After a shipping delay due to Coronavirus, I’ve finally got my copy of The Rise of Skywalker. It’s the only episodic Star Wars film I’ve seen once in cinemas and instead of jumping to the movie for a rewatch, I opted to watch The Skywalker Legacy, the two-hour documentary that’s included with it. I found the previous doc, The Director and the Jedi, included with The Last Jedi to be utterly fascinating thanks to its unflinching look at the contentious relationship between director and actor in that film. With the production that IX had, I was hoping for another deep dive into the making of. What was included, however, felt more like paint by numbers.
I love behind the scene features about big blockbuster movies. It’s a chance to look behind the veil and see how movie magic brings these behemoths to life. And there was plenty to enjoy in that sense with The Skywalker Legacy. From learning how they made the sinking sandpits to the wave machine used for the climactic duel between Rey and Kylo – it’s all fascinating to me. The puppeteering with Babu Frik was great and learning about all the John Williams easter eggs was a treat, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something off about this documentary.
There were a lot of issues with The Rise of Skywalker, both in terms of the production and audience reception of the movie. But the documentary largely chooses to gloss over the perceived issues around the movie. There is no struggle, no failure and no lesson. This is a victory lap for Lucasfilm and Star Wars and it’s a very controlled narrative in that sense.
You can see the problems the movie has here and there in the documentary presented. For instance, when discussing the return of Palpatine, we never learn why he’s back here (you have to read the novelization for that), but we do learn that the decision took around “thirty seconds” to come to the decision to bring Emperor Palpatine back into the narrative. Now sure, this was likely exaggeration and hyperbole, but I think it speaks volumes that there was not a serious and lengthy conversation about why Palpatine should come back, but rather they just wanted him back.
There was also a segment that talked about how important sacrifice was to the story. The film would cut back to footage from the original Star Wars, which showed them filming the scene where Kenobi sacrificed himself for Luke’s escape. This is cross-cut with the scene at Babu Frik’s, where C-3P0 is to sacrifice himself for his newfound friends and the fate of the galaxy by erasing his memory core. Of course, C-3P0 ultimately gets his memory back by the film’s climax, which cheapened that moment. Likewise, the murder of Chewbacca at the hands of Rey – the emotional high point of the movie (for about ten seconds) is undermined by simply undoing it. The writers, Chris Terrio and JJ Abrams seem to understand what has to be done but aren’t willing to go there despite speaking out loud about the significance of the narrative trope.
We also get a look at the dagger sequence and how JJ was stumped with trying to tie that into the plot of the movie. It’s one of the weaker elements of the movie and upon scrutiny, actually makes no sense. JJ seems to know this as well as he tries to justify the dagger’s existence. It’s one of the better parts of the doc because it showed just how much they wanted this to be in the movie, even if it made no sense.
The documentary’s title suggested a look at the entire Star Wars franchise, but this was basically a behind the scenes exposé on the making of TRoS with some archival footage from the original series and The Force Awakens splashed in for good measure. There was hardly any connection or call back to the prequels or The Last Jedi, which reinforces the narrative that TRoS is more like The Force Awakens Part II. Once I noticed how often they cut back to concept art, B-roll, or footage from JJ’s first film, it was hard not to notice how The Last Jedi was being sidelined in this piece. Sure, they talk about the movie here and there, but only in relation to how they didn’t want to be like it (Luke catching the sabre, Rey and Kylo having scenes together this time).
The documentary hopes that this is the definitive look at how TRoS unites the nine-film episodic saga, but ultimately comes across as a carefully controlled narrative where all is “amazing” and “spectacular” all the time. There were some genuinely interesting moments in terms of how the film was constructed, but all too often, this felt like a Lucasfilm approved piece of entertainment, where the sun is always shining and there are no regrets. It would have been more interesting to have someone on set challenge the filmmakers, ask the hard questions like how is Palpatine back and expose the real nature of how this movie was made. Instead, it was essentially a two-hour self-congratulation. It followed the movie in a more-or-less linear path, explained why Kylo’s helmet looked that way and how they brought Leia to life. It’s all interesting information, especially for fans, but it’s not gripping nor is it really worth a rewatch. For a more invested documentary, I’d still recommend The Director and the Jedi and also Empire of Dreams, over this doc, the latter of which is currently available on Disney+. Stay tuned for a spoiler review of The Rise of Skywalker (which I promised you ages ago) as I rewatch this movie I’ve been so heavily pondering the past few months.
I hope you liked this post and be make sure to let us know what you think in the comments. Also, check out some of our other content at ScreenHub Entertainment such as my piece on ‘how The Clone Wars went from 0 to 100′ or our review of Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen!