the team integrated Princess Leia’s scenes with workarounds wasn’t too shabby, given the circumstances. It’s pretty hard to re-do these, given Carrie Fisher’s unfortunate death.
- J.J Abrams and his crew should be given a medal for completing Rise of Skywalker within the tight deadline he’s given (1.5 years less than TLJ did), and making it watchable and presentable at the very least.
Has The Cycle Ended?
This begs the question: did the new trilogy died in Rise of Skywalker? Or did it stab itself in The Last Jedi?
This may shock no one, but it honestly cut itself with a gaping wound with The Force Awakens, the very first film that kicked off the trilogy. Instead of starting with a new kind of storyline, the new owners of the Star Wars franchise opt to just create a Mad Libs version of A New Hope. It’s fun and well-made, but at the same time, it already set expectations for the fanbase that Star Wars nostalgia rules the roost. It’s basically going to be very hard to introduce new concepts and spins without major backlash.
In fact, the latest slew of Disney Star Wars TV shows is dangerously mimicking what the new trilogy flat-out did. If you recall Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the best parts viewers enjoyed are the bits involving Boba Fett (a Star Wars OG character) and deepfake Luke Skywalker at the season’s climax. Let’s hope that this isn’t going to be a crux for future Star Wars shows to lean on.
So to answer the question: is the new trilogy bad? As a whole, yes; kinda, since it does lack a cohesive vision and direction. Say what you will about the prequel (I probably did, a lot), but at least there’s a backbone of a story & structure supporting it.
But the New Trilogy have some merits and good qualities. Probably the biggest reason why they ended up the way they are is because they weren’t given enough room in-between films to breathe. And this isn’t counting the Star Wars films in-between the mothership shows. A Star Wars film a year from 2015 to 2019 is more than enough to burn even the most dedicated fan out.
It’s ironic that for a brief moment, Star Wars fans actually received the best film they deserve and sticks true to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which was the basis of George Lucas’ space fiction series anyway. Too bad it’s the one they hate even until now.