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🎬 The Rise of Skywalker and the rest of the new Star Wars trilogy

🎬 The Rise of Skywalker and the rest of the new Star Wars trilogy
By Eric Johnson • Issue #46 • View online
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Heads up: This week’s newsletter is nothing but Star Wars. Scroll down to see where the new movie lands in my rankings of all the Star Wars movies and 2019 as a whole.
On Friday, I’ll be back at the usual time with some non-Star Wars movies I’ve been watching over the holidays.
🐻 Return of the Jedi
Pictured: The moment Carrie Fisher realized she needed to fire her agent.
Pictured: The moment Carrie Fisher realized she needed to fire her agent.
Although it’s easily the weakest of the original Star Wars trilogy, there’s still a lot to like about RETURN OF THE JEDI: Luke’s maturation into a darker, more conflicted Jedi; the thrilling speeder chase through the trees on Endor; and the climactic good-vs.-evil showdowns in space and on the second Death Star. And you know what? I think the Ewoks are perfectly fine, and I don’t care who knows it; if your objection to them is that they represent the over-toyification of Star Wars (which, fair), then I think you should really point the finger at the overlong Jabba the Hutt sequence, which is twice as long as necessary for the sake of establishing several new merchandisable aliens — and putting Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini. Despite its flaws, it’s to the film’s credit that the ending feels mostly satisfying; for more than 30 years, this was the final cinematic word, chronologically speaking, in the Skywalker saga, and people were content with that. BUT THEN …
🏜 The Force Awakens
Pictured: When there are fewer explosions thataway and maybe you should run there instead.
Pictured: When there are fewer explosions thataway and maybe you should run there instead.
The first hour of THE FORCE AWAKENS is almost perfect, in my book: We spend a lot of time getting to know the three new main characters of this trilogy, see how they fit into the larger universe, and then meet some of the characters from the original trilogy who ground the story in the larger context of the Star Wars series. The second hour-plus meanders a bit, but it’s still solidly entertaining throughout, and the tone of the whole movie is just about right. Unfortunately, there are two things that prevent the movie from being great: One, the transparently recycled story beats from A New Hope; and two, the lousy communication of several key concepts, including what the hell the Resistance is, why the First Order is so powerful, why there is a map to Luke Skywalker, etc. etc. I like this movie, but I can’t say that I love it.
🏝 The Last Jedi
Pictured: "No, Rey, that's not how you do the Macarena."
Pictured: "No, Rey, that's not how you do the Macarena."
THE LAST JEDI is a darker and messier film than the others in the Star Wars trilogy-of-trilogies, and I have mixed feelings about some of its more controversial scenes, including the notorious “casino planet” sequence and the muddled relationship between Poe Dameron and his commanding officer, Admiral Holdo. Despite that, it is one of my favorite Star Wars films (third overall, behind only Empire and A New Hope) and there is so much about it I deeply love and admire. It takes big risks to deepen our understanding of the Force and complicate the assumed goodness of the Jedi, and features several battle scenes that are among the best of the entire series. Also — and I’ll phrase this vaguely for the benefit of people who still haven’t seen the movie — the surprise appearance of one character from the previous films in this movie is perfectly handled.
🤔 The Rise of Skywalker
Pictured: OK, no matter what else I say in this newsletter, that looks cool.
Pictured: OK, no matter what else I say in this newsletter, that looks cool.
I’ve been procrastinating on writing this review for nearly a week. I’m neither pleased nor surprised to report that The Rise of Skywalker is the worst Star Wars movie since the prequels. In the tradition of Alien 3 (how’s that for an obtuse reference?), it undoes the best parts of The Last Jedi and leans hard into empty-calorie nostalgia. There are several things I liked about it — the fight scene pictured above, the tiny engineer Babu Frik, the climactic final battle — but so much more that just didn’t work. I don’t think this is a spoiler because it was in the trailers and is covered in the opening crawl … a major part of the story concerns the return of Emperor Palpatine, the long-dead antagonist from Episodes 1 through 6, and almost all of this storyline, including the revelations I’m not discussing here, just doesn’t work. It’s hard not to read the film as a point-by-point response to toxic fanboy reactions to the Last Jedi, and it’s sad to see the promising new trilogy end like this. I plan to rewatch the film at some point while it’s in theaters and will see if my opinion changes; if it does, I’ll report back here.
🌟 Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked
  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Last Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Rogue One
  7. Solo
  8. The Rise of Skywalker
  9. Attack of the Clones
  10. Revenge of the Sith
  11. The Phantom Menace
  12. The Star Wars Holiday Special
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. Knives Out
  2. Parasite
  3. Booksmart
  4. The Farewell
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk
  6. Us
  7. Free Solo
  8. Ford v Ferrari
  9. Avengers: Endgame
  10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  11. The Favourite
  12. Amazing Grace
  13. Long Shot
  14. The Wife
  15. The Art of Self-Defense
  16. Toy Story 4
  17. Jojo Rabbit
  18. Shoplifters
  19. Hustlers
  20. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  21. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  22. The Irishman
  23. Harriet
  24. Apollo 11
  25. Zombieland: Double Tap
  26. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  27. Aladdin
  28. The Peanut Butter Falcon
  29. Slut in a Good Way
  30. Green Book
  31. Cold War
  32. Official Secrets
  33. Ready or Not
  34. Always Be My Maybe
  35. Rocketman
  36. The Lighthouse
  37. Roma
  38. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  39. Ad Astra
  40. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  41. On the Basis of Sex
  42. Shazam!
  43. Frozen II
  44. Isn’t It Romantic?
  45. Judy
  46. The Lion King
  47. Downton Abbey
  48. Fighting With My Family
  49. The Rise of Skywalker
  50. They Shall Not Grow Old
  51. Yesterday
  52. Mary Poppins Returns
  53. Captain Marvel
  54. Minding the Gap
  55. Motherless Brooklyn
  56. Tolkien
  57. The Biggest Little Farm
  58. Alita: Battle Angel
  59. The Dead Don’t Die
  60. The Great Hack
  61. Stan & Ollie
  62. Vice
  63. Bohemian Rhapsody
  64. Aquaman
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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