In a surprising turn of events, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is as polarizing as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Director J.J. Abrams’ ending for the Skywalker saga split fans and critics alike. The worst-reviewed entry in the series, which has made over $500 million at the worldwide box-office, is raising a variety of criticisms and debates.
Abrams, to his credit, thinks the loudest critics are as right as the most passionate fans of the sequel.
J.J. Abrams Doesn’t Dismiss Critics
When a movie pleases fans and makes a ton of money, despite less-than-stellar reviews, a filmmaker will often say, “I made it for the fans,” ignoring the valid criticisms from people who simply weren’t fans of the movie.
Abrams didn’t take that easy route, and instead, the director of The Force Awakens is taking the criticism with a good attitude. During a Q & A for The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams addressed the mixed reviews and reactions to The Rise of Skywalker (via The Wrap):
“I’d say that they’re right. The people who love it more than anything are also right. We knew going in — I was asked just seven hours ago, in other countries, ‘So how do you go about pleasing everyone?’ and I was like ‘What?’ Not to say that that should be what anyone tries to do anyway, but how would one even go about it? Especially with Star Wars.”
Admittedly, Abrams pleased more audiences with The Force Awakens, but endings are trickier to pull off in that regard. In the past, Abrams himself has admitted endings aren’t his strength as a storyteller, and sadly, it shows in The Last Jedi.
Chill With the Outrage
A large portion of the Star Wars fanbase have expressed their outrage over the most recent entries in the franchise, especially with The Last Jedi. Actors from the new series have even faced harassment from “fans,” prompting Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran to leave social media. They’re not the kindest fans in the galaxy, that’s for certain.
Abrams wishes the outrage would quiet down and allow for more nuanced discussions about what the Star Wars movies are, not what fans wanted them to be:
“We live in a moment where everything seems to immediately default to outrage, and there’s a kind of M.O. of it’s either exactly as I see it or you’re my enemy. But it’s a crazy thing that there is such a norm that seems to be devoid of nuance and compassion — this is not about ‘Star Wars,’ this is about everything — and acceptance. It’s a crazy moment, so we knew starting this, any decision we made — a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision — would please someone and infuriate someone else.”
The Rise of Skywalker has faced nearly every criticism under the sun. Not only were the reviews mixed, but the sequel earned the worst cinemascore in the entire franchise with a B+. All previous sequels managed an A-.
There is love in the world for the movie, based on the box-office and some passionate enthusiasm, but it’s far from a beloved sequel. Critics and fans took issue with the inexplicable return of Emperor Palpatine, the long-winded exposition, the lack of intimate moments between the main characters, all of the new force powers, and the bizarre rewriting of actions and characters from The Last Jedi. (Kylo Ren’s ridiculous mask was destroyed for a reason.)
As Abrams said, he can’t please everyone. In his mind, he made risky choices, but to many fans, he played it safe and didn’t take enough of the risks that have defined the franchise from the start. To be fair, the director had so much story to tell with the last entry in the Skywalker saga. There were many, many characters and storylines to payoff, but it was all too much for one movie in the end.
Not every character or story got their due in The Rise of Skywalker.