Damage Control while Digging a Hole.
The older we get, the farther away from STAR WARS we feel. Use the Force and go in young. And you’ll be fine.
In the dark, a blue title card on black background: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Then – fanfare! Stirring our deep innocence memory banks. That John Williams opening theme will still send shivers up your spine, and transport you to a place that cannot be stolen.
To cut through the breakneck, dense storytelling, STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER brings back the old gang from EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and BB-8 (Bowling Ball Eight) – and hurls them together into a single mission, rather than five scattered missions that saw our gerreras. The Millennium Falcon is their ride, as Rey, Finn and Poe hyperspace jump through one Friend Zone after another to collect McGuffin after McGuffin, eventually leading them to a final showdown on the Sith planet Exegol, their rogue resistance rebels taking on countless star destroyers led by… Emperor Palpatine! [lightning, organ chords, fluffy toys running]
Ian McDiarmid gives Dr. Smith a run for his fruitiness in reprising the bi-curious role of Palpatine (yes, that villain whom Darth Vader killed in RETURN OF THE JEDI to complete his redemption arc, now rendered moot), with so much deadman makeup, it’s a safe bet he might actually be dead and the filmmakers went Moff Tarkin on his Last Known Photo.
Carrie Fisher, having died (1956-2016), reprises her role as General Leia. Or should I say, was forced into some cynical, inhumane contractual bind to allow archive footage of herself to be exploited by the Satanic Disney Corporation for avarice whilst pretending respect. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has fixed his duck mask with red duck tape, as a show of aquatic solidarity with the duck side (or to show that his evil resolve has “cracks” in its armor? How saucy!), and he’s still mind-skyping Rey and twisting her Jakkusian knickers into knots. His grand plan is to kill the apparently unkillable Palpatine, and rule the galaxy with Rey’s knickers on his face, “We’ll kill him together and take the throne!”
As BB-8 was the Cousin Oliver who held up R2-D2’s fading cuteness, now BB-8 has been Cousin Olivered! How quickly influencers and internets grow bored! A tiny one-wheeled droid is the new cuteness, named Ronnie James Dio.
In an ever-spiraling vortex of Cousin Olivers, and as a middle finger to THE MANDALORIAN’s Baby Yoda, comes Babu Merch—I mean, Babu Frik (a practical-efx puppet voiced by Shirley Henderson), soldering wires, speaking pidgin and making C-3PO his bitch.
Kelly Marie Tran was last seen updating her résumé and crossing off J.J. Abrams as a reference.
RISE OF SKYWALKER is riddled with the same mistakes, plot holes and inexplicable magic of every STAR WARS movie, from the first (that’s EPISODE IV to you youngbloods) to all the Originals, Prequels and Sequels. It’s still a fun ride, though, depending on how young you can Force yourself… There are gaps in storytelling that rely on comics and other media to retcon into canon, contradictions in Force powers, insufferable plot armor (for example, everyone gets to die at least once, and only three of them stay dead – one because she really died); the same physics stupidities still abound – spacecraft operate in both outer space and atmosphere, and maneuver exactly the same way in either medium; and stormtroopers still can’t aim. But they can fly now. Still can’t aim.
Director/co-writer J.J. Abrams (with writers Chris Terrio, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow) works damage control on director Rian Johnson’s dangling disliked threads from EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI, while digging his own hole of new conundrums. As an example, he follows through on the massive sexy power upgrades of Rey (scissoring her legs to cut Kylo’s wing off – Emasculation Metaphor Alert! – or gesturing to hold back a stormtrooper ship from taking off; I was so wet, my panties were sliding down my leg), but then Abrams gives Rey a new Force power – the power to heal. We realize later it will add heft to the tragic climax, but it’s as jarring as Liam Neeson saying “midi-chlorians” in a ponytail with a straight face.
Throughout this visually breathtaking production, Abrams walks a tightrope of good storytelling and bad ideas: There is a One-Line Plothole Fix about “cloning” pertaining to Palpatine’s reappearance (but nobody’s buying it!), and although I see the sense in plundering this most heinous of villains from the OT for impact, Abrams only did it because the Big Bad showgirl he was grooming in AWAKENS, Snoke, was killed off unceremoniously by Johnson. Johnson also turned Abrams’s charismatic Hitlerian dictator from AWAKENS, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), into a Dumbo Donald in JEDI, whom Abrams can’t quite write back into relevance. And wasn’t Kylo Ren also being groomed as a Big Bad in AWAKENS? Kylo is redeemed here in a poignant, bittersweet erection, but his arc would have achieved much more emotion had his Duck Side not been diluted by Palp’s pallid presence.
– – – – – S P O I L E R S – – – – –
Another good story/bad execution dichotomy – it’s something we never noticed as kids, but notice the lack of as adults: though it’s commendable J.J. reunites the main characters in the A-story, there is a noticeable lack of mature adult interaction between them. Everyone is a Just Friend! In the OT, George Lucas and his writers created a sexual tension love-triangle between Luke, C-3PO and R2-D2 (you thought I was gonna say, Luke, Leia and Han, didn’t you? Well, there was that as well…). Because for breeding-age adults, that’s all we think about. Because that’s all we are – gene-carriers/gene-spreaders for the planetary ecosystem. It’s why, in most action movies, when a man and woman run from danger together, it leads to sex. Because with their lives at stake, there is a subconscious fear that their genes won’t have the opportunity to spread. So – sex. For the planet.
So when RISE gives us male-female running-from-danger interactions left and right (Finn alongside a female ex-stormtrooper (Naomi Ackie), and Poe alongside a come-hither-eyed fellow female rogue (Keri Russell); not to mention the mad sexual tension electrifying Rey and Finn on their libido-laden runs), the filmmakers miss every opportunity to turn these one-dimensional action figures into real people by actually pairing them up as adult sexual beings.
For everyone racking their brains trying to find reasons why this movie fails to connect with them, I submit this overarching neglect as a major cause of the characters feeling vapid and non-relatable.
Finn simply deserts the trooperchick after they support each other in battle like spooning lovers (leaves her with a decrepit Billy Dee Williams, reprising his role as Creepy Lando, who looks like he’s going to Cosby her). Poe asks his rogue, “Can I kiss you?” She says No – and he backs away from that hotness like a whipped MeToo bitch with no Plan B. And every hug between Rey, Finn and Poe is Hips Apart For Jesus. How can viewers see “homosexual undertones” between Finn and Poe when no one is exhibiting any sexuality at all?
Rey and Kylo have been blue-balling it for three movies now (so we figure Rey has avoided touching tips with Finn to save it for her Sith boo), but as soon as Kylo gets to first base – he dies. We can’t have that erection poking into the Woman Empowerment. No Man Required to complete this Mary Sue! You go, Progressive Disney!
Remember in AWAKENS during one of Rey’s and Finn’s later hugs, when she held him tight with her eyes closed, melting into his arms, and the whisper of a smile crossed her face? At that point I thought, “Ah, she feels his groin awaken against her,” presuming the filmmakers were giving us subtle foreshadowing of the black-on-white Bantha-style to come… But here, at the end of the saga, with no one’s body defiled, we have to presume that what we thought was Rey’s little knowing smile was actually gas from the Mandalorian burrito she had earlier.
For a movie constantly gabbing about “family,” there is not one well-adjusted heterosexual couple in all of its star systems, yet Disney can’t stop patting itself on the back for apparently showing two lesbians kissing. I say ‘apparently’ because if I didn’t hear about it in the media storm of self-back-patting, I would never have known this scene existed – because I never saw it! And I was looking for it! It’s not even a “scene” – merely two extras somewhere amongst the mise en scene of a forest celebration, over in a corner somewhere, obviously still in the closet for all their secrecy. Are they even human females? If it was two female Gungalamabams, would Singapore, Dubai and Asia still ban this pointless, mundane, vanilla visual?
Poe’s female rogue actually asked him to accompany her when she fled her planet. He declined, to go fight the star wars. After the war, he motions her over, and she declines. Why did you ask him to join you in the first place? So you can Friend Zone him across the galaxy, you frigid cow? Poe shoulda bent that cock-tease over and given it to her so hard that many Bothans died.
Finn, who thinks he’s going to his death in sinking sands, shouts urgently to Rey that he “has to tell her something.” We all speculate it’s that he loves her. Because that’s how a man would be affected by that perfect-featured sweaty warrior goddess. Finn never does tell. And we never find out. Though it doesn’t matter if he craved her like the cream pie she is, Disney doesn’t do interracial couples. But they want us to know they are all onboard with the lezzos.
Remember when “fan service” was called storytelling? Every time something familiar pops up in this ninth STAR WARS entry, the sophisticates label it “fan service” and cross their arms in fear that they might enjoy themselves. But use that muscle memory from the opening theme, go back to that unstolen place, and be happy the storytellers are presenting you with something familiar from your youth, before you were broken inside.
You know what I’d love to see? Harrison Ford. Done. [Raspberries from the peanut gallery: “Fan service!!” So let me get this straight: you DON’T want to see Harrison Ford?] In the most touching scene of the movie, Ford (who hates STAR WARS more than you fans do) reprises his Solo (mayhaps to show a certain origin movie how it’s done?): “Kylo Ren is dead. My son is alive.” (My eyes. They quiver so…)
You know what else you all want to see? Luke (Mark Hamill) as a Force ghost. You want to see him effortlessly raise his X-wing from the tempest, coming full circle from the boy who “didn’t believe it” on Dagobah. You all want to see R2-D2 bloop his bloink. You all want C-3P0 to live, even with Babu brain damage. You want to see Lando and Chewbacca at the helm of the Falcon, like old times. You all want someone to say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” And yes, you even want Ewoks. And you all want to see those smooth-breasted cliff-cows on Ahch-To [bless you!] and fondle those rounded udders and nuzzle your face on them as you gently bite the—- okay, maybe that’s just me.
Palp, who claims all the Sith are in him, wants to kill Rey for fighting on the Light Side, or recruit Rey for being a princess of the Dark Side. His revelation that she is his granddaughter is not as horrific as imagining him gettin’ jiggy with some Balthusian nerf herder from the Dagobah system. (My eyes! I can’t unsee this!—) He warns Rey that even if she kills him, all his evil Sith energy will flow into her, making her transsexual. So he’s trying to kill her so that all her power will flow into him, keeping him gender fluid. The Force ghosts come out in force to ear-bang Rey with one-liners – Obiwan, Anakin, Yoda, a host of B-listers from the SW comics and cartoons, and even Qui-Gon!! (Sure, you all want to see everyone’s Force ghost, but paychecks and Force ghosts don’t mix well.) And Rey reminds Palp that though she is from a dark bloodline, all the Jedi are in her [dirty comment deleted], and blows Palpatine gloriously [innuendo achieved], with no repercussions of becoming evil, because logic mixed with Dark Side = magic who cares fuck you.
With no legacy players left to call family (Han died in VII, Luke died in VIII, Leia dies in IX, Lando has a heart attack trying to rufie his 23-year-old date), Rey returns to Uncle Owen’s and Aunt Beru’s moisture farm (ironically, a desert hole completely devoid of moisture, probably because Luke kept going into Toshi Station to pick up those power converters instead of actually doing his chores), and takes up the mantle of The Last Skywalker (because you can do that in a galaxy that has faster-than-light travel but not one shred of identification protocol).
This sprawling, gargantuan tale ends as it began all those decades ago, with an extremely pretty Skywalker gazing into a binary sunset, as the orchestra swell brings one last tear to our eyes… for a farmboy from our lost youth, for a life spent hating what we should have loved, for the new warriors we take away as Just Friends, for a lost girl who forges her own redemption in this final nail, and for the inoperable cornea damage of staring directly into two frickin’ suns.