I still haven’t fully processed all of my opinions about Rise of Skywalker yet. I disliked a bunch of things about it. I think they made a lot of bad, predictable, and safe choices and were feeling really burned by The Last Jedi but took away entirely the wrong lessons. Despite that, I still had fun in the theater, and I was able to sit back and enjoy the absurdity without deeply caring about it, but the longer I’ve thought with it and looked back on it, the less I’ve liked it. These thoughts aren’t entirely gelled yet, but I guess that’s not any worse than the movie.
This comparison was made to Endgame. Rise of Skywalker’s last minute save is particularly even more egregious, because not only is it forced, but Leia has been asking for the rest of the galaxy to join this fight for two whole movies, and it takes Lando to convince people to show up.
I think it’s interesting that almost all of my issues with The Last Jedi were in the execution, not the core premises, and the things that Rise of Skywalker “fixed” were almost entirely core premises.
Remarkably, I still think Rian Johnson is a great filmmaker and I respect his conviction, despite the train wreck that The Last Jedi was, and even though he’s doubled down on some of his bad choices. I don’t disagree with the intent behind them, I just think he doesn’t have a vision for how to portray those particular choices that meshes with my opinion of what makes a good movie. The Holdo maneuver scene was breathtaking. And yet also hamfisted, telegraphed a mile away, and completely out of place with everything we know about how space travel works in this universe. Not one of Holdo’s character choices makes sense in a Star Wars movie.
I think it was a mistake to make this a trilogy. They could have easily made Rise of Skywalker be two films and taken some extra time to clean up the structure. A lot of elements of it are forced into place and are only there to “wrap things up” at the expense of the story. But even thinking that, at the end of it all, I’m still relieved that the trilogy is over, because the entire thing is a mess and has been a gigantic waste of all of our time. Now that it’s finished, we can all stop talking about it as the elephant in the room, and I hope pick up the space for more interesting stories instead of the mainline. I think that strong mainline is an illusion, covered up by the fact that deviations from it have sucked, not that they were bad because they were deviations. I think deviating from “classic Star Wars” is a narrative choice that they make because people get upset when they deviate badly from it. But that’s because when they have done so, it’s largely been in bad ways. That’s different from all deviations being bad, and I think they’re confusing the two.
This deleted scene could have been used as the root of an actual fifth column within the First Order, and been an actual plot line that helped them win the war instead of just the stupid single Hux spy gag. Or they could have faked it out with that, killed Hux and thought they’d eliminated the spy, only to find that there was a whole organization of them. Maybe this would even have tied into the troopers that had escaped. But it’s never even hinted at.
And that’s the crux of it. I could go on with details about mistakes I think they made, but it amounts to the same thing: Finn’s entire character is wasted, the same way every character in this entire trilogy is wasted. No one has any connection to the larger story in any meaningful way, it’s just some things that happen. We shouldn’t be having this discussion – Star Wars movies should be the best of the entertainment we have. Their stories should be coherent. Their plots should matter, even if that import is only to the characters in the universe itself. We should care about what happens because the characters care. The characters should have meaningful and self-consistent motivations. We shouldn’t walk out of the theater muttering to ourselves about things that made no sense. Great entertainment still exists. Star Wars deserves better than this, and we deserve better than this.