My favorite moment from the sequel trilogy is still from VII, when Rey faces off against Kylo Ren in the icy woods on Ilum. When Ren tries to get Luke’s saber from the snow, then watches it fly past into his face to be ignited in Rey’s hands as Luke’s theme comes up; now that’s a perfect moment. Ben’s comeback is good but doesn’t quite hit those notes. Of course, the first time I watched it; I totally missed the great lines he has with Han. When he says, “Dad…” and Han just says, “I know.” Man, that’s good. And it makes you wonder, was that just Ben’s memories of his father? He wasn’t there on Bespin. How did he know what Han said to Leia? Maybe it really was a force ghost of some kind.
That was a good fight, with the waves crashing behind them, but the best moment is when Rey uses the force to project a lightsaber to Ben on Exegol. That little shrug that Adam Driver does before taking on the Knights of Ren was terrific. That brings up a question I had though. Who were all those guys watching them fight from the gallery seats? Are they more Sith? There must have been thousands of them. I think those guys are going to be a problem going forward.
I know the kiss between Ben and Rey got a lot of people heated up, and not in a good way, but I thought it worked. I mean, it’s certainly not what I think made sense for Rey, but there was always a bit of tension there. It felt like something she might do in that moment, and even if it was out of character, the goofy smile on Ben’s face was perfect. Like maybe they didn’t tell Driver she was going to do it. I don’t know what I think about that writing decision, but it didn’t harm my suspension of disbelief.
Overall, I didn’t understand the backlash that this movie caught. I have some quibbles, but they’re minor. The sequences with Leia are a bit off, especially her dialogue, which does seem a bit non sequitur when you’re looking for it. Luke and Leia look very strange in the flashback to post-Endor. And what was going on with Lando and Jannah? I know there aren’t a whole lot of black people in Star Wars, but does he just ask everyone if they might be his daughter. That felt forced, as did the switch-up when Chewie was supposed to have died. I didn’t believe it for a second, but I still told my kids, “If Chewie dies, we riot.” Then there was the way that people kept asking Rey what her last name was. It came from nowhere in a way that led you to know it was going to come up again. It wasn’t as awkwardly shoe-horned into the script as Marty McFly’s sudden preoccupation with being called chicken, but it did stand out.
Still, are people serious in thinking that The Last Jedi was better, or are they just trying to get attention? You never know these days, but I’d say preferring VIII is as close to being objectively wrong as you can get with an opinion on movies. I think any hit at the box office that IX takes clearly has more to do with audience fatigue than it is a reflection on the quality of the movie. What I have noticed is that watching IX has made me able to enjoy VIII a lot more. My kids liked this one, and we’ve got Disney Plus, so there has been some binging and repeat watching the last week. Now that I know that the direction of The Last Jedi is just a temporary diversion, I can hang on to the parts I like in that film and let go of my anxiety that the next movie would be more side trips to Canto Bight and watching BB-8 take down an AT-ST. Of course, I can also walk out of the room during the ten-minute melodramatic death scene of a nobody character in the first part of the film, and that helps. It’s like if my kids want to watch Phantom Menace. I can just come back into the room when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight Darth Maul. Those five minutes are pretty good if you don’t have to watch the whole turkey.
One of the biggest weaknesses of Episode IX is the obvious. I used to play a game when I was a kid where we would take turns telling a few lines of a story. Often you would find yourself explaining away or even ignoring something stupid that a friend had come up with. Abrams spends a lot of time doing that in Rise. Kylo Ren gathers up the shards of his broken helmet and has them forged back into a new version with obvious red seams. It’s cool looking. Like one of his admirals says, “I like it.” But the helmet also serves as a visible metaphor for the seams that Abrams had to leave visible in repairing the damage that Johnson did to his good work in VII.
Now that I think of it, the seams are kind of a Rose color, aren’t they?