It’s been said a lot: “The Rise of Skywalker is a course correction of The Last Jedi.”
“JJ slapped Rian Johnson in the face.”
And, of course, if adults on Twitter say these things, they must be true. Right?
***SPOILER WARNING from here on out***
I want to get one thing out of the way before we really dive into this: I have been vocal about my general feelings on The Last Jedi. It’s not my favorite Star Wars movie. (Tune into this week’s podcast when we reveal our film rankings to find out just where it falls in our lists!)
Read into that what you will. But for me, my attitude toward The Last Jedi has actually improved post-TRoS. Seeing how these things played out over the long run has put things into perspective. It sits better for me now. So while TLJ is still not my favorite Star Wars movie of all time, I can appreciate it more now than I could two years ago. So it wasn’t a course correction that helped me. It was seeing how everything was supposed to unfold.
So now the nitty gritty. And let’s begin with the obvious: Rey’s origins.
We all know the big twist in TLJ by now: Rey is a nobody, from drunk parents that didn’t care. And if you’ve seen TRoS, you know how that plays out now. On the surface, this very much feels like a course correction. And if you never bother to go deeper into what’s really going on, you’ll arrive at that conclusion.
But consider this: the Dark Side lies. It twists words, it twists emotions, it twists feelings, and it can twist visions. Kylo Ren saw a part of Rey’s past, and maybe he saw what he wanted to see. Possibly he saw a part of a vision and ran with it. Whatever the case, the information he had was incomplete. TRoS takes that vision, and gives him the rest of the puzzle pieces to make it all fit.
And let’s not forget, Kylo Ren isn’t the only one that misinterprets a vision in TLJ. Rey does as well. Rey sees that Kylo Ren will turn back to the light, and she assumes that his defeat of Snoke is the fulfillment of that vision. It obviously was not, and her vision is also not fulfilled until the events of TRoS.
Furthermore, I think it fully completes Rey’s arc. Throughout The Force Awakens, she has this idea that she’s somebody, that she matters. That’s shattered in TLJ, and she finds out she’s nobody. Finally, in TRoS, she must be absolutely devastated to find out that she’s worse than nobody – she comes from the greatest evil the galaxy has ever known. If TLJ establishes the idea that bloodlines don’t matter (which it really doesn’t, but that’s another blog post for another day), then that has never been more important than right now. Because if bloodlines do matter, then Rey is already lost.
But moving on. Time to talk about Luke.
I absolutely adore Luke’s role in TRoS. From the catching of the lightsaber to the raising of his X-wing, this is the Luke I know and love. He believes again. And just like with Rey’s parentage, if you aren’t thinking critically about these things, it feels like a very different Luke than what we got in TLJ.
But that’s the point!
“I was wrong.” He knows this now. He knew it at the end of TLJ. And if the lesson of TLJ is that failure is the greatest teacher, we should expect Luke to catch that lightsaber. We should know that he would teach Rey to treat it with respect. His failure taught him where he went wrong. It taught him that these things are important, that they do matter, that the Jedi should not end.
That’s not a course correction at all! That’s his natural character shining through. He’s no longer lost as he had been the previous seven years. He’s now come to terms with his failure and is ready to correct it and grow beyond it.
Let’s end with Rose Tico.
I never hated her character. She felt a bit unnecessary, I’ll admit that. But her positivity and optimism can be a welcome addition when a lot of this trilogy can be quite dark and even depressing.
There’s no denying that her screen time was greatly reduced in TRoS. It seems the official explanation for this is that she was meant to have some pretty big scenes with Rey and possibly Leia, which unfortunately didn’t work out because of the obvious hurdles with completing those scenes. Other people with decidedly less first-hand knowledge of how this all played out will tell you it happened to appease “fans.” That’s a bunch of maclunkey and I hope we all know it.
But while her role in TRoS wasn’t as front and center as it was in TLJ, her character’s role within the Resistance is quite the opposite. She’s been promoted to Commander. She has a central role in developing technology and countering the First Order in hyperspace tracking. So that stuff that happened in TLJ – her role is to make sure it can’t happen again. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the reason the Resistance has survived in the year since the events of TLJ can be attributed in some major way to Rose Tico.
Could that have been explained better on-screen? Sure. Could she have had some more screen time? Sure. Just as with TLJ, there are things in this movie that didn’t really have to be there, and could have saved some other time for things like this. However, there was also a ton of stuff to cover in 2 hours and 20+ minutes, most of which had to deal with the core group of characters. Rose is not one of those, no matter how you want to cut it.
I’ll say again what I said on Twitter after my first viewing of this movie: The Rise of Skywalker is not perfect. It has its own set of flaws, just like every other Star Wars movie we’ve ever watched. But let’s not make it something it’s not, and it’s not the antithesis of The Last Jedi. In many ways, it picks up the same beats that were in The Last Jedi and further explains them, gives them more context, and makes them complete.
And for me, it’s still the perfect way to end this trilogy.