The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Checkout our spoiler free review and then come back here once you've seen how it all ends.
In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm and promised us a brand new Star Wars trilogy. Seven years later, that trilogy has come to an end, capping off the entire nine-film Skywalker Saga. And yet, after having now seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it feels like rather than taking most of a decade to put together a polished product, everything was made up as it went along. Was there really no plan for the new Star Wars trilogy?
While some, like Adam Driver, have stated that there was a very clear plan for the character arc of Kylo Ren, we've also been told that as each episode of the Sequel Trilogy was written by its respective writer, there were no instructions given to them and no specific direction or plot points that needed to be handled. Everybody had freedom to create whatever Star Wars movie they wanted. That sounds good on paper and freedom is great, but it's difficult to look at this trilogy and see anything other than people writing to cross purposes.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a number of mysteries and questions were set up. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, those questions were given what many felt were unsatisfying answers, but answers nonetheless. And now, In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, those questions have been given all new answers, different from what we heard before. Also, there's a bunch of new answers to questions we never asked. What is going on?
I'm not saying that the new Star Wars trilogy needed to pull a Lord of the Rings by writing three movies and handling complete pre-production on the entire trilogy before bothering to film the first shot, although that certainly could have worked. However, perhaps some sort of a plan, a basic framework, would not have been too out of line here.
We Know What "No Plan" Looks Like
It's not like Star Wars hasn't flown by the seat of its pants before. For that, we need to look no further than the original Star Wars trilogy. The original trilogy had Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke Skywalker that Darth Vader killed his father, only to learn in the next movie that Vader was his father. We know from early drafts of the movie that we've seen that the Vader/Anakin Skywalker connection wasn't in Lucas' original idea, so this changed as things went along.
However, in this case, I feel that can be forgiven to some extent for the simple fact that in 1977, there was no guarantee there would ever be more than one Star Wars movie. Even once more movies were given the go-ahead, while each movie in that trilogy has different screenwriters and different directors, the work is all based on the story by George Lucas. Each of those films have their own unique aspects to them, but the story largely works, sibling tongue kiss notwithstanding.
The screenwriters and directors were still able to put their own stamp on the material, but the basic story that was being told was given to them. The trilogy still feels cohesive, even if there are some plot inconsistencies within it.
The Prequel Trilogy, of course, is a whole other story. For better or worse, George Lucas had complete and absolute control. He handled all aspects of creating the trilogy and while the Prequel Trilogy is certainly not without issues, a coherent throughline in the plot is not one of them. Every piece of the puzzle fits together, almost to a fault. Answers are given to questions nobody actually had. There are some pieces that conflict when bumped up against the Original Trilogy, but as a trilogy itself, the Prequels work, and it's clear George Lucas knew what he wanted going in.
This trilogy didn't need to go that far, but it could have simply done something like the Original Trilogy. Lucasfilm could have hired one person, or a couple people, to put together the trilogy's story up front. Then that story could be handed to whatever screenwriters and directors Lucasfilm wanted to make the movies. They wouldn't have total freedom, but they'd have some, and everybody would be working toward a common goal.
It's Less That The Sum Of Its Parts
It's impossible to believe that anything close to that happened here. J.J. Abrams, of course, had a completely clean slate. He could essentially create any new characters he wanted and put the existing characters in any situation imaginable, and he did. The Force Awakens creates the characters of Rey, Finn, and Poe, and puts Luke Skywalker out of reach on a distant planet for unclear reasons. He creates the mystery of Rey's heritage and a new villainous group called The First Order.
From there, Rian Johnson picked things up with The Last Jedi. A lot of people had a problem with where Rian Johnson took the story, and Rey's origins were not what most people were suspecting. Supreme Leader Snoke dies without an explanation of where he came from. Luke Skywalker is intentionally living as a hermit, and in the end, he dies.
No matter what you think of The Last Jedi, this is not the movie anybody was expecting. We thought we'd get grand answers to the mysteries of The Force Awakens and the ones that we got were much more simple. For many, the way The Last Jedi changed things in the world of Star Wars was welcome, but there's no argument the movie feels different from the one that came before it.
Because The Last Jedi felt like such a different movie, a lot of fans felt that Rian Johnson had "changed" where the story was supposed to go in some major way. Certainly all the big mysteries didn't amount to much, but I was honestly less sure that things weren't supposed to go that way the whole time. It's not like this would have been the first time that we opened a J.J. Abrams Mystery Box and found it empty.
However, after seeing The Rise of Skywalker, it's essentially impossible to argue that there even might have been some kind of plan. Luke's heroic sacrifice that inspires the youth of the galaxy? It's simply ignored, as is any story dealing with the larger implications of "Broom Boy." Rey's "nobody" parents aren't nobody after all; quite the opposite in fact. The Emperor returns, having not been so much as hinted at in two previous films, and he's simply dropped into the opening text crawl.
If this was, somehow, "the plan," then it's a terrible plan. I don't ultimately believe that The Rise of Skywalker was written to "fix" The Last Jedi, but it's hard to imagine how a movie that was designed with that in mind would look much different than this. In the same way, maybe the Sequel Trilogy had a plan at some point, but a trilogy that had no plan would certainly feel a lot like this one.
A Simple Idea Was All That Was Needed
This trilogy is called the end of the Skywalker Saga, but the truth is, this wasn't an end, but a beginning. It was the launch of Star Wars as a new ongoing franchise from Disney, and these movies are the bedrock on which all of that will be built. It makes the fact that more care wasn't apparently taken in building that foundation so surprising.
None of this is to say that the trilogy couldn't have changed during production. Most franchises do. But if there had been a plan to start with, it could have all been adjusted as those changes were made and it would have simply been done much more smoothly than this was. We would never have known the difference.
All future rewatches of this trilogy are now going to feel so strange. When Kylo Ren tells Rey that her parents were nobody in The Last Jedi, it's going to feel exactly like it feels now when Obi-Wan tells Luke that Darth Vader killed his father. We know it's not true. We also know the real reason it's not true, which is that the story got changed in the middle. Kylo Ren's "It's what your parents wanted you to think" rings as hollow as Obi-Wan's "from a certain point of view." It's a line designed to clean up a mess that didn't need to be made.
One of the critiques of The Last Jedi was that it's a movie where "nothing happens." To an extent, that's true. The progress that takes place in the film is mostly about character development, not a progression of plot points. By contrast, The Rise of Skywalker is a nearly endless string of plot progress that the movie needs to deal with at an incredible pace in order to get to the end within a reasonable amount of time. Surely if there had been any sort of plan, these things would have been balanced a bit better.
What we're left with is a set of Star Wars films that just feels incredibly out of balance. All three of these movies have things worth highlighting and none of them are entirely bad. It's just missing a feeling of connection that the previous trilogies both had. We got three movies. We were promised a trilogy. It's not the same thing.
At this point, we have no real idea what's next for Star Wars. Some Disney+ series, are on the way. Movies will happen and they have dates, but we don't really know what they are. On the plus side, the only trilogy that we know of, assuming it's still happening, is the one being handled by Rian Johnson, and whatever you thought of The Last Jedi, at least if he handles writing the entire trilogy, there will be one creative person putting everything together. The tone and the plot will feel consistent throughout.