Okay, so I’ve had some time to sort of mull this whole thing over, and while my feelings are still complicated, I do at least have some overall thoughts about those last three Star Wars movies. Keep in mind that this is all purely subjective. In fact, this post is as much for myself as anyone, as writing helps me suss my thoughts.
I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. Yes, I knew as I watched it that it was pretty much, beat for beat, a retread of Episode IV. But I didn’t care. At the time, I was so excited to have a new Star Wars movie—one that was so much better than those prequels (which I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch again since seeing them in the cinema)—that I was probably primed to like it no matter what. But I loved the new characters, the dynamics that were being built. We took our kids to it, and at the final scene my daughter (who was seven) asked, “Who is that?” And with tears in my eyes, I said, “That’s Luke Skywalker, baby.” So, yeah, I was all in. I saw the film three times in the cinema and have rewatched it several times at home.
Sure, later on I had to wonder at Rey’s sudden ability to beat Kylo. I pretty much had the idea she had to be Luke’s daughter, ferried away to keep her safe or something, and I know I’m not the only one to lean that way. But whatever. I was open to whatever was to come next.
I had more complicated feelings about The Last Jedi. There was a lot I liked about it (mostly Kylo/Rey stuff) and just as much that I didn’t (the moments of humor felt misplaced to me). I was a bit confused by Luke’s final stand or whatever, not sure why he had to die except that mentor characters always have to die, I guess. I had no problem with the introduction of Rose and still don’t entirely understand the ire people have toward her, or toward the movie as a whole, except for misogyny and racism in general? I’ll admit that after the first viewing, I didn’t think I liked this movie, either, though I couldn’t immediately say why. However, I also saw this one three times in the cinema, and came to like it more and more. It is, for me, about on par with TFA, or I may even like it slightly more simply because it definitely feels more original.
Ah, but then The Rise of Skywalker happened. And I just… can’t. I can’t with this movie. I think what I can’t get over is the return of Palpatine. The groundwork wasn’t laid for it, so it feels just so improbable. And the sending out of a message? And the idea that Snoke “worked for” Palpatine or some such? None of it makes sense. The killing and immediate resurrection of main characters cheapens everything. It doesn’t feel like there are any stakes because Rey has already managed to defeat Kylo many times, and characters don’t stay dead, so… ??? Do I like that Kylo is redeemed? The fangirl in me adores the character of Kylo Ren. He’s easily the most interesting, most developed character in these films because he’s the only one given deep-seated conflict. Yes, he behaves like an angry emo child. But that’s at least interesting. And I’m a Reylo fangirl, so…
And yet. Here’s where we get into the world of fandom vs. canon. Let me just say I studied fandom psychology as an undergrad. But that was in a pre-social media world (yes, I’m that old). Fans didn’t really have a hope to influence creators because they didn’t have that kind of access to filmmakers. So wish fulfillment for fans came in the form of fan fiction. And that was fine. We all understood that we could make up our own stories and enjoy the characters in our own ways and the creators could do what they were going to do, which we may or may not love, but we didn’t really get too upset about because we had our own outlets for rewriting things the way we wanted. But now fans feel entitled, it seems, to certain outcomes. And they do get angry when things don’t go they way they want. Fans want to write the scripts. And that’s just ridiculous.
But it does seem to me that creators do sometimes give in to that pressure. So I feel like Kylo’s (Ben’s, if you prefer) redemption and that Reylo kiss was definitely a bow to fans. I swooned, of course, but was it the best direction for the story? I do have some doubts about that. (I think it would have been more coherent to follow Ben Solo/Kylo Ren as the main character of these films, probably because I do still find him to have the most interesting arc, but that’s just me, and didn’t we just talk about fans trying to steer the ship?)
For me TROS ruined things. I was all in until this film. I can forgive a lot, but this one just had too many problems for me. The sudden excising of Rose’s character, the insertion of random other females as if to be sure the Finn/Poe fans didn’t get their way—it just felt too disjointed from what came before. It felt, as I’ve said previously, like Abrams and Johnson were in a tug-of-war instead of building on each other’s works to create a cohesive whole. If you tell two architects to build a building that consists of three wings—Architect 1 gets wings 1 and 3 and Architect 2 does the middle bit—but don’t give them more guidance than that, the final structure might not end up looking quite right. Particularly if Architect 1 had stuff he expected wing 2 to have but Architect 2 does his own thing? They need to work together for the design to mesh.
I only saw TROS once in the cinema. I know I probably need to see it at least one more time to resolve some of my feelings about it. I mean, I think I could at least sit through it again, which is more than I can say about the prequels. But at the end of the day, the sequel trilogy was, for me, a game of diminishing returns. I enjoyed the first, most of the second, and almost none of the third.
So much of today’s biggest series start strong and founder because no one has a big picture vision, or if they do, they allow outside influences to alter it and therefore undermine what’s being built. We need showrunners/creators that don’t just have a great idea but also have the ability to follow through (or the willingness to delegate rather than control issues). And while fans have a right to their opinions, I don’t think they should demand that things go a certain way to satisfy their particular desires. Yes, even though you think you could do it better or your idea is the best. That’s what fan fiction is for. Leave the creators alone.