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Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Review, First Thoughts, And Impressions From Paul Harrison

I just got back from watching The Rise Of Skywalker, and I know MANY of you are dying to see what I thought of it. Are you sure you want to know? Then click through for more.

I wanted to quickly start off by saying that my theater was only half full. I went to the 6 PM ET show. Take that as you wish.

If you skim through the comments of the now-angry access media (I don’t understand their anger, honestly), you’d believe rather easily (and quickly) that The Rise Of Skywalker is the worst Star Wars film in the entire nine-episode saga. With the unfortunate online behavior of moviemakers, many employees at a certain company (as well as their contractors) attacking their customers reprehensibly, I kept up my guard because the last thing I wanted to experience was more disappointment.

However, I was gripped almost immediately, and the film surprised the heck out of me. Now, some things in the movie don’t entirely sit well with me. But if you view the film at face value, or through an “Infinities” perspective, or accepting where we’re at with the Sequel Trilogy, I think you’ll easily find favor with the film too. You may not need to take a rose-colored view at this film to appreciate it either. I think the film, minus a few issues, is a fantastic standalone film.

Before I drill down the important points, let me be completely transparent with you. Most of you know this. So for those that don’t, please deal with the repetition for a couple of moments. Generally, I think Disney Star Wars is terrible. That’s not a secret. I haven’t watched one episode of The Mandalorian yet because I am so burned out, not because I want to boycott it. I feel like I can’t get my hopes high only to be devastated with the new entertainment anymore. I almost didn’t go tonight to see Episode IX. But I am glad I decided against that.

You also probably know I feel that The Force Awakens is the worst film ever made (I am not exaggerating). Please don’t ask me why. It is what it is. If you loved it, I am thrilled for you. I am indiscriminate about The Last Jedi. While I see it infinitely better than TFA, I view TLJ as “fake” Star Wars. It’s the only way I can get through it. I feel strongly that Rian Johnson doesn’t understand Luke Skywalker at all, and many of his other choices in the film were terrible as well. These are my opinions. And one of the few things I “hate” in this life is preachy films. TLJ was brimming with “holier than thou” progressive antics, and if you side that way, good for you, but it is the antithesis of who I am. No wonder there was such a divide with the film across the globe. It was a divisive movie. And no wonder why the blue checks on Twitter fawn over it using words like “masterpiece” to describe it. I digress.

As someone who is a person of faith, I always saw strong ties to spirituality throughout most of the Star Wars films. I was never looking for it, and I never asked for it, but it was an undercurrent in the story. It played an influential part in the emotion entanglements I had with the films. Redemption, forgiveness, sanctification, and love – all are mostly absent in the Sequel Trilogy. And in its place is secularism and an obsession of things like immutable characteristics that no one can change about himself or herself. It’s these things that sent Star Wars in a spiral nosedive that couldn’t correct itself, along with subversion of expectations. With The Last Jedi, the Force became something viewed as unnecessary, or misunderstood, and different for everyone. That’s secular humanism. When lines of good and bad are unacceptably blurred as if they belong together to make one whole, it causes confusion. It’s sort of like a yin and yang, and something I don’t personally subscribe too.

I longed to see good overcome evil in Disney Star Wars. And while you can argue it’s present in the new movies, it’s been stripped down into something almost unrecognizable. The Rise Of Skywalker brought back “faith” in the Force in a powerful way. While I saw the interaction of Rey and Ben as good overcoming evil through the love displayed between them, and not necessarily the romantic kind, I can see why others were happy to see the onscreen kiss. Also relevant to faith is the healing gift Rey intercedes with multiple times, and then once we see Kylo turn to the light side, he also uses to bring her back. (SIDE NOTE: I like to think she wasn’t dead because bringing someone back from the dead is too Sith-like, I hope she was merely at death’s door. I wonder if we’ll get a confirmation on that.) But with The Rise Of Skywalker, I think JJ Abrams did a REMARKABLE job righting the ship the best he could with what he was given. Now, I am not claiming his decisions were award-worthy, or perfect, but he did what he could to work within the chopped-up storyline Rian Johnson left for him in this new Star Wars lore Johnson created. I felt JJ Abrams brought back some of Star Wars’ original lore back, and then added a lot new too.

And that brings me to an important realization and something that will likely cause a new divide. If you thought that Rian disregarded JJ Abrams set up from The Force Awakens in The Last Jedi, well, and pardon my French, JJ Abrams in return took a TOXIC DUMP on The Last Jedi. That isn’t an exaggeration in the slightest. TLJ doesn’t need to exist anymore. Isn’t that mind-boggling? What JJ Abrams did in TROS makes me wonder if the two directors can ever acknowledge each other’s existence again. I genuinely want to know. There are many examples of the major changes made. Rose Tico was axed to the point of being a prop in the background. BUT. She’s professional, smart, doesn’t hero-worship Finn, or sexually assault him. Antagonistic (and non-fruitful) female leadership emasculating men is also no longer existent in the Sequel Trilogy because of TROS. Instead, the female leaders are extremely likable, wise, good, and helpful, working alongside men and it’s evident men and women alike are all fighting for the same cause.

There is a banding of like minds that was painfully absent in TLJ. It’s everyone working together against the First Order. Luke Skywalker is no longer cranky and admits he was wrong about his TLJ beliefs of the Force. (Uh-oh, no wonder Twitter is outraged. Our hero is back, and they must HATE that!) And he smiles a lot more. And offers good advice to Rey. We also learn a new Force power. As a Force Spirit, you can affect real-world items. Aside from his hairstyle looking too much like Ann Ramsey’s from Throw Momma From The Train, you can feel the smile pulling your cheeks wide because of the character’s performance and dialogue, and it was an uplifting moment. Unfortunately for me, the Force “facetime” thing is back that we first saw in TLJ, but it’s quick, and it serves a purpose when Kylo Ren is in trouble. To me, it was cheating a little bit, but it worked. And lastly, Finn and Poe were appropriately utilized. They take full charge of their masculinity, make wise decisions, work as a team, and I don’t think I saw Finn pant once. I have a new respect for both of them now. There are other TLJ-abandoned ideas in TROS, I can’t remember them all, however.

Laughably, Snoke is explained away in two seconds. But now we know there is almost no reason for him to exist in a collectible form again. He’s obsolete. I never liked that character, and that felt like vindication too. When I thought Chewbacca died, I couldn’t breathe. I got choked up. That scene WORKED intensely for me. And I felt gipped that I had the wool pulled over my eyes. I mean, I was thrilled he was alive, but I didn’t like getting emotionally pulled that way as a joke. It was almost like when Kathy Bates’ character from Fried Green Tomatoes thinks Idgie is dead, only to find out her roommate died. Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. That’s all I ask. There were quite a few things that I felt didn’t work and were a bit laughable throughout the film. I can’t enumerate them all now, but these annoyances did exist. However, none of them pulled me out of the story. Rey was NOT too Mary Sue-ish is this film. Of course, during her training, she had to show Luke Skywalker up by doing more impressive tricks and showing off greater agility and the like, but whatever, it wasn’t the end of the world. And for the first time, I can say her character came off the best in this film. I don’t feel she was nearly as laughable as she was in The Force Awakens. Some will feel she retained the Mary Sue status, and I do see their point of view.

Kylo Ren, who I LOATHED in Episode VII and Episode VIII won me over by a lot. I didn’t think he had a chance with me, but the character was developed properly. He didn’t take the place of Darth Vader’s redemption (thank the Maker), yet he had his own little redemption which was more powerful than you might expect. His interaction with Han Solo was especially gripping. The timeless “love conquers all” played powerfully here and gave Kylo Ren an arc I NEVER anticipated would occur. Thank you JJ Abrams, for giving this character an appropriate storyline. Oh, and it was INCREDIBLE to see Han Solo again. I didn’t know about that surprise, and it was appreciated. I must admit that it was priceless to see the forgiveness offered and to tie up that horribly unanswered plot point and “added for shock value only” scene in The Force Awakens.

Fan Service. Yes, please, And there was A LOT of it thank the Maker. I will take every drop graciously after the last four years of hell. All of the nods to the Original Trilogy were SORELY missing in the last two films. I am thrilled JJ Abrams showed us Wicket (I also got choked up with this), Bespin/Cloud City, Luke’s X-Wing Fighter, Nien Nunb, and so many others that are escaping me at the moment. The respect Lucasfilm finally showed to the Original Trilogy is not rejected, and I was loving every nod in the film.

I was THRILLED with Emperor Palpatine’s return. It’s hilarious that Disney Star Wars wanted to bury everything from the Expanded Universe, but there were SO MANY ties to it I don’t understand why they’re so resistant to use more. He was terrifying at times, and it was so fantastic to see a true villain onscreen in a Star Wars film once again. The film explains he is a clone or the belief that the possibility exists he is. He also uses Kylo’s and Rey’s “life force” to regenerate to a fuller man, and becomes powerful to take them both on with relative ease. That was a little too Skesis-like, but it still worked for me. I thought the First Order-ish Royal Guards looked great. I would have loved to see more action with them, but they did their job. I thought the end of the conflict with Emperor Palpatine was a little over the top, but it was enjoyable to watch at the very least. But for me, and another kick to Rian Johnson’s testicles (well maybe JJ’s too), is that the First Order is also irrelevant. I loathe anything First Order. And everyone under Emperor Palpatine had he survived, would become part of the Final Order, another Empire.

And how could I not address Carrie Fisher’s saved scenes? Many people are ripping them to shreds, but I didn’t see them as awkward or bumpy at all. I was surprised how well they fit into the film. It felt like she was on set to me. And I loved how they de-aged Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia for the Endor training scenes. They did a wonderful job with all of that retro stuff. I felt like we finally got a proper goodbye to Carrie Fisher, and of course, General Leia Organa.

Yes, things in this film don’t make sense. Yes, The Rise Of Skywalker feels like a reboot of Return Of The Jedi. Yes, Rey and Kylo Ren’s “affection” can be interpreted in multiple ways: platonic and romantic. Yes, Lando Calrissian felt a bit random and an addition to the film by an insane coincidence. But it was wonderful seeing him again. Why the heck didn’t they pair him with Nien Nunb though? Oh, and it was great to see Wedge Antilles again, even though he only lasted for a second onscreen. Yes, the remnants of Death Star II on the water planet and the need to find the “Sith” holocron, while interesting, didn’t feel right to me at times. But ultimately it fit in the story. 

The Rise Of Skywalker, to me, is a standalone film. You don’t need TFA or TLJ to watch it, and that thrills me, although, some of Rey’s Mary Sue-ness in TFA is explained because she is a Palpatine for Heaven’s sakes. I haven’t purchased Episode VII or Episode VIII, and I never plan to, but I am eager to purchase Episode IX and watch it again. Maybe I will grow a little sour over time with subsequent re-watches. Maybe I won’t. But I have to tell you right now that The Rise Of Skywalker warmed my soul, and I hope that I feel the same in the future. (I wonder if they’ll get called terrible names for not liking Episode IX.) I even liked the “They fly now?” scene.

It’s no wonder “some people” are so upset. This film is actually good, unlike the predecessors. That’s sarcasm, by the way. Please let me know your thoughts about my thoughts, and how you felt about the film too.

Also, can anyone answer this question When Emperor Palpatine was talking to Ben, he said “your mother is the daughter of Darth Vader, and your father is *blank* son? I thought he said his son (The Emperor’s son, but that can’t be right, can it?) If you know, please let me know.

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