The two and a half hour run-time of The Rise of Skywalker gave me plenty of time work through a hypothesis I’ve long considered regarding Star Wars. There are actually two types of fans of this franchise. There’s the aging Boomers and Gen-Xers who grew up with the original trilogy, what are now known as Episodes 4, 5, and 6. And then there are Millennials who were introduced to the series with Episodes 1, 2, and 3.
In the 70s and 80s, Star Wars was fresh, new, and we’d never seen anything like it before. Looking back now, it’s easy to poke holes in the plots, the acting, and the writing but back in the day, these films earned the rare combination of massive commercial success and a fierce fan following. When the much anticipated The Phantom Menace hit theaters in 1999, fans were underwhelmed for the most part but not because it wasn’t a great movie. Love for the original three combined with ridiculously high expectations proved too much for it and the next two in the series to overcome. Sure, we can compare and contrast 1, 2, and 3 with 4, 5, and 6 all day but Menace, Clones, and Sith never really had a chance. I was among those who thought late 90s – early 2000s entries were inferior but my feelings on them have softened since then. And make no mistake: They did create a whole never generation of fans who, to this day, love them.
I believe Star Wars didn’t really get it’s groove back until the J.J. Abrams helmed The Force Awakens in 2015. Even though the plot was a rehash of 77’s A New Hope, the nostalgia factor was so high, and the underlying family drama so compelling, it was easy to forgive any problems the film had. Rian Johnson‘s The Last Jedi was a massive misfire in my opinion though it has plenty of defenders. But what I feel it’s redeeming quality is is it’s full embrace of strong female characters. Much to the chagrin of many fan boys, the anti-damsel in distress was a hallmark of George Lucas’ vision from day one. In fact, a strong case can be made that the Star Wars saga is, among many other things, a love letter to feminism and that theme see’s a full-throated embrace in the franchise’s latest The Rise of Skywalker.
Abrams is back in the directing chair for the Skywalker Saga’s final chapter and what we’re given is a film similar to The Force Awakens. Again, we get some really cool nods to the series’ past episodes and a shocking reveal regarding heroine Rey’s bloodlines. The quick pace of the action rarely lets up, making the length of the movie seem much shorter, and everything gets wrapped up quite nicely. The film is satisfying but predictable. The problem with taking risks with a beloved series is anything that doesn’t work is amplified tenfold. Johnson discovered that with The Last Jedi. Abrams knew better with The Force Awakens and his latest. There’s nothing risky about Rise of Skywalker. It’s a tried and true formula Abrams employs and it works. But I believe we won’t see another trip to the well again.
Rey is inpiring. Lea’s final chapter, heart wrenching. The Rise of Skywalker is worth the price of admission but, perhaps, not much more. Whether that’s the fault of the movie or just Disney/Star Wars fatigue is the big question here.
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