The Gonzo Journals
February 2nd, 2023
It’s something that’s haunted me every day since December 18th, 2019. Not only was it my birthday, but it was the release date for Star Wars Episode 9: Rise of Skywalker. Unknown to me at the time, I also had a horrible case of COVID before COVID was cool. I probably passed it to the entire theater without knowing. Something inside of my died that night, and the virus tried to finish me off two days later. I lived to witness the backlash of the subpar ending to the greatest movie saga in the history of film.
I’d been a massive Star Wars fan since the beginning. I recall sitting on lawn chairs in the bed of my grandmother’s El Camino. Along with my uncle, we sat at a packed drive-in theater awaiting the beginning of this crazy phenomenon which was taking the rest of the country by storm. My four-year-old mind was blown, and I still remember that experience to this very day. That was forty-five years ago.
When Empire released – my personal favorite of the saga – my uncle and I abused the perks of having a friend who worked at the theater and watched it before anyone else in town. Twice in a row. It was so dark, and it had the greatest twist in film history, sparking hundreds of copycat plots still being utilized to this very day. Yoda took the world by storm much like Grogu from The Mandalorian series does today. Don’t you dare call him Baby Yoda in my presence. It’s insulting.
Return of the Jedi? Sure, the Empire was defeated by giant teddy bears, but it was an epic ending to the saga up to that point. The emperor was creepy AF and Vader redeemed himself. The end. You heard the name Anakin Skywalker for the very first time (pre-Special Edition changes) and I promised myself I’d name my first-born son after that character. It took a bit of stealth, but I totally did. My Anakin just turned 22 years old and is a huge Star Wars fan as well. He had no choice.
Back then, Star Wars was more of an insider thing. Everyone in the world knew what it was, but most people didn’t speak of it in public. If you did, you were some kind of nerd, and no one would ever want to slap around a Star Wars nerd’s ding-a-ling. Trust me. We all wanted our ding-a-lings slapped around so we discussed such things in hushed whispers. At least until I joined the military.
The Army was a Star Wars fan’s wet dream. Not only did I meet dozens of people who were openly infatuated with the saga, but I was enlisted when The Phantom Menace released. That was when Star Wars became an openly discussed household dinner topic, and anyone who downs that film publicly now is just trying to belong to the toxic fandom. EVERYONE loved that movie when it came out. Everyone. I personally saw it thirteen times in theaters.
Then, the internet became a readily available thing. Trolls found trolls and gave birth to more trolls. It was suddenly cool to be a Star Wars hater who lived in a room full of Star Wars memorabilia. Sure, love it enough to buy all the stuff, but your online persona could hate it all day long. Like two different people living in the same skin, really. Pitiful.
Not long after that, Attack of the Clones was released, giving us all, once again, what we’d wanted all those years. Most will deny it, but many of today’s haters flocked to the theaters multiple times to witness the start of the legendary Clone Wars. Yoda whipped out his little lightsaber and kicked ass for the first time. Today, people think it’s lame. Back then, those same people got a Yoda chubby.
Finally, Revenge of the Sith arrived to give us the epic battle between good and evil only rumored by fan fiction up until that point. Obi Wan and Anakin went face to face as enemies in a fight destined to leave him scarred and limbless. We held our breath as the hero announced the ‘high ground’ and sliced and diced his best friend into oblivion. We cried. All of us. Even though we knew the moment was coming, we cried.
I even recall crying on my way home from the theater that night, believing it to be my last theatrical outing with something I loved with all my heart. There was no way George Lucas would let anyone else play with his baby.
I was wrong.
The Disney acquisition happened, and light shone onto the smiling faces of millions of Star Wars fans once more. Surely, if anyone could make the franchise relevant again, it would be Disney! I personally imagined a Pirates of the Carribean style adventure with Jedi instead of pirates. Silly me.
The Force Awakens was a scene for scene rehash of A New Hope but with new characters. The Last Jedi, even though I found it enjoyable, was as divisive of a film as the 2020 election was to politics. The Rise of Skywalker was the metaphorical nail in the coffin.
I despised Rogue One and Solo when I watched them in theaters, but repeated viewings at home led to a love affair with both films. I was hoping the same thing would happen with Rise of Skywalker. Not yet. Maybe never.
It feels like a divorce. Almost like I came home early from work one afternoon and caught the Star Wars saga having mad monkey sex with my best friend. How could either of these entities, Star Wars or Disney, disappoint millions of fans? Wait. Let me rephrase that. How could either of these entities crush the hearts of millions of fans without so much as a blinking eye from anyone within their respective organizations? That’s easy. Love was never involved with the latest trilogy. Like Watto said in The Phantom Menace, “Mind tricks don’t work on me. Only money.”
Let’s discuss the top ten things most Star Wars fans despise about Rise of Skywalker and what could’ve happened to salvage the film:
(Before anyone says anything, I’m going point for point from a Screenrant article. It just so happens that EVERYONE seems to hate these same ten things.)
10. Somehow, Palpatine returned: Really? Just throw the dead franchise villain back into the mix with “somehow” as your only explanation? This would’ve been one hell of a reveal at the very end of The Last Jedi if everyone at Lucasfilm had chosen to discuss things rather than try to see which director had the bigger lightsaber.
9. Chewbacca’s Fake Death: this scene didn’t get much of a rise out of me in the theaters because I was still laughing at the ‘boy band’ arial video introduction to the Knights of Ren. I knew they weren’t going to kill a legacy character in that manner. Especially since Leia Mary Poppin’d her way back into the ship after being sucked out into space. This scene could’ve been avoided completely with zero effect on the plot.
8. The Knights of Ren: Combined, I think these guys have less than a minute of screen time. They were mentioned briefly in The Force Awakens but never elaborated on. Even in Rise of Skywalker, we only know who they are because two stormtroopers refer to them as “ghouls”. This tells me nothing! I bet these guys have a cool back story if anyone bothered to write it. Are these the other students who left Skywalkers Jedi Academy with Ben Solo? If not, that’s a nice explanation. Go with that. Sequel Special Editions? Anyone?
7. Finn’s Love Interest: He was up Rey’s butt in The Force Awakens. He was wooing Rose in The Last Jedi. In Rise of Skywalker, he’s given another girl to interact with who goes by the name of “not worth remembering”. She is on the planet much of the Death Star 2 crashed landed on and is a former stormtrooper who also defied her orders. Finn runs though women like James Bond! Whatever happened to the Poe love interest side story? Don’t dudes love each other in a galaxy far, far away, or would this be too much for your average Floridian? Gotta convince people to visit Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando, right?
6. Finn Screams Rey. Repeatedly: That was most of his lines in the film. It was either “Wooooooo” or Reeeeeeeeey”. The screenwriter flipped a coin whenever it came to a moment of Finn’s dialog and wasted a character with tons of potential. A stormtrooper turned freedom fighter who was possibly force sensitive? How did they just crap all over a set up like that?
5. Darth Rey Vision: When I saw this scene teased in the trailer, I was hoping we would get the Rey vs. Rey Clone fight resembling what happened with Luke in Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn Trilogy” books from the early nineties. Instead, we get another force vision revealing Rey’s stupid lineage reveal. Perhaps she should’ve begun turning to the dark side at the end of The Last Jedi, causing Ben Solo to return to the light and defeat her. That, my friends, is a twist!
4. Poe’s Desperate Backstory: I was convinced that Poe Dameron was such an awesome pilot because he was force sensitive. Damn, I was wrong. He was a criminal, a smuggler, a thief, and somehow ended up joining the resistance. It was rumored from canonical writings that he grew up in a house with a tree in the yard much like the ancient tree on Luke’s island in The Last Jedi. There was also one of those trees outside the Jedi Temple in the prequels, but it was never mentioned in the films. Obviously, the only person who was allowed a character arc was Rey and it sucked. She had no character arc. She started the trilogy as a bad ass and “ended” the trilogy as a bad ass. That’s not an arc, Lucasfilm. That’s a straight line.
3. Rey and Ben’s Healing Kiss: We knew it was coming. Every teen girl with a thing for Adam Driver begged for it. We just have to live with it now. As far as force healing goes, that’s been a force power in the extended universe for quite some time. It was touched on in books, comics, and videogames which are no longer canonical. The last movie in the saga is a bad placeholder for this talent. I’m sure several dead Rebels would’ve loved some of this attention when they died in previous films.
2. The Pandering Same Sex Kiss: We heard about it for months leading up to the film’s release. Disney snuck in the first same sex kiss in Star Wars history in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ ending sequence. Is this supposed to be a bold move in the year 2019? It wouldn’t be if film studios would shut the hell up about it before a film is released. Same sex people kiss all the time. Since you were going to go that far, why not elaborate on the Poe/Finn bromance and have two of the main characters go at it for a bit? Because men run the world, and most men don’t want to watch two men kissing. They’ll watch some steamy lady on lady clips, but don’t want to watch two men in love. Fair is fair, Disney. Can we watch 3PO and R2 do the naughty? They’ve been gay since day one. Anyone who says otherwise is in denial of Bert and Ernie proportions.
1. And finally…Rey Skywalker: I don’t even know what to say about this. Although it was “sweet-ish”, you don’t get to rename yourself at the end of the film to match the baddest mofo in the galaxy. Not necessarily Luke, he was whiny, but Anakin, who was also a whiny guy turned best villain in cinema history. Besides, who was the old damn crone walking by the abandoned Lars farm to begin with? A neighbor? I didn’t see any other houses! No, she was some rambling old asylum escapee asking questions to whoever she could find. Rey could’ve said ANYTHING and it wouldn’t have mattered to this forcefully inquisitive old bag. What does she say? Skywalker. The most recognized and legendary name in the galaxy. They should’ve gone for a Shyamalan twist at this point. The lady pulls out a blaster, shoots Rey dead, and collects a long, lost bounty on Skywalkers still left over from the crime rule of Jabba The Hutt. Then End.
Honorable mentions: Holdo Maneuvers, Creepy Lando, Iced Star Destroyers, Space Horses, and NOT showing ANY force ghosts during Rey’s mental breakdown.
I’m trying. I’m really trying. I tried to watch Rise of Skywalker again tonight and made it as far as “Somehow Palpatine Returned” before switching it off. Most of the television shows on Disney Plus are well made and even the animated shows such as Clone Wars and Rebels are top notch. Why couldn’t they have stuck the landing with the film saga?
There’s only one way to remedy this. No, it’s not erasing the sequel trilogy. Disney will never do that. They’ve made billions of dollars off them and give less than a crap about our personal feelings.
Episode X is needed to tie up the mess and give our childhood the proper sendoff it deserves. Do, or do not, Lucasfilm. There is no try.
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