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How Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Smacks The Last Jedi In The Face [SPOILERS]

One of the biggest fears I had going into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is that it would undo a lot of the great stuff that The Last Jedi did. I had hopes that it would pivot on some of the answers TLJ gave us and help take the franchise into new, unexplored territory.  However, instead, we got a film that kind of spat in the face of what came before it, instead moving ahead in its own direction.

Yes, there were some key moments that actually acknowledged what came before (including the evolution of the Force connection between Rey and Kylo Ren), but there were even more instances that showed that director J.J. Abrams wasn’t really interested in exploring anything new as much as he was retreading old ground. 

So, in what ways did The Rise of Skywalker smack The Last Jedi in the face? 

The Battle of Crait Did NOT Ignite A Resistance

Rian Johnson’s space opera, to me, was an interesting entry, as it didn’t end with a victory as much as a survival. But this survival had great implications that tales of Luke Skywalker’s and the Resistance’s final stand would help incite further Resistance throughout the galaxy.

Instead, in The Rise of Skywalker, we learn that in the year or so since that battle, no such inspiration was…inspired, and that the Resistance had largely failed to gain any more troops. That entire struggle was virtually…fruitless. Of course, the lessons from The Last Jedi revolve around failure, but I expected it to have moved the needle just a bit.

Attack of the Snones

In The Force Awakens, we are introduced to a pretty generic-looking baddie named Snoke. Now, I know when I saw the film, I really didn’t give a damn about who he was and didn’t really care to learn more about him. The more interesting character was Kylo Ren, whose mood swings and overall strength was endless entertainment.

So, when Snoke was killed in The Last Jedi, I couldn’t contain my relief. They’d gotten rid of the the stereotypical “overlord” in the second film, paving the way for either Kylo Ren or a third power to come in and play the main villain. More importantly, Snoke didn’t have any connection to Darth Plagueis or Palpatine! It was unique, it was exciting…

And then in the opening minutes, we are treated to an exposition dump that revealed that there were many Snoke clones and that Palpatine was…I dunno…using him has a puppet or something?

Kylo Repairman

This one I’m kind of torn on. A part of Kylo Ren’s growth in The Last Jedi is that he’d learned to grow into his own as a baddie. He’d moved past his teen idolizing phase and was moving into adulthood and ready to take over the world in his own way! This was symbolized by him smashing his Darth Vader-inspired helmet into the wall of an elevator, and with it, his idolizing of Vader.

But in The Rise of Skywalker, he has it pieced back together. I don’t fully understand why. Is it to please Palpatine? Is it because he’s retreated back into his shell a bit? It’s honestly not too clear.

In some ways, I can appreciate this as a regression of his arc, but it felt so tacked-on and unnecessary, that it almost feels like it was done out of spite.

Papa Palpatine

This is probably the worst part, in my opinion. I liked the message behind The Last Jedi that your parentage didn’t matter. Over the course of the Star Wars saga, I’d grown sick of everyone being related, so when The Last Jedi told us that Rey had no meaningful parentage, it was refreshing.

You mean you don’t have to come from a rich bloodline in order to be somebody? It was oddly inspiring and really fed into the message of the whole movie. Plus, it helped expand the Star Wars world a bit beyond that of Skywalker and Palpatine.

Except, no. In The Rise of Skywalker, it was revealed that Rey’s dad was actually the son of Palpatine, and that she was his granddaughter. So much for that message. Add in the parallels to the previous two trilogies, and you have something that’s laughably cliché.

I’ll give Abrams some credit, though. The film still proves that you’re not a slave to your past and that you make your own future, but it was cheap to have her related to Palpatine.

Luke’s Returning Lines

In Rey’s darkest moments, she returns to Ahch-To and destroys a TIE fighter. She then is about to toss her lightsaber into the flames when it’s caught by Force Ghost Luke Skywalker. I don’t recall the line exactly, but the basic idea is “something so sacred shouldn’t be handled with such disrespect.”

The general takeaway some fans had? It’s giving Rian Johnson the middle finger. More specifically, it’s pushing back against Luke’s opening moments in The Last Jedi when Luke tossed the lightsaber away.

I’ll admit, I don’t quite agree with this one. Over the course of TLJ’s runtime, Luke grows as a person, and realizes his whole idea around the Sith and Jedi were wrong. Thus, his new perspective on respecting the lightsaber. At least that’s one perspective.

Return to Black-and-White

The Last Jedi really dealt with moral grayness. While the Jedi had largely been seen as white and the Sith as black, the film teased the idea that no one way is the right way, and that there could be a bigger world of morality out there that the Jedi haven’t yet explored. 

Well, forget that nuance, because in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, black is black again, white is white, and if you’re going to live in this world, you have to choose. This is shown in a throne room scene that very much mirrors Return of the Jedi in its moral dilemma, proving that this trilogy, for some of its pondering in its middle entry, had very little new to say.


Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re one of those people who enjoyed the film and its decisions, that’s totally cool. I can even understand many of you yelling at the screen, wanting to tell me that what Abrams did in Episode IX is exactly what Johnson did to VII in Episode VIII.

I’d make a different argument.

In The Force Awakens, Abrams presented questions. In The Last Jedi, Johnson answered them — perhaps unconventionally, but he answered them all the same. And then Abrams came in and answered all of them again, rather than pondering new questions or building on the previous answers.

It was almost as if Abrams started a conversation, Rian Johnson responded, and Abrams continued talking as though he hadn’t heard Johnson’s response, continuing on the plan as he intended.

Many have argued this trilogy has suffered due to there being no cohesive vision. I’d argue that it could have done without a cohesive vision if Abrams simply respected what came before and logically built on it to lead to his conclusion. That’s what good TV writers have been doing for years, and if he had followed that line of thinking, he could have made a film that truly felt like the end of a saga, as opposed to a wishy-washy film that tried too hard to address previous criticisms.

But what do you think of all this? Do you agree with me or disagree on every level? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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