Criticisms of the sequel trilogy don’t mean you can’t love it because your perceptions of it are shaped by the personal experiences you bring to it.
The Star Wars sequel trilogy has been polarizing for many fans of the franchise. While some love it for its subversion of expectations, others hate it because it feels disjointed, as if no overall story plan went into the making of the trilogy. I’ve loved Star Wars ever since I wore out a recorded VHS tape of A New Hope when I was a little boy, so I was excited when Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and announced a new trilogy of films to continue the Skywalker Saga. The Force Awakens was a fun nostalgia-filled journey into a galaxy 30 years beyond Return of the Jedi in which Luke Skywalker has disappeared and a scavenger named Rey discovers that her place in the galaxy is bigger than she could have ever imagined.
This is not the Luke you’re looking for
Then The Last Jedi happened. It’s a beautifully-made film, but I walked out of the theater on opening day with a nagging feeling that something was off. The Luke Skywalker I’d waited to see my entire life was a miserable old man who had given up on the Force and his dark side nephew even though he’d previously believed in Darth Vader’s possibility for redemption when no one else did. And then he died, performing one last Jedi mind trick to fool his nephew and give the Resistance the chance to escape. If you hate The Last Jedi, you’ll either find fans that are in the same boat with you or fans that are offended that you could possibly think the movie wasn’t good.
The redemption of all things Star Wars
But then The Rise of Skywalker came along, somehow integrating much of what made The Last Jedi feel disjointed from the whole. Not perfectly, but adequately. “I was wrong,” Luke Skywalker says of his self-imposed exile on Ahch-To, an acknowledgment that showed that though the Luke that we saw in The Last Jedi didn’t make narrative sense, he himself could at least acknowledge that his actions were out of character. “A Jedi’s weapon should be treated with respect,” he says when Rey tries to toss away his lightsaber, rectifying the moment in The Last Jedi when Rey presents him with his lightsaber, which he hadn’t seen since his battle with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, and he carelessly tosses it over his shoulder. In a lot of ways, The Rise of Skywalker was the redemption of the sequel trilogy.
Why I love the sequel trilogy
Did The Rise of Skywalker have some problems? Absolutely. The entire trilogy feels like a disjointed mess at times.
And yet, I absolutely love it.
I could watch it over and over again, and I have multiple times. I have a friend who hates the sequel trilogy. We’re both longtime fans of Star Wars, and we share the same criticisms of the sequel trilogy, which led me to wonder why I love the sequel trilogy, despite its flaws, and he doesn’t. Whether or not you like the Star Wars sequel trilogy depends a lot on the personal experiences you bring with you into watching the films.
The beautiful heart of Rey Skywalker
Throughout the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Rey is portrayed as a caring and passionate character. This begins in The Force Awakens when she rescues BB-8 from Teedo, who would’ve sold the droid into bondage. She forms a bond with Han Solo and is devastated when Kylo Ren kills him. Despite having every reason to hate Kylo Ren, in The Last Jedi, she is the one who believes he’s still capable of good and won’t give up on him.
As we learn her background in The Rise of Skywalker as the granddaughter of the evil Emperor Palpatine, the contrast of her genuinely good heart stands out from the darkness that clearly should have been her destiny. She uses the Force to heal a wounded serpent, telling BB-8 that she transferred a bit of her life force into the creature to heal it. “You would’ve done the same,” she says. At every turn, she fights for the safety of her friends. And even when she has the opportunity to let Kylo Ren die after she stabs him with his own lightsaber, she instead sacrifices even more of her life force to heal him, which plays a part in restoring him to the light.
The image of Rey in my daughter
When I see the genuine good that flows through Rey’s decisions, it reminds me of my 11-year-old daughter, Lucy. She frequently cares about others and works hard to make people feel important. She’s an artist and loves to create artwork for others. My youngest son struggles with severe anxiety and often has a hard time coping with disappointment. One day, Lucy spent several hours creating stickers for him with encouraging quotes and fun images to help him cope with his anxiety. She used the stickers to decorate his iPad case so he would see them frequently. He was grateful for the stickers, but he was even more grateful that his sister took the time to make him feel understood and cared for. Like Rey, Lucy uses her gifts and talents not to make herself look better, but to bring joy to others.
Regardless of the narrative flaws in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, my daughter is the reason that I love it and the character of Rey Skywalker. When I see Rey, I see the heart of a little girl who makes me proud every day. Despite the disjointed mess that is the sequel trilogy, it’s still a beautiful story of a selfless young woman who gives her all to making the lives of others better. Because of Lucy, I can’t help but love this imperfect story.