By Mark Cox
Star Wars fans across the globe are raising their lightsabers in celebration today as Disney Plus launches "The Rise of Skywalker" on its streaming service. For the first time, all nine chapters of the Skywalker Saga films are united in one place.
And having decided to release the film early for fans in COVID-19 lockdown, Disney could hardly choose any other date than May 4 – a.k.a. Star Wars Day. (For the uninitiated, this date was originally chosen because “May the Fourth” echoes the franchise’s famous mantra: “May the Force be with you.”)
When it comes to Star Wars, few people know their battle droids from their Ewoks better than Christina Angel, Ph.D., English lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver and director of Denver Pop Culture Con. RED caught up with her to get some expert lowdown on the new release.
Well, of course, it’s touted as the final film of the third trilogy, which finally – after 42 years – brings full circle the narrative of the central Skywalker family. But to me, it seems curious to view this movie as a definitive “ending.” The Star Wars universe is massive, and there are now so many other stories out there – in books, comics, games, TV shows and so on – that the broader story will clearly go on in rhizomic fashion forever.
In truth, “The Rise of Skywalker” is a pretty uneven film. It lurches around between competing plots, and the deus ex machina of bringing back the supposedly dead main villain (Palapatine) was – in my not-so-humble opinion – a terrible choice. As a fan, I wanted a more cohesive closing of the Skywalker story arc and a more poignant back story for the young female heroine, Rey.
One real positive was that the final movies gave closure to the beloved characters from the very first film and provided them with a dignified farewell, which was perhaps more important than the main storyline. Finally saying goodbye to Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo was bittersweet and satisfying, especially since one of those goodbyes was a real-life one.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about the early release of this movie, which is about facing down a seemingly unbeatable foe. How might that resonate with current audiences?
Oh, it absolutely will. And besides, lots of people in lockdown could just really use some good old-fashioned escapism right now. Being stuck at home for an extended time can be tough – but one of the benefits is that you can indulge in some lengthy viewing projects, such as tackling all three Star Wars trilogies. Another entertaining option just now might be watching all three extended versions of “Lord of the Rings,” which will certainly eat up a few hours. With these binge-watching sessions, it’s escapism, sure, but you’re also making relevant human connections with beloved characters who feel like old friends.
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Simply speaking, it’s modern myth. Not only does the story echo so many classical tales that humans have loved since humans existed, it also brings together a bundle of beloved tropes: good and evil, heroes and villains, romance, humor and adventure. And on top of everything else, it’s a Western in space, for crying out loud! What isn’t appealing about that? Another point worth noting is that the special effects of the first film still hold up today, and the world-building is completely believable.
Sure. The original three films (released from 1977 to 1983) were retroactively subtitled Episodes 4-6. That may seem weird, but it’s because the second trilogy (released 1999 to 2005) was technically a prequel, so it needed to take on the mantle of Episodes 1-3. The final trilogy (released 2015 to 2019) follows on from the first three movies and so comprises Episodes 7-9. Simple, eh?
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If you’re going to see them all, my recommendation is to always start with the original movies (that’s “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), then watch the prequel trilogy and end with the most recent movies – so by order of when they came out rather than following the storyline. One extra tip: Even though it’s not technically part of the main story, the spin-off release – “Rogue One” (2016) – is a must-see movie that provides both an interesting tangent and connection to the original film in a clever way.
The prequel trilogy is, let’s say, not universally loved. Where do you stand on those films?
To be honest, like many Star Wars fans, I really dislike the prequels: Episodes 1-3. I only ever watch them when I visit my Star Wars-obsessed 11-year-old nephew, who loves a good binge watch when I’m in town.
The day after Star Wars Day – May 5, known as “Revenge of the Fifth” – celebrates the franchise’s dastardly villains. Don’t you sneakily prefer that day?
Not a chance. As a lifelong member of the Rebel Alliance and wielder of a blue lightsaber, I am May the Fourth all the way. Basically, I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.
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