How Bout That Rise of Skywalker?
Does anyone else feel weird that the final installment of the sequel trilogy of the greatest cinematic trilogy (don’t @ me, LotR fans) of all time is out next week and no one seems to care?
I can’t remember a Star Wars film release with less buzz. Even the Clone Wars movie had people talking. Why’s there no hype for The Rise of Skywalker?
There are a few theories.
Its Own Hope
How many people are seriously on the fence about seeing Rise of Skywalker? You’ve got the people who liked Force Awakens and Last Jedi and are in, the people who didn’t like one or both those films but are willing to see the last installment anyway, and the people who don’t want to see it won’t. In this partisan environment, how many undecided viewers are there?
Plus, The Rise of Skywalker holds the record for most presale tickets, so someone’s going to be in the theatres. Maybe Disney figures they can save on marketing a guaranteed hit.
Fandom Strikes Back
I remember the reception to Last Jedi being mixed and including a lot of people who loved it (Will and me, for example), but word around the Internet seems to be that most people didn’t care for it. Disney has a track record of trying to fix Star Wars projects midstream (extensive reshoots on Rogue One, changing the director during production on Solo, and bringing JJ Abrams back for Episode IX against the original plans to use Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow.
However, with another Star Wars hit on their hands (more on that in a sec), they might be going the route of cutting their loses, similar to the announced and seemingly cancelled trilogy by Rian Johnson , and the announced and definitely cancelled trilogy by Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Rise of Skywalker is still coming out, but Disney may already have new plans for where they take Star Wars that they have enough faith in that Rise of Skywalker can be a mulligan.
Rise of The Mandalorian
Err, I mean…
Rise of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda
If the seven years since Disney acquired Star Wars has been the adjustment period, The Mandalorian is the first time you reflexively call your step father “dad”.
Before I get to the theory, first of all, this show is soooo gooooood. Second of all this show is sooooo Staaaaar Waaaars. Third of all this show loooooves Staaaaar Waaaars.
I define the difference between liking and being a fan of something is how you feel about its objectively worst parts. You can like Star Wars but think they should have reshot the scene where the Storm Trooper hits his head on a door, but if you are a fan of Star Wars you would tell all your Star Wars friends if you saw a cosplayer in a Storm Trooper outfit with a chunk of door glued to the helmet.
The Mandalorian packed two references to the Star Wars Holiday special into the first episode. The latest episode had Pit Droids from Phantom Menace. A major plot point hinges on how well you recognize iconography from Attack of the Clones.
The best part about a Star Wars show that loves Star Wars (and is expertly produced, don’t think I am arguing that being a fan is enough to make something good) is an understanding of Star Wars’ relationship with failure. Empire Strikes Back was revolutionary as a movie where, somehow, everyone failed. Everyone but Boba Fett. And like everyone in Empire Strikes Back but Boba Fett, The Mandalorian loses a lot. He loses a fight to Jawas! I’ve played Star Wars video games where you can lose a level for killing Jawas because it’s a jerk move to attack someone so insignificant! Speaking of Star Wars video games, do you know how many AT-STs I’ve blown up in Star Wars games? The Mandalorian treats one AT-ST like it’s Godzilla, and it’s super compelling!
Right, then there’s Baby Yoda. While image searching the Internet’s favourite Baby Yoda pictures, I literally got lost in thought looking in his eyes wondering how man created something so lovable. Like, I love my kids, but if someone suggested they were anywhere near as cute as Baby Yoda I’d suggest someone spike their bone broth.
All that fawning over The Mandalorian is to say that even if the chapter The Rise of Skywalker closes on a whimper, the next one has already started with a road.
The Phantom Marvel
After the roar, this Mandalorian-lead new era shouts its catchphrase: It’s Marvelin’ Time!
Up until recently, Disney was bringing in the new hotness to work behind the screens on Star Wars. JJ Abrams was fresh off the Star Trek reboot when they brought him in for Force Awakens. The Lego Movie was considered a huge win for Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who directed Solo for a hot minute. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were being groomed by all of Hollywood after seven (*cough*) successful seasons of Game of Thrones. Gareth Edwards and Rion Johnson both had recent standout directing credits. Josh Trank had a Star Wars project after Chronicle but before Fantastic Four.
Of the above, only JJ Abrams wasn’t replaced, dismissed, or heavily interfered with (compare Rogue One’s first trailer to the theatrical release for the best example of Disney interference). JJ Abrams is also the one on the above list with the most credentials outside of the big hit that got Disney’s attention. The next most established director of a Star Wars movie? Ron Howard, who replaced Lord and Miller on Solo, and who was never blamed for Solo’s box office.
Disney seems to have shifted philosophy from fresh young talent to more established directors. Almost every Star Wars project they announced before Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian has been cancelled except Kevin Feige’s unspecified trilogy.
The fact that Favreau and Feige launched and helmed Disney’s other billion dollar acquisition, Marvel’s cinematic universe, is not a coincidence. If Disney’s looking for track records, there are no better choices. The inclusion of Thor Ragnorok director Taika Waititi as IG-11 in the first episode of The Mandalorian is probably another way of bringing successful MCU talent to Star Wars.
Casting former Deadpool comic co-writer Brian Posehn as Speeder Pilot in that same episode probably isn’t, but 1. I like Brian Posehn, 2. I liked his work on Deadpool, and 3. his character was only billed as Speeder Pilot? Are your kidding me? Even that prune faced dude with the eye patch in Return of the Jedi got a name (Orrimaarko). They couldn’t string some consonants and punctuation together and give us (checks Star Wars name generator) Dra Pau-no-rego?
The Trilogy Wars
I am excited for the future of Star Wars based on this Marvelous new direction, but I am worried about what that means for Rise of Skywalker, and the promise of the characters in this new trilogy.
The Last Potential
I like every Star Wars movie that Disney has released, individually, but I became a Star Wars fan because the whole was as exciting as the parts. Even as someone who likes Disney’s Star Wars more than most, I don’t like how they’ve handled the franchise overall.
Rogue One and Solo were both movies I enjoyed, but whereas the original Star Wars trilogy and even the prequel trilogy left me excited for the potential of the larger Star Wars universe, these two prequels felt like dead ends. If any of the intriguing Rogue One characters (Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and Jiang Wen’s Baze Malbus especially) are revisited in expanded universe material, it’s with the knowledge of their ultimate fate.
Likewise, the coolest reveal in Solo (infinitely better than how Han got his last name) was *spoilers* Darth Maul’s appearance. But again, because of Force Awakens and Rebels, we know the ultimate canon fates of these characters, both at the hands of characters they are more significantly connected to. The most exciting a Solo/Darth Maul confrontation could be is as an interesting side quest that’s a footnote in the lives of both of these characters.
Conversely, I’m invested in the sequel trilogy. I have issues with the third act of the Force Awakens (Mandalorian’s AT-STzilla that characters actually react to > Super DUPER Death Star that blows up, what, 5 planets and Han shrugs and is all “Star Wars tropes, lol”) but I like the characters and the story that’s been told across these two movies. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen about Rise of Skywalker makes me worried it will take away from Last Jedi and pull a JJ Abrams when it comes to the remaining unopened mystery boxes.
Return of the Point
I will see Rise of Skywalker and I will go into it open minded and maybe excited. And if it doesn’t satisfy like so Phasma before it, it’s out the same day as a new The Mandalorian episode. I will be disappointed, but…
While I Have You