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The Rise of Skywalker: It’s Kind Of A Lot

This piece contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. Like, all of them, probably several times over. Proceed accordingly.

Mike: Well, that happened.

I anticipated that my piece on The Rise of Skywalker two days ago would likely serve better as a semi-conclusive statement on the sequel era than something I forced myself to stay awake for in the aftermath of the movie, so instead of tackling this reaction piece single-handedly I invited the whole staff to weigh in with their first thoughts—but some quick ones from me first, because I’m in charge.

My friend Pearl and I both loved The Force Awakens, but we had absolutely polar reactions to The Last Jedi, and we’ve been arguing about it for two years, and will probably keep arguing about it forever because we’re like that. What I kept thinking during my first viewing of Rise tonight was that the movie felt precision-calibrated to make both of us, despite the separate universes we’ve been living in, equally happy—or at the very least, minimize our unhappiness at all costs.

Palpatine’s alive, but kind of not. Rey’s parents were nobody, from a certain point of view. Rose is there, but she doesn’t do much. There’s a gay kiss, but not the one people wanted. There’s a Reylo kiss, but it’s quick and vague and then he drops dead. Chewie dies and comes back. Threepio “dies” and comes back. There are porgs, but just barely. Hux goes rogue, but just barely. And on, and on—J.J. Abrams seems to screamingly, desperately want to make as many of us as happy as he possibly can, and if it required smothering logical and thematic coherence with a pillow, he was just the guy to do it.

But the thing is, superficial enjoyment is Abrams’s number one skill—and I’m honestly not saying that in a critical way, he’s really good at it. TFA definitely has a much, much easier lift than this thing does, but it’s got superficial enjoyability leaking out of every frame—and when it’s dumb, it’s just as dumb as Rise is. So I find myself in a weird position where I’m intellectually cynical but emotionally content, because a surprise acid trip that ruined your plans for the evening is still an acid trip, and chemically, it’s got you.

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The Return of the Mon Calamari – An Interview with Ethan Sacks

The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker is underway and we’re excited to share an interview I recently conducted with Ethan Sacks, Marvel Comics author and longtime Star Wars fan, about his miniseries Star Wars: Allegiance, which debuts this week. Set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Allegiance shows the ongoing efforts of Leia Organa and the Resistance to light the spark of rebellion once more to face the First Order. In dire need of allies and with their numbers reduced, Leia reaches out to the world of Mon Cala, hoping they will join the fight once again.

First off, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ethan! For starters, could you walk us through how this opportunity popped up and how you went about crafting your initial story pitch?

My wonderful editors, Mark and Tom, came to me with the assignment right as we were wrapping up Galaxy’s Edge. I knew it would be a little bit of a tricky dance because this story had to fit neatly as a puzzle piece that lined up with J.J. Abrams’ vision for The Rise of Skywalker, so Lucasfilm was very involved in helping me hone the story so that it fills in some of the backstory that happens before the final installment starts. But I had some leeway as to how we got there.

When we last see the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi, it is basically down to a few dozen people and the Millennium Falcon. Can you give us a sense of how much time has passed when your story starts and what have our heroes been up to?

It’s a few months later and the Resistance is scrambling from planet to planet to find more ships and weapons to stand a fighting chance against the First Order. But Kylo Ren is still nursing his own outrage over being outwitted by his former teacher and being abandoned by the one person in the galaxy he thought would understand him. So, finding Rey and crushing the Resistance is very, very personal. Which means General Organa has little room to maneuver.

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The Case Against a Galactic Republic – Continuing Thoughts

Mike: Over the last few years I’ve started to wonder whether the Old Republic’s model of governance, even prior to the rampant corruption on display in the prequel trilogy, was doomed to fail just by dint of the scale of the Galaxy Far, Far Away and the idiosyncrasies of its countless worlds. On Friday I presented my case here, and in response I was pleased to hear a wide variety of other takes on the matter both here and on social media. Two of my fellow Eleven-ThirtyEight staff writers in particular, Nick Adams, and Jay Shah, had some very thoughtful, yet strong, disagreements with my conclusions.

While I suppose we’re going to have to agree to disagree, I felt that the conversation that ensued in the original piece’s comments section was worthy of a spotlight of its own—never let it be said that I don’t encourage a diversity of opinion here at ETE. As such, that conversation has been lightly edited and expanded and is “reprinted” below for your enjoyment.

Nick: Galactic history has already proven that when governance is weak evil rises. Without some central authority and military, what prevents powerful worlds from exploiting weaker ones? In your model, how would the “shining city on a hill” and Rey’s young school of Jedi stop Kuat from building a large navy to impose its will on its neighbors? Or stop the Corporate Sector from establishing control of trade in the Outer Rim?

If the answer is hoping that Chandrila will speak out, Mon Cala will build a navy to counter it, and Ryloth will send pilots, that’s a tad naïve. The galaxy has proven it can rally a few times, but is that really to be counted on? “Every village sending a warrior” isn’t a strategy, its a Pollyanna-like wish. We see this very risk in the sequel trilogy. If the “good worlds” don’t show up, do we just hope things will get better?

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Aceing It – Vi Moradi and Queer Representation

Ben Wahrman: On the day Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire was released, there was a good deal of hullabaloo on Star Wars Twitter about it, including a lot of posts by the author Delilah S. Dawson during a promotional tour through Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando and other nearby locations. But one string of tweets by Elizabeth Schaefer, Del Rey’s lead Star Wars editor, caught a lot of attention and a lot of appreciation. In her short thread, Schaefer notes that it was an idea of Dawson’s that the main character of Black Spire, Vi Moradi, would “come out” as asexual. Schaefer shared her appreciation for that decision and direction for the character, as she herself is asexual and feels the representation is much needed. Considering the traction her tweets gained, she was not alone in that.

After I saw these posts, I knew that my fellow contributor Abigail would have feelings about Vi and who she is. And I wasn’t wrong! I had a lot of thoughts and feelings of my own, so we decided to jointly discuss both of those things and talk about Vi as both a character and as a representative of the asexual community, as well as the wider issue of the representation of asexuality in Star Wars and media at large. We’ll begin by talking about our introductions to Vi before the advent of Black Spire.

When I read Phasma, Vi stood out to me as a character that a lot of work and heart had been poured into. For a book that was ostensibly all about, well, Captain Phasma, the team of Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal stole it from her almost wholesale, despite them being more of a factor in the framing story than in the main flashback narrative of the book. Vi always struck me as a charming, fun character and I certainly hoped to see more of her after Phasma, but I never would have guessed that she’d wind up with such a large presence now, a featured character at the theme park and with a whole novel to herself.

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Second Look: Rules of the Game: The Malevolent Heart of The Phantom Menace

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

As The Phantom Menace turns twenty it has encouragingly ushered forth open reappraisal, new discussions, and even admiration for much of the creative work that went into one of the most accidentally incendiary films of the modern era. As someone who loved it as an impressionable, Anakin-aged nine-year-old in 1999 this is music to my ears. I have for much of its lifetime found it to be a curiously easy watch, rather than the repellent slugfest many of its loudest critics label it. As I’ve grown older I’ve appreciated more and more some of George Lucas’s flourishes that were imperceptible or just “part of the furniture” to my younger, less-developed critical faculty. I am also more than aware of the film’s many transgressions and faults. I understand completely why the film doesn’t work for so many, and why it was upsetting or frustrating.

In an odd way though, many of The Phantom Menace’s mistakes form part of its appeal now for me as an adult. While on the surface it is a children’s storybook of a film and is (relatively) less mature than what is to come, this belies a story that is steeped in some of the noir traditions that would become more obvious in Attack of the Clones, and as mentioned in Sarah Dempster’s excellent anniversary piece, is the beginning of the end of the galaxy far, far away’s Belle Epoque. Beyond that, with respect to what may be in store for us with The Rise of Skywalker, it is also the best showcase for one of the silver screen’s most diabolical and terrifying villains: Sheev Palpatine.

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