OPINION: J.J. Abrams navigated “The Rise of Skywalker” too far from tradition


Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey (Daisy Ridley)and Finn (John Boyega) star in a scene during the new Star Wars movie, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker". The movie premiered Dec. 20, 2019. Tribune News Service

Growing up, I avoided “Star Wars.” It looked like nothing but explosions and lightsabers. All action, no backbone. Then I actually watched them and enjoyed the story. 

But “The Rise of Skywalker” was just explosions. It was everything I thought “Star Wars” would be before I gave it a chance.

It was no surprise, though. The last installation of “Star Wars” was passed between directors like a hot potato, and passing the baton from George Lucas to Disney meant putting financial desires over sentimentality from the beginning. 

I just wish “The Rise of Skywalker” would have ended the saga in a fashion that was more respectful of the movies that came before it.

With the new “Star Wars,” there are no true losses other than Leia, whose fate was predicted with Carrie Fisher’s death, and Kylo Ren, the initial villain. But Kylo Ren was the one person I wanted to see live. Unlike the others, his character had depth.

Kylo Ren is universally recognized as one of the best assets in the new “Star Wars” movies. He is the same person from movie to movie despite other inconsistencies in the films. He is someone the audience relates to despite his wickedness.

Rey is viewed unfavorably by “Star Wars” fans because she is unrealistic. The audience doesn’t have much insight into her feelings and internal dialogue. There’s little to remind us that she’s human, unlike Luke Skywalker, a bumbling teenager in every sense. 

Sure, Rey shows emotion for BB-8. But to me, she’s as underdeveloped as that numb, beeping droid—which is one of the many reasons Abrams should never have made Kylo Ren and Rey kiss. 

To me, Kylo Ren’s character has always been a bridge between the old and new movies. The audience becomes deeply invested in him, as they once did with the heroes of the original trilogy. Rey represents to me what the new films are lacking. 

Creating a love connection between these two made Kylo Ren just another pawn in the new Star Wars universe. The moment they kissed, I thought to myself that any “Star Wars” movie that follows is a lost cause. If Kylo Ren isn’t safe from poor character arches in the new universe, no one is. 

There is a clip of Adam Driver two years ago on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” as he promoted “The Last Jedi.” In the interview, Colbert and Driver play with five-inch figures of Rey and Kylo Ren. 

Colbert tries to get Driver to give away secrets about the movie as he acts out Rey. Driver creates a dull version of Kylo Ren as a way to get around it.

After Colbert gives up on getting spoilers, Colbert and Driver make the figures kiss, goofing off with them the way children do. It was an unintended prediction of the final movie, made by two men trying to get a laugh out of the audience.

Breaking up the kiss, Driver further predicts the next movie by saying Kylo Ren is going to take a nap under his cape. 

More laughter. The audience eats it up.

“Okay, and... Use the force!” Colbert said. 

He sweeps the characters off the table in one swift motion, as if to say it’s time to move on.

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