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INTERVIEWS WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE 003: RISE OF SKYWALKER
With reflections by Fr. Jim Martin! Kathryn Reklis! Vince Moore! Chris Kent! Mike Hayes! Ken Anselment! Sr. Nancy Usselmann! Eric Clayton! My Family! Juliana Lauletta!
In the fall Fordham University’s Center for Religion and Culture invited me to be on a panel about Star Wars. It was a lot of fun and also really eye opening. I’ve thought and written so much about Star Wars over the years, especially since The Force Awakens, that I had come to think I had pretty much heard it all.
But the other people on the panel, Jack Jenkins from Religion News Service and Dr. Kathryn Reklis from Fordham University, who you’ll meet in a minute, really knocked me. They had such fresh takes on the material; I walked away with so much new stuff to think about.
And it got me thinking, as the Skywalker Saga ends, how great would it be to gather a whole bunch of different people’s points of view? And so I put together a wish list of people that I’ve loved reading or talking to about pop culture. A few will be familiar to readers of the newsletter; but most will almost certainly not be.
And I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am with the result, about a dozen little meditations that each in their own get to the heart of this precious thing we all love. They’re each so different and yet I walked away from all of them with that feeling from the very first film Luke staring out on the two setting suns. So much yearning there, and innocence, hope and imagination.
I hope you can take your time with them. They’re really worth it.
I’ll have a couple of my own words together at the end. Enjoy.
Kathryn Reklis: The Force For All of Us, and The Struggle Continues
Star Wars is all about the rebellion/resistance for me. An underfunded, poorly resourced band of rebels taking on galactic imperialism? Sign me up!
I think this is why I loved Rogue One and The Last Jedi so much. I don't mind the theological undertones of the Force or the mediations on honor, duty, and heroics of the original trilogy, but I've always been most attracted to the themes of thinking and acting differently even if (maybe especially when) you won't live to see the results of your action and can't be sure it will even succeed.
From Rise of Skywalker mostly I hope Rey won't turn out to be a Skywalker (or really anyone connected biologically to the original trilogy). I love the way the more recent movies are pushing the mythology of the Force as a reality that all living things have access to. Some people might be specially privileged in the way they can sense, respond, and use that reality, but that is not by virtue of birth.
I also hope that the inter-generational traumas of the trilogy (Luke’s trauma with his past, Kylo's wrestling with the ghosts of his parents and grandfather, all the pain caused by Anakin's turn all those years ago) will find some resolution. I would like to leave this story line thinking that those ghosts and demons have been excised, at least mostly.
But I don't want the struggle to be over. I don't really believe in "balance to the Force" except as an ideal that must always be sought. So if the First Order falls (and that might be necessary to bury the traumas of Darth Vader), I don't want the struggle between dark and light to end.
Dr. Kathryn Reklis is the Associate Chair of Grad Studies in Theology at Fordham University, codirector of its Institute for Art, Religion and Social Justice and does a media column for The Christian Century, which you should all read because she really knocks it out of the park.
Ken Anselment: A Doorway to Innocence
For me, the original Star Wars trilogy captivated me at a time in my life (ages 7-13) where innocence (call it childishness, unabashed playfulness, etc.) hadn’t yet given way to teenaged self-consciousness and all its accompanying self-corrections. I was a blank canvas, and I happily let George Lucas and draw all over it while John Williams played some horns in the background.
For me, the saga has as much—if not more—to do with anchors in my childhood as it does with the story itself. I trust if someone put me in a CAT scan to see which parts of my brain light up while watching trailers for new Star Wars movies, they would see a similar light patterns were they to show me footage of the Milwaukee Brewers of the late 70s and early 80s. It’s all tied to my youth, my heroes, my imagination, my dreams about who and what I could be. If you’re a Gen Xer, cue up Binary Sunset and you might see what I mean.
My hope for Rise of Skywalker is so much fan service that cranks will be moved to tweet angrily at how much fan service there was. For crying out loud (quite literally), I was the guy who, when the “piece of garbage” under the tarp in The Force Awakens was revealed to be the Millennium Falcon, tearfully shouted in a packed cinema, “No they didn’t!”
Ken Anselment is the Vice President for Enrollment & Communications and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and a great friend. You might remember him from our recent interview about college admissions and zombie apocalypses. Catch him on Twitter @KenAnselment.
Fr. James Martin, SJ: A Lifetime of Seeking the Force
For me, Star Wars has always been about the Force. I was enthralled by this concept from the very first time I encountered it, which was at age 16, in 1977, at the Cinema on the Mall in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. The movie had just opened and everyone was dazzled by it, including me. But early on, the concept of the Force appealed not to my religious sensibility (for I was a pretty desultory Catholic as a teenager) but to my sense of mystery. What did Obi-Wan mean when he told Luke that the Force is "an energy field created by all living things"? The notion that you could somehow "tap into it" and become either a more agile lightsaber duelist or a better person (I think Obi-Wan would probably have stressed the latter) captivated me.
That interest only deepened over the years, especially after I entered the Jesuits and started to learn more about "discernment of spirit," St. Ignatius Loyola's way of making decisions and listening to God's voice. (The connections between Jesuit spirituality and the Star Wars narrative, by the way, are legion.) There really is, I discovered, a "Force" that calls us to do good (which comes from God) and a "Dark Side" (which Ignatius calls "the enemy of the human person" and others call Satan). And by making good decisions and trying your best to listen to God's voice, you can, in effect "tap into it." When you're doing your best to follow God's voice (basically, doing good, avoiding evil and trying to be loving, merciful and compassionate) you feel in synch with the universe, and yes with "all living things." You feel in synch with all living things, and more importantly with God, because you are.
And sometimes, when I feel that, I think of Luke, putting on his helmet during his light saber and finally, finally, hitting those little moving objects. Yes, it really does feel like that.
Fr. James Martin, S.J. is Contributing Editor at America Magazine and one of the most prominent voices in the U.S. Catholic Church. He has written dozens of books, including most recently Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity and Jesus: A Pilgrimage. He can also be seen baptizing babies in Martin Scorsese’s new film The Irishman, and tweeting about that and much more @jamesmartinsj.
Chris Kent: The Problems of Religion and Redemption Arcs
1) For you, what is the Star Wars saga about? And/or, what about it over the years has most spoken to you?
So I could say what everyone says--The Classic Hero's Journey! A story of redemption! But I've had this interesting thought in the back of my head for a while, that Star Wars is about the pernicious role of religion in society.
The first trilogy is all about what the world is like when a corrupted religion is allowed free rein--an evil empire lorded over by a mad wizard and his chief priest. The second trilogy is about how the arrogance of an established church and the blinders it has to what is really happening leads to what we see in the first series. And I don't just mean blinders to the rise of the Sith, I mean blinders to real suffering. Qui-Gon finds out that there is slavery on Tatooine and doesn't even blink. He is a member of a quasi-religious order dedicated to promoting justice in the galaxy and he (and the rest of the Jedi) are all, "Eh, slavery, what can you do? Amirite?"
The Jedi not realizing what Palpatine was doing was a failure; but them not working harder over its 10,000 years of existence to make sure that all sentients are treated with respect and not subject to slavery? That seems a colossal failure, and a tremendous act of cowardice to not even try to fix it. Why should anyone afford them any moral authority?
The third series seems to be putting a cap on this argument. There are no more Jedi or Sith, just Force-wielders of various intent and motivations. Heck, The Last Jedi features the final Jedi pope (Yoda) talking to his cardinal-nephew (Luke) about how perhaps the Reformation is what is needed. TLJ really made a forceful (ha!) case that the Jedi as an organization was a strong part of the problem.
(It's an indication of how closely the movies follow traditional story/myth that they track w/out too much stretch to Tolkien's Middle-Earth mythos. Eps 1-3 are the story of Morgoth and his apprentice Sauron; ep 4 is the destruction of the ring (Death Star); ep 6 is the final battle outside the Gates of Mordor and the final defeat of evil. Luke loses a hand the way Frodo loses a finger ...ok, maybe this is more of a stretch than I thought.)
2) What do you hope from Rise of Skywalker?
It's interesting, as we close in on the last movie, there is not a lot that I feel like I need beyond an entertaining two hours that leaves me feeling like I know where these characters are or will be once it is over. I think a lot of this has to do with TLJ, which very efficiently wiped out the two things everyone thought were going to be big reveals: Who was Snoke? Who was Rey? With those questions off the board, going into this last one, I feel like it's only plot questions left, with the big one being, Will the Resistance be able to defeat the New Order/Empire once and for all?
Do I think Kylo Ren will be redeemed? I guess maybe he will but I don't think he should be. But then, I felt that Vader was too easily forgiven for his life, and as the non-movie stories play out in other media--books, comics, video games--it becomes even more apparent how facile the story is re: his redemption. But then, to my first point, how quickly does a religion re-embrace an apostate if they show true remorse? Fast, because if you are in the organization, the organization is the most important thing, so OF COURSE, you welcome back a brother.
I think one of the interesting things about the new series is the moving away from the idea that only the Skywalker clan can save us/are important. I mean, yes, they are the focus because it is about them, but characters like Rey, Rose or the kids at the end of TLJ are indicators that if anything is going to change, it will be because they help to make that change. Leia's point at the end of TLJ about having all they need to fight the First Order reflects this as well. It's a bunch of 'no ones' and a general. Yes, Rey is Jedi-ish, but unlike with Luke, there is no expectation she is going to be the magical Force princess to save the day. It's going to take all of them, working together, to get things done.
Also, one more point re: the 'redemption' of Vader. Can we say he was truly redeemed if A) no one really seems to know about that part, and B) he is still serving as an inspiration to evil Force-wielders?
To my knowledge, there have not been any stories in which Luke is telling everyone, Hey! He turned it around in the end! I mean, I think of Han and Kylo Ren at the end of TFA and it would have been great for Han to say, 'Hey kid, you were all wrong about your grandpa. He rejected all of this and never would have wanted it for you.' I wonder if Han even knew about Vader's volte-face at the end?
Chris Kent is a futurist and consultant with Foresight Alliance, and has been a great friend of the newsletter. For some of our past conversations, click here (written right after the 2016 Inaugural) or here. He’s also one of the world’s most enjoyable tweeters. Check him out @cekent.
Eileen Manno: To Be a People of Hopeful, Generous Hearts
The Star Wars movies contain a multitude of themes including the hero who shows that one person or a small group of people can bring about change; the power of reliance on a guiding, spiritual force; and perhaps most importantly, hope. Hope is a central component of all the movies for me, specifically hope that good will conquer evil.
As a Catholic school educator, I have found the wisdom delivered through various characters provides a guidebook for growing up. My favorite mentor would be Yoda; he strives to challenge the individual to grow and make good choices.
Some Yoda wisdom: “Always with you what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?... You
must unlearn what you have learned….Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
“Each choice, the branch of a tree is: what looked like a decision, is after only a pattern of growth”.
“No greater gift there is, than a generous heart”.
So many life lessons for anyone: stop focusing on what you cannot do, just do; or, no one decision will control your life so do and you will grow; and finally, very simply, be generous with your heart. Was Yoda modeled on Jesus? I often think so.
I look forward to the Rise of Skywalker (and baby Yoda). What new ways will we be
challenged to be the hero, to take a stand, to be a people of generous hearts?
Eileen Manno spent a career working in Catholic schools, including many years at St. Viator’s High School in Arlington Heights, IL, where she was the h principal. She is also my aunt; she and my Uncle Paul were the ones who first introduced me to Star Wars in 1977.
(She actually wrote again yesterday to say she wanted this included at the end of her piece: The real joy of the Star Wars series was introducing the author of this article to the magic of these movies and the stories. The excitement of each new installment in the series has never changed from boy to man to priest. Now the simple themes he discovered in the first has given meaning to many a homily.
Being introduced to it by you and Uncle Paul was the joy for me, too, Aunt Eileen.)
Vince Moore: Through Struggle, Freedom
For myself, the Star Wars Saga has been about the kinds of issues human history has always been about: adventure and romance, legacy, good versus evil, mastery of self, the price to be paid for freedom, the cost of evil.
The Star Wars Saga, especially the original trilogy, was also where I was introduced further into Buddhism. At one theater showing Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, a group of Buddhist monks handed out flyers, promising to teach the real path of the Jedi. I took one out of curiosity and that flyer helped to further foster a journey that continues to this day. That was how broad and powerful the ideas in Star Wars were.
The most important idea the Star Wars saga has taught me is that one's happy ending has to be earned, that struggle frees us from the past, from dead and static systems, and sets us on the path towards a better tomorrow.
My hopes for The Rise of Skywalker are that the movie is a fitting end for the major cinematic phase of the saga and that it is also a chance for a new beginning. I hope this film inspires more high adventure and grand scale storytelling at the movies, something that’s lacking or limited to certain franchises. So I hope more folks are inspired to create their own epic myths. I hope that more people are entertained by it than are upset by it, and that even those who are upset by it find ways to take that anger and turn into something healing.
Conversely, I hope that Disney and Lucasfilm gives Star Wars enough of a rest and a truly worthy rethinking of how to play in the vast playground George Lucas created so that when they return to it they use the fertile ground to grow a brand new saga that will inspire yet another generation to dream of a time long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Vince Moore has worked in the comics industry for most of his life, as a retailer at the retired shop Comics Ink in Los Angeles, as an editor, and as a writer of the Omnium Gatherum column and Total Recall: Life On Mars. He’s still dreaming of and working towards his ‘big break’. (He’s also one of the greatest guys to talk to about pop culture or just about anything else.)
Mike Hayes: Longing for A Father
I was 7 and heard about the cool new movie coming out and begged my father to take me. He agreed not knowing a thing about the movie. We actually got there early and ended up catching a double feature.
First up was When Worlds Collide, a sappy “trying too hard” movie about the need to move to another planet before a meteor crashed into the earth. Years later, I found it being panned on MST3K and laughed uncontrollably.
The main event then hit the screen. As Vader slew Obi-Wan Kenobi the look that Luke had on his face made me think of what it would be like to lose someone who was like a father. Little did we know that Vader was his actual paternal match.
I lost my dad last year. These were the only movies we saw in the theatre together. We weren’t big movie goers in our family. Just as Luke finds out about Vader, I began to learn more about my own dad. His immigration from Ireland with an 8th grade education, his 68 year long marriage to my mom, how he picked my mom up in the air when he found out about being pregnant with me after 16 years of trying to have a second child and finally, his end of life wishes, which nearly drove a wedge between us in the last year of his life. Tearful reconciliation led to a peaceful death.
I’m sure Luke never stopped longing for reconciliation with his dad. As Anakin later looks on Luke with his own eyes, I see peace and joy that lies in both death and reconciliation.
May the force be with you and yours.
Mike Hayes has spent his career working with young adults in the Catholic Church. He is the Director of Campus Ministry at Canisius College and the author of Googling God, one of the most useful and relevant books on the faith life of young adults.
Sister Nancy Usselmann, FSP: Touching the One Beyond the Stars
For me, the Star Wars Saga has always been about the journey of life, with its bitter angst and elated joys.
As I go on in life, the saga speaks more specifically to the spiritual journey with its existential quests and deep human questioning. Of course when I first watched Star Wars: A New Hope back in 1977 that was not my first thought; however, with each new film the story line draws us to consider our own moral choices conscious of the power of grace (aka “the Force”) to lead us to choose the higher good for ourselves and all humanity. It taps into the human desire to transcend the pains of this world longing for something better, something more lasting, something eternal.
It's hard to imagine a decade without a Star Wars trilogy, but it's exciting at the same time to wrap up the story that defined my life. My desire is that The Rise of Skywalker will, even briefly, lift my spirit and assure me that humanity ultimately seeks the greater good—and when we do we touch upon the supernatural, realizing that we are created to be intimately united to the One who is beyond the stars—the Creator of all and Beauty Itself!
Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP is the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies and a Catholic Press Award Winner for her book A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics.
Eric Clayton: Unleash Your Hope
Turns out, Old Ben wasn’t Leia’s only hope.
Luke, a bit short for a Stormtrooper, nevertheless wields his laser sword. Han Solo’s bad feelings result in heroic outcomes. Even C-3PO, convinced “we’re all doomed,” persists, putting his 6 million forms of communication at the disposal of rebellion and resistance.
Hope, actually, is in large supply throughout The Skywalker Saga. Qui-Gon Jinn hopes that Anakin is the Chosen One. Luke hopes that he can turn his father back to the light. Rey hopes that an old Jedi mastermight come to her friends’ aid and restore balance in the galaxy.
Hope is an inescapable theme of Star Wars. But so is balance—and the other side on the scale of hope is acceptance of status quo. The Chosen One is meant to disrupt the traditional order in the galaxy. He succeeds, though as a pawn of Palpatine and at the expense of the Jedi, whose peacekeeping was another form of maintaining what was rather than pointing to what could be.
The Rebellion—and Luke, in particular—succeed again in disrupting the new status quo, routing the Empire and reclaiming Anakin Skywalker from the visage of Darth Vader. Luke forgives his father, shows him mercy, but this moment of redemption is hidden from the eyes of the galaxy.
The outward shell of Empire collapsed, but what took its place was just a new version of an old failing: the New Republic. Old wine in new skins. The status quo—that which hope was meant to shatter—reemerged, and the sins that ultimately felled the Old Republic were left to fester, birthing the First Order.
Star Wars is this quarrel between hope and acceptance: the repercussions of a hope that fizzles and an invitation to a hope that renews, that is prophetic. We’re all Luke on Ahch-To at times, tired and weary, unsure of what we’ve done and where we’re going. Defeated by a hope that fizzled. We all need a Rey to come along, to hand us our lightsaber and call us back to ourselves, to believe in the impossible, that we have some, small part to play. To do, or do not.
My hope, then, for The Rise of Skywalker is that this hope, so present throughout The Skywalker Saga, is unleashed in a way that is prophetic, leveling the old structures of false peace and empire and pointing to a new way of being—one that reorders not just the Force, but relationships, that redefines balance as not simply an acceptance that light and dark coexist but that light and dark coexist in each of us, and we must choose.
Strike down what was, so that something greater than we can possible imagine may rise.
Eric Clayton is the senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference of the United States and Canada. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, daughter and hedgehog. Follow him at @eclaytopia. (The hedgehog pictures are truly adorable.)
Eric and I also spent an hour talking Star Wars for his AMDG podcast. Find it here. (I’m told it drops the 18th or the 19th.)
Juliana Lauletta: Permission to Be Myself
Having been a teen devotee of Joseph Campbell, I've always been entirely unable to separate Star Wars from the call to adventure, the hero's journey, the quest that leads a womprat-chasing moisture farmer to find his place among the stars. And that is what it still means to me, a transplant from upstate suburbia to NYC(oruscant).
But zooming out and going macro for a moment, I realize Star Wars was the first thing that made me carve out my place in fandom and in nerd culture. Exhibit A: Once in 1995, I was in a Star Wars chat room—my AOL name was WookieeJH—and we organized a massive raid of Trekkie chat rooms. I'm going to leave that story there, but Star Wars made me realize I had zero shame in telling anyone who would listen what "AT-AT" stood for, or how to spell Wookiee, or why I wouldn't eat calamari (Admiral Ackbar), or what the rancor's backstory was, or how Rogue Squadron evolved after the movies ended, or that if I ever had a kid I wanted to name him Jacen Wedge (spoiler alert: turns out I did not actually want to have kids—mercifully, for Jacen Wedge's sake).
Star Wars gave me a way to be entirely, unabashedly myself—because if I could be that Star Wars–obsessed nerdgirl and make it through high school happily and with actual friends, I could find my place among any stars.
What do I hope from Rise of Skywalker? Do right by Luke and Leia. Mainly Leia. Mostly Carrie. Do right by Carrie Fisher. That's literally all I want.
Juliana Lauletta is the publisher at Boyds Mills & Kane, which has won many awards for its children’s books, and would absolutely destroy a Musical Theater version of Jeopardy. (Make this happen, universe.)
TEAM PONTOW: Of Underdogs and The Courage to Dream
For You, What Has Star Wars Been About?
Chad: For me, the Star Wars saga has been about good versus evil, the Jedi standing up to those that suppress the lives of the little guy.
Jack, 15: I like that the underdog comes up to win, and how detailed the story line is. How each story is tied to one another.
Meggan, 14: It’s the story of the Jedi, with new ones representing a new beginning.
What Do You Hope from Rise of Skywalker?
Chad: The little guy wins the war and takes down the establishment. Anything else and I will feel disappointed when I leave the theater. The Resistance has won battles, but we need to finally win the war...
I have always wished there would be a Jedi army or teams of Jedi that would ultimately turn the tide, but that all ended or seemed to end with the Strike Team at the Battle of Geonosis. They teased me when they brought back Luke, but then they killed him off, which I hated. Luke should have remained until the end with Rey to train a new army of Jedi.
Jedi and the force have always been the coolest part of the saga in my mind... Oh, and light sabres...
Jack: I hope they really show a strong start to the next trilogy, so the next trilogy is really great. (Jack and Chad then got in a heated debate about whether there would be another trilogy. :) )
Jen: For the next movie I really hope the kids just take off and take control. I also hope we see Baby Yoda (but I am sure that doesn’t make sense).
For me watching Star Wars saga brings me back to my childhood and thinking about space and how that seemed so far away. Star Wars gave me the imagination to dream that space could have life and creatures.
Jen and Chad Pontow are my sister and brother-in-law, and Jack and Meggan are their two oldest kids. We have the best conversations about Star Wars.
Me: Finding A Way Where There is No Way
In the latest episode of The Mandalorian there is this great fight scene between “Mando” (still not really feeling that name) and a guy who looks like the Devil, whom for lack of a better name let’s call Wally.
The fight is a mess. Mando has all the advantages but Wally keeps batting his clever moves away, until he’s beating Mando to a pulp. And Mando only wins basically because he refuses to give up. He’s over his head, he’s going to lose, and then somehow he just doesn’t. And it ends with a really hilarious and unexpected moment.
At its best, I think Star Wars is a story about people who are way over their heads even when they think (or we’d think) they aren’t, and they’re forced to improvise and it gets really messy and also really desperate, and yet they just won’t give up, and eventually somehow they win. And in the end there’s laughter and relief.
It’s Han and Chewie racing down the Death Star corridor to scare off the stormtroopers, then finding himself face to face with a room full of them and running for their lives.
It’s Luke in a ship he’s never flown before trying to hit the equivalent of a rat at a hundred thousand meters while he’s dodging fire not just from laser cannons and pilots but the Sith Lord himself; and as if that isn’t difficult enough he’s told he has to turn off the scope that’s meant to allow him to be able to take the shot in the first place.
It’s also Luke fighting Darth Vader on Cloud City, and getting completely demolished, hanging on for his life only to get his hand cut off and the only thing he ever owned of his dad’s right along with it, and then finding out the monster in front of him is his dad, and dropping to what should be his death.
And it’s a bunch of meant-to-be-taken-seriously Teddy Ruxpins – still not over it – with nothing going for them but the terrain and their cuteness quotient while 40 foot robot monsters of death show up ready to kill them; while in the skies above a son confronts not only his screwed up dad but the nasty grandpa that has ruined the whole universe and can shoot lightning bolts out of his fingers. And in the end the son’s got no real move but to accept being electrocuted to death, until shockingly his father rescues him, ends the old guy, saves the universe and dies in the son’s arms, looking him in the eye for the very first time and with nothing but love.
Which is not anywhere near as funny as being chased by storm troopers or blowing up a greedy slug’s desert barge with everyone in it; but somehow it’s also the very essence of laughter, relief and family and forgiveness and wonder all mixed into one.
Three predictions for The Rise of Skywalker
1. The Last Temptation of Kylo Ren: The final movies in Star Wars trilogies generally have involved game-changing moments of temptation. Luke is tempted to go dark – and not just by the Emperor, but by his Jedi mentors -- and doesn’t, saving the universe.
Anakin is tempted to go dark in order to save Padmé – the great part about his temptation is that so much of it is about doing something good. He gives in and ruins the universe.
Trailers tease ROS as being about Rey’s temptation – Darth Rey, with the Switchblade! But temptation has not been her journey in the sequels at all; it’s been Kylo’s, him tempted toward the light, and him trying to fight it off. This is the movie where he’ll be most tempted that way, and he’ll have to decide.
2. Space War: As I was rewatching Rogue One I realized that it has the absolute best space battle of the entire saga. Yes, Star Wars has the trench run, and I have nothing but love for that. But in terms of a large scale space battle, it just doesn’t get better than Rogue.
Force Awakens gave up Attack on Death Planet, and Last Jedi had that opening sequence with the bombers and the star destroyers – both with great emotional stakes at their center (which is what Return of the Jedi’s end battle and Revenge of the Sith’s opening battle really lack). But they don’t feel quite enough.
It’s the last film. Time for the big finish, please.
3. Death: Return of the Jedi has always felt like it’s missing a piece. Some of that is a lack of genuine story in between Tatooine and Endor. But I think it’s also because there is no real sacrifice. Nobody in ROTJ loses anything except Vader (which we want) and a couple Ewoks (which we really want).
Sith definitely has plenty of loss. And given that this is supposed to be about well and truly resolving the saga and facing down both the First Order and the Emperor, I would expect a lot of sacrifice to be necessary.
On my list of contenders: Poe (hoping), the Falcon (please God no), Chewbacca (somehow it feels cheap to make it him, but he has lost his best friend); or Artoo and Threepio. I’m betting on them, actually; they were our initial point of view into this world. I expect them to be part of our way out of it, too.
Big Questions I’d Love to See Answered:
What was the deal with Snoke anyway? Also Vader’s helmet – how did Ben get it, and how has he been hearing Vader’s voice from it when we know Vader is not Vader any more? Any why did Ben go bad anyway? And what was the deal with the Knights of Ren?
Will there be Jedi again? The best answer I’ve heard – which came from Kathryn Reklis at this Fordham event — is that there shouldn’t be, this should be the beginning of something else that gets beyond Sith and Jedi. A pitch: what if somehow Ben and Rey are able to awaken Force powers in many many other people? (For Buffy fans, think the finale.) So we end on a universe transformed (and ready for so many new stories as a result).
Is JJ going to mess up Last Jedi by changing Rey’s parentage again? Here’s hoping he just leaves it. The fact she is nobody means she is everybody (just like Luke in Star Wars, in fact), and that’s how it should be.
How did Anakin bring balance to the Force anyway? I don’t know if anyone in the current universe even knows about all that, but I wouldn’t mind a gentle glance at it. The fact is, the Sith were coming before Anakin showed up on the scene; so even if he got lost along the way for a bit (and yes, murdered a bunch of worlds), he also created the means to end the Sith through his children and the community they inspired, and also maybe the means to fix the Jedi via Luke’s new take on things in Last Jedi. So maybe in all of that is where the balance lies?
Is Baby Yoda Maz Kanata’s kid? Can Han be a Force Ghost (please)? Is Phasma really dead? What ever happened to Ashoka? And who’s going to say “I have a bad feeling about this.” (My hope: General Hux.) And will we finally find out Poe is a Sith? The evidence is all there people!
Thanks for reading, everybody. And thanks to all my contributors for sharing such wonderful personal reflections.
Enjoy The Rise of Skywalker, everybody!