Being put in the hands of J.J. Abrams, it’s no surprise that Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker was a two and a half hour checklist, a movie squaring off all the fan favourites and major loops in the most satisfying way.
Cruelly, however, the Star Wars roadshow left one character completely in the dust.
There’s gonna be some decent spoilers from this point forward, so if you haven’t seen the film or want the experience unsoured, you have been warned.
One of the crueller stories about the reaction to the latest Star Wars trilogy has been the fate of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who quit social media last year to escape the vitriol from the more venomous parts of fandom. The fandom didn’t like Rian Johnson’s attempts to play with Luke Skywalker’s legacy, with one fan going as far as to make a 46-minute supercut of TLJ recasting every woman in the movie as being weaker than men, or cutting out their contributions entirely. An alt-right group even tried to claim victory over the whole affair, even though The Last Jedi raked in $US1.32 billion, the second highest amount for any Star Wars film and almost as much as Rogue One and Solo combined.
Having dealt with the brutality of that, then, it’s incredibly disappointing that Rise of Skywalker nearly shuts Rose out of the picture entirely. The film spends the majority of its time acting as big-budget fan service, but Rose plays practically no part. After having helped Finn and Resistance forces escape the First Order in The Last Jedi, the three main heroes – Finn, Poe and Rey – bounce around the galaxy while she stays on the rebel base. Her relationship with Finn is further neutralised when the former stormtrooper runs into another stormtrooper-turned-resistance fighter Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who immediately partners up with Finn off-screen before the final battle.
Her role in the battle is pretty minor too, limited to throwing some grenades down the hatch of a star destroyer to knock out a navigation tower on a command ship. It’s a minor inconvenience for the Empire, and one that’s completely nullified once Emperor Palpatine Force EMP’s the entire battlefield, and it says everything what Rise of Skywalker thinks of The Last Jedi. Most of the events, characters and questions from the former are either overlooked, retconned or forgotten, and that the characters.
Tran was the first woman of colour to have a leading role. She won’t be the last: the final moments of the film featuring Lando Calrissian and Jannah is a very obvious setup for some kind of origin spin-off. And now that Abrams has done what Disney always wanted by wrapping up the trilogy into a safe, neat bow that shuts as few doors as possible, there’s room for Disney to properly explore the Star Wars universe free from the weight of four decades of expectations around the characters that remain.
That future will be better for actors like Tran and, ultimately, the Star Wars fandom too. The Mandalorian has shown how much scope there is in the universe for Star Wars stories, and the audience’s appetite for live action Star Wars in general. There’s also series like Clone Wars and Rebels to enjoy, all of which have more time and room for characters to grow than the Skywalker finale could have ever allowed for someone not named Rey or Ren.