There is a sentiment among some Star Wars fans that The Rise of Skywalker has a long road ahead of it to “win back” fans that were jaded after The Last Jedi. While some of that might be true (and I have held that opinion myself in the past), I’ve come to realize that it’s extremely over-exaggerated. In fact, not only does it not need to win back Star Wars fans, it has a very short list of things it needs to accomplish.
Actually, I can whittle it down to just three things it needs to do. I believe that if it can tick off all three of these boxes, it will do just fine for the fans and as a catalyst for more Star Wars films in the future.
“Only three things?” you say. “But The Last Jedi ruined everything! This movie has to retcon the entire thing!”
No, it didn’t; and no, it doesn’t.
I haven’t kept it a secret that The Last Jedi is not among my favorite Star Wars films (but we’ll talk about that more on episode 2 of the podcast). But I will come out and say right now that The Rise of Skywalker does not need to “fix” anything.
So what does the final entry in the Skywalker saga need to do exactly? Well, it’s pretty easy.
A Fitting End for Leia
Princess Leia has become almost messaianic in Star Wars. This is certainly true within the saga itself, as an apparently powerful if untrained Force sensitive (where have we heard that before?) who has not only delivered the Rebellion from the hands of the Empire, but also took up the mantle to deliver the Resistance from the First Order. It’s also true within the fandom, given the reality that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.
And, for good or bad, the end of the Skywalker saga apparently has to be told with the death of all the core characters of the Original Trilogy. So this appears to be Leia’s curtain call. Maybe her death would have been better served at that one particular moment in The Last Jedi, but it didn’t happen that way.
All that really matters at this point is that Leia’s final story is one that matters, one that fits her character. I don’t know what I want that to be exactly. I would like her death to be one that ensures the downfall of the First Order, the death of the Emperor, or the certainty of the future of the Republic and/or the Jedi. Or maybe a combination of all three. But whatever it ends up being, it has to be fit for a princess.
End the Past, But Don’t Kill All of It
“Let the past die, kill it if you have to.“
It seems like some form of wisdom on the part of Kylo Ren. But really, the past is important. I don’t want The Rise of Skywalker to burn bridges just because they’re a part of the past. Here I’m specifically thinking of characters that may meet their end.
This trilogy was supposed to be a passing of the torch. I totally understand and appreciate that. But I don’t think that has to mean characters need to die just for that reason. A baton can be passed without the runners having to die in the process!
As we already discussed, Leia is most likely not alive by the end of this movie. I suppose that’s not set in stone, and there may be ways to accomplish things without her death. But it’s one that just makes sense at this point, and I’ve come to terms with that. But characters like Chewie, R2-D2, C-3PO, Lando…I fear these characters are in danger as well.
There’s really not a good reason that all of these characters need to die or be destroyed. Threepio appeared to be in some peril in the final trailer, but I don’t necessarily think that means he’s in mortal danger. Lando and Chewie? Artoo? The Falcon, for that matter? I don’t believe they all have to die or sacrifice themselves to put a period on the end of the Skywalker story.
A Solid Start for a New Future
Just to address this right away: I don’t expect a New Jedi Order to be established in this movie, I don’t expect to even see the First Order (or the new Empire, or whatever it will be called with Palpatine’s return) surrender, and I don’t expect a New (New) Republic to be established.
I do, however, believe there needs to be a path forward established. Of the characters that survive this story (and I do believe Rey, Finn, and Poe will be among those), what will their story be going forward? Whether or not those stories get told on film or on page, I think something should at least be mentioned. I’m okay with quick dialogue in passing. I’m okay with a visual clue.
While this is the end of one story, it also has to be the beginning of another. Rey, Finn, Poe, and company can’t end here with everything else. Give us some indication of what they’ll be up to next.
I’m incredibly excited for The Rise of Skywalker. I will always be excited for new Star Wars content. I think that’s part of the point here. Star Wars fans will always be Star Wars fans in some form or fashion. This movie doesn’t have to carry that on its shoulders.
What it does have to carry is how to end one of the most iconic stories ever told on screen, and how to do that in a way that allows new stories to be told beyond those final credits.