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Thursday, April 18, 2024

“The Rise of Skywalker” — the movie that divided the Star Wars fan base

 A review of Lucasfilm’s final movie of the saga

The Skywalker Saga, the last of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, has finally arrived. Directed by J.J. Abrams, “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker” opened in theatres on Dec. 20, 2019. With a budget of $275 million, it was one of the most expensive films to produce in history.

The film made over $1 billion in ticket sales, becoming the seventh Disney movie in 2019 to do so. Disney is on a record-breaking streak in the film industry. 

Rotten Tomatoes, however, did not seem to agree with the new movie’s success. The film received a shockingly low Tomatometer score of 52% — the second lowest score of Lucasfilms following the release of “The Phantom Menace” in 1999. 

Skywalker was not the only thing that rose on that Friday — so did the fan’s opinions. Right after the launch of the last film of the trilogy, the Star Wars fandom split due to the controversy. 

Let us try to uncover why this divide happened by recapping the film itself. The plot revolves around Emperor Palpatine, the infamous Sith Lord, getting in the heads of Kylo Ren and Rey and trying to turn them to the Dark Side. Kylo finds a Sith Wayfinder, which leads him to an unmapped planet, Exegol, where Palpatine hides out. 

For all of the main characters, finding Exegol is the primary mission of the film. Apparently, Luke Skywalker had been hunting the planet down for years, and so Rey takes it upon herself to finish the job. 

Kylo, however, is also trying to do this — thus, throughout the film, Kylo and Rey have frequent conversations via The Force. And let me say as a member of the audience, the line between flirting and hatred was slim. 

Then, Leia’s last breaths are used to get ahold of her son, Ben (also known as Kylo Ren), to dissuade him from The Dark Side. She prevails, and Kylo Ren ditches his name and goes back to being Ben. 

Now things get weird. Rey impales Kylo Ren, but then saves him. Even after he tried to kill her and coerce her to the Dark Side, she sensed the death of Leia and took pity on him. 

Rey proceeds to confront Palpatine on Exegol, and he tells her to kill him so that he can transfer his soul over to her as the new Sith Lord. Rey said, “No way José,” (well, not really), and then Ben comes to the rescue.

Rey uses the last of her life force to deflect Palpatine’s lightning, which then kills him and herself. Ben turns good and transfers his life force into her, but right before he dies in place of her… they kiss. 

In the end, the Resistance wins against the First Order, of course, and they celebrate. A brief kiss is exchanged between two female Resistance Fighters, which probably made Disney feel “woke,” but the rest of us were thinking, was that it? It is 2020 (2019 when the film was released) — is that the best Disney can do? If J.J. Abrams wanted to “represent” the LGBTQ+ community, he failed. 

In any case, Rey visits Luke’s childhood planet Tatooine and buries the last of the Skywalker Lightsabers. She whips out a brand-spanking-new yellow lightsaber, which she likely made herself — although it was not made clear in the film. A bystander then asks her what her name is and she responds, “Rey Skywalker.” The end. 

Once the screen turned black, three questions came to mind. 

One: Was the kiss really necessary? I get it, there was a lot of sexual tension between Rey and Kylo Ren, or “Ben,” in the film, but did they really have to kiss to seal the deal? Some Star Wars fans, including myself, were appalled by Disney’s poor choice in romanticizing enemy alliances given that he had previously tortured her in the first film and she had literally stabbed him. 

Some viewers, however, such as the “Reylos” — the Star Wars fandom ship name for Rey and Kylo — were relieved by the controversial kiss. It was bound to happen, so why not make it happen in the last film of the sequel trilogy? In the end, the Star Wars fandom divided into sides of either pro- or anti-kiss with strong opinions to back up their reasoning. 

Two: What was the secret Finn was waiting to disclose to Rey the whole movie? While Rey and Finn were sinking to their near-death in the quicksand scene, Finn yells out to Rey that he has something to tell her. But he never actually tells her. The producers tease the audience by mentioning the secret more than once after the scene, but Finn never actually uncovers his secret.  

If you were clinging to your seat in anger when the credits began, you were not alone. Abrams revealed to the audience during a Q&A that Finn was going to let the cat out of the bag that he is force-sensitive — the potential power of becoming a Jedi and using the Force. 

I know we all thought that Finn was going to put his heart out on the line and profess his love for Rey, but no. Talk about anticlimactic. 

Three: How in the world does Emperor Palpatine survive his death in “The Return of the Jedi,” released in 1983? The Sith Lord appeared to have fallen to his death when Darth Vader threw him down a giant reactor shaft, after his failed attempt to turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side. But here he is, in another Star Wars film.

Let’s back up a bit to fill in the missing pieces. Evidently, the movie quoted a line from the prequels which vaguely explains how the Emperor is still alive, “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”  

As the story goes, the ability to cheat death is also the reason why Anakin was swayed to the Dark Side in the first place, but then why did Darth Vader not come back too? Essentially, Palpatine was able to resurrect himself from the powers of the Dark Side, but no real detail has been revealed other than surface-level information. 

And can we talk about Emperor Palpatine being a grandfather? Yikes! At the end of the film, the Sith Lord reveals to Rey that she is a Palpatine. Of course this explains Rey’s persistent internal struggles with being drawn to the Dark Side during the sequel trilogy, so it all makes sense. 

The mystery of Rey’s family-line finally comes to light — it only took the last movie to figure it out! Basically, Rey’s parents, one being the child of Palpatine, abandoned her on Jakku to protect her from her grandfather who knew of her special potential. 

But that is all we really get as an audience. “The Rise of Skywalker” was great at having news-breaking moments, but never really filled in the gaps as to how or why they happened. But do not fret, Lucasfilm will be releasing another Star Wars film in three years, so hang on tight, the game is not over. 

Written by: Sierra Jimenez — arts@theaggie.org

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