The Ten Things I Most Loved About Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Spoilers)

It’s been two weeks since I saw and enjoyed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and since that point I have read and heard a lot of the criticisms. I/we went through exactly the same thing with The Last Jedi two years ago of course but the difference this time is that on this occasion I kind of agree with them. It is true that this latest film goes back on a lot of the interesting plot and character progression brought in by its predecessor. It also plays it all a lot safer and just like The Force Awakens, which shares a director with this new film, it does fall back too heavily on the original trilogy.

As per my initial thoughts, it is still frustrating that there is no clear story thread running through all three films, and looking back it seems ludicrous that no one insisted on this rather than letting whoever was in charge take things wherever they wanted. I also still believe that the plot is too reliant on the search for cliched MacGuffins like theSith Wayfinder and Ochi’s dagger.

None of this causes me to rethink my opinion on the film though, I still love it.

Before The Force Awakens I joked that I couldn’t be disappointed by that film because I would be happy even if a Star Wars movie just comprised of people waving lightsabers around for two hours. In fact this film may have proved this to be the case but I don’t care, I am happy. (Clearly the prequels and Solo showed that this is not actually true, but then Solo had no lightsabers so maybe that was the problem.)

While I think that people’s objections to this film are generally fair, there is one regularly repeated comment that bugs me though. It has been suggested that following the toxic fan backlash surrounding The Last Jedi, returning director J.J. Abrams has listened to every one of their fetid desires and constructed a movie that would appeal specifically to their small mindedness. It is true that this movie rather plays to the fundamentalist devotees but so did The Force Awakens. This is just Abrams’ approach to the material. I don’t believe he is trying to appease any fan other than himself.

Still though, for me, these problems are not really problems and following here are the reasons why I still relished every second of The Rise of Skywalker. Here are the ten things I most love it for:

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The Rise of Palpatine

Okay, let’s start with the big one. We may never know where Abrams had imagined things going with Supreme Leader Snoke when he created the character but after Last Jedi director Rian Johnson had him chopped up, having the Emperor return to take over bad guy duties was the right way to go.

These nine films have been all about this fella’s rise and fall more than they have anything to do with the Skywalker family and it is therefore entirely appropriate to bring him back for the final chapter. It isn’t clear how he is still alive but never mind about that. Dominic Monaghan said it was something to do with dark science and cloning and that is all the explanation I need.

It also isn’t clear how he came to have a son but it isn’t outside the realms of possibility to think that this sleazy, twisted and corrupt politician had some fun with a cantina dancer at some point and then had his personal lawyer pay her 130,000 credits in hush money to deny the whole affair. I’m rolling with this, let’s give her a Star wars name. Take the first five letters of tomorrow’s weather forecast, the last letter of my childhood nickname and the maiden name of C3-PO’s mother and that makes her, er… Stormy Daniels. Yep, that will do.

Where was I? Oh yes.

The whole turn around on the statement that Rey’s parents were nobodies is this trilogy’s version of Obi Wan’s initial assertion that Darth Vader had killed Luke’s father. It is still true from a certain point of view, except it really isn’t, but it serves the plot better so we’re running with it. The idea that Rey did not inherit her Force powers from her father and had no one but herself to thank for her incredible abilities was actually one of my favourite things from the previous film. It was just perfect from a feminist stand point. There is something here in how she is fighting against patriarchal legacy though so I can go with this new turn of events for the same reasons.

The return of Palpatine and his relation to Rey is all a bit obvious narratively and doesn’t challenge any expectations but suddenly making it so that the ultimate villain of piece is nothing more than a literal puppet who was grown in a jar does puncture conventions a bit as well. I mean, it’s Trevor Slattery in space!

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The Rise of Eyebrows

Speaking of puppets I really liked Babu Frik too. There is a long tradition of small aliens in Star Wars looking and moving like something out of The Muppet Show and having Babu Frik pop up cheering in Zorri Bliss’ cockpit as she enters the final battle took this whole glorious concept to the nth degree.

Zorri Bliss herself was great too. Star Wars is also known for having people who are effectively little more than an amazing costume; Boba Fett, Darth Maul and Captain Phasma come instantly to mind. Zorri Bliss picks up on this. I don’t care if she looks a lot like the Rocketeer, it’s a still very cool outfit. To be fair to Keri Russell she did bring something to the character and she did the best eyebrow acting since Peter Capaldi in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special.

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The Rise of the Resistance

Speaking of the final battle, it was just like the portal scene at the denouement of Avengers: Endgame when everyone came back to help defeat the almost indestructible evil space despot. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see Wedge return in the middle of all of this, albeit briefly.

Then as if that wasn’t enough we got to see some Ewoks too. Actor Warwick Davis has been in every Star Wars film since he appeared, aged twelve, as Wicket in The Return of the Jedi. How perfect to see him play the same part in this movie, albeit briefly.

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The Rise of Solo

Speaking of cameos (if only these three films flowed together as well as this blog post) it was amazing to see Han Solo again. Apart from anything else it means that that ropey prequel will not have been the last time this iconic character appears on screen. I wonder if it was Leia that was originally intended to turn up in front of Ben at that moment though. That would have made sense; the Princess finishing herself off with one almighty Force projection like her twin brother did before her. Only this time it was to turn Kylo, not to taunt him. Either way Carrie Fisher was sadly unavailable so Harrison stepped in. I love that moment where Ben knows what he has to say to his father but doesn’t have the strength to say it and Han makes it all clear by replying with a meaningful ‘I know’.

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The Ren Knight Rises

Some people have had a problem with Kylo’s new found power to snatch objects through space when communing through the Force with Rey. It is the one thing in the movie that some fans haven’t been able to swallow, like Leia flying through space in the last film.

I don’t know what the issue is though. It’s just magic. No one would have queried it in a Harry Potter film so don’t worry about it here either nerds. Besides, the way Miss Palpatine uses it at the end to pass the lightsaber to him is just fantastic. That look on his face when he’s got it too, brilliant!

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The Rise of the Demise

A lot of people die in this film, some of them not really, some of them temporarily and some of them for the second time but each demise has real power or shock value. The second trailer set up the death of C3-PO and even though this ultimately came to very little it did lead to some funny moments.

Then there was Chewbacca. If you’re telling me that you didn’t actually think they might have killed Chewie for a second then I’ll call you a liar. The anguish in Rey when she thought she’d blown him up was heart rending too. I can still hear her high pitch voice screaming his name.

Then when Leia passed it was Chewie’s remorse that truly brought it home, echoing that beautiful moment in The Empire Strikes Back when they have to close the base doors on Hoth before Han and Luke are safely back in the warm.

I won’t believe you if you say you saw Hux’s sudden death coming either and poor old Snap Wesley, we’d just got him back. (Where was he on Crait?)

Clearly no one thought Rey had really popped it but that image of her lifeless body with those blank staring eyes was haunting. Then we lost Ben, who quickly faded away to avoid a game of Force healing tennis between him and his new snog.

Finally it was so satisfying to see The Emperor getting wiped out by his own Force lightening after he used it to finish off Darth Vader and Mace Windu in the past. When I say wiped out I mean that literally too.

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The Rise of the X-Wing

Do I need to say anything else here? Calling an Uber is handy when you need a ride somewhere, but it’s not the same as someone lifting an X-Wing out of the water is it? It got Luke off Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back and it helped Rey off the island of Ahch-To here. Same X-Wing as well. Next time I miss the last train home from London I’m so raising an X-Wing out of the Thames.

Incidentally while I’m talking about spaceships, wasn’t Kylo’s tricked out Tie Fighter destroyed twice? Once on by Rey on the desert party planet Pasaana and again by Rey when she jacked it and crashed it on Ahch-To.

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The Rise of the Reluctance to Reward

Isn’t giving Chewie Han’s medal just rubbing in that he didn’t get one following the battle of Yavin like everyone else. Nah, because it was passed to him by Maz who would probably understands what it is like to be passed over for due accolades because you are not human. Also, let’s assume that she did so at Leia’s behest. Either way the Wookie was finally rewarded and so one of the biggest Star Wars debates was resolved. If only they could have sorted out if Han shot first as well, then we’d really have got everything.

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The Rise of Threepio

C3-PO has been in almost every single Star Wars film but he’s always been almost entirely incidental. He even has the first line in the whole saga; ‘Did you hear that?’ (Which is almost the last line of the saga too.) In this movie though he is fully instrumental in the action and it is nice that he finally has a key role to play beyond telling people the odds.

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The Rise of Reflected Relationships

The other thing this film finally does is to get Rey, Fin and Poe together on a mission and as such it is the first of this trilogy where their central relationship truly reflects that of Han, Luke and Leia. I love it for that almost above all else.

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So Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may not have given me everything I wanted then. It wasn’t surprising enough or sufficiently brave with its plotting and it didn’t really have any gut punch emotional moments. It did give me lots of other things that I didn’t know I wanted though so that’s another win.

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