[Spoilers for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, spoiler free for The Rise of Skywalker]
Back when Episode 8 came out in 2017 I gave it a positive review. Despite walking out of the theater on opening night feeling really unsure, I accepted it and was excited about it. But it wasn’t long before my disappointment grew stronger.
Like countless others, I’ve loved Star Wars ever since I was a little kid, and it is (and always will be) very special to me. The Force Awakens took on an even more special meaning to me, since my daughter got really, really into Star Wars, largely in part to Episode 7. I’ll always cherish the memories of sitting with her, 2 years old then, in the theater, in between my wife and I, seeing it with her for the first time. It was her second movie in the theater (the first having been Big Hero 6), and not only was she exceptionally well behaved (especially for a kid her age in a movie theater), but she was captivated, fascinated. The only sounds she made were excited whispers of the names of characters she was excited to see as they appeared on screen for the first time: “Wey!” (Rey) “Dootoo!” (R2-D2) “Utter Dootoo!” (other R2-D2, her then name for BB-8). She already adored the older movies, but the experience of Episode 7 cemented her love for the series.
Over the next 2 years (literally half of her life up to that point), Star Wars continued to be her favorite. We were naturally excited for Episode 8. But sadly, when we left the theater after watching The Last Jedi, you could see that she felt let down. She didn’t say it, but you could tell she was disappointed. While she still loves Star Wars, she hasn’t been as into it since then.
I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, and I was disappointed in Episode 8 too, for a lot of reasons. Episode 7 might have not been the most original story, but it brought us back to a galaxy far, far away with a lot of familiar themes. It was fun and exciting, nostalgic, and really set things up for the next movies to knock it out of the park. Think of how exciting it was to anxiously wait for answers about Rey’s origin. Maybe hear that ‘story for another time’ and learn how Maz obtained Luke’s lightsaber. Watch Luke Skywalker return to lead the Resistance. Learn more about the mysterious Knights of Ren. Learn the origin of Supreme Leader Snoke.
I feel like Episode 8 really let us down on all of these things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful movie with some awesome parts. But the fact that most of the thing fans were excited about weren’t addressed makes me feel like it was a movie for the director, not for the fans. If I’m being honest with myself, it was, sadly, a disappointment. Besides the aforementioned issues, a large part of the movie basically ends up being for nothing, and the decision to have Luke’s story go the way it did was a major downer, especially in light of losing Han in the previous movie, and the devastating loss of Carrie Fisher. I just feel gloomy about the movie over all.
But I do have hope. From what I’ve seen in the trailers, The Rise of Skywalker has a chance to rid me of that gloom and, unlike it’s predecessor, go out on a happy note. I’m hopeful that J.J. Abrams will bring back the warmth that 7 had and 8 lacked (at least in my opinion). More than anything, I hope that my daughter, my wife and I walk out of the theater the evening of December 19th (we already got our tickets!) feeling not only excited, but happy – happy that our favorite characters get the happy ending they deserve! Hopefully it’ll rekindle my now 6-year-old’s excitement for the series.
Until then I’ll be doing my best to avoid spoilers while counting down to The Rise of Skywalker.