Honestly, the Sequel Trilogy is simultaneously to me a great series of films… and some of the most frustrating. When we first heard Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and that we’d be getting the Sequel Trilogy, I was cautiously optimistic but mostly skeptical about it. I personally really did not like the Prequel Trilogy, a lot of the old EU content I tried to get into when it wasn’t a fun game I thought was some of the most cheesy, fan-appeasement riddled nonsense that was loaded with hackneyed fanfic ideas and edgelord pandering, I was more certain I was gonna walk out of Episode VII hating every aspect of it.
Then The Force Awakens came out… and I proceeded to go to the theater six more times after that initial viewing to watch it. Is TFA a perfect film? No. Clearly not. Was it ever gonna live up to the hype? Considering the Sequel Trilogy had been speculated about for years and years and in that time Star Wars itself (More specifically the OT.) had been propped up to being this ultra perfect godly space fantasy series that has the magical power to please everyone? Nothing short of curing hunger across the universe, granting everybody immortality and making the Force real would’ve satisfied. What it was though was the perfect film for that time. Considering it had been years since we saw a new live-action Star Wars movie in theaters and all the skepticism that was around for this new era? It was the right call to play things a little safe, to give us a more classic style Star Wars movie to sort of ease us into this new era we were heading into. Plus I really didn’t mind considering as a fan who had tried out many novels, comics and games? Star Wars has run the gamut of so many story types and also when I went into the theaters knowing the insane expectations this movie garnered? I just wanted something that could entertain and I wound up loving it.
I adored a lot of the new characters, Poe Dameron had a ton of personality and Oscar Issac worked his butt off to make him just so likable, the new droid BB-8 was adorable and in many ways felt like a natural evolution of how the astromechs could evolve with later models. Finn was a great character to see both with his story of being a Stormtrooper who leaves the First Order and just all his interactions with everyone and most especially his friendship with Poe, Rey is a badass and her being the one the Force awoke in was a genuinely well done surprise that had some great set-up for what we could see in the following episode and then there’s the villains such as Kylo Ren who I’m just going to state is my favorite new Star Wars character. When the trailers showed him off? I genuinely was expecting a Vader clone and while that would’ve been fine in terms of a threat? Given that we’ve seen villains in Star Wars before that basically are just there to be a cool bad guy in dark robes that do cool bad guy things? I wasn’t really keen on us getting another with Kylo but then the movie pulls such an interesting trick with him that is acted so well by Adam Driver. We see a villain who actively is struggling with being called to the Light Side, a villain who’s vulnerable and human and has real issues. Even during one of his most pivotal moments when he kills his father, we see how vulnerable he is and the way it’s done in the film works so well with us getting the intimidating force of nature first but we get glimpses over time of the man that resides behind the mask before finally getting a total reveal and while yes he loses his major duel with Rey? Considering he did so with a blaster wound in his side and a strike to his shoulder in the middle of the freezing cold after chasing Rey and Finn down and he really only lost because Rey remembered Maz’s words and let the Force guide her movements while he was trying to just take her to Snoke makes him a badass to me.
The old characters were also used very well. Han and Leia didn’t just feel like the two were plucked from the OT and tossed in with no consideration for either their age or what the story called for, they believably were Han and Leia after thirty years of development and circumstances. They didn’t overshadow the new cast, they served their role well as figures who passed the torch down to the next generation. I felt in general this was the most respect I had seen shown to these characters in a good while and as someone who was deathly scared of seeing them overuse the old crew for a story that isn’t really theirs anymore? I was very relieved to see that not happen and to go with that came one of TFA’s biggest and often ignored strengths. Yes it’s a very familiar movie with a plot skeleton that’s similar to what came before but it uses that to focus on mostly new content. Think about it, J.J. Abrams is one of the biggest self-admitted Star Wars fans on this planet. He had even stated when he got this job that while he worked on the Star Trek movies he tried his best to get into it but while he only appreciated it? He loved Star Wars and specifically the OT. He could’ve easily turned in a movie continuing the adventures of Han, Luke and Leia in a much more safe fashion that puts all the attention on the old but he didn’t do that. To begin this story, he instead made a film that transitioned us from the old and into the new and he did so with a great deal of care.
The film’s a thrill ride with its brisk pacing. Things keep moving but it never feels like we’re rushing at any point in time. The music is excellent as always from John Williams and while it’s a little more subdued than what maybe say the prequels had? The compositions are still top-notch. The action was kinetic and fun with it striking that balance between being grounded and bombastic. It brought back a lot of the mysticism from the OT and effectively made the Force interesting again. The dialogue is fun. It’s witty, it has passion and emotion and while some of the lines one could argue are a little too modern? I’d argue that I’m grateful for that because it results in Star Wars characters sounding like people and it shows that the filmmakers are willing to not be so stubborn as to maintain certain aspects just because they were in older films. This movie is just a ton of fun and when it finally ended that first watchthrough? I openly clapped and left the theater with an ear-to-ear smile.
Now yes it is not perfect. Some of the dialogue is a little awkward, I definitely would’ve preferred a more original story for Episode VII, Poe originally being written to die in the script is way too obvious in the movie and because of what the trailers showed before it meant his return didn’t have the impact they were going for and Captain Phasma is wasted in both this and the next movie which is a shame because just her look alone is so cool. But the thing is Star Wars has never been perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect movie and like I said, I don’t think VII was ever gonna appeal to everyone because we’re all coming into this with our own ideas of what Star Wars should be and this is a trilogy we’ve speculated about for so long that our preconceptions and expectations can sometimes override our thoughts. Not only that but those issues take away from my enjoyment of this movie. TFA is excellent comfort food and in some ways better than it. It’s so excellent in fact… it left me absolutely terrified for the next movie because that one was gonna have to do something big. The kid gloves had to come off and we had to see what new content this trilogy could bring to the table and with that came The Last Jedi.
And… The Last Jedi is my second-favorite Star Wars movie right behind The Empire Strikes Back. I am not sorry for that, I have heard every single possible criticism that has been levied at this movie, even a couple came up as I walked out of the theater that first time through and I just heartily disagree. I came into TLJ with again, no expectations and a lot of fear that this was gonna suck and came out of it pleasantly surprised in more ways than one. The characters and their arcs were moved along in very believable ways, I thought the film was very smartly written and that it introduced so many layers and nuances that I was not expecting to see, it looks gorgeous, sounds wonderful and it subverts expectations in ways that I thought was very well done, specifically props have to go to the handling of Luke which I know is controversial but to me? The levels of nuance that are present from what Luke’s reasoning for his exile is to the lesson he learns which is a lesson he struggled with even in ROTJ when coupled with Mark Hamill’s amazing acting makes for a take on this character that felt far truer to his character than I ever expected to see. Once again, this didn’t feel like Luke just turned into a spectacular master for the sake of appeasing people, this felt like a Luke that had been through thirty years of hardship and development and the back-and-forth between him and Rey was great. I also really liked Finn’s adventure with Rose and what that meant for his character arc. Canto Bight could’ve done with some trimming but for the most part it was fun to me. I really enjoyed Poe’s arc and if the criticisms levied at the movie have done at least something for me? It’s that every time I rewatch this movie I notice new things like the subtle bits of language, the intonation of certain lines and how scenes are cut together and how they really work in tandem with the writing to make these plots as clear as possible without spelling it out for people.
Then there’s Kylo and I adore what they do with Kylo in this movie. I love how they parallel his and Rey’s stories, I love how they play up his struggles and how they develop his relationship with Rey. I love we got something very different with him. TLJ didn’t just turn him into Darth Vader again through the magic of time-skips, we get to see how these events affected him and how it leads into one of the most shocking moments when he kills Snoke, a character that to be frank had nothing really going for him beyond looking cool in TFA and while that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been something spectacular? The choice they made is not only bolder? It set the stage for an Episode IX that would’ve been very unique because we have both our hero and villain lost and looking for answers in various places and in the case of Kylo? We don’t have a Vader, we have an unstable broken powder keg who can be terrifying in a completely different way because while Vader was more subdued and calculated? Think about the idea of someone like Kylo being able to raze planets on a whim just because he wants to posture that he is this tough Supreme Leader. One could say that’s embarrassing but you’d be arguing against the guy in a massive warship that can rain green hell from above and can choke you with his mind.
It has problems like TFA I will grant. Phasma is wasted, Leia’s flying scene looks weird due to the framing of it, while Crait is awesome one can argue the movie does go on a little long and not all the humor works. But as a whole? TLJ is incredible. I honestly think had life played out differently and either Carrie Fisher didn’t die and we got Duel of the Fates like we were supposed to or TROS was delayed to tighten things up? I think the Sequel Trilogy would’ve been looked upon much more fondly.
But that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, Carrie Fisher passed away and I feel like this affected Colin Trevorrow’s ability to make an Episode IX we’d be happy with and they decided to rush the production to meet that Christmas deadline and as a result? We got The Rise of Skywalker, a very frustrating movie. Notice I did not say bad, just frustrating. You ask me, just looking at this from the basis of this being the story they told? They told it well enough and I think there’s a lot of qualities people often brush aside and as a movie it’s fun to watch. As the end to this trilogy though and especially as the end to what is now a nine-part saga? This movie is deeply flawed and quite frankly is the only film to just feel like fanfiction. The pacing is breakneck like a spice addict who’s panicking about their next fix, characters go through arcs at the drop of a hat and when they’re not doing that they’re merely vessels who exist to progress the plot. It simultaneously feels like J.J. Abrams has seen TLJ and like he hasn’t with how it will go back and forth on whether it wants to build upon its themes or chuck them to the side with the times it properly builds upon it feeling very off and this is all because they were both trying to hit a deadline and also trying foolishly to work Leia in when she should’ve just been either retired or dead. I will continuously argue until the end of the time that TROS’s biggest problem wasn’t that there was no plan. The MCU wasn’t really planned out to begin with and neither was the OT. The biggest problem was circumstances and a lack of time. This film was greatly screwed over by the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher and the schedule it was saddled with which made for a losing combination that guaranteed it was not only going to not live up to any expectations but that being a fan of the ST was gonna become a nightmare.
But when I look at it from that perspective and I think about what the movie did in the face of those odds? I don’t hate it. When this movie does things well? It does them incredibly well and if nothing else the final defeat of Palpatine feels nice and definitive and I’m personally fine with Rey taking the Skywalker name at the end since I like the potential for what that could mean. I also really like the action, acting and music and considering this movie was never gonna live up to the obscenely high expectations it had set for it? I think a landing it stumbled and walked away from is still a decent landing and considering at that time I had seen worse movies and even worse finales? I’m willing to give it somewhat of a pass.
As a whole? The Sequel Trilogy is kind of mixed but ultimately I came out liking all three movies and loving two and you know what? I’m fine with that. I still love this era and I love these characters and I want to see more done with it. I don’t want to see Disney and LF just sweep it under the rug just because it’s so divisive. I mean if that happened with the prequels then I don’t we would’ve gotten half the amazing content that came out of that era. Personally I prefer to look at this as a learning experience, an example of what could work for Star Wars movies and what maybe should be tweaked or removed and considering this has convinced them to take such a big break with Star Wars movies and move it to a two-year waiting period between each film? To me that says they’re listening and you know what? That’s all I ask for.