All creators have preoccupations, certain themes that most of their work circles back to. In reading reviews and thoughts on The Rise Of Skywalker people kept talking about nostalgia as JJ Abrams’s particular niche.
As I watched it for a third time on Saturday, I tried to see that, and I understand why people think of that for Abrams, if you look only at his film work.
But that would be ignoring a pretty big and important piece of his creative output, and frankly one that I think informs what he was going for with The Rise of Skywalker and Rey’s story in particular much more than anything he’s done on the big screen.
It’s ignoring Alias.
Sidney Bristow’s story, as convoluted as it got, was always thematically about having to untangle herself from the web of lies and violence left as a legacy from her parents and mentors, and standing on her own two feet as her own person at the end of that.
I don’t like the decision to make Rey a Palpatine. I think it’s hugely unnecessary, and creates more questions than it answers. But I get it, as a story decision, especially, when I had the realization about Abrams, Alias and the theme of building your own identity both within and without a legacy.
Rey’s moment of triumph comes when she embraces the Jedi way, the “thousand generations” that live in her, and the voices of the Jedi come to her. It is my favorite moment in the film, not just because it’s movie acknowledgement of Ahsoka, but because it’s the moment that to me provides the most context for Rey’s journey. She’s already rejected her Grandfather’s path for her, she’s already provided Ben Solo his path to redemption, she is choosing in that moment which legacy she wants to continue, the path of the light.
There are plenty of things wrong with The Rise Of Skywalker. I mentioned not loving Rey’s heritage reveal, the retcon of Poe Dameron’s past to make him a smuggler, no real role for Rose Tico and no confirmation of Finn’s force sensitivity (Plus, all those ships in the Hidden Regions and no Ezra riding in on a Space Whale? What gives?) are all writing choices I’m not crazy about.
But Rey’s story is good at the core, the fight against a destiny chosen for her by others to carve her own way is great and fits with a pattern of JJ Abrams’s work. Felicity though a very different genre is also about young people figuring out who they are, rather than who everyone expects them to be. It’s even a little bit there in Star Trek, where he basically says, “this is not the story you know, these characters are making their own way,” Lost was always more Lindeloff’s than his, but it still has themes of identity over destiny deeply embedded in it.
And I think this is the part that got to me. I like stories about family and legacy and finding your place in the world, so I liked this story for Rey and for Kylo Ren, they both carved out a place on a path that had been trod before, but it wasn’t the place prepared for them. I think that’s good.
Next week is the finale of The Mandolorian, and as I said a few weeks ago, Fangirl Loves Star Wars isn’t going anywhere. Next year we’ll have season 2 of Resistance the return of Clone Wars and I’m going to do some EU reading. I love our Galaxy Far Far Away, and I don’t ever want to leave it.