Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The "Rise" of Skywalker... Oy

So, it's been a while since we touched on Star Wars, hasn't it? 

Assuming you skip out on any video reviews I might have uploaded along the way, I think I might've touched on anything related to the long-running franchise only a handful of times in the past year. And yes, outside of the video games that I've gotten along the way, I have not touched much of Star Wars as of late. But since we're talking about Star Wars today, I'd imagine most people would've expected something on the Mandalorian or one of the new upcoming series or maybe there's a new video game that I'm not playing and choosing to ignore.

Instead, I'm going to talk about The "Rise" Of Skywalker.

Note the quotations around the word "rise" and that one image of Mark Hamill looking stern - the same one used for my piece of The Last Jedi a couple years back - and think about that for a couple seconds before realizing that you have me all figured out. Then question where you're resigned with that thought and are left to either move on to something or click the break to learn more and perhaps be amazed by what the actual thought process is.

Ready to go?

The Rise Of Skywalker is the ninth episode in what has been dubbed "The Skywalker Saga" that has comprised the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and the divisive sequel trilogy. It is the entire story of the Skywalker clan from the days of Anakin Skywalker falling to the dark side of the Force to Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the Jedi and bringing his father back into the light to... to... well, what was the point of the sequels, anyway? Besides starting up another "cinematic universe" for Disney to rape and pillage like they've done with Marvel.

You know... it's been years since that movie came out and brought an end to the saga... okay, it only came in December 2019, but it felt like years. And I've only seen the film once or twice in that time and never in its entirety. In fact, it's been a good long while since I touched anything Star Wars beyond maybe a couple bits here and there. The occasional video game, novel, or comic book that I might pull out of my library on a whim is about the only things I'd pull out, but in terms of "new" material, the closest I'd get would be an hour's worth of Squadrons play after I got the game on a Steam sale and never looked back afterwards.

With my recent signing of Disney+ - yes, another money pit of a streaming service that I might drop in a month or so - I opted to re-watch the movies again for the first time. The "holy" trilogy, as some people have referred to it, is the most recent special edition thing where they added another stupid bit to that Greedo scene where he gets some last word in before shooting first or something. I skip the Ewok movies over to the prequels, which are about the same as I've remembered them being - an okay first chapter, a terrible second chapter, and a fine third chapter that made for a good game, at least. Some people would suggest that I'd doing the cool thing by "hating" on the prequels, but let me tell you folks something; I saw these movies first weekend in theatres with my older brother back in the day and I can tell you that we ragged on these movies LONG before it was the cool anything.

And then we get to The Force Awakens, which I recall enjoying when it first came out despite (or perhaps because of) its derivative nature. Something strange happened in this recent viewing and that was an absense of anything. I felt nothing watching this movie. I didn't react to the "funny" bits, I didn't react to the corny bits that is supposed to played seriously, I didn't even cringe at that one derpy Rey grin where she fixes everything. I was largely indifferent. I was painfully bored watching this film. And by the time it was over, I wasn't looking forward to watching the next chapter.

This one, unfortunate shot of a goofy Daisy Ridley grin defined an entire Star Wars trilogy.

Six years earlier, that was not the case. Six years earlier, I enjoyed the movie. Six years earlier, I was thrilled at watching a Star Wars movie that felt like a Star Wars movie and not a poor attempt at the worst Star Trek talkie bits. Six years ago, when that closing shot of Rey presenting that lightsaber to Luke Skywalker (who had the easiest job in the world this film and he pulled it off graciously), I was anxiously looking forward to what the next chapter would bring about. That's what I felt six years ago. That's what I felt every time I'd watch one of these Star Wars movies in the past. Even the fucking Clones movie.

This time... not so much.

In a strange way, there's almost a parallel between the two trilogies of Star Wars films that aren't the classic trilogy. You see the first movie and you appreciate some of its strong points while forgiving some of its weaker points... and then once the second movie comes along and sucks ass, some of that negative vibe leaks onto that earlier film and all of a sudden, that's also not a good movie. Phantom Menace had some problems; plot points that make no sense when you think about it, some questionable characters, and somewhat cringe-y dialogue among other things, but that Darth Maul dude was badass, the podracing bits are fun, you see the Jedis being complete dicks to little Annie and you're just waiting for the part where they all get killed off. All things considered, Phantom Menace was a better movie than people give it credit for, which isn't saying much, but still...

But then along comes Attack Of The Clones, which remains one of the worst Star Wars movies ever conceived. The weakest part of the film - the building of the relationship between little Annie and Padme - gets the most focus and it largely sucks. The overreliance of CGI made the whole thing seem fake and unimpressive. The climatic battle between the droids and the clones had little emotional investment to it. And that last battle between Count Dooku and Yoda with the lightsabers? An absolutely parody that was laughed out of the theatre. People LOVE that scene these days, but I was there opening weekend and the reaction then was decidedly different.

And so with such a negative reaction to Clones, you go back to watch Phantom and you realize that maybe it's not as good of a movie as you thought it was. Maybe the bits that impressed you the first time detracted you from the glaring flaws you missed out on the first time, such as the lack of emotional investment in any of these characters and their plight; most of whom will probably be dead before the end of the trilogy, if that. And perhaps that's why the prequels got such a bad rap; the first and third acts were fine, but that second act was wretched and ended up spoiling the whole thing.

In contrast, the original Star Wars is not what one would call a cinematic masterpiece if you're looking beyond the special effects and creature designs. The acting is decidedly amateurish, the plotting is somewhat spotty, and some of the dialogue can also be cringe-worthy. At the same time, however, you actually cared about the characters and their plight. And when Empire came out and turned out as well as it did, it only made you appreciate the little touches when you went back and watched that first film again. And watching that whole trilogy ended up being more of a rewarding experience.

So, by the time Revenge rolls around and starts to take steps to begin the transition to establish the playing field that we'd all be familiar with, you shrug and endure the lesser bits knowing that it'll all be gone by the end and that it'll be a spectacular ending that will lead to the birth of Darth Vader.

And then it happened... and we laughed.

This was it. The big payoff. The thing you were building towards all the times. The moment you were waiting for ever since you saw that first teaser poster for Phantom Menace. The thing that, no matter how bad the journey was, no matter bumpy the road was to get here, this was the moment that would make it worthwhile... and we laughed.

Maybe that's part of the reason why the prequels get a bad rap; you can forgive the many small bumps if the big payoffs nail it, but if that big payoff doesn't nail that sweet spot, the whole thing comes off as a total waste of time.

This recent sequel "trilogy" of Star Wars had that similar feeling... almost. The Force Awakens was fine for a new start that retreads on old territory, but The Last Jedi soured that film and offered nothing beyond a fancy looking film marred by our heroes looking completely stupid and the whole film coming off as a huge colossal waste of time, just so we can inject some global politics into this world of walking carpets, laser swords, and space wizards... thinking about it, maybe I should rethink that claim about Attack Of The Clones being the worst Star Wars movie, because at least that had a path it was heading towards and you still looked forward to that last chapter, whereas Last Jedi ended on a note where you didn't care about the next chapter.

Then I rewatched Clones, endured those horrible romantic scenes, groaned at some of the CG bits, and laughed at the big climax and thought "Nah. This is still worse."

And so when JJ Abrams was tasked with this final movie, dubbed The Rise Of Skywalker - funny considering they killed off Skywalker in the previous film and another was going to bite the dust due to real life and such - there was an attempt to try and undo everything that was done in The Last Jedi, which makes me wonder why that movie exists in the first place if they were going to undo everything. That's the thing that stuck with me about this trilogy; one film would introduce elements, another film would trash those elements in lieu of "new" elements, and the other film would trash the "new" elements and try to rehash the elements of the first film. It's as though the people behind Star Wars had no fucking clue on what to do with this trilogy beyond "money."

Right off the bat, the opening crawl talks about Emperor Palpatine still being alive and the opening scene has Kylo Ren seeking out the fallen Emperor on his Sith planet thing. Turns out that Palpatine was the puppetmaster in all these affairs and Snoke was a pawn in a grander game... which might be even more damaging to Snoke than killing him off in the Last Jedi because now you look back and think of this tall, imposing figure in the first movie of this trilogy, wonder how he's going to play into this grand scheme, and then you watch the last movie kill him off and this movie writes him off as a patsy. Why waste time on this character?

Meanwhile, on some forest planet that isn't Endor, Rey is doing Jedi training under Leia's tutelage. Leia is played by the late Carrie Fisher and a lot of the footage that features her is cut bits from the previous film. They didn't try to have some stunt lady on set and superimpose Carrie's face over her like they did with Tarkin in Rogue One. They obviously did some new stuff to fit in with the new movie and worked around the old footage so that it would fit. And then somewhere along the way during a pivitol moment, Leia dies in her sleep or something and... well, given the circumstances, there's not much they could do here, though I still maintain they should've given her the big sacrifice in the previous film instead of handing it off to... some new character nobody cares about.

A bunch of stuff happens in the middle, but the gist of it is that our heroes are looking for Sith Wayfinders and Sith Daggers that will lead them along a course that's in the script. And along the way, Rey learns from Kylo Ren via psychic Force talk that she is the grand-daughter of Emperor Palpatine and that she was abandoned to keep her from ol' Palpy's undead/unalive clutches... wow, that was a sudden revelation that was pulled out of someone's ass, almost as though nobody has a fucking clue what they're doing.

So after a duel with Rey on the ruins of the Death Star that sees him killed and healed, Kylo Ren is on the thing contemplating life or whatever when he sees Han Solo coming up to him. Yes, they not only managed to bring back Harrison Ford to film this one cameo, but they also made Han Solo one with the Force despite not being a Jedi. Once again, we get a retread of the conversion that the two had in The Force Awakens, except this time instead of killing Han, Kylo throws away his lightsaber and he's back in the light... just like that. Well, okay, I guess feeling your mother die will have an effect too, but still...

So they all go to this Sith planet where there's like a billion Star Destroyers flying around. Rey goes to confront the Emperor, they have a fight. The fleet shows up, they have fight. Some of them ride horses on one of the Destroyers to take out a tower or something. Lando's fleet shows up and they have fight. I'd convey my excitement if I had any, but all of these just comes across as lame. It's still be lame if Avengers: Endgame didn't do the exact same ending sequence, but at least that movie had something resembling a satisfying pay-off.

It's like when WWE promoted "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever" last year and it only turned out to be a fine little production that lost out in the Slammies to a cinematic presentation of the Boneyard... non-wrestling fans might not get this, but Lucasfilm clearly wanted this to be the granddaddy (or grandmommy, if you prefer) of all Star Wars battles. The biggest space battle, the biggest Jedi fight, all the fallen Jedi spirits voicing their support for Rey so that she'd deliver the final killing blow to Palpatine and the Sith Empire, which subsequently depowers and destroys the enemy fleet because sure, why not? And they failed miserably because I never felt so much as an ounce of emotion during this whole piece.

When all is said and done, Rey and Kylo get one last embrace and enjoy each other's company before Kylo dies and becomes one with the Force... and that's it, everyone. The last Skywalker is dead and Palpatine won after all because his granddaughter not only survives and becomes the "last" Jedi, but to add insult to injury, she takes the Skywalker name for herself and now a whole generation will grow up thinking she's part of the Skywalker clan when it's all a sham. A lie. A falsehood. And as far as everyone was at Lucasfilm was concerned, that's the last we'd hear of the Skywalker name.

And then Jon Favreau did Mark Hamill a solid and put him on the Mandalorian in a cameo as Luke Skywalker - significantly de-aged through digital technology, but feeling more like the Luke Skywalker of old, the Luke Skywalker who defeated the Emperor and brought Darth Vader back into the light. There was a part of me that wanted to be excited about Star Wars again and looking forward to the further adventures of Luke Skywalker... but I'm not. And I'm actually okay with that.

Look, I didn't care for The Last Jedi, but I didn't outright hate it. Sure, there was a lot of stuff in there that made me go "What?" or something, but there were also some aspects that I thought were intriguing and could've been explored better than what ended up on screen. And despite having felt like my time was wasted watching a movie where a whole bunch of nothing happened and the end of the movie left no strings to build on in the final chapter, I didn't completely swear off any future Star Wars.

With the Rise Of Skywalker, I lost interest in Star Wars going forward. Didn't care about whatever new stuff they were coming out with. Why bother giving a shit about all these series and movies filling the void when I know the end of the road is going to be an utter disappointment? I'd be much happier watching the old DVDs, reading the old novels and comics, playing the old games... hell, I actually found some of the old Star Wars radio shows that I've gone back and listen to a couple days before writing this post and man, those were a thrill. I'm in the same place with Star Wars that I am with video games, comics, and mainstream entertainment; fine with revisiting the old stuff, don't care for the new stuff.

Although I will admit... that Falcon and Winter Soldier miniseries was top-notch television.

At the same time, I'm not clamoring for a reversal where Lucas never sold the franchise and he made the sequels he had planned on making before life intervened. I mean, hindsight and all that says he probably shouldn't have sold it in the first place and delegated duties to someone else instead. Maybe that would've turned out better... but what's done is done. Never again will the worst things to talk about in Star Wars would be the constant debates over the prequels and complaining about the latest change Lucas made to the original trilogy in the latest re-release. Those days are long gone and they're never coming back... ever.

Quite frankly... nor should they.

When I originally started this commentary, I had it under the title "How The 'Rise' Of Skywalker Brought About The 'Fall' Of Star Wars". In hindsight, I'm not sure that's an appropriate title because the franchise itself shows no signs of slowing down. Given the plan that Disney has laid out, there's a good chance that cow will be milked for a good long time on that road to a galaxy far, far away. However, as far as I'm concerned, that journey is over. I've had my share of new Star Wars and quite frankly, nothing coming out of the woodworks is going to excite me. Not another series about clones nor that Kenobi show people are allegedly excited about. I think from this point on, I'll stick with the old stuff and for what it's worth, I'm content with that.

Yeah, I'm content with that.




So when is Disney+ uploading the Droids cartoon?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it real and keep it clean.