Can This Be Right?
A Brief Sigh on MLK Day

The Rise of Skywalker

I probably wouldn't have gone to see it if I didn't have grandchildren who are very interested in it. I'm interested, too, but not all that interested; I would have waited till I could see it on Netflix or Amazon.

I haven't read many reviews, but I have the impression that most reaction, at least from people who care enough to review it or discuss it on the internet, has been on the negative side. And if you read the commentary of a true fan, you'll find all sorts of details and disputes about whether this or that aspect of it was good or bad. There seems to be a lot of discussion about whether this last trilogy is coherent, as the second film in it was directed by a different person from the one who did the first and last. And there's a lot of discussion about whether this trilogy completes or defaces the original.

(If you are not familiar with Star Wars: the main storyline is covered in three trilogies, episodes 1 through 9, which tell a story in chronological order. Discussion of these is sometimes confusing because that is not the order in which they were released, which was in sets of three: 4, 5, 6; 1, 2, 3; 7, 8, 9. Complicating the discussion are a few movies and other "product" which are not directly part of that main story.) 

I don't really care very much about all that. The Star Wars movies are not great art. I don't think they will be regarded as such a hundred years from now. And the critics who complained about all the plot devices that have been recycled from the first trilogy are right. This is at least the third time that the resolution has hinged on a desperate mission (apart from the furnishings, a reprise of World War II air combat dramas) to stop the Most Evilest People Ever from using the Most Ultimatest Weapon Ever to rule the galaxy. (If I had been one of the writers, I would have tried to sneak a muttered "Yeah, that's what you said last time" into one of those conversations.)

So are those who complain about plausibility. That's a bit like complaining about Jack and the Beanstalk because as far as we know there are no magic beans. Still, as the characters in Rise of Skywalker talked of "making the jump to lightspeed," I kept wondering if any of the writers knew what a light-year is and how many of them separate the stars from each other. If I understood the opening, most or all of the action of this movie is supposed to take place in sixteen hours. 

And the space combat sequences are tiresome. And so are the light-saber duels. And after eight movies in which the storm troopers' armor protects them from nothing, and they are able to hit nothing with their blasters, there's no reason to change now. And I really don't care about the race-'n'-gender tallying that popular art today is obliged to acknowledge.

All that said, I enjoyed it, I was even touched by it, and will probably see it again. Part of the reason for that is nostalgia. Here's what I said a few years ago, after seeing Rogue One (which is not one of the nine, but fills in the narrative immediately preceding Episode 4, i.e. the original movie):

Princess Leia appears briefly at the end, and the filmmakers somehow gave her the face of the young Carrie Fisher. I was oddly and surprisingly touched by that, as I had been by her recent death. In trying to figure out why, I concluded that it was partly because the original movie had seemed such a breath of fresh air to me. I remember very well the night my wife and I had gone to see some other movie--I have no idea what it was now--and saw the Star Wars preview. We looked at each other and said "We have to see that." And we did, and it was delightful.

The '70s had been a fairly dark time in some ways, a come-down from the crisis of the '60s and at the same time a sort of consolidation and solidification of some of the more negative things, and movies especially had grown considerably darker: the Dirty Harry movies, for instance, and more artsy works like Taxi Driver. And for me personally it had been a difficult period. Star Wars was a complete departure from all that, with its young and brave heroes and heroine and its simple (or simplistic) war of good and evil. It was also witty and imaginative, which may be hard to remember now that it's become such a part of our culture. It was simple fun, but it also celebrated virtue with no irony at all. 

And part of it is what is suggested by that last sentence: beneath all the often-silly trappings, there are profound truths at the heart of the whole saga: the power of love, renunciation, and sacrifice; the potent but self-destructive lure of hatred; the understanding that one must not do evil in the service of good. Those are the things that touched me in the movie, and if there are logical and narrative holes in the way these are worked out, I was not bothered by them. Maybe that's one advantage of not being a true fan. 

Related: also because of the grandchildren I've watched several episodes of a Star Wars spinoff series, The Mandalorian. So far it's entertaining, but I wouldn't say much more. It was mentioned in the comments here a week or two ago, and I noted that the Mandalorian is essentially the Eastwood character from a spaghetti Western, even to the point of having Eastwood's voice. It seems I'm not the only one to notice this:

 

Comments

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I like the sound of The Mandalorian But it’s hard to imagine using the Disney subscription For anything else afterwards.

Our heating system has broken down

Wow, and you're not going to be above freezing till Saturday. Hope you have plenty of blankets.

I would definitely not recommend subscribing to Disney to get The Mandalorian. I mean, you don't even like Star Wars, do you? It's definitely for those who like that sort of thing.

I signed up for a 7-day Disney+ trial and binge-watched the Mandalorian. And cancelled before being billed.

:-)

And by the way if anyone reading this has seen all the references to "baby Yoda" on Facebook and elsewhere and wondered what it's about, he's in this series. Not actually Yoda (if you don't know who Yoda is at this point, you don't care), as that wouldn't fit with the chronology of the main story, but presumably one of his species. No spoilers, please, I've only seen through episode 3.

I liked the first three Star Wars movies somewhat. I saw them years after they came out. Just sat down and watched all three. They are enjoyable space movies. I don't get the obsession with Star Wars mythopaeic cosmology :) I thought the movies were comedic - I mean, pretty funny haha, not exactly uproarious but quite memorably funny jokes.

...and then there is the weird Joseph Campbell connection to Star Wars. In college I had to sit through several classes listening to Campbell talk to George Lucas, and this was a religion class at a Catholic school! Not Spring Hill, Mac. Where I received my bachelor's degree in Miami.

I kind of gave up on Star Wars after the first of this latest trilogy, which was exciting but also seemed to mirror the original Star Wars from 1977, same basic plot. I thought, "can't they do anything except constantly re-tread that story?"

Consider pressing on to Last Jedi. I thought it was really pretty good. A lot of fans really hated it because of what it does with Luke. But I thought it was good. But then you would need to see Rise, which kind of explains it.

I’m sitting in a motel room where I just finished watching the last half or so of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on TCM. Damn, that is some potent stuff. And brilliant acting. It came out in 1966 and I saw it then, or soon after. I was impressed even then though I didn’t really understand it.

I own the first six Star Wars movies, so over the weekend I re-watched Episodes 1,2,3. While the first one, The Phantom Menace, was actually worse than I remembered, I enjoyed 2 and 3 and found them better than I remembered. So next I will watch 4,5,6 and then I can watch the latest trilogy.

Back when I had a young step-son any discussion of Star Wars became an annoying back-and-forth about which "first movie" I was referring to. It was mildly exasperating.

My favorite is still 4. That's the only one Alec Guinness has a big part in. I watched it recently (with the grandsons) and still enjoy it, although it's pretty hokey. I think there is pretty close to universal agreement that 1-3 are not very good overall (if not absolutely stinking terrible), although probably some of the fans who hate 7-9 may think 1-3 look better now. Also watched 2 and didn't care much for it. Poor Hayden Christensen. I think 2-3 ruined his career or at least damaged it. I am still somewhat amazed that Natalie Portman turned out to be a good actress, as I thought she was awful. Maybe that was more the fault of the script and direction.

You are correct about 4, and I love Alec Guinness. In 2 and 3 Ewan McGregor was also great as that character. For some reason in 1 he seemingly could not act. A lot of it is script and direction, I'm sure. The over-reliance on Jar Jar Binks was what made 1 so awful though.

"seemingly could not act" Yeah, that's pretty much the way he struck me, back 20 years ago when those movies first came out. I don't know what the problem was. Nobody really came off very well, and I think it must have been the script in large part.

The web had just become widely available when the Phantom Menace came out and immediately someone put up a web site called jarjarmustdie.com or something like that.

I watched 7,8,9 this past weekend, Mac. I liked 8 the most of the three, and 9 the least. I don't think I really enjoy JJ Abrams movies. That said, I basically enjoyed all three, 9 just seemed too hyper-fast and very hard to keep up with what is really happening. Since I have watched (or re-watched) all nine in the past little over a week, I am in a unique position with my brain to rate them best to worst at this moment in time only:

Best: 4
Worst: 1
In order from best to worst: 4, 5, 6, 8, 3, 7, 2, 9, 1

So there you go.

I don’t really them all well enough to venture a complete ranking, but mine would be close to yours, I think. I’d put 9 higher.

Meant to say "remember them all".

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