On the third birthday of ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ let’s revisit what went wrong

Image via Lucasfilm/Disney

Time flies when you’re trying to forget about the worst conclusion to any of the three Star Wars film trilogies, and arguably one of the worst Star Wars movies ever made, but here we are. 

It’s been three years since Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker released and disappointed pretty much everyone, from the casual Jedi enthusiast, to the comic and animated series diehards who soak up every drop of story they can from the galaxy far, far away. 

We can go around playing the blame game all we like in terms of why The Rise of Skywalker was a lukewarm-at-best conclusion to the sequel trilogy, and we’ve been hearing them over and over again for the last three years. J.J. Abrams is a people pleaser and was pandering to The Last Jedi haters, Rian Johnson ruined the foundations which Abrams set in The Force Awakens, blah blah blah – you know the drill, and you’re probably sick of hearing about it. 

Ultimately, the onus inevitably falls on Disney and Lucasfilm for not sticking to the plan, or lack thereof. Granted, there have been rumors and rumblings about Colin Trevorrow’s initial vision for Episode IX, which were okay, but in the words of Forbes’ Scott Mendelson, at least it continued the ‘yes, and’ story building approach that Johnson took with Abrams’ first chapter. 

Instead what we ended up with was a messy tug of war between two conflicting visions for how the sequel trilogy should pan out. J.J. Abrams left many loose ends and questions to answer by the time the credits rolled on The Force Awakens, and he had every right to – he thought he wasn’t coming back. 

Abrams himself didn’t even have the answers to those questions at the time he wrapped on The Force Awakens, admitting as much to Collider last year. He was perfectly content to use the skeleton of A New Hope to introduce us to a new cast of characters and plot devices to kick a new trilogy off in earnest and leave the ball in his successor’s court.

Of course, this didn’t come to pass, and Rian Johnson ended up returning Abrams’ serve. The trouble being, Abrams didn’t quite respond to Johnson’s The Last Jedi with a ‘yes, and.’ Rather, he appeared to actively undo most, if not all of the character development and story beats that Johnson delivered in the middle chapter. Was he trying to please a crowd which was irate with The Last Jedi? Perhaps. 

Or did Abrams have some answers to the questions he posed in The Force Awakens after all? Possible, although given the presumed knowledge that he was offered all three Star Wars films from the get go and declined, this seems less likely. 

Ultimately, and without knocking Abrams’ abilities as a director, The Rise of Skywalker’s failure may fall on Disney and Lucasfilm for bringing Abrams back. The director had made it clear from the start that he was only interested in directing Episode VII. The powers that be should have either stuck to the plan, or if Colin Trevorrow really was as difficult to handle as reported, found themselves another director to say ‘yes, and.’ 

It was either that or just steer straight into the skid and let Rian Johnson follow through on his setup in The Last Jedi. I’ll give naysayers the casino planet B story, that was weak sauce. Though the rest of that film was a great time and a breath of fresh air, in my humble opinion.

Instead, and sadly, three years down the track we ended up with a trilogy which has a story that can only be equated to two toddlers squabbling over a toy. Go in with a plan for the next attempt, Lucasfilm.