A Divided Fan Base
We are less than a month away from an historical moment in cinematic history: the end of the Skywalker saga that began all the way back in 1977 with creator George Lucas’s Star Wars: A New Hope. J.J. Abrams is back in the director’s seat after being absent from Episode VIII’s The Last Jedi and has a very difficult task ahead of him, being bringing the main Star Wars story to a satisfying conclusion.
To say that Abrams is fighting an uphill battle is an understatement as the Star Wars fan base (or “fandom” as it is popularly called) is divided more now than it was when Lucas’s prequel trilogy was released between 1999-2005. The reason is clear. Rian Johnson’s 2017’s The Last Jedi. It has been the most attacked Star Wars episodic film, even earning the distaste of actor Mark Hamill who plays the iconic Luke Skywalker in the popular sci-fi films. He expressed significant issues with his character’s portrayal in Johnson’s The Last Jedi which is undoubtedly shared by many within the fandom. The movie was undeniably successful in accomplishing one thing however: splitting the fan base as wide as the ground between Rey and Kylo Ren in their first fight in 2015’ The Force Awakens (also directed by Abrams).
I have never seen so many YouTube videos and social media comments regarding Star Wars, calling for boycotts of Episode IX’s The Rise of Skywalker based on their utter hatred of The Last Jedi. I can understand the dislike of Episode VIII as I did not like it and still don’t, although there were some great scenes and themes within the film. Despite my issues with the film and some of Lucasfilm’s decisions under the leadership of president Kathleen Kennedy, I still am extremely hopeful and excited for next month’s Episode IX and here are a few reasons why.
The Return of the Creator
What has birthed hope in many fans again is that Star Wars creator George Lucas was called upon by Abrams to con POP sult in the development of Episode IX’s script. Having “The Creator”, as pop human-cyborg relations C-3PO would call him, return to help bring his Skywalker saga to a satisfying end makes sense. With many now bemoaning the selling of Lucasfilm to Disney and calling for Lucas to return to Lucasfilm, bringing him back to assist with Episode IX shows honor and respect for Lucas and the fans. Abrams is admitting he needed help to rightly conclude the saga and asked the right person for it. No matter what one thinks of the Star Wars visionary and creator, all can agree that this story is not about money for him but a labor of love and having him consult means Episode IX will have the soul, feel, and ending of a Star Wars movie.
The Diversity within the Movie
As a Black man, I love the diversity of the new Star Wars films. You would think there would be more diversity within the galaxy far, far away but there really hasn’t been. There’s only been three Black characters within the Skywalker saga being Mace Windu, Lando Calrissian, and Finn. Now, there are four and she will be a big help in bringing down the evil reign of the First Order and Empire. Black actress Naomi Ackie will be playing Rise’s “Jannah” who Ackie states is “…fierce (and has) a lot of history involved with the issues in the film. Once you find out her story, you’re rooting for her and you can understand why she’s fighting.” She will be the first major Black woman in the Skywalker saga and I can’t wait to see her, alongside Finn and the Resistance, win the day. It is in the nature of the worldwide Black community to fight systems of oppression so it is good to see that on screen within Star Wars with characters such as Lando, Finn, and Jannah.
Fate of the Main Characters
Ever since The Force Awakens showed us a young woman who lived as a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku and was strong in the Force, two of this trilogy’s main questions are “Who is Rey?” and “Who are Rey’s parents?” The Last Jedi attempted to answer both questions unsuccessfully and I believe Abrams will provide a great answer to both in The Rise of Skywalker. When asked in a recent interview about Rey being so strong in the Force without training, he replied, “Yeah, spooky, right? (Smiles) It’s a fair point. It’s not an accident.” Sounds like we will finally get our answer as to who Rey is as well as her parentage.
Adam Driver’s “Kylo Ren” is a fan favorite and the fan base waits to see what becomes of Anakin Skywalker’s grandson in Episode IX. Will Kylo descend even further into the dark side of the Force or will we see Ben Solo return and find redemption like his grandfather did decades ago on the second Death Star? I also can’t wait for his and Rey’s epic fight on board of the partially submerged wreckage of what looks like the second Death Star.
John Boyega’s “Finn” is my favorite new character and his arc has been interesting. Going from a trained Stormtrooper working for Supreme Chancellor Snoke’s First Order and Kylo Ren to teaming up with General Leia Organa’s Resistance and with Rey has been a great story and what I’m most looking forward to is seeing him finish his arc of becoming an accomplished hero instead of the, in his own words, “comedic goofy dude who never gets stuff done.”
After the end of The Last Jedi, Poe was metaphorically given the reigns of the Resistance by General Organa on Crait and in this next movie, we will see him fully become the leader he was meant to be. As the leader of the Resistance and star pilot, we will see him lead a renewed final fight against the First Order…and the reborn Empire under still alive Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious.
Return of the “Chosen One”
As a huge fan of the Prequel Trilogy (Revenge of the Sith is my favorite episodic film thus far), this is one of the main reasons I’m excited for Episode IX and that is the possible return of Anakin Skywalker, the prophesied chosen one. When George Lucas was at the helm of his company, he said that Star Wars was the story of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One and the fact that J.J. Abrams brought him back to help with Episode IX would seem to imply that this important fact isn’t lost on Abrams. Even if “The Chosen One” prophecy ends up being about a chosen bloodline (the Skywalkers) as opposed to just one individual, it would still be amazing to see Hayden Christensen return as Anakin. Many fans have been asking for this and are cautiously optimistic that we will see him next month based on the recent sightings of Hayden alongside fellow actor Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine). If Anakin Skywalker returns in Force Spirit mode in Episode IX, that’ll be the cherry on top for me (although his absence won’t ruin the movie for me). Besides, how can you have the Emperor return without his former apprentice in some fashion?
"I believe in @jjabrams ability to bring us an ending that will wrap up the previous eight film’s stories..." — @lamont_english
End of the Skywalker Saga
I believe in J.J. Abram’s ability to bring us an ending that will wrap up the previous eight film’s stories of Anakin, Luke, Leia, and Ben Solo (and perhaps Rey?). Abrams is a Star Wars fan who also loves the fans. The Force Awakens is proof of that. I am aware of the criticism Episode VII received of being a remake of Episode IV and yes, there were definite similarities and themes in his film. However, instead of seeing that as a complete negative (I too have some issues with it), I see it more as a positive and as a love letter to the fans, Lucas, and what the series stands for and embodies. Episode VII was not only a good movie; it was a good Star Wars movie with interesting characters and a good story. Characters (including Luke) and a story that I don’t think are derailed by Johnson’s The Last Jedi’s poor attempts at subverting our expectations. Abrams knew the challenges this movie possesses and would not have come back if he did not believe he could meet and surpass them as well as salvage the series and stories he began in 2015 and bring them home for the fans in 2019. As a director, he listens to the fans and Episode IX will show that. What I believe we will see on the big screen come December is one more love letter, giving us an ending we can embrace that will do justice to the Skywalker family and legacy.
A Call to the Fan Base
There have been valid concerns with the Sequel Trilogy, some which I share. However, there is also gold in the sequel trilogy and The Rise of Skywalker will be the Revenge of the Sith in this trilogy’s story. In this holiday season we should be thankful that a breath of fresh air has been breathed into the lungs of the Star Wars franchise with new games, comics, novels, and stand-alone films such as the wonderful Rogue One. This series means something to the fans and instead of tearing it down, we should build it up, even in the midst of its flaws. Let’s remember that, pulling together instead of fighting one another over a fictional universe and characters, embracing what we’ve been given so far (including The Last Jedi) and embracing what we are about to receive this Christmas season from J.J. Abrams and George Lucas: the satisfying conclusion of our beloved Skywalker saga. And that is something to be excited about.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20, 2019.