The Rise of Skywalker
There was no way that I would miss seeing what was billed as the conclusion of the Star Wars series. Particularly because of the intriguing title. Luke was dead, sacrificing himself as had his first mentor Obi-Wan—would he be resurrected?
One of the movie’s strong points is a surprise-filled plot line, which obligates me to be scrupulous in avoiding spoilers, despite the comment some of them merit. Another plus is the film’s finding ways to play on some of the tropes that fans of the series will relish: extra-terrestrials that range from the grotesquely imaginative to the cute and cuddly; re-encounters with almost all of the major players in the series’ history; the ramshackle wonders of Millennium Falcon; aerial combat scenes that include dizzying careers along risky courses.
There is an edge of sadness in the film’s highlighting the effects of aging. We see slender Luke contrasted with a grizzled oldster, Han Solo as a wise-cracking daredevil contrasted with a battle-scarred veteran, a frankly seductive Lando Calrissian contrasted with a sage grandfather, a sexy, saucy Princess Leia aging into a matronly general. This last transformation comes with a new wrinkle. The general now is endowed, in unexplained ways, with Jedi status and a light saber. I have read that the original plan for the movie had been to focus on Leia as a Jedi, but Carrie Fisher, who appears in this film by virtue of earlier outtakes from the series, died in 2016, making it necessary to retool the plan.
Another new wrinkle is a hyped-up version of Jedi powers, in which psycho-kinetic ability goes way beyond being able to retrieve a light saber, or even to retrieve a fighting craft
submerged in water. Jedi powers are further augmented in another way here. In addition to mind tricks and psycho-kinesis, they now include the power to heal.
Psychologically the series leans on the Oedipal theme of fraught relationships between fathers and sons: Darth Vader and Luke, Han Solo and Kylo. Rey’s training as a Jedi and Leia’s role as another seem a nod in the direction of gender equality. But there remains a gap in the attention to the special relationships between mothers and daughters and to sisterhoods.
This movie retains the moralist component of the series, the good guys vs. the bad guys, freedom vs. totalitarianism. At times it verges on, but happily manages to avoid, being an echo of the patriotic celebration of the 1996 sci-fi flick Independence Day.
When a story begins with Once upon a time, we know we are about to hear or read a fairy tale. In literary theory, fairy tales differ from fables, in that the latter offer theories about the origins of things while the former, like parables, communicate timeless moral realities. The series’ familiar introduction, A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, announces its status as a fairy tale. That The Rise of Skywalker continues in the fairy tale tradition is emphasized in another fairy tale convention, they lived happily ever after. I am risking a spoiler here, but the film ends with a focus on Rey. In the film, the actress portraying her often must contort her face to express agonistic excess. But the film closes on her beatific smile.
Why is she smiling? If you watch the film you will learn why.