This December, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters, something will happen in a galaxy, far, far away that has only happened once before: The story will come to an end. Back in 1983, most people believed that Luke defeating the dark side by bringing his father back to the light pretty much wrapped things up. But, of course, that wasn’t the end.
36 years and seven movies later, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is being touted as the real-deal end of the Skywalker saga, which means, this movie will inherit the same problems of Return of the Jedi. It’s hard enough to make a good Star Wars movie, but it’s even harder to make a Star Wars movie that actually wraps things up.
Here are three ways The Rise of Skywalker faces problems similar to Return of the Jedi.
Speculative spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker ahead.
3. Loose Ends Mean a Complicated Structure
Like The Empire Strikes Back before it, The Last Jedi created multiple cliffhangers, all of which need to be addressed by The Rise of Skywalker, somehow. Will Rey bring Ben back to the light? Is Luke really gone? How will the Resistance make a comeback? What’s up with Broom Kid? All of these questions are tantalizing and interesting, but they also lead to a narrative structure that’s all over the place.
In Return of the Jedi, the first third of the movie is devoted to rescuing Han from Jabba’s palace on Tatooine. After that, the rest of the movie just kind of happens. There’s no real middle to Return of the Jedi, it’s all rescue Han, and then: blow-up-the-death-star-fight-darth-vader-holy shitttt ewoooksss!!!
Rise of Skywalker has even more lingering issues than Return of the Jedi, meaning, it’s either going to have to ignore certain things (like Broom Kid) or the structure is going to be nuts.
2. A Lot of New Characters
It’s odd to think of it now, but Return of the Jedi actually introduced a ton of new Star Wars characters at the last minute. Admiral Ackbar, Mon Mothma, Jabba the Hutt and all his cronies were much brand new people for Star Wars fans in 1983. And now, with The Rise of Skywalker, that’s happening again, but even in greater numbers. In terms of newcomers, we’ve got Jannah (Naomi Ackie), Zorri Bliss (Kerri Russell), that new droid D-0, that ridiculous looking alien named Klaud, and Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant). On top of that, you’ve also got the return of Lando and Palpatine.
That’s a lot of people on the screen, which only means less time for Rey, Finn, and Poe to be talking and having things happen. Now, I love the ending space battle of Return of the Jedi as much as the next person, but let’s face it, save for Lando, the characters engaged in this struggle are B-squad to the max. Rise of Skywalker might not only have a B-squad but in terms of excess characters, a C-squad, too.
1. The Star Wars Kitchen Sink
When you’re ending a Star Wars trilogy, there’s a tendency to throw a bunch of familiar Star Wars shit into the mix, just to make people say, “Oh hell yeah, this is a Star Wars movie!” This happened in Revenge of the Sith when George Lucas threw Chewbacca in there for some reason, not to mention a totally gratuitous Yoda lightsaber battle that made the previous one in Attack of the Clones seem less special. In Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars kitchen sink meant … another Death Star.
Over the years, several science fiction authors and critics have mentioned this to me in conversation. Star Wars is fine. But, by the time a new Star Wars movie doffs its cap to all the Easter eggs and tropes (a bar full of aliens, a superweapon, a lightsaber battle, a high-speed chase, a silly droid joke, someone losing an arm, a Stormtrooper doing the Wilhelm scream) the movie is basically over.
Even if The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t the ending of this trilogy (much less the whole saga) just by virtue of being a new Star Wars movie, it would be under pressure to check all these boxes. But, because it is the end of the saga, that pressure is possibly triple, coming from the weight of not just one trilogy, but three.
In other words, we already saw the remnants of the first Death Star in the trailer. In terms of old Star Wars stuff, that’s probably just the beginning. And supposing that everyone loves every single reference thrown into the movie, what is left of The Rise of Skywalker after that?
J.J. Abrams has made great films out of a collage of cultural references before. So, for now, we should have faith. There is still originality left in Star Wars, I can feel it. But that doesn’t mean Abrams, and everyone else involved in The Rise of Skywalker don’t have their work cut out for them.
The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20, 2019.