Much like a lot of other fans, Star Wars has had a profound effect on my life. One of my earliest memories was watching the special edition of Return of the Jedi with my childhood friend Joey. From there, I had to see more of the adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia, and after practically begging my dad, I got a box set of the special editions for forty bucks (a box set that I still have in my possession to this day). I watched those tapes over and over; I even poured over the special features that played before the films began, something that was particularly atypical for VHS copies, noting the Darth Vader figure in the background as Lucas spoke about the various changes he had made to his galactic opus. I understand that a lot of fans were displeased with these versions of the films, but the Star Wars trilogy special edition was the only iteration of the movies I had ever seen, so while I was curious about the original releases, I was perfectly fine with my copies, even though Lucas decided to replace Sebastian Shaw with the Hayden Christensen version of Anakin Skywalker in the 2004 DVD release. In those intervening years, I looked for every piece of Star Wars merchandise I could find, from a toy version of Luke’s lightsaber to magazine Star Wars Insider. I must have read my copy with a picture of trench run Luke on the cover a million times, to the point that it started to fall apart.
When it was announced that Mr. Lucas would be returning to the galaxy far, far away for a prequel trilogy, I had never been more excited in my entire life. Every week when I went to physical therapy, I would bring up Star Wars, and my therapist told me about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fighting by a volcano. That part wasn’t enough, though, so I collected everything I could about the film, from a Vanity Fair article about the cast to a newspaper with a photo of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn, their lightsabers ignited. When it finally came time to see the movie, I could barely contain myself. I went with my parents and their friends, but as far as I was concerned it might as well have been just me and the screen as soon as the opening crawl to Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace started. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to acknowledge that several elements of The Phantom Menace definitely don’t work, but nine-year-old Brett loved the film, especially the scene where they sit around the table and Jar Jar keeps eating the fruit, only for Qui-Gon to grab his tongue.
I had a similar amount of anticipation for Attack of the Clones. After all, we were finally going to see Anakin Skywalker demystified. This is partly why I am still partial to the film, despite its cringe-worthy dialogue. Revenge of the Sith was finally the moment we had all been waiting for, with franchise-best performances from Christensen, Ewan McGregor, and Ian McDiarmid. This is despite the fact that this was the first time some dialogue hit my ear wrong right on my first viewing, particularly the romantic scenes between Anakin and Padme. I only wished that Portman had more to do, something that was in the offing initially, only for Lucas to delete that subplot from the film. I loved the movie, but there was a bit of melancholy to it as well, with this being not only the final chapter of the prequel trilogy but supposedly the last Star Wars film ever, something that, despite leaving a bit of wiggle room occasionally, Mr. Lucas reiterated in several interviews at the time.
Or so we thought. Aside from the feature prelude to the acclaimed Clone Wars TV series, I never thought we’d get to see what happened after Return of the Jedi beyond the books I wrote about a few weeks ago. So, on October 30, 2012, when it was announced that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and that Episode VII would be forthcoming in 2015, I was incredibly excited. Just as Luke had almost become a myth in the new movie, so too had the idea of the film itself until that announcement. While I loved the finished film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but be angry that Luke was in it for all of 30 seconds, something its follow-up, The Last Jedi, attempted to rectify – though it’s fair to say that that was both a blessing and a curse. I almost feel as though the filmmakers forgot they were treading on hallowed ground. Yes, many fans weren’t thrilled with the prequels, but the idea of the sequel trilogy was that, assuming the original trio was going to be involved, we would get to spend a lot more time with them. While it was important to develop the next generation, like the Force itself, there needs to be balance, a balance that The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams will hopefully restore.
With Abrams back at the helm for the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I have hope. Yes, I wish Luke would have a bigger role in the film, but with Mr. Lucas evidently being consulted on this finale, I have faith that this iteration of the Star Wars franchise will finish strongly and the producers will be able to look to the future – or, in some cases, the past, which will be serving as the time period for the rumored Laeta Kalogridis-scripted Knights of the Old Republic trilogy. Despite all the controversy, The Rise of Skywalker will serve as the final chapter in a saga that fueled the imaginations of generations of fans. While it might be easy to be pessimistic, I choose to see The Rise of Skywalker as a conduit for what it could be, not for what it won’t be due to certain misgivings I might have about the previous installment. I can’t wait to climb back aboard the Millennium Falcon one last time when the film opens on December 20, 2019.