‘Star Wars’: How ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Honors George Lucas’ Vision
Fans are already arguing over how Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ties up the nine-part Skywalker saga. Unlike The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams’ film is intent on answering as many questions as possible. In doing so, it has alienated some fans by sending mixed messages regarding the saga’s ongoing mythos.
The Rise of Skywalker may or may not be a satisfying conclusion to the sequel trilogy. But it does make an effort to include as many callbacks as possible. In doing so, the film involves George Lucas’ prequel trilogy as much as it does the original three films. Let’s discuss how The Rise of Skywalker honors Lucas’ original Star Wars vision.
[Spoiler alert: This article contains mild spoilers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.]
George Lucas sold ‘Star Wars’ in 2012
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Lucas told a story about how Darth Vader was redeemed by his love for his son. And for a time, Return of the Jedi seemed like the final word in Star Wars. Then the prequels came along and explored the path which led Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.
By going back in time to tell Anakin’s backstory, Lucas recontextualized Vader’s story as a tragedy. Although he originally envisioned a nine-part saga, the director at least seized the opportunity to recount the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker.
So in 2012, Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, to Disney and the rights to Star Wars along with it. The studio fast-tracked the saga’s return, announcing an alternating schedule of new trilogy installments and standalone films.
The sequel trilogy has divided the fans
But the so-called “Disney era” soon gave way to just as many, if not more, criticisms than the prequel trilogy. This time, however, fans couldn’t even blame series creator Lucas for the perceived narrative problems. Reports about Lucas’ displeasure with The Force Awakens and Lucasfilm’s decision to disregard his sequel trilogy notes certainly didn’t help.
Directors J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson may have faced fans’ wrath for how they retread familiar story beats and updated classic trilogy characters, respectively. But they simultaneously introduced a new generation of unforgettable characters. Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, BB-8, and Poe Dameron all became instantly beloved Star Wars heroes. Well, at least by most fans.
One of the biggest criticism levied against the sequel trilogy has been its handling of Rey (Daisy Ridley). Introduced as a scavenger on the planet Jakku, the character has consistently been labeled a “Mary Sue,” a derogatory term intended to critique her apparent flawlessness. While Rey does demonstrate skills such as combating and piloting, it’s her place within the Force which has most troubled fans.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ attempts to satisfy everyone, including Lucas
The Last Jedi rebuked the notion that Rey’s parentage must be behind her abilities. But The Rise of Skywalker sheds greater light on her origins. In this way, Abrams’ film not only unifies all three Star Wars trilogies but assuages fans disappointed by Johnson’s narrative choices. The mystery surrounding Rey’s destiny even raised the over-arching question of what it means to bring the Force into balance.
In the prequels, Lucas mentions an ancient prophecy of a Chosen One who will bring balance. Rey’s connection to the Force led some to believe perhaps her destiny — and not Anakin’s — is to bring the Force into balance. But as The Rise of Skywalker makes plain, Anakin did achieve balance when he saved Luke and killed Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
During a critical scene in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey is contacted through the Force by many past Jedi. Among them is Anakin, voiced by Hayden Christensen, who says, “Rey… Bring back the balance, Rey, as I did… The Force surrounds you, Rey… Let it lift you.” While this moment goes by very quickly, it does retain the integrity and original intention of Lucas’ films.
Some fans have developed a distaste for the sequel trilogy, but at least The Rise of Skywalker builds on — rather than retcons — Lucas’ six films. Abrams could have easily stripped the previous two trilogies of their significance but instead chose to honor previous releases. Fans who have disavowed The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, or all three sequels can take solace in knowing that — while those films weren’t what Lucas imagined — they didn’t blatantly disregard his work either.