Brad’s April Escape - Part 19
April 29 - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Each weekday this month, I’ll screen a film from The Bearded Trio Cinematic Universe and list 10 random scenes, characters, musical cues or performances that I particularly enjoy and look forward to upon every viewing. I’d love to hear similar little things you enjoy about these films, and hope you join me in this escape from the present-day world.
Next up is the final entry in the Skywalker Saga, coming out on Disney+ next week, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
The Rise of Skywalker - An Introduction
This was it. The last film in the Skywalker Saga was finally upon us, just a few short months ago. The story of Rey, Finn and Poe came to a conclusion in a film that can only be described as "big." Big settings, big stakes for our characters, big implications on the rest of the saga.
I'll be up front with this - the sequel trilogy, as a whole, did not resonate with me the way the prequels and originals did. It's difficult to pinpoint one or two things, but it just wasn't there. Of course that doesn't mean I wish others did not enjoy it - I hope it fulfilled everyone's dreams of what this last film could be. And there was a ton TROS did that was top-notch.
10 Things I Like - The Rise of Skywalker
1. I'm a sucker for Mustafar. It was, visually, the most epic setting in any Star Wars film for me, and we return to it here, right away in TROS. Of course it looks very different than anytime we'd seen it in the past, a wise choice so as to mark the passage of time, something TROS does very effectively throughout.
Supplemental material tells us these beings were Mustafarian acolytes devoted to Darth Vader. I'm glad we got to see Mustafar, even if it was for too-brief a period of time. A nice, if rare connection, back to the prequels.
2. Episode IX was getting plenty of attention before Episode VIII was even released. That's due to the incredibly sad passing of the legendary Carrie Fisher on December 27, 2016. I can't imagine the number of meetings at Lucasfilm when trying to reconcile the final story in the Star Wars saga without such an important person. I have to hand it to J.J. Abrams and the LFL folks who found a way to give Leia a true presence in this film. The writing around the previously shot footage was cleverly done, and if one went into this film none the wiser,
I believe they'd believe Carrie was still with us, and shot all these scenes on location. I don't know if the original intention was to have Leia live through the end of TROS, but her passing, near the end of the film, provided the final touch on the loss of the original Big Three from the first trilogy. It was almost poetic in a way that none of Han, Luke or Leia survived to the end of the sequel trilogy. It was their job to help establish what the new characters had to deal with, then cede the stage to them, one by one.
3. Speaking of Original Trilogy heroes, how about Lando, who survived to the end! I saw Billy Dee Williams at Celebration III in Indianapolis back in 2005. He was part of the autograph crowd, but I saw him moving about the floor, but in a wheelchair. If you'd have told 2005 me that Billy Dee would still be with us in 2020, and did a kick ass job in reprising his most famous character, I'm not sure I would have believed you. But Billy Dee was tremendous, and brought a big smile to my face every time he showed up on screen.
4. This was a shocking scene (lol puns). I never expected Force Lightning to come out of Rey's hand as she was pulling down the First Order transport. As we saw in the forest duel at the end of TFA, this was another sign of the dark side power present within Rey. Only this shot was much more obvious than her crazed expression on Starkiller Base
5. Another unexpected callback to the prequels occurs in this scene between Poe and Zorii on the rooftop of a house on Kimiji. Listen to the music here. It's nearly identical to music we hear on Tatooine in Attack of the Clones as Anakin is deciding to search for his mother, The use of that particular cue, in this scene in TROS is a bit curious. The music as heard in AOTC sets a tone of imminent danger and death and is one of my absolute favorites from the prequels. I don't know that the tone of that music fits in with this scene in TROS as perfectly, but I sure was happy to hear it.
6. Even though this shot is less than two seconds long, I feel like it had a very deep impact on longtime fans of the saga like me. I recognized John Williams right away in this scene, where he is an intergalactic...jeweler? Yeah, I'll go with jeweler.
It was so delightful of Abrams to set up a cameo for Williams in this particular film, the last of the Skywalker films, and presumably, the last Star Wars film Williams would ever write a score for.
There is no way I can justifiably express what John Williams means to me, and means to Star Wars in this meager online blog post. His inclusion here was simply right. It was right of him to participate and right of Abrams to make a pretty big deal over his inclusion. Now, he'll be a permanent visual part of the saga forever, and I couldn't be more grateful for that.
7. More credit to Abrams and his team for coming up with a completely unique lightsaber duel location. That's not as easy as it sounds, to come up with a different environment after so many films, but Abrams followed the George Lucas mandate of coming up with different settings as often as possible. Dueling in the wreckage of the second Death Star, with raging water and waves all around, made for a very compelling set piece, and it was an ideal place for a serious turning point for Rey and Kylo Ren.
8. The soundtrack release had a ton of missing music from the film, most notably for me, Ben Solo's theme, which can be heard here, as he arrives on Exegol.
Quick memo to Disney - if you want an obscene amount of my money, produce and release a mega box set of all 11 Star Wars film soundtracks, 100 percent complete, every note of music. There is a great deal of music that has not been officially released from Episodes 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9 as well as Rogue One and Solo. John Williams's genius deserves a full release of his scores, and I am certain I'm not the only fan willing to dig deep to add such a box set to my collection.
OK, so back to Ben Solo's theme. It is exactly like Kylo Ren's theme, only played at a higher tone and a slightly faster pitch. It sounds absolutely heroic, but a doomed kind of heroic. It matches wonderfully what we see on screen, Ben literally running and jumping to help Rey in her confrontation with Palpatine.
Ben's theme is much like the Ben Solo character in this part of the film - with us for far too short a period of time.
I was skeptical as to the possibility that Kylo Ren would be redeemed over the course of the sequel trilogy. But I feel this aspect of the story worked well, especially with the Han Solo appearance after Rey departed their duel. It was Han's forgiveness of his son that allowed us, the audience, to also forgive Ben for the atrocities he had committed up to this point.
9. The musical highlight of the film begins in this moment. We hear the track "The Force is With You" begin as Rey stares into the Exegol sky, weak and helpless as she attempts to contact Jedi of the past. We hear a soft female chorus as Rey's gaze lingers. A light piano version of her theme follows, as gradually, we hear the voices of Jedi past aid Rey as she tries to regain her strength after Palpatine's savage attack. The music rises as she rises from the earth, finally hitting a crescendo of the Emperor's theme, with swirling violins and a chorus to boot, because of course, the Force is at work here. Finally, as Rey overcomes Palpatine, we hear the Force theme as Rey's victory coincides with our heroes in the sky taking down the Final Order Star Destroyers.
10. John Boyega was not acting in this moment. It was the final celebration of the Resistance on Ajan Kloss, as everyone is reunited after the battle on Exegol.
I can't imagine what the experience of making the sequel trilogy was like for Daisy Ridley, Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. There was so much pressure on them, it had to take a toll, starting when TFA began filming in April 2014 to just last year when TROS wrapped. I know if it's me in this moment, I'm letting the tears and emotion just flow. I felt a connection to John Boyega the person, here in this moment, as we were all saying goodbye for the last time.
Brad’s Escapism Moment in The Rise of Skywalker
The yellow lightsaber, as I interpreted it, was a nod to fans of my generation, who saw ANH in the theaters in 1977. Who bought a Luke Skywalker action figure in 1978, with the movie-inaccurate yellow lightsaber. There was a "blow up" toy lightsaber manufactured back then that was basically a flashlight with a translucent tube you could blow up like a beach ball that glowed yellow when turned on. The action figure card artwork of Ben Kenobi had him brandishing a yellow lightsaber. Someone has been jonesing for a yellow lightsaber for a very long time. Here, we have it, and it's perfect.
There's another time and place to debate the merits of the sequel trilogy. That time is not here. I never expected in a million years to be getting Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Rey represents a new kind of hero for my niece's generation. There have been so many girls dressing up as Rey for Halloween over the past five years, and I think it's amazing. I don't care how anyone gets introduced to Star Wars, as long as there's an entry point for them. There's plenty of room on this 42-year-old bandwagon for more and more people. I welcome them. Star Wars has universal appeal, across age, gender, identity, family situation.
At this point, the future of Star Wars films in the theater is uncertain at best. Lucasfilm has announced a number of unnamed projects attached to various directors or producers, and it has stuck with its previously announced date of December 2022 as the start of a new set of films. But in a world dominated by COVID-19, with who-knows-what to come after, I am holding out for the possibility we may not get another Star Wars film for many, many years.
If my last vision of Star Wars on the big screen is Rey and BB-8 looking out onto the Tatooine twin sunset - to paraphrase Luke at the end of ANH - I'll be alright.
Last in the series: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.