Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead…
A lot of people have criticised/praised (depending on which camp you’re in) Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for blatantly flipping off/course-correcting The Last Jedi. And in a lot of ways, it does feel that way. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren smashes his mask. In The Rise of Skywalker, he fixes it back again. Rey’s parentage forms one of the central themes of The Last Jedi — you don’t have to come from greatness to be great. The Rise of Skywalker shamelessly undoes it by revealing that Rey’s grandfather is in fact, Palpatine.
Another scene that comes to mind is Luke Skywalker catching his old Lightsaber when Rey attempts to toss it into the fire. “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect,” he says. Many have called that scene a middle finger to the scene in The Last Jedi where Luke tosses his lightsaber over his shoulders. And in a certain point of view, it does seem that way. But does it only seem that way because of our skewed perspectives heading into the film in the first place (i.e. “I desperately hope JJ Abrams course corrects The Last Jedi” or “urgh! JJ Abrams better not mess with Last Jedi!”)?
According to the director of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, JJ Abrams, the scene where Luke catches the lightsaber is a natural continuation of Rian Johnson’s story. In fact, JJ Abrams actually finds Luke’s arc in The Last Jedi rather beautiful. At the Academy Screening, Abrams had this to say:
I’ll say, I think that people who say “Oh, this film is flipping off The Last Jedi”, like when Luke says the thing he does about the lightsaber…If the scene in The Last Jedi, where Luke tosses the saber over his shoulder, was immediately followed by Luke saying “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect,” I’d think it was insane. But one of the many brilliant things that Rian did in Last Jedi was give Luke an arc.
He learned something. He got somewhere. He ended that film and recommitted to the thing that in the very beginning of the film, he was rejecting. The idea that even Luke Skywalker can learn something. For a kid to hear Luke Skywalker say ‘I was wrong,’ I think is a beautiful thing.
I think JJ Abrams makes perfect sense here. I’ve always maintained that Rian Johnson didn’t crap all over Luke Skywalker, nor did he destroy Luke’s legacy in the original trilogy. In fact, Luke’s arc in The Last Jedi is rather beautiful. Yes, he starts out grumpy and cynical. Yes, he blocked out the Force and exiled himself to an island. But slowly, Luke chooses to reconnect with the Force. Luke realises the error of his ways after a heart to heart talk with Yoda that harkens back to Empire Strikes Back.
During the climactic battle with Kylo Ren, Luke says “I will NOT be the last of the Jedi!” And right before we roll to credits, we see the slave kids on Canto Bight playing with a DIY action figure, talking about how Jedi Master Luke Skywalker saved the day. The legend of Luke Skywalker has started to spread across the galaxy, slowly restoring hope. Rian Johnson doesn’t hate Luke. He sees Luke as an absolute badass.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.