Only a nerd or someone with a death wish would sit in a smelly Times Square movie theater for 20-something hours in order to be one of the first people to see The Rise of Skywalker. I am apparently both of those things.
For months, I didn’t believe my friend John, who bought us tickets to the marathon at Regal back in October. I thought it was a bit, a joke, something to rile me up. But hours ahead of The Phantom Menace, I found myself buying teensy, tiny bottles of tequila and bags of apple chips to smuggle in non-conspicuous items (glasses case, make-up bag, running belt) and called the Times Square Olive Garden to see if they would take a reservation for three (turns out, they don’t do reservations, but you can put your name on a “waitlist” online). Over breadsticks and salad, we talked about when we’d drink, when we’d take a break and when, if ever, we’d fall asleep.
“I’m going to sleep during the droid factory part,” John said while eating his make-your-own rigatoni. “There! Easy.”
“I might go home and come back,” said his friend Tyler, who also decided to sell his own soul to the corporate folks over at Disney. “Maybe go to a party during Revenge of the Sith.”
Me? I was going to be so drunk during the first two prequel movies that I would peacefully be conked out by 10:30 p.m., despite any possible Michael Bay-esque explosions or poorly acted shrieks of “NOOOOOOO!” In our heads, we’d be rested by the time The Force Awakens came on, so we could figure out our breakfast situation and be back by The Last Jedi, a movie that I have seen six times in theaters.
But that’s not how it happened. Despite all our meticulous planning, we couldn’t account for the conditions of the theater—the room temperature switched back and forth between sweltering and frigid—or the people with whom we’d be spending an entire day. We knew, coming in, that there’d be people who ardently hated Rian Johnson’s ambitious (yet apparently controversial) masterpiece, The Last Jedi, and that they’d most likely be men who spend all day on Reddit. We didn’t think they’d be so fucking loud about it. After a meager four hours of sleep, I was rudely awoken at 8:44 a.m. by a cabal of people who thought that:
- The Last Jedi made no sense because, like Captain Marvel, it doesn’t explain how the main female characters get their powers. (Hate to break it to you, but the entire point of Captain Marvel was explaining how Brie Larson gets her powers.)
- They didn’t like The Last Jedi because it was anti-Top 1 percent. (Imagine saying that out loud in a New York City theater).
- The Last Jedi was too political. (I’m sorry but... this entire franchise is about politics! What!).
Major plot spoilers ahead for The Rise of Skywalker
The closer we got to the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker, the more dread I felt. I knew the new movie was likely going to be bad from all the interviews director J.J. Abrams and the cast did—it seemed like Abrams was going to drastically course-correct the “kill the past” ideology Johnson put forward in The Last Jedi. Now, I’m all for people having their own opinions about the things they love, even if those opinions are unfounded and frankly bad, but here’s what I’m not about: backtracking on certain creative decisions because a small yet vocal group of people disliked them. The Rise of Skywalker rewards this exact group for their, frankly, bad behavior; it retcons Rey’s parentage, makes fun of Captain Holdo’s brave sacrifice, sidelines Rose Tico and introduces Palpatine as the big bad all along, even though he’s been dead for ages.
The Rise of Skywalker is a return to history, but a sloppy one at that. It’s more fan service for the older movies than a fitting end for the characters introduced in The Force Awakens. Instead of propelling these characters forward, it yanks them back to the past in ways that truly do not make sense (How is Palpatine still alive and how did he have kids? How did young Leia have a vision that her son would be saved by someone else using her lightsaber in Skywalker, but then still be adamant about putting him through Jedi training in TLJ despite knowing he’d turn dark?). In addition to this baffling attempt to end storylines from ages ago—storylines believed to already have been ended—The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t even stick to its own creative choices. There are moments where the stakes are raised, like when Rey kills Chewie, C3PO’s memory is wiped, or when Hux is revealed to be the spy from the First Order, but then are immediately undone or resolved, with no lingering or greater thought. It’s as if this movie is meant to please without putting anyone at risk. No death feels real. No sacrifice or victory feels earned.
So when the credits rolled and the theater lights came on, no one said a word. While that could be because we had been in a theater for 24 hours at that point, I guarantee it was because of The Rise of Skywalker’s messy, breakneck pace. I don’t even think the people who spent 20 minutes complaining about The Last Jedi felt entirely satisfied either, although some of their desires were granted. The room felt deflated; it was as if the past day, and maybe the past few decades, were for nothing.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in theaters.
Izzie Ramirez is a freelance climate and culture reporter.