by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen
There’s always a reason to make a film about another galaxy, far far way. Mostly, that reason is one that has always sustained cultural mythologies: the need to create the archetypical characters, and to create stories around them, all of which reflect the struggles and morality of the culture they represent. Star Wars is no different. It created characters of good and evil, of codes of conduct, of struggle against stronger forces at just the right moment in time. For those, particularly young boys and men, who first encountered it in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a place in the skies, far far away, a Valhalla, a Mount Olympus. Stories of that place, and its inhabitants, are naturally filled the need to flesh out this system.
Also, the unexpected hit of one film to the cultural heart created the ability to make money, a great deal of money.
So, there’s another reason to make another film about that galaxy far far away. Star Wars arrived at a time when media outlets, and the ability to sell film related items—action figures, shirts, posters, whatever—was about to explode as the methods of distribution accelerated. And that needed new characters to fill out new stories to make new merchandise. Where the real money was.
Then the master of merchandising, the Disney Corporation, inevitably swallowed up this highly lucrative property.
Which leads us to perhaps the real reason for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It’s now a Disney property, and Disney releases new films, new characters, new moneymakers in and around this time. (Actually, December and June, the summer solstice and the winter solstice if you want to carry this whole Light and Dark Force mythology any further).
The question is, do you want to see this movie? That depends on whether you are invested in the whole Star Wars thing. If you really are, you saw it opening weekend. If not, you probably don’t care, unless it is an excellent movie.
Which it isn’t. It’s a movie that is afraid to upset any of the myriad social media mavens who analyze every moment according to Star Wars ideological purity. It tries to circle back to the core messages, touching as many themes as possible. It tries to undo some of the outrage that the movie just prior to this one did, so that the Star Wars saga remains pure. It tries for an ending that wraps up storylines, though inevitably leaving others waving in unknown solar winds.
In other words, it seems to be written by a huge committee; something for everyone.
One has to feel sorry for the very creative and talented JJ Abrams, who needed to take input from the vast Star Wars True Believers social media, who appear to be much better at nitpicking than at actual creativity, while pleasing the Disney organization, whose talent for promotion and merchandising may well be greater than its creativity or imagination. And, of course, it couldn’t be a Disney Star Wars movie without a few action pieces that can morph into a theme park ride. Abrams does his best at this impossible task, and so, perhaps, more than caring about story, we can admire the true craftmanship that took on the impossible and made it (reasonably) coherent. In a movie where there is no real loss, where death doesn’t necessarily mean dead, and the iconic moments and people of past episodes regain or retain that iconic status, it’s logic, and true emotion that serve as the sacrificial victims.
Almost all of the reviews I have seen, so far (and Disney had an embargo on them until twenty- four hours prior to the first public showing) are agreed. It’s a mediocre movie.
But what else could it have been?