Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters later this year. When it does, it will bring over forty years of Star Wars history to a close. Most fans (a vocal minority of haters and boycotters aside) are anxiously waiting to learn how the Skywalker saga will end. “Anxiously”, however does not have the same meaning across the fandom.
The franchise began in 1977 with the original Star Wars. Since then it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in and of itself. The films spawned an entire “Expanded Universe” filled with novels, comic books, toys, video games, and animated television series. Star Wars has arguably had a bigger impact on the entertainment industry than any other franchise in history. For the most part, much of the Star Wars saga has focused on the Skywalker family. On that basis, one cannot underestimate the impact that The Rise of Skywalker will have.
The Downside to The Rise of Skywalker
I said above that fans are anxious to learn the outcome of the Skywalker saga, and that “anxious” had multiple meanings. As much as we cannot deny the impact The Rise of Skywalker will have, we similarly cannot deny that it may have a more significant impact on one, sizable portion of the fandom than it will on others. There are millions of us that saw Star Wars in the theater in ’77. We have loved and embraced the franchise since day one. Now here we are, forty-two years later. The Skywalker saga we’ve known for nearly all our lives will be no more.
Many fans like me were satisfied when the original trilogy concluded in 1983 with Return of the Jedi. Character arcs had concluded, the Empire was defeated, and our heroes lived on. Plus, we had the benefit of the EU to carry our imaginations. And while the prequels for most us “old-school” fans couldn’t match the original trilogy in terms of storytelling, or even aesthetics, we accepted them. Why? Because they really didn’t take anything away from the Star Wars we’d come to know and love. Conversely, The Rise of Skywalker will bring all we’ve known to a crashing end.
The Sequel Trilogy
Excitement for the sequel trilogy among the old guard of fans quickly waned as we came to one, stark, realization. Yes, we were getting more Star Wars. And yes, we would get to see Han, Luke and Leia again. But to what end? All the actors are decades older, and some (RIP Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew) have passed. Yes, with the sequel trilogy, and The Rise of Skywalker specifically, comes finality.
Some that supported The Last Jedi often ridicule other fans for being upset because Rian Johnson subverted their expectations. I did a little informal and by no means scientific research on the subject.After reviewing various Last Jedi posts on social media I found that, perhaps not unsurprisingly, the majority of such ridicule comes from what I’ll call the “prequel generation”, or even younger.
That is to say, the comments come from fans who don’t have forty years of their lives invested in their appreciation of Star Wars. They have no real attachment to the original trilogy characters because they barely even know them. They didn’t grow up with them. Episode IX won’t have the same impact on those fans because they weren’t there from the beginning.
Ridicule us older fans all you want. We didn’t want to see Han Solo die. Nor did we want to see an angry, bitter, “get off my lawn”, old man Luke Skywalker, either. And we certainly weren’t prepared to lose our beloved princess Leia. Star Wars, and this Skywalker saga, has been a part of us. As much as fans growing up with the prequels love the franchise, their affection for it is, and always will be, different. Not better, not worse, just different. As will be the effect The Rise of Skywalker will have. Different.
Goodbyes are always difficult. Saying farewell to the Skywalker saga, and the characters we’ve embraced for over four decades?
Especially, anxiously, so.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiers December 20 in theaters everywhere.