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JJ’s Wonky World Builds: Number 5

The dead speak! So the text crawl tells us at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker. I’d expect that declaration in an Ed Wood movie.

Emperor Palpatine, just quietly rotting away … much like the story.

The Emperor is back! So a character who we didn’t know existed in this Sequel Trilogy becomes the arch-villain. Usually, you’d establish the villain as being villainous at some point prior to declaring they’re the villain.

In A New Hope, we know Darth Vader is a villain because he walks onto the Rebel freighter and chokes out the captain. He tortures Leia. He even chokes one of his own officers. Grand Moff Tarkin blows up Alderaan. The Emperor is referenced as dissolving the senate in A New Hope, is seen briefly discussing with Vader capturing and turning Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, and attempts to turn Luke in Return of the Jedi. This is all foreshadowing and character-building.

But the Emperor here? We have to reference the Original Trilogy. So JJ draws from a superior source to infuse his character with marquee. This is a cheat.The Sequel Trilogy – like the Original Trilogy did – should do all the world-building it needs to drive the story and arm the audience with the information required to understand what’s going on.

Apparently in some third-party source it’s explained that this Emperor is actually a clone. They should’ve called him Darth Clonius. He’s revealed to have been the mastermind behind the whole Sequel Trilogy. He entreats Kylo Ren to visit him on Exogol, home of the Sith or something, and blathers about stuff we’re no longer really invested in.

The Emperor has been responsible for turning Ben Solo to Kylo Ren, building a fleet of Star Destroyers with Death Star cannons, and cloning Snoke to regroup the remnants of the Empire into the First Order.

It’s a wonder Darth Clonius really needs anybody at all. Seems he’s pretty much on top of everything. And he’s only a half-formed clone.

After a lot of pointless busy work, there’s a big battle at the end that involves Darth Clonius’s Star Destroyers needing a communications tower to tell them which way up is so they can launch into space.

Given they lifted up out of ice, you’d think somebody would tell them just to keep going in that same direction and eventually they’ll hit space. Or, as big oceanic ships do, you can have a little boat towing them in and out of the harbor. It’s not that hard a concept. Hell, they have Death Star cannons. Blow up Exogol and just fly through where it once was.

The Resistance, which was reduced to 12 people at the end of The Last Jedi, now swells out to hundreds, if not thousands, of ships, because Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) calls them. And these people have been struggling in their fight against the First Boredom … why?

Although these two latter points occur later in the film, they’re still part of JJ’s world-building. They’re pieces the story draws on to build its framework. I’ll accept the tower with the navigational beacon. It’s stupid, but at least that’s established early so we know it becomes a plot point. But Lando calling on all those ships? We don’t know they exist. We’ve been told they don’t exist in The Last Jedi. So for them to emerge is another tremendous cheat.

In some ways, it tries to echo Han Solo’s return during the trench run at the end of A New Hope. But that’s set up to deliver an emotional pay-off. Han is established as a mercenary interested only in money. Luke implores him to help, but Han declares assaulting the Death Star is suicide. The Rebels attack the Death Star. Luke makes it deep into his trench run but Vader targets him. It seems it’s all over. But wait, Han’s back! He proves he’s not just a cold-hearted mercenary. It’s such an awesome moment because prior to this, we all want to believe Han is more than what he’s shown us. Here he delivers. Here, he subverts our expectations. And we love it.

For the galaxy to assemble a huge fleet (and who knows how Lando reached them all so quickly) could be an emotional moment, but it isn’t because it’s never set up in any way. In fact, the story outright lies, and then delivers an outcome for which there’s no foreshadowing.

How does this make any sense?

I know some people will defend The Rise of Skywalker on the basis it had to undo damage The Last Jedi had done by killing the antagonist, decimating the Resistance, and killing Luke. JJ’s solutions are slipshod, with no basis in causality. They just are because he wants to duplicate the big space battle at the end of The Original Trilogy, but has neither the storytelling originality nor the innovation to come up with anything worthwhile.

Not a single movie in the Sequel Trilogy makes any sense. They each invent new tech and new abilities so they can tell their bad stories. They place their characters wherever they need to be, absent of logic or journey or causality to further the plot. And then they unfold as a series of set pieces with no emotional investment unless you buy into the bull that they’re doing something meaningful.

They’re not.

These are all outcome circumstances – things that look impressive on the surface. Oooh, the Emperor. Wow, Star Destroyers with Death Star cannons. It’s all so exciting. But when you peer logically at how that outcome came about, you find gibberish.

This story can only work if you lobotomise yourself before you sit down to watch it.