I went through a few different ‘final chapter’ movies in 2019 to prepare for this one: Back to the Future III, The Matrix Revolutions and of course Return of the Jedi (which isn’t a final chapter any more but at the time it came out it was). Then I gave my thoughts on Avengers: Endgame. All of that was to lead to this moment, the ninth and final film of the Skywalker Saga. Over 42 years we’ve been treated to these films and the story they told, first from it’s creator George Lucas and since 2015 from Disney, and while there is more coming this particular block is done.
The movie was well acted throughout. Adam Driver was excellent, even subtly mimicking some of his father Han Solo’s mannerisms. The story itself embodied the essence of what George Lucas’ message was throughout the original trilogy – friends sticking together through thick and thin, facing the challenges that lay in front of you even if you’re afraid, doing the right thing when the time comes to choose, and that you can still do the right thing today no matter what you did yesterday.
And it being a Star Wars film and all you get all the cool spaceships stuff, lightsaber action, etc. But it also hit some emotional spots, too. Seeing Lando Calrissian again was a good nostalgia hit. Threepio and Chewbacca’s teased deaths made for some anxious moments. And the rally moments hit like they were intended to, giving you a feeling of hope at the worst moments.
I’ve grown to hate ‘up against the clock’s scenarios in movies. Why? Because the characters always end up doing way too much within the time frame that’s allowed. In this case they had 36 hours before the killer death fleet was ready to deploy and managed to go planet hopping all over the galaxy and hang out for a little while in each place. I know the clock is supposed to add some suspense but too often it ends up not mattering because you know that the good guys are gonna ultimately beat it anyway. In this case the point was that the killer fleet needed to be stopped before it deployed, and you know the big fight was going to happen just as they were ready to do so. So just ditch the clock because it ultimately didn’t matter.
The other thing that bugged me a bit was the half ass way the relationship questions were resolved. I’m fine with the choices – I don’t do shipping so there wasn’t any particular outcome I’d hung my hopes on. But Ren kissing Rey as he was about to die wasn’t necessary- their connection through the Force didn’t require any romance – and the seemingly random love interest for Poe added in here seemed like a really hollow attempt to say ‘SEE! HE AND FINN AREN’T GAY!’
Finn and Poe have been shipped together by a lot of people since their interactions in the first film, and while that doesn’t mean JJ Abrams had to put them together but it didn’t have to be shot down in such a flagrant, try hard fashion. My guess is that it was never on the table in the first place. From a purely cynical capitalist view these movies play in and are dependent on box office from countries that aren’t particularly tolerant of same sex relationships, and Abrams doesn’t need to be told that, so I figure he never considered it.
This was an issue with Captain Marvel as well, where Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau’s interactions, conversations and history suggested that they weren’t just best buddies. It’s also a thing on Supergirl, where no matter who they try to pair Kara Zor El and Lena Luthor with they sure do come off like they’re supposed to be with each other. With Carol and Maria it was a writing issue and on Supergirl it’s a little of that and the rest is just chemistry between cast members.
I don’t have a real answer here but the way they got around it in this case was not the way I would have chosen. Shipping is thing that happens no matter what and you can’t stop it but I think here they could just have easily paired Finn with Rose Tico and left Poe alone. Or leave both of them alone. They’re in the middle of a war, finding love isn’t a thing that just has to happen. Either way it feels like there was a lack of awareness as to how their relationship came off onscreen during Force Awakens, and now two movies later there was a major overcompensation. Either that or they knew and didn’t care, which is worse in my opinion.
I have to get some words in here about one thing, and that’s the fan fiction (or fantasy booking in the world of wrestling) that has taken place in some corners seemingly since the credits rolled on The Force Awakens in 2015. Fantasy booking, and the disdain that surfaces whenever that actual story doesn’t match up with it, has been an ever increasing problem in every narrative form of entertainment from books to movies to TV to wrestling whether it’s the way the story ends to who gets to play what role to who hooks up with who along the way. I touched on this some in my previous Skywalker Saga piece, but I’m going to elaborate some here now that I’ve seen the film.
Whether it was Rey’s parentage (Luke? Snoke? Obi-wan? Nobody important?) or everyone’s relationship status (Rey and Kylo Ren? Rey and Finn? Finn and Poe? Rey, Finn, and Poe?), there were theories running around left and right, some of which turned into fantasy booking, and some which were clung to entirely too tightly in hope that they would come into fruition. There’s the matter of those of us that came to believe that Finn was going to be a bit more powerful than he turned out to be.
Well now that it’s all finished and virtually none of the fan fiction came to pass, a lot of people aren’t too happy with that and have expressed their frustration by crapping on the movies that we did get. Others have done worse, going on internet rants about Disney and JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy and policing other fans simply for not being mad about the sequel trilogy films. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Come on people, please, calm the hell down. George Lucas said very clearly that the original trilogy was ‘for twelve year olds’ and that some people are looking for a psychology that he can’t give them. That’s a long way of saying that hey, I made these the way I wanted to make them and if you projected something onto them it ain’t my fault. And that’s how it works when people make things. The only alternative is take a survey before you start and that’s never gonna work right.
It was never JJ Abrams or Rian Johnson’s job to give you a movie that checked all your fan fiction and relatability boxes. They don’t have to pair people off or kill people off or pick parents for or power people up or give people screen time according to what any one or group of fans desire. They made choices according to the story they came up with. Some of them were made at the very beginning and some were made along the way. That’s how these things go.
On the Robert Scale, I give it a 4 (good) for overall quality and a 3 (out of 4) for overall enjoyability, for a total of 7. The relationship stuff holds it back, as does the handling of Finn and Rose as characters in total. And what I mean is that outside the fan fiction which isn’t their fault they still teased a bunch of stuff and didn’t pay any of it off, not even a decisive ‘they’re really not trying to do any of that right now’. In the original trilogy we got an answer for Luke/Han/Leia and in the prequels Anakin and Padme did seal the deal. With all the fan fiction and shipping run amok leaving it ambiguous can be as irritating as making a choice I don’t like.
But beyond that I enjoyed it. There is a line between what we hoped for and what we got, but I think that the latter is being judged a bit unfairly based on the former. It is a true Star Wars film through and through and a fine addition to the series.
On Further Review (addendum on May 15, 2021)
After some interviews by John Boyega the way Finn was treated as a character is even more glaring. My initial take was that, hey, it’s Rey’s story so they don’t owe us anything with anyone else. But seeing as how Finn as a character was downgraded because of creative chaos and what sure looks like an attempt to appease racists the entire trilogy is under a real cloud to me now. The individual movies are still the same grade-wise as they turned out, but it’s impossible to not see the missed opportunity here.