Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Podcast Transcript
Hi, my name’s Melvin, and I hope you had a McClunkey Christmas!
Welcome to Cinematic Doctrine, a Christian podcast service that encourages and equips Christians to engage and reform the culture of Cinema. On this episode, we’ll be checking out J.J. Abrams Star Wars: Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker.
I feel like you wouldn’t be listening to this review if you haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker already, so this doesn’t seem all that necessary, but I’m going to do it anyway: I’m not covering any spoilers in this review. If, for any reason, you haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil any plot points, pivotal moments, or anything like that. Don’t worry!
But, like I said, most people listening probably have seen the film already, so why don’t we stop wasting time and jump into this already.
Star Wars: Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker is the conclusion not only to the Disney Sequel trilogy, but the Skywalker saga. Set after the events of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, we pick up in a galaxy still fraught with conflict. Supreme Leader Kylo Ren dominates the stars and seeks to remain in power, Rey continues her Jedi training, and Finn and Poe travel the stars continuing to advance the hope of the Resistance.
But all is not well when Palpatine returns, and everyone’s plan for their future is put on hold as the last great Lord of the Sith makes his unexpected debut.
So begins the grand climax to this 42-year saga.
Star Wars: Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker is Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.
Through-out the film is constant violence, not least starting with Kylo Ren fighting on an unnamed planet. However, despite this tone-setting sequence, the film isn’t nearly as dark or aggressive as it may lead you to believe. The violence present in the opening minutes doesn’t continue in the same manor. Like the other Star Wars films, it’s exciting sci-fi violence with little at stake.
Apart from that, there really isn’t much else to mention in the content warning apart from there being romantic tension at times between many characters, and a kiss between two women at the end of the film that may be a bother to some viewers.
Now, before we take a look at Star Wars: Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, I wanted to share real quick that if you’ve come to enjoy Cinematic Doctrine and would like to support the show, be sure to leave a review on your respective podcast app at the end of this episode. And if you’re looking for more content, head on over to CinematicDoctrine.com and check out an episode of LikeFlintRadio I made a guest appearance on where we talked about George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and two of its film adaptions, both the Michael Radford film featuring John Hurt, as well as the 1953 BBC live TV adaption featuring Peter Cushing. Apart from that, you can also get connected with Cinematic Doctrine’s social media from the website, so be sure to check that out.
Also, Cinematic Doctrine has a Patreon! For as little as $3 a month, you can join other patrons and vote on a movie I review once a month, as well as take joy in feeding my coffee addiction. Any amount is appreciated with multiple tiers to choose from, all of which go toward making Cinematic Doctrine the best podcast it can be!
I want to be careful about how I go about this review. I don’t really enjoy writing negative reviews, and I don’t necessarily like tearing into anyone about the things they do. I think there’s a place for criticism but not a place for being unkind.
And I start this way because my initial response to The Rise of Skywalker is negative, and I felt that way throughout my viewing experience, so I want to be upfront about that. And I also want to be upfront about the fact that I’m not going to spend my time targeting anyone who did enjoy this movie. That wouldn’t be film criticism, that would be bullying.
But, most of all, I want to be upfront about something I think is very dangerous when it comes to big franchise films, especially Star Wars, and that’s idol worship.
A discussion on that front is far broader and encapsulates Star Wars as a whole, so why don’t we start with talking about The Rise of Skywalker as a film, and then move our way outward.
During the last few months there were rumors that The Rise of Skywalker hadn’t gone gold yet. By ‘gone gold’ I mean it hadn’t been finished. It was still in post-production, which is the act of editing the film. J.J. Abrams, or whomever oversaw the editing process, had to align the films many scenes in an appropriate and understandable way, along with implementing all the necessary sound effects, music, everything.
And I’m talking, like, the film was late into production during this process. The film released December 20th and apparently it didn’t go gold until, like early-to-mid November. And, while that’s technically on time, there’s still something about that late process of production that was a bit worrying. It meant they were still trying to stitch together everything just to get it right but couldn’t seem to find the right cut of everything. And, for reference’s sake, J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek film had gone gold about 3 months prior to the film’s release.
And I mention this because the film feels very much like a late-stage re-edit of a re-edit of a re-edit. One example is a scene in which our characters are riding speeders on a desert planet under the hot pursuit of some Storm Troopers. You may have seen this in the trailer, or even watched the scene ahead of release on YouTube or social media, but in this scene our characters are shooting lasers at their pursuers. During one part of this high-speed chase, they dive between a crevasse. The Storm Troopers continue to chase after them and are continuing to fire at one another. It’s tight and claustrophobic and visually stimulating, and then all at once, the camera cuts to Chewbacca firing his crossbow but he’s no longer in the crevasse. The bolt from the crossbow is shown to hit a storm trooper who, also, is outside of the crevasse. One shot they’re inside the crevasse, another they’re outside.
Since we never watched anyone exit the crevasse, perhaps through a wide shot that shows their speeders exited into the open desert again, I was wondering if perhaps Chewbacca was on a different speeder that went a different direction, or maybe he never got into the crevasse yet and we were about to see him enter it still under hot pursuit.
However, we then have a new wide-shot and we see Chewbacca is on the same speeder as everyone else. In this shot there’s no crevasse or high rock-structure in the background indicating that they had just exited the structure.
As far as the editing is concerned, they were inside the crevasse, then warped outside of it in a split second.
This seems really minor but what essentially happened in my head, and inside my wife’s head as we watched this scene, was trying to figure out whether or not Chewbacca was with someone else, we had blinked and missed something, the projector skipped (Which honestly can’t be the case because everything’s digital now), or if there was straight up a mistake during this transition. Because, typically, in a movie, when characters make a move between settings, we see this plainly handled through a transitional shot.
This sounds nitpicky, I get that, and I recognize there’s an almost utter and complete intolerance to even mentioning things like this, but it’s important to bring this up with regards to the rumor that this film was in Frankenstein mode where the pieces where constantly being edited together in a multitude of ways.
Because this segment isn’t the only time where characters jump around or warp from location to location. And I don’t mean warp like light-speed. I mean literally seem to teleport. There’s another time when our characters are traveling to a planet to retrieve some information. We watch our heroes ship fly toward a city, and rather than show us characters docking or exiting their spacecraft, the next segment shows Poe Dameron sneaking around the snow-covered town hiding from storm troopers. There’s a part of the brain that clicks and must catch up between these moments in the film and it’s really disorienting.
Sticking with this scene, Poe’s hiding while storm troopers are raiding homes or patrolling and it’s about 20 seconds of him sneaking behind walls or watching troopers walk this way and that. It’s a lot of storm troopers, and when he finally catches up with the rest of the gang his first words are “They’re everywhere”. Something about that garnered an audible laugh out of me because, like, I just don’t know why he said that. Of course, they’re everywhere. I just saw it. And so did the other characters.
And the thing about this movie is that, there’s just so much in it that no wonder this rumor circulated. No wonder one could suspect a strenuous editing period. It’s like a miniseries that was condensed to two hours, or in the case of Disney Star Wars, it’s 2 movies wrapped into one. Because, honestly, it feels like half of this movie was J.J. Abrams creating his own Episode 8 and then concluding it with his own Episode 9.
And all of this weird, spastic editing and bloated storytelling is because The Last Jedi didn’t go over well. Sure, it did well-enough at the box office and the critical response was positive, but the audience response was wicked negative.
And, I think, if one wants to talk about idol worship and Star Wars, they can look no further than the treatment of Kelly Marie Tran and the subsequent use of her character Rose Tico in the film The Rise of Skywalker.
For those who don’t remember, Rose plays a large part in The Last Jedi. She adventures with Finn through-out the entirety of that film and culminates in a character arc that, as we look outside of the film, sparked a lot of hatred for not only The Last Jedi, Rose Tico, but Kelly Marie Tran. In typical Star Wars fashion, fans weren’t comfortable simply disliking certain creative choices within their franchise, they followed through with vehement bullying and backlash. They targeted Kelly Marie Tran who, in response, removed herself from social media.
Whilst all of this was happening, elsewhere on the internet was a petition to retcon The Last Jedi from the Star Wars canon. This garnered over one hundred thousand signatures.
Meanwhile, the Rotten Tomato audience score is spammed with ½ star reviews by accounts that were freshly made and have no other films recorded on their accounts. Sure makes you wonder if they’re real, huh?
All this to say, people didn’t like The Last Jedi, and not only where they simply discontent with the film, they went about extreme and absurd measures to let Disney/LucasFilm/Kathleen Kennedy/JJ Abrams, whoever was in charge, that they didn’t like the film.
In response, the team behind the latest sequel trilogy does something nobody expects, they give the audience everything they want. And, in that respect, The Rise of Skywalker is exactly that. It gives you a film where Rey, Finn, and Poe adventure together. It gives you a film that answers the questions proposed in The Force Awakens. It gives you a film that outright retcons choices made in The Last Jedi. And, it gives you a film where Rose Tico has nothing to do but sit in a tent on a forest planet.
There was an interview before the film went gold, so sometime in November, where Kelly Marie Tran shared she was very excited to see The Rise of Skywalker in its finished state. She couldn’t wait to see scenes with both Rey and Rose working together, as the two of them never crossed paths in The Last Jedi. As far as she knew, the film featured these scenes, but as you’d expect, those scenes were cut from the final film.
When I step back and look at this, I find myself feeling a little gross.
There are only two ways one can look at this. Either Disney wrapped up everyone, including fans who felt betrayed by choices made in The Last Jedi as well as those who outright bullied a young woman off the internet, into the same bubble and said, “We’ll give you what you want.”
Or, they separated the two and knew that some fans were rightfully angry and made changes, while also still trying to diminish backlash by stripping Rose Tico from the film.
And honestly, in both cases, Disney is making a statement that those who feel they have a reason to be disappointed in The Last Jedi and those who bullied a young woman off of social media have an equal voice and have equal value when it comes to fixing a franchise.
Now, to describe this situation, I said a few choice words I don’t agree with so I’m going to essentially say them again but replace them with words I feel are more appropriate.
There are only two ways one can look at this. Either Disney wrapped up everyone, including fans who whined about the choices made in The Last Jedi as well as those who outright bullied a young woman off the internet, in to the same bubble and said, “We’ll give you what you want.”
Or, they separated the two and knew that some fans were unrightfully angry and made changes, while also still trying to diminish backlash by stripping Rose Tico from the film.
The keywords I changed were “betrayed” to “whining” and “rightfully angry” to “unrightfully angry”.
If it sounds like I’m making a correlation between those who simply didn’t like the film and those who bullied a woman off the internet, I’m not. I’m making a correlation between those who were so angry with The Last Jedi that they signed a petition and spam-voted negative ratings with fake accounts on a film with those who bullied a woman off the internet.
Are they the same kind of sin? No. Are they both coming from idol worship? Yes.
Why do I feel confident enough to make that claim? Well, because I was a part of that mob. I didn’t spam hate-comments on Kelly Marie Tran’s social media. I didn’t even use Instagram at the time. But I really didn’t like her character, I largely hated the film, and I remember watching hours of criticism on the film where virtually everyone was basically taking pot-shots at Rian Johnson for writing what they felt was heresy.
In fact, even now, YouTube is trying to recommend me a video that’s titled something along the lines of “Mark Hamill Tells Off Rian Johnson in Public” and the thumbnail is the two of them sitting on a stage at some convention.
Like, I don’t want to watch people yell at each other. If I wanted to do that, I would have watched the Democratic debates. I have no interest in living that life again. It was stupid to be so heated then, and I definitely won’t get that heated now.
And while Rian Johnsons The Last Jedi isn’t a flawless film, are we so convinced that all this behavior is well-deserved?
Of course not. It’s a movie. It’s a story. It’s a piece of art. It may not be good art for some people, but it’s something that came from someone’s soul, and if that product isn’t sinful, then we have no right to respond with such hatred.
And to back that last statement up, I want to say that if someone literally creates a hateful product filled with racism, sexism, and glorifies sin, then you absolutely have a reason to protest it. But The Last Jedi? How in the world is that worth anyone’s effort to protest?
I think this is where we start to see the mass idol worship behind Star Wars. We start to see how there’s a culture behind the franchise that has an image set-forth as to watch Star Wars represents. We hear all the time about how people grew up watching Star Wars. Some people even share that their first memories are of Star Wars. I remember spending time at my grandparents and watching them on VHS all the time, so I’m part of this group, too.
We hear about how people commit so much of their time to reading Star Wars, purchasing Star Wars products, collecting Star Wars memorabilia, and I start to think to myself that this complete commitment of income, brain-power, and emotions are far beyond healthy and straight into worship.
And when that thing you worship does something you don’t like, you go hog-wild and lose yourself in the heated rage of being betrayed. That thing you have a right to liking now did something you don’t like, and that’s it, forget everything. It’s ruined! It’s abandoned everything you hoped for! It’s turned it back on you and your entire life feels like a shame, wasted, ruined by one dudes’ vision.
So, okay, this isn’t my review of The Last Jedi, it’s my review for The Rise of Skywalker. But I have to say all that because, despite this film trying to be equal parts its own thing, the conclusion to the Skywalker saga, and separate itself from The Last Jedi, it inadvertently spends time after time again ignoring seeds planted through-out The Last Jedi.
There are lines of dialogue that sound like direct counters to lines of dialogue present in The Last Jedi, there are scenes built entirely around taking apart themes or messages presented in The Last Jedi, there are moments that have virtually no reason to be in the film apart from being a scene to take a crack at The Last Jedi.
And again, all that feels so gross to me.
I mean, how do you think Rian Johnson feels that Disney/Lucasfilm/Kathleen Kennedy or J.J. Abrams were totally behind him for his film, only to backhand him 2 years later. Or what about Kelly Marie Tran who was essentially fired without being fired?
I wrote out an example of what I found most problematic about this whole film on my Letterboxd review so I’m going to read that here for you now:
Imagine a classroom where a teacher wants everyone to get along. However, there’s a young girl, who isn’t doing anything wrong, getting bullied by everyone else. The teacher can’t get rid her because she’s their responsibility, but the teacher can treat her differently. But, the teacher needs to make sure the community of her classroom gets along. The teacher then creates activities that segment this young girl from the group, preventing her presence from becoming a nuisance to the other children. The girl is miserable because she can’t be a part of the classroom community, but also struggles to commune with them because she knows she’ll be bullied. But worst of all, she can’t trust the teacher anymore because she knows the game her teacher is playing.
I wrote that the day after seeing The Rise of Skywalker and still stand by it. What we essentially witness is an act in which Disney decides its brand is more important than its people.
And I think everyone in production is aware of this. Daisy Ridley looks stressed, John Boyega looks disappointed, Oscar Isaac looks cynical, and Adam Driver is getting his paycheck. But even they don’t have the worst of it. They’re at least in the movie enough to notice that they’re not having a good time. And even the newcomers in Keri Russel and Naomi Ackie are basically there to sell new toys.
All of this really bothers me, and that’s without even mentioning how Carrie Fischer is implemented into the film. I recognize the place Disney/LucasFilm/Kathleen Kennedy or JJ Abrams were in when Carrie Fischer died after the release of The Last Jedi, but repurposing unused footage of Carrie Fischer from The Force Awakens, cookie-cutting her from those sections and planting her into a few scenes feels like the most George Lucas thing to do but honestly if people just want Star Wars to be whatever they think Star Wars is, then I guess that’s about as Star Wars as it will get.
So, okay, look, I don’t need to go on. I think I’ve made my point. I almost have a fundamental issue with this film, and while a majority of my response has to do with the film outside of itself, I should mention that the sequences within it were really not all that engaging to me, nor was I all that pleased with the narrative direction the film went. And, that’s less to do with it not reaching some sort of god-like standard for Star Wars, and more to do with the fact that I simply wasn’t thrilled or engaged or connecting with any of the characters, stakes, or anything. It really just felt like stuff was just happening to have it happen, but also to undermine the previous film. Not only that, the theater experience was pretty depressing. I don’t like the idol-like mentality people have for these films, but I still enjoy a theater experience where the audience cheers and participates. For my wife and I, it was silent filled with the occasional laughter from some people in the theater baffled by a few scenes, and my wife outright falling asleep in the third act. I had to fill her in on certain things that happened because she was out like a light.
Suffice to say, it was a strange experience to watch a film tailored to give people exactly what they wanted and for no one to really be all that thrilled, especially when The Last Jedi’s focus was to deconstruct Star Wars. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” And challenge the Star Wars audience to think a little differently about what they want from a Star Wars movie.
But, here we are, the past fully realized, and it’s nothing but a constant rehash of lines we’ve heard for years after years, dead people being animated for one last yee-haw, and any future developments with actors who are literally bullied off the internet being squandered for increased revenue.
I’m so glad to be done with Star Wars.
Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of Cinematic Doctrine, if you’ve seen Star Wars: Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, what did you think of it? Do you think I’m absolutely wrong about everything I just said, or are you about as tired of Star Wars as I am? If you’re listening on Cinematic Doctrine’s website, let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!