Aside from the perfectly-passable-but-weightless Solo, it’s not a tough statement to say that The Rise of Skywalker is the worst (live-action, theatrical) Star Wars film. Maybe Attack of the Clones or The Force Awakens are kinda close, but it’s pretty clear to me that Episode IX is the least artistically accomplished, most flawed of the Skywalker Saga.
But I still love it anyway.
Rewatching the movie in preparation for this article, I was struck by just how overcome with joy I was by so much of this movie. It’s such an exciting and silly experience. Never for a moment do I get bored, even when I’m rolling my eyes at the dumber parts. Honestly, that’s what it was supposed to do, anyway; provide a smashing finale to the greatest epic saga in the history of film. It’s the climax to a nine-part series and thus doesn’t exactly need to be jam packed with new storylines and deeper themes. Even though… that’s kind of what it tried to do…
The Luke Skywalker vs. Ben Solo lightsaber duel. You know the one. We all know the one. Gosh, we all know the one.
A cowboy duel (or more accurately, a samurai duel), where a single blow ends the match, where all the emotions are thrown into getting that single winning shot. Decades of history between two characters swirled up into one moment.
And the best part isn’t the fact that it’s gorgeous; it’s that the entire duel is a subversion of our fanboy desire to see Luke Skywalker, ultimate badass, instead giving us Luke Skywalker, ultimate pacifist, a savior who will throw his own life away to save the family he loves, including his own nephew.
It’s an anti-fight scene that packs more of an emotional punch than almost any duel in the Star Wars Saga.
If you know me at all, you know that the Star Wars world is by far my favorite fictional universe and favorite media franchise of all-time. Nine of the eleven theatrical Star Wars movies are in my Top 50 favorite movies list, I have shelves upon shelves full of Star Wars books and comics (I have about 75% of all Star Wars Legends novels that were released in hardcover, and over 50% of the Dark Horse comics in omnibus or trade paperback form).
But most of all, what I love about the Star Wars universe is its ability to tell all sorts of stories, large epics or small-scale romps, and just get so weird and idiosyncratic that it can tell the kinds of stories you just can’t get anywhere else.