I’ve had enough time to think about the conclusion to the Star Wars saga now. And I’m glad I waited until seeing Knives Out before voicing it. You know what? Rian Johnson knows how to write a great story and make a bloody good movie. Knives Out is brilliant. It does some daring things, and while the trailer makes it look like an Agatha Christie style whodunnit, it kind of ventures more down the Columbo path, where the killer, albeit unintentional, is revealed at the outset. I know there are a lot of “fans” who willed Knives Out to be dogshit on account of what he did with/to The Last Jedi, but as I said, I thought his latest was and is brilliant.
Look, I didn’t like The Last Jedi. I didn’t like the paths it cut off and the corners it seemed to paint the story into, but it was not a bad movie per se. Same can’t be said for The Rise of Skywalker. For whatever reason, and we’ve all read dozens of takes and excuses for how it turned out, it’s nothing more than a lot of clips all stuck together into something that resembles a montage more than a film.
As TROS came out, Johnson was quoted as saying in his warning against giving fans what they want, “I want to be shocked, I want to be surprised, I want to be thrown off-guard, I want to have things recontextualized, I want to be challenged as a fan when I sit down in the theater.” If there was one scene or event that was the point at which that path could have been taken, it would have been Kylo’s and Rey’s force tug of war over the transport trying to whisk Chewie away in chains. I sat forward in my seat in the aftermath of how that ended and thought that was bloody brave, witnessing Rey’s emotional turmoil and wondering how she was going to come to terms with what she had done, only for her get-out-of-jail card to be dealt a couple of scenes later.
I have to imagine this was one of the scenes that researched badly with “fans” at the did-they-happen-or-not test screenings. Johnson’s feelings on where trying to please the fans and what kind of film you end up when you go there resonates.