Tag Archives: The Rise of Skywalker

Lightsabers

Hi. I’m twenty-nine years old, and when my mind wanders, it starts to think about lightsabers.

One of the many many things that make Star Wars so cool is the lightsaber: in a world with laser guns and space ships, there are a select group of people who forego all of that in favor of laser swords. When we first see it in A New Hope, Obi-Wan introduces it as the “weapon of a Jedi Knight, not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Cool bit of world-building that sets up the Jedi Knights and the importance of the weapon.

But that’s not the part of lightsabers I’m thinking about.

Each Jedi has their own saber, one that’s theirs, and this weapon, as Obi-Wan admonishes Anakin in Attack of The Clones, “is your life.” Lightsabers are made by the individual Jedi and so is specific to them. Even the Sith lightsabers require an artificial (in the old Expanded Universe) or a tainted (as in the new canon) crystal. These weapons are almost an extension of their owner. Far more than Han’s DL-44 blaster, the lightsabers are far more personal and representative of those who wield them.

And Rey doesn’t get her own lightsaber in the Sequel Trilogy. I mean, yeah, she does, sure: In literally the final minute of The Rise of Skywalker, she stands in Tatooine and turns on her brand new yellow-bladed saber and then watches the sunset.

Which.

Okay.

Fine.

But when the mythos of the world puts so much import on a saber, it feels like a very weak culmination of a character arc for that to be it.

Consider Luke Skywalker. He is given Anakin’s saber in A New Hope, which he then uses throughout Empire Strikes Back. It’s his father’s weapon, by using it he is inheriting a legacy. It’s the Skywalker lightsaber, and it’s his, as it was his father’s before him.

Then in Empire’s climax, he loses it (along with his hand) and finds out that Darth Vader is his father. The villain is Luke’s father, that lightsaber he had been using belonged to the man who became Darth Vader. Turns out Luke’s inheritance is that one tainted by the Dark Side.

That’s rough.

Come Return of The Jedi, Luke has built his own lightsaber. He’s still gonna be a Jedi, but this time he’s creating his own legacy. While Anakin’s lightsaber bears a strong resemblance to Vader’s, Luke’s lightsaber takes more after Obi-Wan’s than Anakin’s. It’s a declaration of sorts that Luke’s following the path of Obi-Wan, rather than the failings of Anakin. Later on, during the final duel on the Death Star II, he tosses that lightsaber aside — that new definition of himself — to state that he is a Jedi, like his father before him. Obi-Wan didn’t think that Vader could be saved, but Luke did and he was proven right. Looking at a lightsaber as an extension of its wielder’s psyche, this is the culmination of Luke wrestling with his inheritance. He’s a Skywalker.

In The Force Awakens the Skywalker Lightsaber reemerges as an icon of legacy once again, this time to be taken up by Rey — who initially rejects it but in the climax claims it in one of my favorite Star Wars moments.

Fittingly, The Last Jedi is all about legacies and what to do with them. Luke rejects the lightsaber and the importance it has to being a Jedi. At the onset of the story, he is done with that past. Rey wields it in the duel aboard the Supremacy (since she’s gonna be a Jedi) and later vies against Kylo Ren for it. Both want control of it, but for different reasons. Kylo sees it as his birthright, his chance to wield Darth Vader’s legacy for his own. Rey sees it as the other part of Anakin’s legacy; that of a fallen hero redeemed — as she hopes to enact towards Kylo. In the end, the lightsaber is sundered and Rey collects the broken fragments. The past is broken.

But the lightsaber shows up one last time in The Last Jedi, in the hand of Luke’s Force Projection when he duels Kylo. Its purpose here is twofold: he taunts Kylo Ren with what he wants, yes, but Luke is also taking back up that legacy he had thrown away in the beginning. This is a Force Projection, Luke could have shown himself holding any lightsaber, and even from a cinematic standpoint, we’d just seen that lightsaber broken, how could Luke have it? The incongruity not only hints at the Projection’s nature but shows us that this is a Luke Skywalker who has agreed to his symbolism, who will be the hero the Resistance needs.

Such a wonderful culmination.

So now Rey is set up to craft her own lightsaber for The Rise of Skywalker. It’s part of the Jedi path and all that, plus she has all the books from Ahch-To to teach her. The lightsaber we see her is an extension of her — its design bears a similarity to the staff she wielded in The Force Awakens and the yellow blade suggests a new path. Except this comes at the end. It’s a coda to the story rather than a final act. Rey spends the movie still with the Skywalker saber, except rather than being willing to throw away the past and start fresh, she’s put it back together so it could still be in use. Which, fine, but by the end of The Last Jedi, Rey has the chance to start something new… and instead, she retreads a path.

As a fan, I’m someone who’s wanted Rey to kick ass with a double-sided lightsaber since the credits rolled on The Force Awakens. That The Last Jedi featured no such instance was an initial disappointment, but the missed chance in Rise is frustrating. Here was a chance for the new hero to make a statement, but instead, well, we got what we got. Rey’s yellow lightsaber is super cool, not just aesthetically but as a statement of identity. That it gets relegated to the very end is nothing less than a missed opportunity.

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A Celebration

In less than a week, I will have seen The Rise of Skywalker, the culmination of the newest Star Wars trilogy. It’s thrilling because the idea of a new Star Wars movie never stops being exciting to my tired, late-twenties brain. ‘cuz, dude, it’s a new Star Wars movie!

The newest trailer (which, admittedly, is no longer quite as new as it once was) feels to be very much of the same sentiment. It’s triumphant, the music is brash and eschews tension in favor of sweeping excitement. Ultimately, it doubles down on a feeling of celebratory joy.

And why shouldn’t it? It’s movie number nine of a trilogy, it oughta have with it the cathartic joy of culmination. If this trailer is indicative of Skywalker’s tone, then I’m so ready for the ride.

Star Wars has always been a romantic series; innate to the main movies is this idea of hopeful adventure. When Lando and Wedge make their run on the Death Star II in Return of The Jedi the music is rousing and lively, not dour and dramatic. It eschews tension for thrills; there’s no doubt that the good guys will win — the question instead is how.

This is something the Sequel Trilogy has done real well in capturing. The battle over Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens is full of derring-do as Poe pilots his X-Wing. Rey grabbing the lightsaber is a beat that screams cool, underscored by the music and the camera. We knew this was going to happen, ever since Maz held it out to her, but watching it is so exciting, and you’d be forgiven for cheering wildly in the theater (I did).

If Rise of Skywalker is, in fact, a joyous celebration, then what The Last Jedi did is all the more key. Consider the relationship between deconstruction and reconstruction.

Deconstruction, in a literary sense, is where a story or trope is taken apart. The LEGO Movie merrily takes the piss out of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, making the Chosen Everyman into an utter nobody. Shrek exposes fairytales for the lie they are by positioning the ogre as the main character who saves the princess. Batman is offered a dosage of reality in The Dark Knight; Bruce Wayne is a bruised shell of a man who has little existence outside of his role as the caped crusader.

On the flip side is reconstruction, which is one of my favorite things. This is where the flaws and cracks highlighted by a deconstruction are acknowledged and built upon. Emmet may be the most boring minifig in the world, but that doesn’t mean he can’t go on a Hero’s Journey. Sure, the prince saving the princess is a tired trope, so Shrek builds its narrative on a genuine relationship between people — and so creates a new fairytale ending. The Dark Knight knows that the idea of someone fighting crime outside the law is ridiculous and so uses Joker as the ultimate deconstructor, forcing Batman and Harvey Dent to the edge. Ultimately, the movie decides that it is Batman’s extralegal nature that allows him to take the fall for Dent’s rampage, because Gotham needs a symbol, and an uncorrupt DA is much more potent than a masked vigilante.

The Last Jedi deconstructs Star Wars hard; what with one of its themes being about letting the past die. So much of the movie is about taking apart myths and our own obsessions with them. Rey and Luke are both consumed by the myth of Luke Skywalker with different takeaways: Rey wants that legend to save the galaxy, Luke is haunted by his failure to live up to it. The synthesis of these viewpoints is a systematic deconstruction of Star Wars. During one of Luke’s lessons, for example, he refutes the idea that the Jedi Knights kept the galaxy safe for generations by pointing out that their hubris allowed Darth Sidious to rise right under their noses. Maybe Luke has a point, maybe it is time for the Jedi to end.

Of course, deconstruction by itself makes for a grim outlook, and there are enough sad stories already. The Last Jedi accepts the power of a myth, while also acknowledging that we can’t always live up to it. Luke does face down the First Order, but he does so to save everyone and inspire the Resistance. Rey finds out that the Force does sometimes mean lifting rocks, but, again, it’s an act done to save her friends. By the end of The Last Jedi, the myth is being put back together in a new way, creating a new legend for a new rebellion.

So now comes The Rise of Skywalker, which has the opportunity to build on the foundation of The Last Jedi. The movie has explored a nadir, and now comes the chance for the heroes to chart their own course through the narrative and to, uh, rise. So the tone of the trailers for Skywalker is plenty apt, with their sweeping music and feelings of heroic fantasy. This is the grand finale! It’s not just about bringing a story to a close, it’s also about celebrating the world that so captured our imaginations.

My hope for the movie is that it draws me into its flight of fantasy; that it, like the trailer, makes my heart sing. I can’t wait for The Rise of Skywalker; I’m ready for the adventure. 

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Star Wars Trailer

There’s a new Star Wars trailer, for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and naturally, I am very excited. Because, y’know, Star Wars. There’s so much I dig about it (Rey’s fantastic new outfit, Poe and Finn on adventures, Leia!), and I’m fully aware that this is because it’s Star Wars and these movies will forever delight me no matter what. But here’s the thing, the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker is an essentially perfect example of how to tease a movie.

Right off the bat, we’re treated to a sequence of Rey in the desert, staring down an incoming starfighter. There’s essentially no plot to this sequence; we don’t know whose TIE it is (it looks somewhat like Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer from The Last Jedi, but the cockpit is different), and we have no idea where or why Rey is where she is. But what’s clear is Rey’s come a long way from the scavenger on Jakku. This is her thing.

The next chunk of the trailer is checking in with the other characters and what they’re up to. We see Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers fighting their way through a forest against an indistinct enemy (is that a Knight of Ren?) while someone repairs Kylo’s helmet. Poe Dameron and Finn are off on some high-speed adventure alongside a long-suffering C-3PO. BB-8’s got a new droid buddy, and Lando is back in the Falcon’s cockpit. Also, Leia’s there as a comforting presence and a medal from the end of A New Hope is back too. That middle chunk of the trailer basically lets us know that all those characters we know and love are back and there’s adventure waiting in the wings. Yes, it’s the sort of thing that really does go without saying, but it’s undeniably cool to see them all — we care about these characters and want to see what happens to them in the next stage of their journey.

And that’s where the final sequence of the trailer comes into play. Rey, Finn, and Poe are adventuring somewhere together (the sequel trilogy’s power trio in the grand tradition of Star Wars trios). This gives us some vague idea of at least part of the movie: there’s something that needs to be done and it’ll be done by these three. Past that though, not much is clear. Cue the Death Star wreckage sitting in a sea. It’s a delightful what-the-heck moment that offers up many more questions than it answers. Why are the three looking for the Death Star? Or why did they find it? Who knows?

As if that wasn’t enough, the trailer ends with the very familiar cackle of Emperor Palpatine, adding another ingredient to the mystery stew.

The best thing is that even after the trailer had run its course, we don’t know anything about the plot! Is Kylo Ren still the villain? What’re Rey and company up to? How’s Lando figure into it? Rather than giving us a blow by blow of the story, the trailer instead focuses on invoking a specific mood; we know how the movie will feel instead of what’ll happen. It’s an epic adventure, the sort that Star Wars is known for, coupled with a bunch of mysteries that need to be uncovered. By throwing so many elements into the mix, especially ones with no easy explanation like the Death Star and Palpatine, the trailer effectively whets our appetites to find out what happens next.

In summary: It’s a really good trailer that I’m gonna be rewatching a lot because dude it’s so cool and Jedi Rey gives me life.

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