Dec 30, 2019

Roundtable: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

This is how the Cube ends the decade! With our...

Roundtable: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker


KARA: Overall I actually really liked it!! I actually felt like the characters are really what drove the story, which is how I like it I thought Rey and Ben's journeys of self-discovery were well done. Honestly this was the first time I gave any shits about Ben. It was a nice little redemption arc that he had. The only thing there is that I'm not at all a fan of the Reylo ship, and I stand by the opinion that their team up moment and Ben's sacrifice would've been stronger if they had formed more of a sibling bond a la Luke and Leia.

NOAH: There was a strong theme about there being no difference in the strength of family of lineage and family of orientation. I think that's an important message to send out to kids, and they did a good job of it. The pace of the flick was a little fast for me (especially after almost 4 hours of The Mandalorian), but it's forgivable. I wish R2-D2 had a little more screen time.

SAMANTHA: Overall, I liked it a lot. I'm looking forward to watching it all in succession (you'd think I would have done it before opening night, but nah).

BEN: I thought the first hour was a standard quest for a magic map, pretty blah. When they get to the wrecked Death Star the story finally got going. I never cared much for Poe or Finn, I’ve never felt the same connection between the new trio as I did the old. Poe and Finn seem too redundant for me, though I do like their friendship as a duo.

KATHERINE: Ben, did you hear Ahsoka?? Haha it was great to see how many Jedi voices made it into that final battle.

BEN: I did! Kanan too. But Rey and Kylo are this trilogy for me. Poe I actively dislike, and Finn started out good until he became redundant once plans to kill Poe off were changed. Finn got a new love interest in every movie, which I’ve never seen before.

KATHERINE: I feel like Finn’s main love interest in all three movies has been Poe. Haha they didn’t make it explicit (I understand the frustration that people have with not making it officially canon, but the Star Wars fandom is clearly full of toxic bros and they would’ve burst into flames) but they didn’t disprove it either... plus Oscar Isaac seemed to be trying his hardest to make them a full blown couple. I think Finn’s super protective of Rey like a brother, Rose was his foil that taught him the true extent of his potential and how to be the best version of himself, but him and Poe have always had this flirty little bantery spark. I really enjoyed their scenes together.

KARA: I will say that Finn and Poe clearly both arced at the end of The Last Jedi, so we didn't get to see anything of that in this movie. But it was really great to see them being at their resistance finest, and also getting to enjoy their deep friendship with Rey.

LaMAR: Got dragged to it and I wish I'd have stayed at home, but I enjoyed the Droids and CGI characters more than the actual people (Leia and Lando aside, Billy Dee Williams picked up where he left off and didn't miss a step). I did find it interesting how the movie ignored the last one where it could, and how it handles the best parts of the trilogy alongside highlighting all the problems it has. One thing that sticks out to me is this need to end things that sits at the core of the last three films. It's not only off-putting, but honestly it's sort of weird.

JD: Delightful. So-so movie yet a good Star Wars movie.I think the film up to Rey trying to hide on Ach-To was a better episode 8 than episode 8. Think about it. It would have ended with Kylo’s turn, a “Chewie’s alive!” moment, and Rey in exile still believing she killed Chewie.

MATT:  I think it was fine. Not great, not awful. Top 6 Star Wars film (Skywalker saga). I primarily think they could've gone with a 3 year gap and worked out some of the kinks in the story. It's pretty breakneck, so you never really stop and think about it. Yes, there is fan service stuff, lots of blink and you miss it stuff (they linger on Wedge long enough to put 2 and 2 together if you suspect it's happening).

JEFF: Finally saw it. It's a good movie, not great, and had some nice touches of nostalgia with Lando and Wedge in this one and the Jedi voices.

MATT: Mostly it just seemed kind of safe and lazy. I would echo some other critiques that they just tried to please too many fans, but I would add this spin: because they wanted to include the original trio, they really never fully developed the old trio. We got Rey and Finn development in the prior two movies, but Poe remains a weak link in this trio. He got something other than being an asshole to do, but he was mostly sizzle in the others and only a little steak (good pilots being a dime a dozen apparently). Additionally, I think the trilogy would probably have benefited from sacrificing cool things to see with a focus on the character development. Basically, cut down to an A and B plot (intertwining or converging at the end because that's what they do) and build up Kylo and Rey. We got hints of that in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. They kind of crushed it down in this one.  I may be a little down on the film, but I did like many parts of it. Particularly the opening scene of Ren on Exegol. That worked well and connected with the arc.


BEN: The only thing I liked about The Last Jedi was the connection between Rey and Kylo, and that was solidified in this one. My favorite stories outside of the movies have involved characters that don’t strictly walk the path of the light or dark, so I always found the two of them forging their own path to be the most intriguing idea. I didn’t ship them after the last one, but I did in this one.

SAMANTHA: Ben and Rey... it was weird, but to ride off of what Antonio had said when we were discussing it, they'd had that odd sexual tension from The Force Awakens, so. Okay.

KATHERINE: I’m not much of a Reylo shipper either, but they do have a very compelling bond... I was also hoping they’d ultimately be more of a brother/sister bond, but I must admit they did end up having a certain chemistry together that would’ve made that creepy. Haha. I wouldn’t have been for them actually having a relationship, but him healing her, sharing one kiss and then him dying actually ended up feeling perfect. I always thought the only way he could be redeemed was to sacrifice himself, so maybe that was predictable but it was satisfying and felt right. And there was something really beautiful about Leia’s spirit seeming to wait for him before disappearing with him together to become one with the force.

KATHERINE: Also, did you guys catch all the little mannerisms he had that seemed to echo Han Solo once he became Ben again? Someone pointed it out online and they’re so subtle but great. Most notable is the little shrug he does when he’s fighting off the Knights of Ren. Also, I had full blown tears when he talked to Han again. “Dad...” “I know.” 😭

JEFF: I was very surprised to see Han's ghost. I don't think Harrison Ford comes back to do that if Carrie Fisher was still alive.

SAMANTHA: Tying Ben Solo's exit to his parents (like Leia stayed long enough to cross him over with her) was so bittersweet. It mirrored the way Carrie and her Mom passed, so maybe it felt more poetic to me than it actually was.

BEN: But I was also hoping Ben would get to live, but like Dark Phoenix, he had done too much to not pay for his crimes.


SAMANTHA: Wrapping up Leia's arc was painful for me because a) she's no longer with us and b) they had bigger plans for her and the way they worked it out felt a little disjointed. I loved the way they addressed the whole "How did Leia save herself in space when she's never used the force!?" cries. Of course she trained with Luke, of course she was meant to be a Jedi. It makes sense to think it took place off screen during all the years that passed. I guess folks just needed to see it. I'd love to see what others thought of it, because it was sensical and satisfying to me. Her death, however... I really would have loved to see Leia go down in a blaze of glory as opposed to the whisper it was. But then again, that's how Carrie left, wasn't it? It was somehow oddly quiet and not at all the way we thought it would be.

BEN:  I was worried the end of Leia’s story would be a mess of editing old footage to force in an unplanned death, but it ended up coming together really nicely and beautifully. Her sacrificing herself to finally get through to Ben was perfect.

TANYA: With Carrie Fisher's untimely passing I always longed for a Ben/Leia heart to heart.

MATT: Yeah, I can definitely have seen him getting a force ghost Leia visit if she had been around.

LaMAR: Do you guys think that was Leia's doing, or Ben's?

JEFF: I think that was Leia, probably took everything she had to bring Han back like that

BEN: I think it’s unfortunately a byproduct of Carrie’s passing, as she couldn’t have a more substantial conversation with him. They probably would have still brought in Harrison somehow. The part that got me was Chewbacca’s reaction to Leia. (Typing that sentence makes me really weird.)


BEN: Of course all the good stuff is erased by the mental image of Palpatine having sex. When I first saw the Emperor was going to be in this one, I thought it was another desperate ploy for nostalgia, but it ended up adding a needed through line for the entire series, making it about the rise and final eradication of this ultimate threat. I was watching The Force Awakens again, and she has the same saber fighting style as Palpatine, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that was always the plan. I never hated the idea she wasn’t a legacy character, but if they were going to make her one, this works better than her being some secret Skywalker. I had Rey’s “nobody” reveal spoiled for me in the previous movie, and the Palpatine reveal spoiled in this one. Subsequently, neither of those reveals bothered me that much. .

KATHERINE: I think it’s a more interesting, different, equalizing idea that she was nobody and the power can come from anywhere, but it also didn’t bother me that she was a Palpatine. Maybe because that felt consistent with general Star Wars mythology, considering how the entire original and prequel trilogies were about how the Skywalker family was intertwined with Palpatine / the Sith. I wasn’t offended by either route

MATT: The stronger choice is no one. The weak one being lineage. A twist would be Palps taking a page from his master and creating life.

ANTONIO: My big theory had been that Rey was a clone of Palpatine, and that in the third movie he’d be coming for what he figured was rightfully his. I was pretty close.

MATT: This is an interesting option.

BEN: How could she be a clone of him, you idiot?

ANTONIO: She’d be a test tube baby, obviously! Gave himself some male and female skinsuit options!

BEN: So how do we know Palpatine died this time?

MATT: He went full Raiders of the Lost Ark. works on Nazis and Sith!

KATHERINE: It’s the rule that if you fall from a great distance / down a big hole but the audience doesn’t actually see a dead body (either dead with eyes open or watch it crumble and disintegrate), they’re not dead!

BEN: I may be letting the old comics influence me, but I think we’re supposed to assume that Palpatine clones himself. So why would he be gone this time?

MATT: They erased so much of the EU, no way Dark Empire survived.

BEN: Then how is he alive???

MATT: Sith spirits. He killed the Sith who could create life from nothing, must’ve picked up some tricks. That or horcruxes

BEN: So they could recreate him?

MATT: I think it would surprise no one that the Sith like to bone down. And/or he just copied from his masters playbook and caused life to exist creepily.

BEN: They are fueled by their passion.


TANYA: A lot of reviews I've seen said this movie made them question whether they ever liked Star Wars. Another said they wished they never asked for more Star Wars. Has a fan base ever really reacted like this before? Neverending Story was a watershed movie of my childhood. I hated the sequel, but that doesn't mean I don't love the original or my feelings have changed 'cause the sequel sucked badly.

BEN: It’s become quite sad. Sci-fi and fantasy used to be something that united people, signaled to each other a kindred spirit. Now we separate into imaginary lines of quality

TANYA: I never understand people who say a movie ruined their childhood.

MATT: I do think it’s too much Star Wars too fast, so you let people realize that things were never perfect a lot faster. That being said, the movie was still largely entertaining and had some good visuals. The story is just a mess

BEN: Lucas famously hated The Force Awakens, and it was likely because it rehashed his movie. Say what you want about the prequels, but he didn’t remake the originals.

MATT: True. He did not. And that is why he failed. Now that I’m 1.5 hours out of the movie,

BEN: They could have been good, if someone else did a second draft of those scripts

MATT: Second draft would’ve cut the bacteria-induced force powers and possibly made Episode 1 less racist. Like a 12% chance of the second.

BEN: Considering his plan for the last three involved diving deep into the whills, probably not on the space bacteria.

MATT: God, just no. He has kids, he knows that you can create something, but once it’s out in the world, you can’t control it. No matter how many times you’re tired of reading the same books over and over or something generally applicable to other people.

TANYA: I've always felt the problem with the prequels are that we don't need the first two films. Who cares about child Anakin? We just need the third film, Revenge of the Sith.

BEN: I was far more interested in the idea of Vader hunting down all the Jedi.

TANYA: I would have liked an Obi-Wan Kenobi backstory over what we got.

BEN: But yeah, we didn’t need kid Anakin. It makes the Padme romance weirder, and child actors are so hit or miss. The only reason I can think of for why he did it that way is because of his Jedi training rules, that he invented.

MATT: The prequels suffered from knowing where they ended and then just muddling the execution with spectacularly odd choices, bad dialogue and a wooden Anakin. And now I’m mentally tagging all the Return of the Jedi references in Rise of Skywalker. Man, they really did trip to crib as much as possible from the original 3. Maybe this whole trilogy learned the wrong lesson from the prequels. That lesson was take George’s galaxy, but ignore many of his ideas.

BEN: Which I now realize, why wouldn’t they welcome in any force sensitive being, regardless of age? Would they rather them get seduced to the dark side out in the world? Not even one of the top incompetencies of the Jedi council, unfortunately.

KATHERINE: That’s a thing I loved about The Last Jedi, that they called out the inadequacies and failures of the Jedi and questioned whether it all needed to be abolished and rebuilt from scratch, and then they literally burned it down. I can see how that would be controversial if you really need to see that world in black and white, but it was bold and it’s true with what we had seen in the prequels especially. My favorite scene was Yoda burning down the ancient texts and telling Luke how important it is to grow and learn from failure - “Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm… but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes: failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

BEN: It’s probably the scene I liked best from that movie.

KATHERINE: I’ve liked all of the new trilogy, and also enjoyed them all more on the second viewing. For whatever reason these movies suffer from a high burden of expectation and anxiety perhaps more than other franchises. I’ve found the second time watching is easier to sit back, have fun and enjoy what it is. And to be fair I felt the same way about Infinity War and Endgame because of all the expectation and anxiety around them.

BEN: Me joining the Rey and Kylo shipping wagon makes me want to try The Last Jedi again. But I’m also really interested in sticking to my “only watch it once” streak.

JEFF: The Last Jedi doesnt get better with a second viewing, though skipping all the Rose and Finn scenes helps.

KARA: I did walk away with some questions (about how the Force works, for instance) and had a few qualms here and there, but I still had a great time watching it. It did seem to ignore a lot of what happened in The Last Jedi, only a few quiet character things survived... and honestly my assumption there is that it was a response to fandom's disappointed outcry (to which I honestly say "boohoo cry more"). I would've loved to see more of Rose and Finn interacting, but alas. Thanks, fanboys.

BEN: Rose getting sidelined was unfortunate. I didn’t hate or love her, but it’s hard not to feel like a bunch of fanbabies won on that front.

LaMAR: I just found out recently that people actually believe Lucas was some mastermind that planned all of this stuff out to be the way it was, I always thought it was clear that he was winging it.

BEN: The originals had just as much inconsistency between movies as these did, we just view them as gospel. Vader was not Luke’s father in the first draft of Empire, Anakin even appears as a force ghost. Obviously, Leia was never his sister. Vader was a minion in the first movie. Part of this is the fiction perpetrated by George that he wrote the whole saga in one long script that he then had to divide into ninescripts. The difference is that none of them worked so hard to completely erase a prior movie

JEFF: Lucas said he wrote one movie that was too long, he took the first have and it was Star Wars, he said he hoped to come back to do the rest if it was successful. The interview was on the THX editions on the original trilogy, he wrote the one script and some backstory but there was never 9 scripts. I think the only thing that got changed was Leia being Luke's sister.

BEN: The first draft of Empire had Anakin’s force ghost talking to Luke.

RICH: Yeah, it's obvious he had nothing planned out. In the various early scripts of A New Hope, Leia and Luke were different ages, Darth Vader and Luke's dad were very clearly separate individuals, Han Solo was a lizard, Luke was an old man, Luke was a young girl, Mace Windu was a main character, and so forth.

MATT: I was rewatching Empire and was refreshed by how humorous it is. It’s broad and for kids, but you laugh with the cast and not really at them, C3PO excepted. In the new trilogy, it is you laugh more at the characters than the situation. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. It’s definitely a comment how broad audience movies have changed their comedic approach in the last 30 years. People can like what they like, it doesn’t affect my appreciation or ruin my experience.

KATHERINE: It’s bizarre to me to see the reactions where people who hated Last Jedi loved Rise of Skywalker and how it “fixed” its predecessor, then people who loved Last Jedi hated Rise of Skywalker and how it ignored its predecessor. Such a weird rift in the fandom what makes me wonder how they could have possibly made everyone happy.

MATT: A movie cannot serve two masters. Look to the next generation of fans, not mine or the one before me. We'll be there regardless of reviews (largely).

KATHERINE: But the critical divide makes sense to me because Last Jedi was attempting to be different and a departure from the original trilogy (especially with how it handled Luke), which critics love but is part of what pissed off a bunch of fans. Then critics come down hard on more purely popcorn movies that lean a lot on nostalgia, which is probably what those same fans wanted and expected. I feel like I’m in the weird minority that enjoyed them both for what they are (movies!), but I’ve also never taken Star Wars so seriously and had it define my identity, so I don’t take any of it personally. Star Wars fandom seems unique in that some people really take it like a religion.

BEN: George had been actively making even the good movies worse for 20 years now, and after the prequels I won’t get thrown by a bad Star Wars movie for very long.

KATHERINE: Also, I don’t know what your experiences have been online, but personally it’s been super annoying to see every comic and movie blog on my FB feed literally alternating headlines about how “Rise of Skywalker saves/honors/redeems all of Star Wars” with headlines about how “Rise of Skywalker insults/dumbs down/destroys all of Star Wars.” Sooo much clickbait tailored to appeal to all kinds of nerd rage. It’s just so extreme in both directions which feeds into all the weird toxic discourse about how it’s definitively one or the other and anyone who disagrees is not a real fan.

LaMAR: Right, if it was all about fandom these people would welcome others and be open to learn more, as well as help others learn more about what they all love. It's increasingly more difficult to pretend that's what it's about.

MATT: We forget that people are the worst

BEN: I saw a fan comment that “real cinema fans” understand and love The Last Jedi. Quality aside, a movie that has Luke sucking blue milk from a space cow is for the real “cinema” fans?

TANYA: What this shows is filmmaking by committee equals a crappy movie. I felt like this trilogy nobody had an idea of where this was going. They didn't have a complete arc for most of the characters. Unfortunately I think there is something to having one unified vision. I think that's why the Marvel films were successful despite having different directors.

BEN: Ideally at least one person should have a plan.

TANYA: Are the Jedi still monks? Are parts of the prequels still canon? I felt like this wasn't really addressed in the new trilogy. I think it sucks to be a Jedi if you can't fall in love or have to remain a virgin for the rest of your life.

KATHERINE: I feel like they are still supposed to be monks with no attachments, which is why they didn’t go with the EU route where Luke had a wife and kids.

BEN: I don’t know if sex was ever explicitly defined, but the Jedi forbade attachments. So casual encounters might be okay. But the Jedi were wrong about most everything, and considering Luke and Rey were given strength by their friendships, they probably wouldn’t be as strict on that to their pupils

ANTONIO: I don’t think the Jedi have to be monks. It’s probably a rule someone made up a long time ago and few really argued the point because padawans were normally trained from an early age. Rey and Ben were stronger together, obviously, even to the point of using the Force in new and inventive ways.

KATHERINE: There probably isn’t really any way to enforce “rules” now that they’re post Order 66 and there is no more Jedi council, it’s like, just Luke and a handful of failed students. I liked the idea of burning down the old school texts because now theoretically the future generation can build what it needs to be without living by any arbitrary outdated laws.

MATT: If the prequels teach us anything it’s that the Jedi are kind of bad. Not take over the galaxy and enslave Wookiees, but ignore Hutt slavery bad.

TANYA: Anybody else feel that we could have used more of Keri Russell?
BEN: But then we would have missed out on all that Poe wonderment

MATT: It took me a while to recall it was her. I enjoyed her character, but it irritated my observation of the lack of actual character development for the triad

BEN: I was being sarcastic about Poe, if that wasn’t clear.


TANYA: Big question. How would you rank the saga?

BEN: 5, 6, 7, 3, 4, 9, 1, 2, 8.

MATT: I would rank 5, 4, 8, 6, 7, 9, 1, 3, 2.

BEN: If we’re including the spinoffs, than I rank Rogue One first

MATT: Yeah, and Solo so low?

BEN: Solo is in the middle. I liked it better the second time.

LaMAR: Rogue One is the Winter Soldier Star Wars film. There isn't anything wrong with it from end to end for the most part and on its own merit it's a helluva movie.

TANYA: My ranking is 4, 7, 3, 6, 9, 5, 8, 1, 2.

BEN: Not an Empire fan?

TANYA: I just can't dig it like other people.

MATT: Clones vs. Menace was hard for me. I just can’t get over I have to skip 30 minutes of the movie because the “romance” is so awful. Portman sold loving a doofus in the 2010s. She has the chops if the writing and directing are there.

BEN: The Maul fight is the difference for me.


BEN: So what would you do with Star Wars going forward? The Marvel model? Focus on contained stories on Disney+ like The Mandalorian? Finn and Poe solo projects? Personally, I think they need to go further into the future. No more relying on the past or telling stories of the past.

KATHERINE: I saw Jon Chu is advocating for a Rose Tico series on Disney+! I would love to go into her past with her sister and show the impact of all these wars on the working class worlds. I’d be totally into a nonpowered heroes show about how the spark of the rebellion inspires the normal people on the ground. It can all culminate in the regular folks answering Lando’s call at the end of Rise of Skywalker.

BEN: That doesn’t sound like an Ahsoka series.

JEFF: I'd like to see them use Disney+ to focus on the post RotJ years, creation of New Republic, Rogue Squad, fringe elements like The Mandalorian. As for movies either far into the future or long into the past, perhaps the first Jedi or begining of the Jedi Order

MATT: If they want that sweet merchandizing money, TV shows. But yeah, they need to get away from the historic time if they want space to try new things. Since they junked 95% of the EU, I don’t think the Marvel model is viable.

JD: I’d like the films to go way forward or way back in the time line. Also, give Favreau and Filioni free reign on Disney+.

BEN: The one exception I’d make is a Darth Vader movie.

MATT: To what end though? Murdering Jedi?

KATHERINE: Weren’t the prequels all Darth Vader movies? Haha. I’m definitely excited for the Obi Wan series.

ANTONIO: Going forward? Mayfield’s Marauders show on Disney+. I hate giving Bill Burr work, but maybe he can get punched in the face each episode and that’ll be our compromise. Keep the movies to one-and-done “A Star Wars Story” concepts like Rogue One and Solo.

MATT: There are a couple of gaps left by having them be in the novels. But I still think leaving the Skywalkers behind and going into the future gives the stories the best chance to breathe. It’s the same advice Paramount ignores when I offer unsolicited Star Trek advice.


MATT: I think the last line would've been better as "Just Rey"

BEN: I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself with first and last name, except in formal settings. It’s a nitpick of mine in fiction. It’s extremely hard to balance nostalgia with something new, especially if you include some of the most iconic heroes ever created. I was thinking about this with Last Jedi, narratively they almost had to make Luke a spineless coward hiding on an island, because if he joins the fight, he immediately steals the movie away from the new characters. He’s that iconic.

MATT: In a way, Carrie dying could have freed them from that. I can understand not doing it because then their option was basically real-life fridging. But 60 year olds aren’t 20 year olds. I would compare to the extinct EU books, but those had dozens of titles of extreme variation in quality to establish and grow characters. The original was classic "hero with a thousand faces" storytelling. Did the new trilogy learn from it or copy enough to not get caught totally plagiarizing (The Force Awakens excepted)?

KARA: It did feel very much like closing the book, and personally I found it really satisfying. The final shot of the movie really brought that home for me.

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