Well, the first teaser trailer has dropped for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
I can react a little to the trailer itself, but we don’t really know much yet. (That’s kind of the point of a teaser.) It looks like Rey is fighting Kylo Ren, Lando is back, and they’re going to visit the wreck of one of the Death Stars, but that’s about it. The big question is, “Who or what is Skywalker?” If Rey a Skywalker after all? Will Kylo take on the mantle Skywalker? Will Luke become the Ghost King of the Galaxy? I feel like maybe it was originally meant to be Leia, but without Carrie Fisher, that wouldn’t work so well.
One popular theory is that Rey will officially end the Jedi order and start a new Skywalker Order that will hopefully have some more sense than the Jedi. Personally, I hope this is what they do. You may disagree with me, but I liked the way they wrote off Rey’s family and made the Force more inclusive in The Last Jedi, and this would be a fitting continuation of that. (For the record, I do not approve of Snoke being a nobody. Totally different situation.) And if they hadn’t switched directors and been under a lot of pressure to backtrack from The Last Jedi, I’d believe it, but…I have a bad feel about this. With J. J. Abrams (whom I generally like) back in the driver’s seat, I have a feeling it’s going to be a more traditional Chosen One thing.
And also, what’s with the Emperor cackling at the end? Are we going to be stuck fighting a Ghost Emperor? Or…they are going to visit the Death Star, and oh no, we never actually saw a body, did we? This is the same comic booky nonsense that made the old Expanded Universe (now called Legends) so unwieldy. (In fact, they actually did clone the Emperor in literal comic books.) If the Emperor comes back, I’m with Rian Johnson on this one: “Let the past die.”
And that brings me to what I really wanted to talk about. What do I think should happen in Episode IX? Or rather, what would be best for the franchise as a whole? My opinion is that even if Episode IX “fixes” Star Wars in the eyes of the fans, I’m not so sure it would be the best thing for it.
My main problem is that I’ve lost a lot of my enthusiasm for the series over the past two years. I still enjoy it; I’m still definitely going to see The Rise of Skywalker, but I don’t have the enthusiasm I did for The Force Awakens or even for The Last Jedi, and the reason, unfortunately, is politics.
A lot of fans hated The Last Jedi, and to some extent, it’s become a political issue. Keep in mind, for a lot of them, it wasn’t. They had non-political criticisms like, “It was badly written,” or “Luke was totally out of character”—understandable criticism, even if I don’t agree with them—but for too many, the commentary has become political first.
This has happened with too many movies recently, Captain Marvel being the latest example. It’s gotten too big, and it feels like you can’t ignore it. You have people trying to read the politics they like into things on one side, and people actively trying to read the politics they don’t like into things on the other side. (And note that it doesn’t have to be the “left” who are for something and the “right” who are against it. It just happens to be in this case.) Even if they’re the minority, and most people just want to enjoy the movie, it’s tiresome. It’s tiresome because I feel like I can’t get away from it. Even generally non-political YouTube channels I follow feel the need to weigh in on it, and then I get even more in the recommendations, and it becomes a whole thing.
Basically, has poisoned the series for me—not because I’m some alt-right person who had a beef with the supposed political agenda in The Last Jedi. I didn’t. Nor because I was one of the people who thought it was unfaithful to the fans in some non-political way. I actually liked The Last Jedi! (And I’ll grant it wasn’t only the politics, either. The other big problem was that Solo was so underwhelming.) But the controversy around the film has become so tiresome that it’s sucked a lot of the fun out of the series.
Now, this is turning into a rant, but I wanted to say all this to give you a clearer idea where I’m coming from. The sequel trilogy does have some significant problems. The prequel trilogy had a lot of problems, George Lucas’s ham-fisted message that basic human emotions are bad (including love!) being just one of them. They also contradicted a lot of the earlier stuff in the Expanded Universe. And I mentioned the EU had still more problems even before the prequels. Lucas’s obsession with making everything canon and then poorly curating that canon while he was in charge did the series no favors.
That’s why at this point, I think the best thing to do for Star Wars as a franchise—and again, this is coming from someone who likes the sequel trilogy—might be to strip everything back to the original trilogy and make Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy into movies. Don’t take all of the Expanded Universe—by no means! Instead, be to the old EU what the MCU is to Marvel Comics: telling the most important stories in a more mature, better thought-out, and, frankly, better-written way than the comic book-esque source material.
Zahn’s trilogy is undoubtedly the place to start. It’s among the most serious, the best written, and of course the earliest of the material that extended the story of the original trilogy. In fact, it was meant to be a sort of replacement for George Lucas’s half-conceived sequel trilogy way back in 1991, before there ever were any prequels. It’s also a trilogy that’s already beloved by fans, so there’s only so much they could do to screw it up. Plus, Disney already has the formula with the MCU. If they went that direction, I really do believe they could make Star Wars better than ever.