Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is a confusing movie, partly because it moves at the pace of an auctioneer trying MDMA for the first time, and partly because it's jam-packed with new characters, magical doohickeys, and other magical doohickeys those first doohickeys lead to. Thankfully, since the movie premiered, we've gotten some interviews with the filmmakers and pieces of merchandise that have cleared up some of these oddities in totally satisfying and not at all confounding ways. Spoilers ahead ...
Chewie Got Whose Medal, Exactly?
After defeating the evil First Order, the Resistance fighters return to their base and celebrate, just like in Return Of The Jedi (minus the corpse-eating). In a moment seemingly inspired by many an internet message board rant, Maz Kanata finally gives Chewbacca the medal Princess Leia so cruelly denied him way back in A New Hope. Yes, it's the exact same medal Luke and Han were given after the Battle of Yavin. Whose is it? Insanely, no one even told Joonas Suotamo, the dude playing Chewbacca. He guessed it "was Han's," and it turns out he was totally right.
Walt Disney Pictures
According to The Rise Of Skywalker Visual Dictionary, Leia kept Han's medal because it's a memento of what "brought them together 35 years ago." You can barely see her clutching it during her death scene (a close-up of her holding it was in a trailer). Oddly, Maz's tone seems to suggest it's a long-overdue token of appreciation for Chewie, as opposed to some junk she found after his friend's corpse vanished. It's additionally unnecessary because the Star Wars comic series went out of their way multiple times to explain that Chewie did get a medal. For some reason, J.J. Abrams still thought this was a loose end that needed tying up. Perhaps we should just be thankful the movie didn't end with Maz looking straight into the camera and explaining the meaning of "Maclunkey."
What's The Deal With The Skywalker Lightsaber? Didn't It Break in Half?
During a pivotal scene in The Last Jedi, Rey and Kylo Ren split Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber in half, to the horror of every Star Wars memorabilia collector in the audience.
But in The Rise Of Skywalker, the lightsaber is intact again with literally zero explanation.
Walt Disney Pictures
Thanks again to the Visual Dictionary, we know that there are "weld marks" on the hilt, because apparently Rey repaired the damn thing offscreen. As for the Kyber crystal inside, that was "healed using techniques gleaned from Jedi scripture." So basically, the Force equivalent of superglue and duct tape.
What Exactly Is Han Solo In This Movie?
One of the most confusing moments is Kylo Ren's turn to the light. During his duel with Rey, Leia decides to do ... something? It seems like she projects her consciousness across the Galaxy to reach Kylo, which kind of makes you wonder why she didn't give that a whirl before all the space-genocide. Leia dies as a result, and her distraction lets Rey stab Kylo in the tummy. Which you have to imagine wasn't her intention.
Rey Force heals Kylo, then takes off with his TIE Fighter. Kylo stays behind to have a chat with Han Solo, presumably because Disney paid Harrison Ford a small fortune to return (but somehow not enough to give his hair a quick comb). But what is Han? Part of Leia's Force projection? A Force ghost? A regular ghost?
Nope, he's literally what Ben says: "a memory." Earlier in the movie, Rey notes that Kylo "can't stop seeing" what he did to his father. According to co-writer Chis Terrio, in order to become Ben again, he had to "ask forgiveness [from his father] in order to carry on." (But not from any of the other literal billions Kylo killed or helped kill, we guess.)
So is this all taking place in his mind, or is he projecting a vision of Han? Terrio claims this Han "doesn't have the same ontological status as, say, Luke, who exists in quite a literal way later on." So ... now we're confused again. Let's just hope Ford enjoys whatever antique flying deathtrap his paycheck buys.
Why Did Hux Become A Mole?
Midway through the film, we find out that General Hux is secretly spying for the Resistance, not because he wants them to win, but because he wants "Kylo Ren to lose." Which is still kind of surprising, given that he was the one who went full Triumph Of The Will back in Force Awakens.
Because corporate synergy unites and binds this franchise, Hux's motivations make slightly more sense in the context of the recent Rise Of The Resistance ride at Disneyland. During the ride, Hux is in command of a Star Destroyer which somehow lets a bunch of fanny-pack-wearing Resistance prisoners escape.
The "disastrous battle over Batuu" is why Hux is reassigned to a different ship, where he serves under General Pryde. So he's a tad bitter. Though this doesn't explain why the ride's animatronic Kylo Ren wears a mask when canonically his monkey blacksmith pal hasn't reforged it yet.
So ... Snoke Was A Clone All Along?
In the opening of the movie, we learn that Emperor Palpatine is alive, and that he "made Snoke" -- the big baddie of the last two movies who loved evil almost as much as he did golden sleepwear. We know this not only because Palpatine straight-up says so, but also because we see the evidence of a convoluted cloning scheme: a vat full of nude Snokes, like some kind of revolting lava lamp.
So this seems like a pretty big deal. Snoke was a clone controlled by Palpatine. That must have been part of the plan all along right? Insanely, it doesn't even seem as though that was always a part of the plan for this movie. According to co-editor Maryann Brandon, the vat full of Snokes simply "came up as a visual effect" they "thought would be really fun for an audience." In other words, somebody thought CGI-ing a large container full of elderly nude giants into the movie at the last minute would be a satisfying answer to a question most of us had already forgotten about. After shoehorning in this creepy image, they "didn't have to change a lot of dialogue."
How Did Lando Round Up All Those Ships?
This is another scene that makes more sense thanks to *sigh* a theme park ride. At the end of The Rise Of Skywalker, Lando shows up at Exegol with hundreds of ships that are somehow able to defeat a shit-ton of Star Destroyers equipped with planet-killing weaponry. Where did all of these ships come from? The last time the Resistance put out a call to arms, everyone ignored Leia and went back to watching whatever the Star Wars equivalent of The Bachelor is. Do they ... just like Lando more?
On the newest version of Disney's Star Tours, riders get to actually see and hear Lando's message. Apparently he schlepped from planet to planet warning that the First Order was "Rallying its forces," adding "We need your help."
Then he transmits a set of coordinates, pointedly not mentioning that they lead to a planet run by an evil cult and an all-powerful zombie wizard. Forget that The Last Jedi teed up the notion that a fragmented and jaded galaxy would find hope in the legend of Luke Skywalker; apparently they were more taken by the charms of an 82-year-old former gas miner.
Is Nien Nunb OK?
Remember Nien Nunb, Lando's adorable co-pilot from Return Of The Jedi? You know, the one who looks like H.R. Giger's stab at designing the Hamburglar? We see him prior to the battle at Exegol, then very briefly see his ship get shot, then he's never seen or heard from again. So ... is he ... Yup, according to reports, he is definitely 100% dead. And as a testament to how crammed full of nonsense this movie is, hardly anyone noticed that the dude who helped blow up the second Death Star didn't survive. At least Chewie got that hunk of metal he deserved, right?
How The Hell Is Palpatine Alive?
The biggest question raised by The Rise Of Skywalker, one that's perplexingly never answered, is how Palpatine is still around. Besides some half-hearted muttering about black magic, we never find out. Palpatine's death was the climactic moment of the original trilogy, yet for some reason, this movie seems embarrassed to even attempt an explanation as to why he's back. According to Terrio, we should look to the scene in Revenge Of The Sith in which Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis, suggesting that the Sith have the "unnatural" ability to raise the dead. Terrio stated that this particular story thread was a "gift" from George Lucas that they'd "be crazy not to pick up." But ... wasn't Palpatine lying?
The Rise Of Skywalker coasts on the notion that Palpatine knows some Sith secret to cheating death. But in Episode III, it ultimately seemed as though he was simply manipulating Anakin. Palpatine doesn't resurrect Padme. Or anyone else, for that matter. Even the previously canonical Expanded Universe suggested that while Plagueis attempted manipulating life with midi-chlorians, Palpatine couldn't, and had to resort to using clone bodies to stay alive like some kind of chump.
So all this is a tad unsatisfying. While the Visual Dictionary doesn't go into detail, it does say that Palpatine was resurrected thanks to "technology and the occult." So yup, science and magic. Thanks, Star Wars.
Where Did Palpatine's Fleet Come From?
Remember how the prequels spent three goddamn movies showing us how Palpatine painstakingly acquired a military through shadowy political machinations? Here he just magically has one. Apparently it's all down to the Sith Eternal, the cultists we see living on Exegol. As illuminated in the Visual Dictionary, they've been working for literal decades in underground shipyards building this fleet. How did they get all the necessary materials? Conveniently, there are "Sith loyalists" in the "executive boards" of ship manufacturing companies who have been sending "supplies and designs to Exegol."
Walt Disney Pictures
Who's manning all these ships? Apparently the Sith Eternal had a bunch of kids specifically so they could do so. Think of how many diapers they changed just to one day create an army that wouldn't even survive 20 minutes of battle. Despite the fact that the Sith Eternal are apparently the driving force behind nearly everything that happens in this movie, do we even hear a single one of them speak? They just show up at the end in full Eyes Wide Shut cosplay, cheering on Palpatine as he urges his granddaughter to kill him. That is apparently what passes for a fun night out on Exegol.
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