It was 1977. A young lad held his father’s hand as they queued around the block. A genuine literal blockbuster. We got in – yes reader I was that young Padawan – having missed the first crawl and we were just in time for the entrance of Darth Vader and my life was changed forever. Now JJ Abrams’ final episode in the Star Wars saga is to close that story began so long ago, in a galaxy far far away. I’m 47, but I’ll still be queuing up for the first screening at my local cinema. What can we expect in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?
There has to be some closure for Princess Leia. Since the tragic death of Carrie Fisher just before the release of The Last Jedi speculation has been rife about how Princess Leia’s story will close. Each of the films in the new trilogy concentrates on a character from the original trilogy as well as developing the new characters. Han Solo dominated The Force Awakens; Luke Skywalker The Last Jedi. And now Leia would be the final piece of the original love triangle. But Abrams faces an obvious difficulty in doing so.
Resolve The Last Jedi or reject it? When Rian Johnson’s divisive Episode 8 opened, Luke’s tossing away of the lightsaber struck supporters as a defiant change of direction and his critics as the dropping of a sacred baton. Abrams is on the record stating his admiration of Johnson’s film, but he is his own filmmaker and one can imagine that his movie – being the final word – will zigzag back to where The Force Awakens left off. Now whether you see that as restoring the original vision, or heading for safety is almost entirely going to be down to your view of the penultimate film.
One thing is for sure: those divisions in the Star Wars fanbase are not going to end anytime soon. Will Rey or Won’t Rey? The questions relating to Rey’s parentage and the connection to Kylo Renn have dominated the first two films, at least in terms of the New Generation of characters. In fact, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and even Finn (John Boydega) have found themselves kicking their heels in comparison. The soapiness of any surprise twist is a problem and Abrams is not great at resolutions (Lost anyone?) but something will have to be decided and once more it will be interesting because it will nail on what the message of the film is actually about.
Is it about the Skywalker bloodline? A story of a dysfunctional family writ large across galaxies? Or is it about nobodies – Rey and Luke – becoming heroes? Ultimately, what I hope more than anything is that the film will give even a shadow, a faint echo of that shiver of excitement I felt all those years ago. It doesn’t really matter if it is a good film – Star Wars films don’t have to be – as Han Solo might have said: it’s time to blow this thing and go home!