Disney wisely chose to observe what has become an annual tradition of celebrating the Star Wars universe to release the last of the Skywalker series, The Rise of Skywalker on their Disney+ streaming video service. The movie debuted to mixed reactions from fans and critics. There were plenty of think pieces arguing over the faults in the narrative and the ending of the iconic series, and one would expect no less for something that has become as polarizing as the Star Wars series.
Jason Morehead wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago.
I was recently discussing Star Wars with some friends, and one of them remarked that nobody hates Star Wars as much as Star Wars fans. We had a good laugh at that, but he was right — and it’s not only true for Star Wars, but also for any nerdy pop culture property with a decent following. We love to tear down the things we love because they don’t live up to our (unrealistic) expectations, or betray a nostalgia-influenced sense of how it “should” be, or introduce elements we could do without — and on the reasons go.
One of the most common criticisms of the final installment in the series that resonated particularly with me was constraining those with force-sensitivity to the members of a couple of dynasties. If Rian Johnson did anything right with the previous movie, it was setup an ending that teased the imagination with the possibilities of new characters becoming in tune with the force. New heroes potentially emerging that didn’t have to come from any particular lineage. The democratization of the force was a welcome addition as the series began to draw to a close. Unfortunately, in the last movie, JJ Abrams decided to jettison those notions in favor what had worked for the series all along for most of its history. As ridiculous as it sounds, only a few chosen people could access the cosmic force that tied all life together.
What you won’t find in JJ Abrams vision, though, is a need to bend a story cobbled together from ancient narratives to the spirit of the age. You won’t find a galaxy populated by deeply flawed men who need to be saved by women who share, quite literally, not a flaw amongst them. There are no long and laborious sidebars admonishing the viewer that wealth is a gateway drug to wanton hedonism. The attempts to pander to modern sensibilities in Johnson’s The Last Jedi are so obvious to the naked eye that they barely merit any scrutiny. Not so with Abram’s apparent intention to continue a series that spoke first and foremost to its fans. The only pandering you will find in the final movie is to those who have been adherents of the series’ mythology.
So, while movie criticism is a wonderful way of deconstructing the stories we observe on our screens, sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy an adventure with characters we can admire and villains we can root against. You can appreciate closure for a saga that has become a cultural institution. You can marvel at the visual affects and the fantastic worlds that Abrams so skillfully makes seem real.