Star Wars

The Dead Speak! How Star Wars Undid Its Themes

Nine films interconnected by one name: Skywalker. Luke, Leia, Anakin, and now Rey. Three separate trilogies account for the story of how this family is intertwined with the Force. The empires and rebellions that changed the galactic governments have stuck in our hearts since Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in 1977. This recent trilogy centered around Rey and her band of colleagues mixed in with characters from the original trilogy come together for a new story of rebellion and imperialism. More specifically, this last film tried to connect everything and justify the need for a saga about one extended family, but ultimately fell short. The rushed, frantic energy shown in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker works against what the original trilogy set forth and tears down its own themes.

Star Wars Undoes Its Theme on Redemption

We’re all very familiar with the retribution of Darth Vader. The original Star Wars trilogy introduces the viewer to the main characters and reveals their family ties in the second and third movies. Luke and Leia are siblings and are the children of the evil Darth Vader. Vader was born as Anakin Skywalker, the main subject of the prequel trilogy. Anakin is the chosen one, a Jedi who is prophesized to bring balance to the Force and he is lured to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine and ultimately turns on him, killing him and saving his son Luke.

His sacrifice is powerful, meaningful, and the completion of the redemption of Anakin. The light side was always present in him and he needed Luke to bring it out. Three films after that story is told, in reverse, the saga reveals that Palpatine, who we last saw flailing down a shaft, is alive, somehow.

THE DEAD SPEAK! These are the first words in the legendary text crawl before The Rise of Skywalker and from that point, the viewer is set for a wild ride. This being the end of a trilogy would typically make it impossible to bring back a character in the preamble to the actual film. If perhaps his return were presented on screen in some fashion, then maybe this hacking of the theme would be more bearable.

The return of the Emperor of the Empire, a government and person responsible for the wiping out of the Jedi Order, the destruction of Alderaan, and more recently the destruction of an entire system of planets. The latter was the First Order, but as Palpatine later explains, he has been behind the First Order as well as Supreme Leader Snoke. It’s almost too complicated to discuss without watching the film and talking over it.

A New Redemption Arc

What this latest film is trying to do is give Kylo Ren/Ben Solo a redemption mirroring Darth Vader. A Jedi apprentice learning under one of the best ever but his proclivity to the dark side is too strong and eventually, his master fails him. Anakin did this with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ben did this with Luke. Both young men were led to the dark side ultimately by the same Sith but by different means. Ben Solo murders his father, Han, and is responsible for countless deaths around the galaxy but is shown to have some light in him, or at least Rey can see it. Kylo Ren tells us repeatedly that Ben Solo is dead after his fathers’ death, but episode nine truly shows that Ben’s goodness wasn’t hinged on Han but rather Leia. Her dying effort converted him and brought his talents to stopping Palpatine and saving Rey.

This is all fine and well if the plan was to keep Snoke as Supreme Leader or at least the primary villain in the final film. Introducing Palpatine as the secret big bad only leads to one result, Vader didn’t bring balance to the Force. The entire crux of the original trilogy is that sometimes there is good in the worst people and given the opportunity, they will return to the light. Vader was a force of evil and destruction, seemingly the worst villain of all-time, but in one moment he threw it all away to save his son and attempt to redeem his monstrosities. His destruction of Palpatine and himself ended the Sith and brought balance. Keeping Palpatine alive and the “man behind the curtain” for this new trilogy now ends that entire premise.

Where was the Plan?

There just could not be any overall plan for this trilogy. Star Wars was built on an idea for one movie that turned into three, but it was overseen by one man with voices adding in their opinions. The prequel trilogy was created as a three-part series but failed because only George Lucas made the decisions and refused other voices. This latest trilogy is Disney’s first movie with the Star Wars universe and it seemed that J.J. Abrams would helm the new trilogy. That was not his intention as he directed the first, The Force Awakens, and stepped away to let Rian Johnson write and direct The Last Jedi. Billions of words later, Disney hedged and went with Abrams again to keep the peace.

The Rise of Skywalker overwhelmingly feels like a course correction on The Last Jedi and the obvious point is the previously mentioned Palpatine. There are countless threads and articles about The Last Jedi, those aren’t important here. Regardless of how good or bad anyone perceived the film to be, it is canon and the third movie has to deal with those events. Which leads to the main issue here, with Snoke’s death in the second movie, who should have been the villain of the “final” installment of the Skywalker saga? Palpatine is an easy answer that brings everything full circle.

This particular easy answer may appease the masses because Star Wars is still basically for younger people, but shoehorning in an established dead character offscreen and then not explaining it just ruins what they built. In the opening crawl and one scene where Poe Dameron utters the line “Somehow, Palpatine returned,” and that’s about all that is put towards the matter. With that single line, the redemption of Darth Vader, the original rebellion, the training of Luke Skywalker is all washed away and the fight has now become Rey versus Palpatine for the Force.

The Dead Speak and they said Goodbye Star Wars.


Main Image: Embed from Getty Images

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