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Warning! The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk!
The reviews are in, and, once again, we have very mixed reviews on a movie in Star Wars' sequel trilogy. Some love Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, others think it's a poorly constructed fan-fiction apology for The Last Jedi. These two sides are going back and forth again, while I'm sitting here a fan of both movies feeling pretty damn confused.
I think, all things considered, these movies really complimented each other pretty well. As someone who defended Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I don't think The Rise of Skywalker is the blatant middle-finger to Rian Johnson's movie many have claimed it was. In fact, I think that down the stretch, people will see these movies work really well together.
The Last Jedi's Core Message That Anyone Can Make A Difference Is Still There
When Kylo Ren revealed to Rey her parents were "no one," people got psyched. Finally, someone who had nothing to do with the Skywalker family was going to influence the film's main canon? That thought made many excited, and angered a fair as well, so the revelation that Rey was a Palpatine obviously had both sides making some noise.
Many called it a retcon of Rian Johnson's message, though I think making the primary hero a Palpatine strengthens the narrative that "literally anyone" can make a difference. Rey being some random woman not connected to the Skywalker family would've been fine, but giving her some ancestral ties to the main story keeps it more in line with the theme of the seven prior films. This is the Skywalker Saga, and it's meant to conclude that story.
And, just to say it, why do we need the lesson that anyone can change the world or be influenced by the Force? We are well aware of that already through stuff like Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. People were bucking the system long before the Battle of Crait, it's more a question of organization that hampered rebellion efforts.
The Battle Of Crait Lit The Spark, But Rebels Needed Real Direction On Where To Fight
Some have argued that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker made The Battle Of Crait meaningless. I don't see it that way, but rather, everyone was really gung-ho on helping out right up until Palpatine started broadcasting a message across the galaxy. Shows like Star Wars: Resistance show people are fighting the First Order, but can we blame anyone for freaking out when the long-dead emperor who had a strangle-hold on the galaxy for decades is suddenly back?
Let me also take this chance to say, disorganization has long been the downfall of all rebel factions in Star Wars. General Organa had her contacts and strings of communication, but it's all far less organized than the First Order. Even effective Rebel acts are going to look meaningless in the big picture against a force as strong as the First Order, which is why they needed a rally point to really take the First Order down.
That's where Lando and Poe came in. Their orders gave all Rebels willing to help, but lacking in numbers, a chance to show up and finish the war on Exegol. Luke's actions on Crait inspired people to rise up, while the fight on Exegol gave them an actual location to gather and have a real impact on this fight. Anyone and everyone showed up, and, once again, the Dark Side made a bone-headed move that led to its downfall. Seriously, just divide and conquer guys!
The Rise Of Skywalker's Responsibility Was To Conclude The Skywalker Saga
I don't know this for certain, but I get the sense looking at a lot of reactions that many people looked to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to validate their feelings towards Star Wars: The Last Jedi. J.J. Abrams wasn't looking to do that, he was looking to make a movie that concluded nine movies. That meant addressing a lot of things within The Last Jedi that were open-ended, and finding a quick way to wrap them up to conclude the existing story.
As someone who loves The Last Jedi, I love that Kylo Ren killed Supreme Leader Snoke. At the same time, it was tough to believe such an immensely powerful force user was duped by the same dude who can't keep his anger in check for a bulk of the movie. Snoke's confirmation as a Palpatine clone more or less confirms the power, but shows the clear disadvantages of a lack of wisdom and true control in a natural body.
That was just one of the many questions that needed an answer after The Last Jedi, and not even the most complicated one. It's somewhat ironic that the same people who are jumping over J.J. Abrams for leaving out what Finn wanted to tell Rey, seem to have defended Rian Johnson when he explained Leia's force flight through space. Guys, there's a ton of unexplained stuff throughout Star Wars that has been explained after the fact in various other media or interviews, that's nothing new.
Liking Both Movies Is A Lot Easier When You're Just Looking At The Movies And Nothing Else
There's absolutely no denying the past two years of Twitter fights, comments by J.J. Abrams, and unacceptable behavior towards Kelly Marie Tran has influenced opinions of the sequel trilogy. I don't expect people to ignore it, and I completely understand if it affects their enjoyment of the movie. I, in no way, condone or like being involved in any of it, but I do believe that years from now when all of this drama is forgotten people will have a mutual appreciation for The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
Emotions are too high right now to see it, but eventually, there may be some who see that Rose Tico's narrative of avenging her sister was complete in The Last Jedi, and that she almost got as much screen time as Luke Skywalker in The Rise of Skywalker. There are too many people arguing for and against Kylo Ren's exit to accept that Adam Driver's career has elevated beyond being a career Star Wars actor.
The comparisons between the two would've happened anyway; fans wanted this movie to settle The Last Jedi debate. Again, though, that was never the intention, and more people may have seen that had they paid attention to the (potentially) negative comments by J.J. Abrams (and others) about The Last Jedi.
Time will tell if fans can get there, and, in the meantime, hot takes will rage on about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. CinemaBlend will publish a fair few of them, so be sure to stick with us for more analysis on the latest Star Wars movie and for more news happening in movies and television.