There has been a lot of discourse lately about the latest and last installment of the Star Wars “Skywalker” saga, The Rise of Skywalker (TROS). And I have some words.
If you enjoyed it, I’m happy for you. I enjoyed my time watching it.
But if I’m honest, as I get further away from it, the more I dislike it and am disappointed at where it all ended up.
What you are about to read is one blerd’s dream of what the latest Star Wars trilogy could have been. It’s not meant to be a judgment on the many thousands of artists who poured their blood, sweat, and literal tears (rest in peace Carrie) into this series. Nor is it a judgment on you if you enjoyed the movies (I may judge you if you loved The Last Jedi, but don’t get me started. 🤣).
This is just a possibility of what it could have been if a different path was taken vs. trying to continue a saga that ended perfectly with Return of the Jedi (ROTJ).
Come and dream with me, won’t you?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
It was a time of unrest in the galaxy. The galactic Empire ruled with an iron fist. Star systems all throughout the galaxy lived in fear, trembling, and trepidation under the evil and tyrannical rule of the Emperor—a master of the dark side of the Force, the energy field and mysterious “sinew” that binds the galaxy and life itself. Masters of it can do what looks practically like “magic.”
The Emperor’s #2 was the scourge of the universe, the traitorous villain and Sith, Lord Darth Vader.
There is always two. A master and a servant.
Yet there was hope!
In the outskirts of the galaxy, on the edge of the Federation trade routes, was a desert planet, Tatooine—home to the most vile beings in the charted systems.
It also happened to be the home of a young, bright-eyed farm boy named Luke Skywalker.
Orphaned at birth and brought to Tatooine to live with his aunt and uncle, Luke dreamed of one day leaving his rote existence on Tatooine and joining the Rebellion—a growing military might comprised of the last remnants of the once great galactic Republic. It was a consortium of star systems, warriors, and even some renegades, all devoted to restoring peace to the galaxy.
Yet there was one more soul on that gods-forsaken planet. A strange hermit who kept to himself, as he kept watch on young Skywalker. An old man who was rumored to be a wizard.
His name was Ben.
Ben was somewhat of a wizard. To be exact, he was one of the last surviving members of warriors once charged with defending the galaxy. They were called Jedi, and whereas Vader and the Emperor were masters of the dark side of the Force, the Jedi used and were allies with the light side.
Thought to be all but extinct after the dreaded “Order 66” killed off most of them during the infamous Clone Wars, Ben was on Tatooine because he believed that Luke was the secret to returning peace to the galaxy and bringing balance to the Force. For Ben knew a secret that only a handful of people knew—Luke was the lost son of Vader himself. Or rather, Vader’s prior identity before succumbing to the dark side—Anakin Skywalker.
The Original Trilogy Restores Balance
Through a series of three amazing, nostalgic, genre-defining movies, the story of Luke’s path to become a Jedi Knight and help redeem his father is unequivocally one of the most iconic and important series of movies ever to grace the silver screen.
Those movies did way more than just define a genre. They created whole new generations of filmmakers.
In my nearly 20 years of interviewing filmmakers for various podcasts and blog posts, hands down, the #1 answer I hear when asked what first inspired them to become filmmakers, was seeing that first Star Wars episode (now known as Episode IV).
The 20th Century Fox fanfare, the epic John Williams score, the crawl, and that jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring image of the star destroyer going on “forever” was literally breathtaking. It cast a “spell” on young, would-be filmmakers as beguiling and powerful as any Jedi mind trick.
The cast of characters and the story arcs they all went on were equally engrossing. The dashing smuggler Han Solo learns to become a self-less hero. The beautiful Princess Leia from jump street is a role model for little girls and women everywhere (something you didn’t see a lot of in 1977 when it first aired). She was smart, strong, cunning, and didn’t take sh*t from anyone, least of whom a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder” like Han Solo.
So when the two fall in love after a very contentious “courtship” marked by space battles and terrible odds, it’s triumphant. Star Wars is known for its recurring lines of dialog like “I got a bad feeling about this” and of course “May the Force be with you. Always.” But perhaps no line is as emotionally powerful and resonant, nor has gotten as big an audience reaction, as the ad libbed line from Harrison Ford’s Solo when, after a desperate stolen kiss, as John Williams’ love theme plays, in response to Leia’s exclamation “I love you!” before Han is encased in carbonite in Act 3 of The Empire Strikes Back, his response is “I know!.” (F*cking A! I’m getting goosebumps and all verklempt now just thinking about it! No moment in this recent trilogy comes close to that moment. IMHO).
Last, and certainly not least, is the amazing final light saber duel between Luke and his father Vader, on the Death Star II. Luke, convinced there is still good in Vader, that a part of Anakin still lives, when he has the upper hand and the ability to strike Vader down, gaining vengeance for all the murdered Jedi Vader help betray, instead fights against the temptation of the dark side of the Force, deactivates his blade, and tosses the hilt away.
In that moment he completes his training and is at once wholly and fully a Jedi Knight, like his father before him. The Emperor, realizing his plan to win Luke to the dark side has failed, begins to pommel his body with dark lightning.
As Luke feels the internal searing of what it must feel like to have thousands of volts of electricity running through his body, he calls out to his father, the man Anakin Skywalker he still believes to be somewhere in the twisted machine that is Darth Vader.
“Father! Please! Help me!” I defy you to not be moved to near tears of triumph and exultation when, after looking at his son being torn apart by dark lighting, Anakin is REBORN!
He turns to the Emperor, and despite having one hand been recently cut off by Luke, picks him up, and with his last bit of strength, tosses the Emperor a thousand feet to his “death.” We see a burst of dark light and matter explode from the Emperor’s fall.
In that one moment, Darth Vader is redeemed and reborn as a newly restored Jedi Knight, Ankakin. He fulfills the promise of a prophecy that a certain Qui-Gon Jinn saw in him so many decades early when he was just a young mop-haired little boy on the desert planet of Tatooine.
He did indeed bring balance to the Force.
Why The F**k Did We Need Another Skywalker Trilogy?
I think the most egregious “crime” committed by this trilogy, and specifically TROS, was the total and utter negation of the sacrifice and redemption of Vader in ROTJ. That alone is worth condemning the movie (IMHO).
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that ROTJ was the perfect ending of the Skywalker saga. Luke became a Jedi. He and Princess Leia learned they were twins. Han and Leia hooked up. The Death Star II is destroyed. The Emperor killed. The Empire was fallen. Balance was restored to the Force. The Jedi Knight were reborn and Luke was set up to train a new generation of Jedi warriors to defend a new Republic.
Life. Was. Perfect.
WHY THE FRICKITY FRICK FRAK F**K DID WE NEED ANOTHER SKYWALKER TRILOGY?!
Don’t answer that.
WE DIDN’T! PERIOD. END OF STORY!
What we needed was something… NEW!
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (TFA), starts in a world where instead of the Empire, we now have the First Order. Instead of the Rebellion, we have the Resistance. We still have Stormtroopers. We have yet ANOTHER planet-destroying super weapon. We still have unrest in the galaxy and imbalance in the Force.
It’s like ROTJ NEVER F-ING HAPPENED!!
And, as we’ll come to learn two movies later in TROS, we STILL HAVE THE F**KING EMPEROR, who apparently has been pulling all the strings since his apparent demise in ROTJ. A demise where he first was thrown into a nuclear reactor, exploded in a giant blue haze, then was in a Death Star explosion that must have been the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshimas.
Riddle me this: How the F**K did he still have a corporal body in TROS? And how and when did he create a fleet of a thousand new star destroyers, all armed with planet destroying capabilities. TELL ME? HOW?!
Look, I’m a reasonable guy. I can suspend disbelief. To a point. But the craziness they concocted over the three-movie arc of the third trilogy was in the end, just silly!
The reason why the opening shot of Star Wars: Episode IV was so enthralling was because it was new. We had never seen anything like that before on the big screen. Sure, it was inspired by the old Flash Gordon serials of the early to mid 20th century, but nothing came close to what George Lucas and his VFX team envisioned.
Episodes 7-9, in an attempt to make up for the disappointment that was the prequels, created a nostalgic romp designed to re-ignite all the “feels” from the original trilogy. And I have to admit, it got me at first. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, largely because it felt like “Star Wars.” I still get goosebumps watching the trailer.
But now that it’s all over, I’ve come to realize that what we needed was something we haven’t seen before.
So dream with me a bit.
What if in the vacuum left by the demise of the Emperor and Empire, a new threat arises?
What if that new threat was a growing network of organized crime, taking control in a “headless” galactic empire with no definitive ruling body?
What if the new big baddie wasn’t yet ANOTHER Sith Lord, but instead a Hut gang leader? And because Huts are not susceptible to Jedi mind tricks, what if Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren) was his #1 hit man?
What if this latest trilogy was about how the Jedi order was attempting to gain influence and power again, and this new Hut gangster, determined to keep his power, works with Kylo to keep this growing order in check?
You could still have all the same characters you do now. Kylo. Rey. Luke. Chewie. Han. Leia. Finn. Po. Etc. But instead of fighting the Empire, oops, I mean the First Order, they’re fighting an organized crime network.
You can have new ships. New droids. New creatures. The bounty hunters could play a major role. The Disney+ original series The Mandalorian would probably have a tighter connection too.
And you could still follow the quest of Rey to become a Jedi in this new era of a young and growing Jedi force.
And since the middle movie always needs a great cliffhanger, what if Kylo kills the Hut in some unsuspecting move, captures Rey, kills his dad (Han Solo) in the SECOND movie (not the first), and sets up the foundation for a new crime network…RULED BY THE SITH.
AWWWWW SHEEEEET! Don’t tell me that wouldn’t be TOTALLY BAD ASS!
And what if movie THREE ends with Luke making some final sacrifice that helps ensure Rey’s ascension to Jedi status, as he has a final battle with Kylo Ren, his nephew.
(Edit: be sure to read my P.S. below. It’s a slight twist on my idea, submitted by my good friend and resident SW expert. )
I am a HUGE fan of the Star Wars franchise, but admittedly, I’m not a hard core fan. I don’t read the comics, play the games, or read the books. I haven’t seen all the Clone Wars or Rebels episodes either. I know just enough to be dangerous.
But based on my research and discussions with my good friend who IS a hard core fan, nothing I’ve presented here is totally out of the question.
I’m sure we’re all tired of the whole Star Wars debate. Ever since The Last Jedi caused the biggest rift in the fandom since Jar Jar Binks “stepped-and-fetchit’ed” onto the screen of the prequels, there have been enough blog posts, podcasts, and video essays to last over three more trilogies.
So, I think I’m ready to move on. Not move on from the franchise. I love it too much and hope that whatever the powers that be think up next, that they give us something worthy of the title “Star Wars.”
But I’m ready to move on from the debates. I’ve got this blog post out of my system. A weight has been lifted. Balance has been restored.
I will look into the distant horizon myself and dream of a better future for this franchise I love so much.
Until then, my dear friends, may the Force be with you. Always.
P.S. The Crimson Dawn
Remember when I told you I wasn’t a hardcore SW fan like my good friend. Well, he read my story and offered his input. (By the way, the “he” I’m referring to is my BFF JD Cochran, who features prominently in my forthcoming memoir, and will be a recurring guest/co-host on some podcasts in the works. Here’s a great Star Wars convo I had with him on my old podcast, Radio Film School. It’s embedded below as well.)
Here’s JD’s take on my idea:
I liked your story take, but I’ve always had a problem with Huts being in charge. They’re too big, fat, hapless and slow to be a threat to anyone. I could never wrap my mind around how they became so powerful. That too is on the verge of being silly and ridiculous.
A much better crime syndicate to focus on in the SW universe would be Crimson Dawn. They’re more badass than any Huts. We saw a bit of that idea in “Solo” with Maul, who employed gangster Dryden Vos. (side note: Maul and his Brother, Savage Opress, actually took out the Crimson Dawn leadership and generals in the “Clone Wars.” They assumed control over the organization and continued to use and employ its lieutenants.) Crimson Dawn were much more like Japanese Yakuza meets Klingons. Much more menacing than a fat, overgrown, handicapped slug that could barely move or fend for himself.
Also published on Medium.