‘Star Wars’: Palpatine’s Return Didn’t Come Out of Nowhere — People Just Weren’t ‘Paying Attention’

The backlash against The Rise of Skywalker has begun. In other words, some Star Wars fans have started to mount a defense of the movie and rehabilitate its reputation as a disappointment that failed to stick the landing. 

Episode IX of the Skywalker saga made a great deal of money, as most Star Wars movies do, and it didn’t receive the degree of fan vitriol hurled at 2017’s The Last Jedi.

However, there has been an air of disappointment about it, a feeling that it wasn’t as good as it could or should have been. That said, almost every unloved movie has its defenders, and Skywalker’s are coming to the fore, particularly regarding the resurrection of Emperor Palpatine.

How well did ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ do? 

Ian McDiarmid
Ian McDiarmid | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

If one goes by the box office numbers on The Numbers alone, Episode IX is literally a comedown. The Force Awakens was even more successful than most people thought it would be. It made $937 million in its box office run, and it’s still the most successful movie of all time in the US, even ahead of the almighty Avengers: Endgame

The Last Jedi was met with good reviews but considerable scorn from fans when the movie refused to confirm fan theories about Rey’s parentage and failed to live up to the movie many fans had in their heads. It made $620 million here, which is certainly very good but it was enough for some fans to point and say “Ha ha. Told you they screwed it up.”

Then The Rise of Skywalker came out late last year, and it made $515 million. So is that another case of “Ha ha. Told you they screwed it up?” Or is Episode IX another misunderstood movie that didn’t get its due because it doesn’t mean what so many fans thought it meant?

Fans make their case for ‘Rise of Skywalker’

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Now that all nine Skywalker saga movies are on Disney+, fans have taken the opportunity to binge them, and some like what they see in the final chapter of the saga.

On Reddit, one fan wrote: “It works. It really works. I know a lot of people dislike the lack of a plan, or expected different things from these films, but in a vacuum it’s just a really solid trilogy. It also feels surprisingly consistent from film to film. The Rey Palpatine reveal doesn’t really stick out any more than Leia being Luke’s sister did.”

Another fan was even more blunt, writing, “Anyone who thinks Palpatine’s return was somehow out of nowhere just hasn’t been paying attention at all. The guy who engineered the fall of the Republic and destruction of the Jedi while playing both sides of the Clone Wars like a fiddle would never let a little fall down a reactor shaft stop him.”

It’s also worth noting that this argument holds up better if people watch the animated Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels series. Some fans don’t, sticking mainly to the movies. There’s a school of thought that will say that if a movie only succeeds if viewers do their “homework,” then the movie hasn’t really succeeded. The Rise of Skywalker got considerable criticism for basing its storytelling on ancillary products that only the most ardent fans would see. 

Were ‘The Last Jedi’ and the prequel trilogy redeemed too?

Whether The Rise of Skywalker’s reappraisal will stick remains to be seen, but whether a movie is Star Wars or not, views of them shift all the time. The Internet is full of takes that say “Legendarily bad movie is actually good.”

It has happened with Ishtar and Speed Racer. It may yet happen with The Rise of Skywalker. One fan on Reddit noted The Last Jedi is starting to look better in retrospect, as is the prequel trilogy, two parts of the Star Wars saga that inspired considerable anger. 

“Give it 10 years and suddenly they’ll be forgiven, like the fandom (mostly) has done for the Prequels. I personally like all three Trilogies in different ways. I can tell you now that when I watch the Sequels, I enjoy them and always notice something new. TLJ is my favourite, but the other two have really great Star Wars moments.”