The Rise Of Skywalker Brings End of an Era
The Rise of Skywalker brings to close a story that has spanned over 40 years. This week you’ll hear discussions surrounding the title. How much it’s expected to open, how much it will miss the mark compared to The Last Jedi. Others will be discussing what to expect in the upcoming movie. I even wrote a piece about why it would be good if Hayden Christensen returned as Anakin Skywalker. You can expect endless theories, vicious arguments between fans, and early reviews. The question that should be asked, though, is how will this make fans feel? Can it bring the split fandom back together again? Also, how did we get to this point?
The Rise of Skywalker brings about the end of an era. I’m not kidding myself, thinking this movie is the end of Star Wars movies by any means. There will also be other source material that will still be set in the Skywalker timeline in the years to come. Just watch The Mandalorian, the upcoming Kenobi series with returning Ewan McGregor, and more. For movies, though, involving the likes of characters and setting we’ve seen span from 1977 to 2019 will finally come to a close. I have no desire to paint the ride with rose-tinted glasses. It’s been up and down throughout. The split Opinion on the Star Wars movies started further back than you might think.
Where the Fandom Split Began
The Return of the Jedi is the first in the series that comes to mind. In some ways, this was the beginning of a divide in a loyal fan base. Few grew up that would call out episode six as their favorite. I’ve come across plenty that don’t like it. Pick whichever reason you’d like, Ewoks, a disjointed or uninteresting planet side story/action that doesn’t hold up or even a dumb way for Boba Fett to die. None of these reasons are invalid for not liking the film. That is the beauty of film and Star Wars in general, and everyone likes different things or different movies for vastly different reasons. Despite plenty of fan love for the film, there’s still little doubt that the split starts at Jedi.
The universal love for The Empire Strikes Back, and the respect for A New Hope is where the unified passion for the series stops. Fast forward to the prequels, well you know how that goes. Plenty of criticism and lack of fan love abounds. Though still plenty to sell tickets, created animated shows and even have some public praise from fans that genuinely enjoy them. Despite whether you love or hate the prequels, this is truly where fans split even more. Introduce midichlorians, the angsty Anakin Skywalker, the being that is Jar-Jar and some writing that even the best of actors probably couldn’t do much with. The list truly goes on in terms of what fans can pick apart or stand their ground on.
Disney Takes Over, and People Lose it
Fast forward further, Disney takes over Star Wars, that right there. I’ll admit, at first I was one of them. What was Disney going to do to my beloved franchise? I still went into it with mostly open ears, but for many, that was the last straw.
Now we have The Force Awakens. You thought I was going to say The Last Jedi, didn’t you? We’ll get to that, but no. The Force Awakens may not have created a ton of split or controversy, but it’s there, more than you might give credit. Some said this was a film that leaned too on the original trilogy. They’re just “cashing in on nostalgia.” I heard that one plenty.
There’s also a female lead. Did that go over well with everyone? Of course not. Sure some excuses were made both in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, “Rey got too strong in the force too fast.” Plenty didn’t want to see a woman as the main character, plain and simple.
The Last Jedi Splits Fan Opinion in Half
Moving onto the most controversial Star Wars movie arguably ever. It split the fans quite possibly straight down the middle, to the point where things may never be the same again. Star Wars The Last Jedi. Overall, The Force Awakens was well received and loved by many. The expectation of The Last Jedi, of course, was that things could only be better. Think back to The Empire Strikes Back. Hopes were crushed, though, as a movie that left many with their heads scratching, others angry, and some still happy with the result. I believe two big things lead to this down the center split of hate or love it. The entire casino planet, combined with separating all three of the leading new cast, some poorly written characters or plot points, rounded off with the biggest of them all, Luke Skywalker (yes I’m counting that as a couple).
The others are so easy to put on display. Luke, however, one of the main symbols of the old films was not what anyone expected. The universal expectation of us all had to be one of the heroes that’s about to step up. Either in training Rey or going with her to fight the First Order. Instead, we are given a man that has given up. A man who created what he fought so hard to redeem within his father. It didn’t help that Mark Hamill himself didn’t much care for what his character had become. I imagine in The Rise of Skywalker; fans have high expectations for Luke’s force ghost, sounds like Hamill himself might have the same expectations.
Where Did it Go Wrong?
Combine all with the fact that Rey’s parents end up being nobodies, and Snoke died without any explanation of where he came from, his master plan, or anything else. He felt like a throwaway character. Also, the three originals never appeared on screen at the same time, Luke, Leia, and Han. The Last Jedi had its moments, the epic hyperspace jump that wiped out a fleet. Luke force projecting across the Galaxy and one of the coolest lightsaber battles to date. Rey and Kylo back to back against the royal guards.
It’s not much surprise given all this why the Star Wars title took the fandom splits and multiplied them tenfold. So here we are. One last movie in with The Rise of Skywalker and a chance to finish off the series on a high note. The meaning behind this movie can’t be understated. It may “fix” some things from The Last Jedi; it might not. Some may not even see a fix needed. The only thing I see that needs fixing is something that can’t be undone. No offense to Rian Johnson, but Disney’s original plans to have three different directors/writers for each film in the new saga was bonkers. One director/writer throughout is the only logical conclusion, J.J. Abrams or whomever.
It’s Time to Let Go of the Past
For those of us that grew up with this series as both adults and kids, we patiently await the conclusion of a series that took us to a galaxy far far away. One that has captivated so many imaginations and grown to something bigger than any of us dreamed. Yes, it brought out some of the worst in people. However, for all the bad, I’d say it brought even more good. It hasn’t been perfect, but what is? Now is the time to cement into our memories a final film that brings it all together.
Thursday will be an emotional one for me; I’ll watch as an era of my life comes to a close. I implore you to go into it with an open heart. Don’t do it for the big corporations, don’t even do it for whichever side of the fan split you’re on or not on. Do it for yourself. It’s a Star Wars film. It should give you the feeling for at least a couple of hours that anything is possible. I don’t know if The Rise of Skywalker can save Star Wars fans. I don’t even know if it can redeem a series. However, I do believe it has the potential to be one of the best Star Wars movies made to date. All of us have to give it that chance. May the force be with us all this week.