When The Force Awakens was released, it had a low bar to get over. It had to be as good as The Phantom Menace. That’s it. If it had been at least as good as The Phantom Menace, The Force Awakens would have been perfectly satisfying. Instead, it was one of the worst movies imaginable. The plot was nonsense, the characters were poorly drawn, the characters didn’t grow or change throughout the movie, the emotions were cheap and manipulative, and the look and action were like a mediocre cover band, derivative and kind of boring. The cast was the only redeeming quality, but that couldn’t save the movie from disaster.
If the movie weren’t a Star Wars movie, it would have been awful, but not any worse than all the other bad movies out there. What made The Force Awakens so otherworldly bad is the way it rewrites the original trilogy. It erases the character arcs of Luke, Leia, and Han in those movies. It turns the victory at the end of Return of the Jedi, the fall of the Galactic Empire, into an embarrassing failure. Kylo Ren’s obsession with Vader makes us doubt Vader’s redemption. That just scratches the surface. It’s like if someone wrote a sequel to Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy turned out to be completely mismatched and got a divorce. It’s a complete travesty.
The Last Jedi, as a standalone movie, was probably slightly better than The Force Awakens. At least it attempted to give the characters some actual motivations. But, it was still worse than The Phantom Menace. As a Star Wars movie, it doubled down on the rewriting of the original trilogy. Its biggest sin was changing Luke from a hero who would risk everything to save his father into a bad teacher who would rather kill his nephew than try to save him. Then, he ran away to pout because things didn’t go his way.
Now the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker has been released. It looks like it’s going to be worse that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It looks like it will rely on the non-existent character development from the prior two movies. It also looks like it will try to continue the nonsensical story with more nonsense. But that’s not the worst of it. It really looks like Emperor Palpatine is the big bad in this movie. That’s the same Emperor Palpatine who was killed by Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. If that’s the case, it is such a bad decision that it’s hard to explain why. If Palpatine survived the Battle of Endor and has been manipulating all the events since, it undercuts everything that came before, in both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. Why care about Anakin’s fall if his redemptive act failed? Why care about Luke’s journey if he’s no more than a mild annoyance in Palpatine’s story? Star Wars has long been praised for its adaptation of the hero myth, but apparently JJ Abrams couldn’t even keep that intact.
All of the evidence points to The Rise of Skywalker being in competition for the worst movie of all time. That’s probably the way to approach the movie. Going in expecting the worst means the disappointment might not sting so much.