Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is an Illogical Mess

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If you truly enjoy the Rise of Skywalker, I’m really happy for you. Art can be very subjective and enjoyment depends on everything from who you are seeing it with to how you are feeling before you see it. But, no matter how you slice it, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a fantastically produced, illogical mess. They could’ve just asked me to guess the plot for them.

SPOILERS AHEAD

SERIOUSLY STOP READING IF YOU HATE SPOILERS

I am going to break down my issues with this movie in the context of Star Wars as a universe and in the context of traditional movie narratives. Depending on which film theory you subscribe to, movies have a shared set of ideas that build a movie. That is, movies contain things like visuals, sound, character, plot, acting, editing, etc. I’ll be building a few sections to discuss the good – and very, very bad – that is the The Rise of Skywalker.

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR REAL SO DON’T @ ME

THEY FLY NOW?! THEY FLY?!

VISUALS AND SOUND

The dead speak!

As you would expect with a Disney made Star Wars movie, the visuals were amazing. The sound was also fantastic. All of the Disney Star Wars films have looked and sounded great. There isn’t much to say positive or negative in those 2 general categories. If you’ve seen a Star Wars movie, you know what to expect. They haven’t screwed that up or broken new ground yet.

So, here’s where things fell apart for me…

CHARACTERS

In the Rise of Skywalker, we have a few main characters. I’ll call these the A-list: Rey, Poe, Finn, Leia, and Kylo.

There are a few B-list characters: Chewbacca, Lando, the Emperor, Maz Katana…

Here’s the issue with the characters. For one, none of these characters really feel like they grew organically through 3 movies other than Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren – thanks to Adam Driver’s acting – grows from a whiny kid to a serious threat to a heroic redemption for Ben Solo.

But here’s the big issue. And I mean MASSIVE issue that undermines most of the other characters. This movie is so disjointed and disconnected from the first 2 movies – especially The Last Jedi – that any character development is just shoveled out the window. It’d be like if Palpatine told Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise in one movie and then in the next he was like, “LOL! Kidding, Anakin. The truth is only JEDI cant stop death.”

It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you…

Does Rose truly love Finn? Is there a relationship? Who knows because Rose was forgotten about. Has Poe learned leadership or anything? No. Not really. He’s in charge of stuff but mostly by default. In the one moment where he should be a true leader he shows cowardice in facing down an insurmountable threat.

The characters feel so flat and lifeless, and this isn’t fixed by the fact that Rey – our heroic lead – looks like she’s been wearing the same clothes for 3 movies. I get that maybe she has a certain style but look at Luke. He went from farmboy to pilot to Jedi to Jedi Knight. His looks and styles changed. His demeanor changed. He grew as a character.

Rey looks and acts almost exactly as she did the first time on screen. I think her only change is that now she has magic force healing powers.

As a Star Wars fan I didn’t care about anyone in this movie other than Kylo / Ben Solo. Oh and…

A simple, quiet scene that builds character.

NEW CHARACTERS

Star Wars always adds new characters in each movie, surrounding a core group. The issue is who, how, and why. When you add a character, it should make sense from a storytelling standpoint. When Lando becomes important in the Return of the Jedi, it’s because he knows Han and owns a city. When the weird alien shows up in the background and no one mentions him, it’s because he obviously had am ore significant position but was cut due to story rewrites.

Literally, there’s just a penis-looking alien hanging around who clearly everyone knows but he’s just… there. And I think they call him Klaud, which is the least alien name in history. I mean… this thing:

Image: Why is this guy around?

There’s also another alien who gives the heroes some kind of info about the First Order and then gets his head cut off. We’d care if we know who he/she/it was or had ever seen it again. Or maybe even saw it get its head cut off. You know, things logical storytelling would contain.

The other big 2 new characters are both women. Why are they both women? Is it because it makes sense in story? Because we need to sell more toys to girls? No! It’s because Disney has to remind you that, sorry internet, Finn and Poe aren’t gay! They like girls!

And even though Finn has clearly showed romantic interest with both Rey and possibly Rose, forget that. In fact, forget Rose, the character we followed for an entire movie. She’s out. Now here is a sexy woman on a SPACE HORSE with a SPACE BOW AND ARROW!

Image: SPACE HORSE!

But remember Female Lead #6, because she’s crucial in helping Finn attack a spaceship with her horses in the climactic battle that takes place on EVIL SITH PLANET. Because… well, are they in space? Or just high up? Wouldn’t atmosphere be thing? Is there…

Rise of Skywalker spends more time shoveling new, random characters I don’t care about at me than just having characters have useful interactions to show their personalities. That isn’t a good movie. That’s a bad one.

PLOT

Recall the Force Awakens and the Last Jedi. Those 2 movies did a few things, including NEVER ONCE mentioning the Emperor, leading us to believe the past should be forgotten, leading us to believe that there may be a third option other than Resistance/Rebels and First Order/Empire, and also teaching us that love and friendship will save the universe.

Remember those key elements of those 2 movies – especially The Last Jedi – because you need to completely forget them to watch Rise of Skywalker.

Image: Member Boushh disguise Leia? Bliss members.

Now it’s just about the Emperor. He’s alive somehow. They never explain how or why. He also somehow “made” Snoke. It’s implied he’s, uh, like a clone but of what? Who knows. Who cares. Screw you, you’ll pay Disney.

And despite the obvious problem with being thrown down a shaft and blown up in outer space, the Emperor is just kind of not doing great. He has all his limbs. He has his brain. He isn’t particles in space. He’s just like a Rock Em Sock Em Robot guy on an arm with some weird wires. And he also has more power than anyone ever in history in ever, despite the obvious problem that he should be very dead.

This is all important because the Emperor was not mentioned or hinted at once for 2 entire movies, nor was there any indication he would be a threat after he BLEW UP IN SPACE in Return of the Jedi.

He is back because fans like the Emperor and Rian Johnson didn’t know what to do, so J. J. Abrams came back without an idea and just reused some more old ones. And there has to be an even more evil and bad ground of bad guys who are evil… THE SITH… UH I MEAN FINAL ORDER!

Image: When Hip Hop Trooper falls into the cloning machine.

So somehow for THIRTY YEARS the Emperor has been not-dead and building a MASSIVE ARMY OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS including a WEIRD CULT OF SITH GUYS IN ROBES on a PLANET NO ONE COULD FIND INCLUDING LUKE SKYWALKER and no one noticed. And it’s not like the army was all clones or robots. The Sith officers were all different races, genders, and ages.

Let me be perfectly clear: This doesn’t make any damned sense. Not in reality. Not in the Star Wars universe. Not in a Saturday morning cartoon. This is a scene even stupider than Cobra Commander’s plans to take over the planet, and he tried to use missiles in fast food restaurants and an evil rock band.

I really need to reiterate how illogical and stupid this is.

In Star Wars, we have seen that humans need to eat. Humans need healthcare. Humans need medicine and live normal length lives. Other aliens have different needs, but someone like Shreev Palpatine or a Final Order Officer would need food, water, and materials to build things. If you are building hundreds or thousands of battleships that can also BLOW UP PLANETS like a Death Star, you need supplies, food, etc.

Image: When you’re only MOSTLY dead but you still gotta get that bread, fam.

The entire planet of Naboo was going to shut down because a blockade prevented shipments of stuff from getting to and from it after like an hour. And Naboo was a planet full of life and green plants. They should’ve at least had food for themselves on their world.

Exogol… Exogen… Planet X? Planet X where the Emperor was hiding was a barren waste that was impossible to navigate to and from without special instruments. Yet somehow a dead man was able to have thousands of Sith cult dudes, a clone factory, machines to keep him alive, and hundreds of thousands of human troops AND all the needed personnel to build an entire fleet of battleships of various kinds AND the parts to do so AND the ability to make the Death Star gun smaller AND engineer ships to have it AND healthcare AND food AND…

Image: A good moment in an otherwise desolate movie.

On a planet hidden for 30 years that no one could find, get to, or leave from, without special navigational devices.

This is the single stupidest plot point I have seen in a long, long time.

Plus, the final chapter of the Skywalker franchise…

McGUFFIN CITY

A McGuffin is something that triggers the plot. It’s an object, device, or other general ” thing” that usually gets the ball rolling for the heroes or villains in a story. In the original movies, R2-D2 might be the McGuffin. He “triggers” the action that leads to the rest of the plot. Other McGuffin’s of note include the Infinity Stones in the Marvel movies, the Holy Grail in like 100 movies, or the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Usually the best McGuffin will kick off the plot and result in a series of other actions and character moments unrelated to that thing. This is especially true for sequels and additional stories that stem from a first story.

Image: When you are the Senate but also have time to hide little pyramids around the universe.

In Star Wars, R2-D2 and his message was the first McGuffin but it merely caused the plot to start rolling. In the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark of the Covenant was the McGuffin, but the story was more about human interactions. It should be a mostly silent partner in a good story.

Rise of the Skywalker was a movie about McGuffins. We need a Droid to translate a Dagger to find a Pyramid Thing to find a Dead Guy to stop the Final Order to… How a story should start is that one McGuffin causes a cascade effect, especially in the final story in a trilogy. The heist/chase over one object should be the FIRST MOVIE that sets up more complex interactions in future installments as a result of that object.

A logical series would’ve seen someone (maybe Finn) find a McGuffin that shows that the Emperor is alive and in hiding. Then the first movie ends with the Emperor coming back to power somehow. No further random McGuffins are needed.

Image: That’s a fine McGuffin you got there. Be ashamed if someone… added 3 more and built a movie around them.

But, hey, screw you. Here’s a MAGIC DAGGER that somehow has the EXACTLY OUTLINE of a destroyed ship from the EXACT SPOT I’m standing on BECAUSE GO TO HELL AND BUY DISNEY PLUS.

Compare this stupidity to Indiana Jones where an amulet could be used to find a location because someone made a giant, stationary map for a ritual purpose at the same time they made an amulet. And that was useful in only one scene that lead to a series of other incidents.

HAN SOLO

The one saving grace should’ve been the redemption of Ben Solo. In a better world, The Last Jedi would’ve ended with Kylo Ren reaching his hand to Rey, and this movie would’ve been about both of them… I don’t know… finding a Grey Jedi path or something. Kylo becoming a better person. Rey learning to harness emotions for a positive purpose.

Still, Kylo – thanks largely to Adam Driver’s acting and not so much the story – built a convincing character. The close ups for Last Jedi allowed his face to emote and the larger, amusement park ride scenes in Rise of Skywalker built up a character I wanted to see do SOMETHING. We all assumed he would be redeemed.

Image: When you get kicked in the nuts by a Wookiee.

In a more logical, well-reasoned movie he might’ve been dealing with obvious internal conflict that finally comes to a point when his mother, Leia, is killed by someone more evil or maybe by his own accident. His rage overcomes him and he uses all his power to kill Emperor but, in doing so, kills Leia. It would be an emotional crescendo.

Nope.

Leia dies off screen, mostly, and Han Solo shows up. Han Solo is very smart to tell us that he’s a memory because otherwise we’d have no damned clue. He didn’t look like a Force ghost. The scene wasn’t a dream. It also wasn’t a weird trippy thing to indicate… anything. Kylo was just hanging outside in the light of day on a broken Death Star and Han Solo, looking very alive, is like, “yo, Ben, I’m a memory. Be better, son.”

Thus, Kylo is saved by Harrison Ford with a free weekend.

Image: That face you make when they fly now.

It’s as jarring and weird as it sounds. It’s like… remember when Superman was on a mountain top and his dead father just walked up to say hi? Or when Batman was asleep, the Flash came, he was still asleep I guess, and then woke up again? It’s like that. It’s so weird and out of place in a universe where he could’ve been a literal ghost or vision and no one would’ve noticed. Here was a flesh and blood dude saying he was a memory.

DEATH BY ONE HUNDRED STUPID DECISIONS

I don’t have any idea what the original movie was going to look like before the tons of alleged reshoots. I do know that the score for the movie wasn’t finished until like a month before it came out. That’s a pretty good sign they were still shooting stuff until a month ago. This is also evident in the weird, sometimes jarring moments like Klaud being there, then not, then there in close up, even though no one knows him. Rose shows up a couple of times to just exist, never mentioning her heroic deeds or kissing Finn.

It’s just a series of… things happening to get to a final thing happening. That’s not the mark of a good movie. That’s the mark of a company that wanted to make 3 movies but didn’t bother to lay out all 3 of them or have a focused, solid idea of what was going to happen. It’s also the mark of people who don’t understand why anyone likes Star Wars at all.

Image: The Force isn’t about moving rocks. It’s about moving BIG rocks.

Compare this disjointed, confusing, poorly written series to the Mandalorian. The Mandalorian has a clear vision. There has been character growth for multiple main characters that make some sense. Random characters exist to have moments or be background fodder, but they aren’t thrust in as a 3rd love interest in 3 movies when the 2nd one has nothing to do. The Mandalorian succeeds because it understands what made the first 3 movies great:

Moments of quiet punctuated by action, not a movie that’s built like an amusement park ride that starts and ends with exposition.

Characters acting like human beings, not screaming idiot bad guys having Yo Mamma jokes told to them, or people randomly kissing someone they almost killed with a spaceship.

Image: That face you make when they fly now… and it’s beautiful.

Bad things happen because of bad luck or bad guys, not people being giant idiots. Mandalorian ends up in a stand off because of a double cross of a double cross that he had no choice but to attempt to save Baby Yoda (ok, fine, the Child). He didn’t randomly trust a creepy guy who sounded like an actual snake because a bar owner didn’t bother to give him a name or description.

SO WHAT I LIKED IT! YOU JUST HATE EVERYTHING!

If you like, or love, the new movies I am happy for you. They are entertainment. I can’t. Maybe it’s cynicism or I’m just sick of Disney. Maybe it’s because Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker suck donkey balls. Maybe all the movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, things I’ve written, and movies I’ve been involved with color my view of what a success and a failure is to me.

I really think, though, that I am a Star Wars fan… No. I am a fan of lots of things I enjoy, and some Star Wars movies, shows, and books are part of that. To me, Star Wars is best when you have characters you can relate to and follow -which should’ve been Finn – in a strange, and weird universe full of crazy technology and mysticism but, at its heart, it’s about the human experience. Star Wars was never about explosions or crazy Light Saber fights or Yoda jumping around like an idiot or people screaming, “They fly now?!” Star Wars was about Luke and Han talking on a ship. It was about a Mandalorian having a change of heart and protecting a child. It was about a Clone developing its own personality. Star Wars was about characters and plot and the idea of ultimate good and ultimate evil.

Image: Having a good story and characters. That is the way.

So if your idea of Star Wars is A BILLION SPACE SHIPS AND OOOOO THERE’S LANDO AND AH! THE EMPEROR AND WOW REY CAN MAGICALLY HEAL PEOPLE AND OH NO! WATCH OUT NEW PERSON I JUST MET! then by all means love and enjoy Rise of Skywalker.

Just don’t try and think about how the title is “Rise of Skywalker” but all the Skywalkers are dead by the end of the movie. Even the title is stupid. It’s, like, Attack of the Clones bad…

All I want from my Star Wars movie – or any form of entertainment – is well crafted entertainment. I want entertainment from people who care about what they doing and the material they are doing it in. With the Disney Star Wars movies, I don’t feel entertained and I don’t feel like they care. It’s a product, not a thing they love. Even though I thought the prequels were bad, they were still the singular vision of someone who cared about what he was doing. Rise of Skywalker is the vision of a bunch of executives who saw the backlash for allowing Rian Johnson to film a movie on the first draft of a script and then decided to have J. J. Abrams shoehorn everything he wanted to in, and then reshoot half of it.

Image: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Colorized.

The result is an mess of a pile of junk for 3 movies. It certainly has some great moments but, much like a bad relationship, we should break it off because a handful of hand moments don’t make up for years of being let down. In other words, Star Wars has become what it once sought to destroy.

SCORE?

You want me to give you a real score? My score is go read a book, go to the park, or write your own Star Wars fan fiction. Don’t waste money on more Disney Star Wars unless it’s Mandalorian. If you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO see the end of the Skywalker saga (which doesn’t really end with a Skywalker), check it out at a matinee price or wait until Disney Plus.

What did you think of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!

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