Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is out and people are sure having a lot of feelings about it, including those of us in the Gizmodo office.
We’ve put together a round table review to exercise ourselves, yell and raise some burning questions.
I’m the Editor of Gizmodo Australia and I’m blessed to be joined by staff writers Leah Williams and Sarah Basford. Our mates Chris Jager from Lifehacker and Alex Walker from Kotaku also joined in the fun.
If there's something you always wanted to see in a Star Wars movie, but haven't yet, odds are it's in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The film plays like a 150-minute checklist of cool stuff and surprises designed to please as many fans as possible. That may sound great, but in the process, that densely packed highlight reel fails to tell a story that's narratively interesting, thematically cohesive, or that builds any impactful stakes. It's a film designed to tantalize and delight in the hope those things cover up its many shortcomings.Read more
Leah: I really liked it, but I think that’s more because I enjoy Star Wars as a popcorn film. It was big, dumb and fun, and sometimes that’s all movies need to be.
Chris: Sure, at the end of the day, Star Wars is just popcorn escapism. But on the flip side, this was the concluding chapter in a space opera that has been going for 42 years. So there’s a bit more weight on its shoulders this time around – and it buckled hard.
Leah: Controversial, but I think Star Wars is less important than people make it out to be. In the end, it’s just a series of silly space movies that have been overblown by a rabid fanbase.
Chris: Sacrilege! I’m by no means a die-hard fan, but damn, when that John Williams score kicks in and the title crawl begins, it’s a cinematic event like no other. So Star Wars is definitely important and this one fumbled the landing.
Alex: People want Star Wars to hold the same importance in the cinematic world as it does in their lives. That’s why everything is so personal for the fandom – any failure of the film is partially a failing of their own identity too. So it’s kind of ironic that Rise of Skywalker doesn’t really have an identity of its own.
It’s fine as a spectacle, and kids will love it, but there’s nothing especially refined or nuanced about what’s going on. It’s basically a giant reset, nullifying the events of The Last Jedi and leaving the franchise in a safe space for spin offs and TV series. And when you look at how Star Wars has been handled under Disney, that’s always been the main priority – safety first. It’s still really well paced, there’s some good cinematic moments and bits of humour – modern Star Wars knows how to make fun droids, that’s for sure.
Chris: “Kids will love it” – I wouldn’t be so sure on that. Some of that Palpatine stuff was straight out of The Conjuring
Alex: Nah they’re into it, look at your kids and how they deal with horror.
Leah: I agree, I think a lot of negativity that’s come from reactions is because people have a personal idea about what they want Star Wars to be, and The Rise of Skywalker isn’t what they expected.
What did we like?
Chris: I liked that little Babu arsehole.
Alex: Adam Driver all around. Also, notice how his hair got better after turning back, instead of that scraggly emo shit. It was more… Buffed? Blow dried? Apparently Jedi get +3 to volume.
Chris: TBH, I think he had a significant glow down compared to Last Jedi. A lot of people will be quietly reevaluating their Adam Driver crush after this movie
Leah: I liked the reveal of Rey’s parentage, it didn’t feel telegraphed or cheap – but I do wish they’d spent a bit more time explaining who they were, and who boned the wrinkly old fuck. Also, Snoke being subtly revealed as a clone was a smart way to wash away a pretty dull plot point.
Oh, and I like the way people just go ‘poof’ and disappear after using the force and everyone’s like ????? okay.
Sarah: I’m also curious how/why Rey gave Ben Solo a snog of death?
Chris: That pissed me off. She picked the bad boy dad killer over loyal, dependable Finn. Nice guys ALWAYS finish last
Leah: How did they get CGI Luke so right and CGI Leia so wrong?
Chris: The same thing happened in Rogue One. Apparently Carrie Fisher (RIP) has an unCGI-iable face
Tegan: That sounds like a Ubisoft excuse.
Leah: I do like that the movie re-established Weird Asshole Luke as a quirky island hermit. He’s so weird and I love it.
On Kylo’s return to the light
Leah: I don’t think I really understood Kylo’s turn at all. It didn’t feel well developed enough and Leia just kinda… whispered in his ear a bit and he was like okay so I killed my dad but I guess I’m good now.
Tegan: I didn’t want him to die but like, how does he live in the world after what he’s done? can you imagine if he delivered Rey back to base, he would have been torn apart. Most of them didn’t even know he had turned good. It would have been extremely “what the fuck you doing here”
Leah: I would watch a movie of everyone taking turns to dunk on Kylo.
Chris: Also, he had clearly turned to the Light and switched off his lightsaber – so why did Rey stab him in the heart?
Tegan: oh my god good point. Rey stabbed first.
On LGBTQIA ‘Representation’
Leah: Disney needs to tell me more about the space lesbians and not hamfist a kiss in there while hyping up lgbt representation pre-film thank you. I want to know more about the space lesbians and it’s really frustrating watching Disney trip over itself to shout ‘representation’ when it amounts to nothing.
Alex: When asked about whether there was room for LGBTQIA representation in the canon Kathleen Kennedy told Pedestrian TV “Oh I think it absolutely is, whether or not it eventually finds its way with Finn and Poe, or some other characters that we’re able to move beyond the saga and start to create new stories.” Kathleen Kennedy said queer characters will be a “real focus” for future Star Wars films, but Poe & Finn won’t be hooking up in Rise of Skywalker.
Sarah B: This is what Abrams said about the kiss btw: “In the case of the LGBTQ community, it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film.” This was hardly representation. “Here’s a quick flash between two characters you’ve never seen before!!! Representation, see!!” Also, Poe and Finn should have ditched the Rey fanfare and macked on.
Leah: Poe’s tacked-on lady friend like someone was shouting HE’S NOT GAY from a rooftop.
Tegan: Same with Finn’s.
Rose was robbed
Chris: I think the biggest casualty of the movie was the character of Rose. Kelly Marie Tran copped untold torrents of online abuse – apparently for not being skinny and white – and Disney repaid her by practically writing her out of the series. They treated her like JarJar which she in no way deserved. Honestly, fuck the fans sometimes.
Tegan: Yeah that was some real garbage. Rose was a great character and she was reduced to an almost-background prop.
Chris: Her and R2-D2, although at least there was plenty of other droid representation. Asians weren’t so lucky.
Tegan: “TWO WOMEN WITH MORE THAN THREE LINES. NO THANK YOU”
Sarah: Did the film pass the Bechdel test?
Sarah: Sorta hard with Carrie Fisher’s untimely death but I think Rey only speaks to her for more than a few lines.
Chris: I think there was one convo between Rey and Leia but pretty sure Kylo or Palpatine were mentioned.
Tegan: I think they talked about Luke a lot too.
Chris: Also, BB-8 was there – is he a dude?
Tegan: Is BB-8 A Dude? An Investigation
[After some investigation, Leah discovered that BB-8 is in fact genderless and we’re here for it.]
Tegan: Theories on how the fuck Palpatine was still alive? Dumb takes welcome.
Leah: He fell down the garbage hole and landed in a soft pile of gunk, cushioning the blow.
Chris: I’m fine with that. He’s a freaky 1000-year old wizard motherfucker. Getting thrown down a shaft doesn’t mean he died
Leah: Nobody can contain the fuck machine.
Sarah: I want to know who boned that wrinkly dark lord to produce offspring. And how, of course.
Chris: That was my chief question when the credits rolled
Tegan: I mean he was emperor. It’s like how people get super into dating prisoners
Leah: Oh, I don’t like that.
Tegan: It’s true! Some chick was clearly done with the bad boy power thing. Probably thought she could change him
Tegan: It also seems like his son was a soft boi if he didn’t ever bother to try and train him like he wanted to with Rey
Leah: Was it his son?
Tegan: Yeah old mate said “son” at one point.
Sarah: I loved the Villanelle cameo tbh.
Sarah: New trilogy with Villanelle assassinating everyone in the galaxy. Get on it, Disney.
Chris: Actually – I seem to recall a bunch of humanoids in vats in Palpatine’s lair, so maybe he didn’t fuck. Rae’s mum was a test tube baby.
Tegan: Oh no
Tegan: But it seems like this happened when he was still “alive” probably. Fuck can we work out the timeline? Cause his son was part of society enough to score a babe like Villanelle
Sarah: Yeah, Rey’s like mid-20s, the parents looked about mid-20s/early 30s when they gave her away, meaning Palpatine had spawn about 40 years prior to the movie. But 40 years ago in the movies was the sequel trilogy right? So Palpatine was supposedly dead then?
Chris: Which is, what, around the time of Return Of The Jedi?
Leah: He was definitely wrinkly by then.
Tegan: Okay so then how did his son Doug Palpatine or whatever escape?
Chris: A lot of broad strokes in this backstory
Leah: Weird that the thing we’ve taken away from this movie is that Palpatine fucks, and that’s awful.
Sarah: How are his children so beautiful??? I need to know his secret. Sith juice?
Leah: Don’t ever use that phrase again, thanks.
Sarah: Petition to put it in the headline.
Leah: Okay so time to move away from boning the ugly skeleton man.
Sarah: “Palpatine’s Sith Juice Is Powerful Stuff”.
Tegan: As editor I’ll allow it.
Rey taking the Skywalker name
Tegan: Controversial take but considering how strong they went on the whole “it doesn’t matter who your grandad is” and stressed that blood doesn’t matter that much, she should have 100% embraced the name Palpatine rather than declare herself a Skywalker.
Chris: Yeah, I think they only did that so the chosen-by-committee movie title made sense.
Leah: I didn’t mind that, she was mentored by Luke and Leia so it felt natural to me. Bit of a cheesy movie moment, but it worked.
Tegan: True, but throughout the movie it felt like Ben coming back to the light could be considered The Rise of Skywalker. I feel like it would have been braver to just have Rey embrace who she actually is.
Sarah: I’m glad because where else would Rey truly fit in parentage-wise. If she’s not a Skywalker, she’d have to be someone notable’s child. Disney’s not nihilistic enough to actually gone down the “she’s a nobody” route.
Tegan: The nobody thing would have been so much better. After all, Anakin was nobody.
Chris: Although looking at the smiling Force ghosts of Luke and Leia and then saying “Rey Palpatine” would have been a bit of a dick move.
Leia’s death and no consequences
Chris: Leia died while Rey and Kylo were fighting on the ocean planet. Her corpse then disappears after the final battle, which is DAYS later. They just left her on that slab covered in a sheet for ages.
Leah: Okay on that, I think the implication was the force took her so she could welcome Kylo or something?
Tegan: Could she not do that… later? Luke does whatever the fuck he wants in the force afterlife. “I know I’m dead but brb just need to give Rey a convenient ship to get off an island”.
Chris: My point is, she’d be starting to smell by then.
Sarah: When Poe talks to Leia and she’s still under this sheet.
Leah: Also if Force ghosts can use the force isn’t that like… basically just being alive? Seems kinda boring tbh. You’re dead but you can still talk, interact with things, you don’t have to eat or sleep… idk man, seems pretty chill.
Tegan: Also on death, why wasn’t Ben standing there with luke and leia at the end? He was a Skywalker and if the others were there to be like, “okay steal our name I guess, why wasn’t he? Especially when he loved her.
Sarah: Why were there no real consequences? Everyone just survived everything. Poe’s ex-girlfriend or whatever that was miraculously survives a PLANET EXPLOSION. Kylo Ren is completely unscathed after his craft crashes when Rey slices it. In the old switch-a-roo, Chewy was randomly in another spacecraft. C3PO gets his memory back instantly. No one really dies in a shock. Except the Skywalker family, naturally. The short answer is Disney.
Tegan: Yeah Leia was old so that tracked and Ben wasn’t a huge surprise. And even his death was a way to avoid consequences.
Chris: Even Leia was killed off by necessity – bet you $1000 the character would have survived if, well, y’know.
Tegan: Speaking of no consequences, there was a whole lot of Convenient Transport. The fake out transporter, Luke’s magic water ship, the coin Poe’s girlfriend gave him that basically worked like Doctor Who psychic paper.
Sarah: Very. Convenient. Also, why did Leia give up being a Jedi? Didn’t quite catch that part.
Leah: I think she got a vision of the future and saw what her son would become or something?
Chris: Yeah, that was mumbled away for sure.
Chris: Oh, and can we talk about the fucking convoluted fetch quest for Sith Wayfinders and Sith Daggers and other Sith doodads? Rise of the Skywalker? Rise Of The McGuffin, more like. That was some lazy shit.
Tegan: It was very Horcrux.
Sequels and Spin offs
Tegan: So they have said this is the end of the trilogies but I think they’ll be back. Someone will crack.
Sarah: In 10 years. Nothing in the immediate future for sure.
Alex: There will definitely be spinoffs in the meantime.
Sarah: Disney knows it needs to cool off for a bit.
Chris: I think all the “no more trilogies” talk is actually hiding something more insidious. They want to be like Marvel – just one continuous story that NEVER ENDS. It’s not about standalone movies, it’s about “cycles”
If you want a vision of the future, imagine Babu stamping on a human face forever.
Sarah: I bet if there ever is another trilogy and it’s set in the events after this movie, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo will magically return.
Tegan: The Return of Ben Swolo.
Chris: I want a Babu spinoff. With Baboo from Seinfeld. They could open a cantina together. Make it happen, Disney!
Tegan: By the time an trilogy happens Palpatine would have had 12 more kids. But speaking of spinoffs, they really hammed up the possibility of Lando and Finn’s possible new GF doing something when she said she doesn’t know where she’s fromt. “LET’S FIND OUT”
Leah: I love Lando, but let him rest. Oh but also, I loved Lando explaining the gang’s noble quest and how they got through it with the power of friendship when like…. you sold their asses out, Lando. We all saw it.
Tegan: YES Lando absolutely gas lit everyone there. “Nah we were mates that’s why we won everything is cool.”
Sarah: In all honesty, I know Disney said they don’t want to make any more trilogies but I would probably pay money to see Rey’s parents’ storyline. Pitching again the Villanelle assassin storyline and the sad boi son of Palpatine forming an unlikely relationship, pumping out a baby and then running away from the evil grips of the not-so-very-dead Palpatine.
Chris: Because Star Wars prequels always work, right? 😛
Tegan: Okay Sarah yes. In this story I see Villanelle being a sith apprentice to the Emperor. Meanwhile Doug Palpatine is like hanging around the creepy sith base, listening to Death Cab or whatever. Villanelle is disgusted with him. He’s the son of the greatest sith to ever lived! Why doesn’t he embrace that? She tries so hard to live up to her master and is grateful that he picked her, a lowly nothing to train. But eventually she gets to know him. He is afraid of her but perhaps shows her a small kindness after Palpatine has been a particular prick that day. After a lifetime of only experiencing cruelty and drawing strength from it, here is a small glimmer of light. As their secret relationship grows she realises that perhaps there is more strength in love. His good heart and her force skills enable them to escape and build a life together.
But fate always comes calling.
Sarah: You have at least one ticket sold already.
Leah: I enjoyed it. It was big, dumb and fun – and that’s all Star Wars movies have ever been. There’s no deeper meaning in space wizard battles, and I was happy to let go of expectations and just enjoy the spectacle.
Tegan: Hard agree. At the end of the day, they’re family movies. Yeah there were some issues, there always are. But I had fun, cried, laughed and went away thinking way too much about Daddy Palpatine.
If you go in looking to be angry and disappointed, you will be. Stop putting so much pressure on a space opera
Chris: It was Game of Thrones Season 8. There were some good bits – even some great bits – but the whole was less than the sum of its parts.
Sarah: I found it super enjoyable as a film. I winced at a few moments, like the Reylo kiss and absolutely no one shocking dying, but the rest got me smiling and crying, specifically during Carrie Fisher’s moments (though Babu being alive almost got me there). The die hard fans won’t like where the series ended up but I think it was a fine way to finish out a third trilogy of the same timeline in a massive universe. Definitely ready for some stories outside of the Skywalker sagas and The Mandalorian shows us they’re definitely possible.
Or more like Rogue One, which was able to exist within the tension of the whole ‘end of the galaxy as we know it’ without being directly in it, necessarily.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is finally out and in a twist that will surprise no one, it's getting dragged. From those who fail to see the correlation between the films they loved as kids and nostalgia, to people angry at The Last Jedi being discarded - it's been a lot. Of course, people have taken to the internet to air their grievances. Here are some of the most savage takes so far.Read more