Star Wars Episode IX is Here
At midnight tonight, I’ll be joining a few other die-hard fans at the local cinema for the first public showing of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
As well as marking the end of the Sequel Trilogy (or Disney Trilogy depending upon your acceptance of it), The Rise of Skywalker has received the post-hoc marketing gift of also being the end of the entire saga.
Now I don’t believe that for multiple reasons, but it’s beside the point. The main takeaway from all of this is that we get to see Star Wars on the big screen once more. And that’s always worth the price of admission.
Here’s the thing. I was left completely shell-shocked by The Force Awakens.
I’ve written about this so many times now, how that film shook me to my core by how it badly misinterpreted the core of Star Wars whilst at the same time absolutely nailing the surface elements.
It was like seeing a family member replaced with a pod person, and everyone else ignoring your concerns as they believed that not only was your family member the same person that they’d always been but that they were also the best thing since sliced bread.
And don’t get me started on the accusations of breadism.
Weird metaphor, I know. 2016 was a very strange year.
Rogue One gave me hope that The Force Awakens was an aberration and that The Last Jedi would get Star Wars back on track. That hope lasted until mid-January 2018, at which point I finally stopped trying to pretend that Rian Johnson’s film didn’t have significant flaws.
I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings about Episode VIII but can summarise them quite accurately now.
The Last Jedi is a film with some strong ideas, many weak ideas, a few stunning visuals and a lot of terrible execution. Both the over-positive critical reception and the outright fan opprobrium has muddied the water and it’ll be some time before there’s any level critical consensus.
I think that in time, and if his ego allows, Rian Johnson himself will reflect on it not being his strongest piece of work. That said I can see why he wouldn’t admit as much given the online climate, however much he himself has helped to perpetuate it – but then that’s another story.
What Johnson’s film did show by its absence was how much of a handle Abrams has on the feel of Star Wars and the new characters. Now longtime readers may know I’m a “story guy” and that may sound like faint praise, but cinema is about illusion – and nailing the ‘feel’ sure helps when you’re sitting in the dark and eating popcorn.
And that brings us back to tonight.
Given that the original six films were both a complete story before The Force Awakens and have since been undermined by both that film and The Last Jedi, it will be nothing short of a minor miracle if JJ Abrams’ latest chapter somehow manages to conclude everything.
But it doesn’t matter.
I’m a Star Wars fan, raised on the ceaseless optimism of Luke Skywalker. I have to believe that the film could be good – that, despite the leaks, it might still work.
Even with how poorly treated the original characters have been, and how badly written and nonsensical the stories and scripts have been, there is still nothing that compares to watching a Star Wars film on the big screen.
And, right now, my excitement for that is all that counts.