When the Force Awakens hit theaters in 2015, millions of people from the new generation were finally able to see Star Wars on the big screen. After the disappointment of the prequels, this trilogy was supposedly the one that would redeem the franchise and restore itself to its former glory. Except what really happened at the end of the new trilogy was a trail of missed opportunities and a convoluted plot. It felt as if it was written by two separate people (which did happen). This left the fandom in complete tatters. So, what happened to the sequel trilogy?
Not That Long Ago….
On June 2012, George Lucas sold the star wars franchise to Disney for $4 billion. Most fans back then were rather excited, as they were still reeling from the prequels. The prequel trilogy did indeed left a bad impression. With it’s poor direction, lifeless acting, dialogue with no emotion, a lack of character development as well as an overuse of CGI which for The Phantom Menace, did not age well. With director J.J Abrams at the helm for The Force Awakens, it renewed the fans’ excitement for the potential of a great new series. The sequel trilogy looked to be all the more promising with three new directors working on each of three installments.
The Force Awakens
Despite its faults, it is still an objectively good movie. The Force Awakens signaled a huge departure from the prequels. It was regarded as the movie that would save Star Wars back then. Indeed, the most prominent aspect were the signature practical effects, which can age like fine wine if done correctly. One such example is the original trilogy, which was made during the 80s.
Under the direction of J.J Abrams, the movie felt much more alive and exciting. Both action sequences and dialogues added up to an exceptional story, rather than the latter aspect being used as mere filler. To boot, this movie contained colorful performances, precise editing and good direction. This then cemented the revival of Star Wars, and it felt as though the prequels had suddenly disappeared.
However, many critics and fans were concerned with how derivative it was of A New Hope. From important plot points such as the existence of a superweapon that can destroy planets, plans that were hidden inside a droid and the resemblance of the Empire and the Rebellion and so on. How this problem is addressed later in The Last Jedi will be what broke the fandom in half.
The Last Jedi
Arguably the biggest sin that would affect its successor was that most of the themes and plot will be discarded simply because of how controversial it was.
The Last Jedi did not have the same appeal as its predecessor. Under the supervision of Rian Johnson, any plan that J.J. Abrams might have had for episode VIII and IX were completely thrown out the window. This led to the first problem the sequel trilogy faced: the lack of a unifying vision.
While George Lucas had his own faults in writing, the one thing anyone can agree with is that the prequels had a unifying story to tell the tragedies of Darth Vader. The Last Jedi however, overturned much of what Disney had planned for the sequels. Instead, what was written was an abundance of slow-paced chase scenes with barely any action whatsoever. One feature that this movie had going on was its subversive plot twists that had tension within the movie. The whole point of plot twists is that after the movie, the viewer will reflect back on the story even more. Granted, some of the scenes in The Last Jedi did the plot some service, such as Snoke’s demise meant the rise of Kylo Ren’s tyranny.
Probably the biggest concern was Luke not being treated with enough respect. His character seemed to be replaced with a hollow shell; completely nihilistic and broken, going so far as to attempt murder on his own nephew (Ben). This act alone was a far cry from when he tried to redeem Darth Vader. Another criticism was that while the movie tried to create a darker tone, it’s attempts were hampered with awkward comedy. Moreover, there were scenes and characters that did not advance the plot whatsoever. The Canto Bight arc is probably the best example of what should have been a deleted scene.
On top of it all, The Last Jedi neglected the one character who had the most potential, Finn. A stormtrooper who defected to the good guys would have made for a powerful character arc. Instead, he was forgotten in the first 30 minutes of Episode VII. Arguably the biggest sin that would affect its successor was that most of the themes and plot will be discarded simply because of how controversial it was.
The Rise of Skywalker
Despite the hatred for The Last Jedi, it still gained respect from critics and fans for its bold take on Star wars. The same cannot be said for the ninth entry, who is the black sheep of the franchise. The Rise of Skywalker had the lowest score compared to any other Star Wars movie on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
With that, The Last Jedi had seemingly disappeared. The supposed director, Colin Treverow, did not return for the final installment, leaving J.J Abrams returning to take up directing duties. Palpatine’s return in particular was supposedly a correction of Snoke’s death, demoting Kylo Ren to being a mere sub-antagonist. Not to mention, Palpatine’s return undermines the victory of the Rebellion.
For the last entry of the Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker feels quite underwhelming altogether. It spends its runtime retconning the mistakes of its predecessor while barely advancing its own plot. Furthermore, ending the entire saga with a Palpatine (Yes, Rey) taking over the Skywalker name makes the title of the movie all the more ironic.
With wasting its time with retconning, the plot became convoluted. Both fans and newcomers were confused at what was happening. Having to do some fixing while ending the trilogy itself will inevitably lead to utter chaos. Though it can be said that the sequel trilogy is a technical wonder with performances, visual effects, music and everything in between, the writing and directing were sub-par at most.
In retrospect, it’s sad to say that the prequel trilogy, while bad in some areas, had at least contributed to Star Wars via worldbuilding. There is nothing in the sequel trilogy except a derivative beginning, an non-existent middle and a rushed, unsatisfying ending. To have such potential wasted was very unfortunate, especially since this may very well be the last entries of Star Wars. That is until the next trilogy, because let’s face it: we all know it will happen.
Written by Edward Wong.
Featured image by Zach Vecker.