I distinctly recall where exactly I was in 2012 when the news dropped that Disney had just purchased Lucasfilm and that a new Star Wars trilogy was imminent. I was pretending to do some work in the computer lab of the Reynolds School of Journalism and I had a Facebook tab open when this Screen Rant article popped up in my feed. A very dumb sound emanated from my mouth after I blinked a few times to make sure it was real. I’m somewhat infamous for making dumb, weird noises when I get upset or started – so everyday, pretty much – and this was a particularly dumb noise that drew some confused looks from everyone else in the room.
We are now barely into the 2020s and the Sequel Trilogy is now completed. It’s over; done for good. Not Star Wars as a whole, of course, but the adventures of Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, etc are now at an end. And it feels profoundly weird that it’s all wrapped up so soon. We got the news of the new trilogy and a couple years of buildup and speculation culminating in The Force Awakens, which was then followed by episodes eight and nine and a pair of spinoffs – and all of this unfolded within the span of a single decade.
Saying that you like or dislike any of the ST movies is basically a political opinion these days, regardless of whether or not you want that to be the case. I can’t change your mind on these movies; I can only tell you how I feel about them. I liked the ST as a whole and I believe The Last Jedi is its best entry by a mile and a half. The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker are firmly in good but not great territory. It is not the sole reason I love it, but TLJ pushed the franchise in a bold new direction in precisely the way I wanted the new movies to do. And because I’m a complete fool who can’t see obvious things coming, an extremely vocal segment of the fandom hated it so much that they are still hung up on it more than two years after the fact.
As for TRoS, the easiest way to describe it is that it’s like Return of the Jedi on crack. If you know me at all, then you know that RotJ is my all time favorite Star Wars movie, which by extension, makes it my all time favorite movie. But crack is also, you know, very bad for you. The crack metaphor applies to the things that are good about TRoS just as easily as it applies to the things that are bad. And admittedly, the bad parts can be pretty cringe. I was able to begrudgingly accept that Emperor Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious was back for real and not a fake out but the reveal that Rey was his granddaughter made me roll my eyes and groan. Far less egregious but nonetheless annoying is how bogged down the first act is with McGuffins. I’m not sure why you’d need a magic dagger to pinpoint the throne room of the second Death Star’s not exactly hard to find wreckage, but I don’t write screenplays – either for a living or as a hobby – so what the hell do I know? I would also have liked to have seen more of Rose Tico; if only because her being pushed to the background gave the absolute shittiest Star Wars fans on the planet an undeserved sense of vindication. I don’t believe that JJ Abrams, Chris Terrio and Kathleen Kennedy were trying to appease the people who decided to make Kelly Marie Tran the scapegoat for TLJ‘s perceived wrongdoings but even the smallest of chances that that was the case isn’t something I want to think about.
Rey also gets a yellow lightsaber at the end and seeing one of those in live action for the first time has me more convinced than ever that yellow is the worst color. Yuck…
Given everything dragging it down, it’s remarkable that the good parts in TRoS work as well as they do. All of the hugely important emotional stuff that matters the most landed for me. Chewie’s breakdown after he finds out that Leia has passed? Fucking devastating; it made my eyes water and my throat tighten. Ben Solo’s scene with his dad? Also devastating. That chorus of the Force (you know which part I’m talking about)? Absolutely chilling in the best possible way. I may not have liked every idea TRoS offered up but due to either the strength of the cast, Abrams himself (God forbid), or some combination of both, it kept finding ways to elevate subpar material. Hell, you could probably make a whole second move that’s just about Lando, Chewie, and Wedge zipping across the galaxy in Falcon, getting all their old war buddies back together for one last battle. You could throw Hera Syndulla in there as well. Can I pitch this to Disney? I think this idea has legs.
There is never not going to be Star Wars movies, but 2020 will be the first year without one since 2014. There’s already some way too early speculation as to what’s coming next. I’ve no idea if Rian Johnson’s non-saga trilogy is still on, though it would worth it just to piss off his detractors. (Have you seen Knives Out? The dude’s great, whether you want to admit it or not). In the meantime, there’s still the excellent Mandalorian on Disney+, and we are for sure getting shows for Cassian Andor and Obi-Wan. We will not be starved for Star Wars content, but I recommend passing on Star Wars Resistance, which has been the only dud of the Disney stewardship.
I recently joked that I’d rather talk politics than Star Wars, and while the discourse the new movies have generated is certainly tiresome, I’ve never lost any enthusiasm or love for the thing itself. The Sequel Trilogy was a worthwhile ride and I’ll be down for whatever comes next.