Each day closer to the wide release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I’m getting more and more certain that it’s going to be a train wreck.
I’ve been a spoiler hound for all three of the Disney Star Wars movies, and for the first two, I kept an open mind. I walked into The Force Awakens (TFA) knowing the plot beat by beat — that a beloved character was going to die and a certain villain was a blood relative. Up ’til now, I had been a pretty avid defender of JJ Abrams’ reboot/remake, as it established very likable characters and left a wide-open sandbox for the next adventure.
The Last Jedi (TLJ) kept its secrets hidden much better, as it wasn’t until the premiere that its controversial moments made it onto leak forums. I held out hope that, even though it sounded unsatisfying, the execution would be better onscreen — but no, we got a proudly incoherent blast of elitist contempt that continues to fascinate in just how much is wrong with it, both micro and macro.
Before I knew any details about The Rise of Skywalker, I didn’t have much hope. TFA left us with lots of questions that could have inspired some fun world building. What are Rey and Snoke’s mysterious origins? What is Luke doing alone on this island? How is the entire galaxy reacting to the sudden, total destruction of their political system? TLJ, not so much. Really the only questions I had were: 1) Are they really going to pull some Return of the King undead-army-in-space subplot to give the good guys a shot at victory, 2) How in the world are they going to make it interesting at all when Rey defeats Kylo a third time, and 3) Does J.J. have the balls to retcon Luke’s death and let him do something heroic before the trilogy ends?
I can tell that my low expectations were pretty widespread, as Disney has marketed Episode IX ultra aggressively. They revealed Emperor Palpatine was back in the very first trailer, they’ve put out multiple non-trailer film clips (including a premiere in Fortnite), last-minute clip/trailer hybrids, and probably a dozen different posters trying to hype up moments from the trailers as iconic. Then there’s the obviously fake “viral” story that a lead actor apparently left his script lying around for a cleaner to find and send to a friend who didn’t just leak the contents but listed it on eBay, yet Disney thwarted the sale — sure, guys!
For everything wrong with TLJ, it was obvious that Disney didn’t rush it, and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy was as smugly satisfied as Rian Johnson. Now, the Mouse House is clearly nervous about this haphazard product, and we’re starting to see why.
Several months ago, a detailed plot leak came by way of someone who goes by the name “Jedi Paxis,” a moderator of the Reddit forum “StarWarsLeaks.” Now, these made for fun reading, because the story relayed by his posts sounded so pointless and disorganized it belonged in the Transformers franchise rather than Star Wars. As with all online leaks, everyone took it with a grain of salt, because hundreds of anonymous posters dream up fake plots for these kinds of movies just to mess with the Internet.
However, the Jedi Paxis leaks started getting corroborated. New trailers and clips confirmed his details. And leaked images of very spoiler-ific moments appeared online, both on the day of the final theatrical trailer’s release and the hour before the film’s world premiere. Nothing has been debunked. It’s Game of Thrones Season 8 all over again.
Now, a few individuals who claim to have seen Rise of Skywalker at the premiere Monday night have put out spoilers that sound very much like Paxis’s. They offer many new details, but they haven’t filled us in on the subplots with Finn and Poe, so I’m still allowing for the possibility that these could be hoaxes. However, JJ didn’t prevent the entire plot of TFA leaking before its premiere, so anyone hoping for something better than the convoluted synopsis we’ve seen, you might want to wait for it to arrive on TV, just like Mark Hamill “joked.”
Of course, you can find the actual spoilers in the places I’ve already mentioned, but what’s important is the storytelling choices that these leaks represent. Let’s dive into that:
CONSIDER THESE POINTS TO BE SPOILERS!
In The Rise of Skywalker, here’s what we do not get:
- A real explanation for why Emperor Palpatine is alive after he fell into the reactor core of a giant space station that was later blown up
- A counterpoint to the obvious takeaway: What did Luke, Vader, et. al. really accomplish at the end of Return of the Jedi?
- A backstory for Rey that doesn’t sound like a pitiful fanfic
- A satisfying explanation for JJ’s Palpatine ripoff, Snoke (instead, we open a very lame and puzzling can of worms)
- Any development of the “Knights of Ren,” aside from names on toys
- Any meaningful use of prequel characters (not a fan myself, but I know lots of people want Anakin to show up, for obvious Kylo-arc reasons)
- Any followup or rehabilitation of the awful “Rose stops Finn from pulling a Holdo and kisses him out of nowhere” scene
- Scenes with Lando that amount to more than a cameo
- A break from de-aged CGI faces
- A break from half-baked MacGuffins
- A break from rehashing imagery found in the corresponding original trilogy episode
- A happy ending for anyone who’s rooting for a romance between any of the characters
- A lean, escapist adventure (it’s reportedly front-loaded with exposition to bring us back from the zero-tension ending of TLJ, and it’s longer, too!)
- A retcon to fix the “Force ghosts can affect the physical world” goof from TLJ
- Any content to justify the film’s title (people are really mad about this angle)
- Any sense that this story was planned out from the beginning, even though Lucasfilm has a “story group” to supposedly enforce continuity across all products
We’ll see for sure whether the leaks are 100% real this Thursday night when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters nationwide.