Announced at ComicsPRO in Portland, Oregon, Marvel Comics will be putting the final chapter of the Skywalker saga to the page in a comics adaptation of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Writer Jody Houser and artist Will Sliney will be teaming up to retell this epic story in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Adaptation #1. In addition to the shocking twists and turns that were present in the film, the five-issue limited series will also have brand-new story material for readers to enjoy!
Relive Rey’s quest, the Resistance’s desperate last stand, and the return of an old enemy when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Adaptation #1 hits stands this June!
Bad Boys for Life took the top spot again at the weekend box office. The film earned an estimated $34 million a drop of 45.6% from opening weekend. The film has earned $120.6 million domestically. the movie is less than $20 million from becoming the highest-grossing domestic film in the franchise. Not surprisingly, a fourth film is in development.
It shows that though folks say they don’t want sequels, they’re happy to go to them and support them. The film earned more than double the second-place movie 1917.
Internationally, the film added 19 markets and earned $42 million to bring the international total to $95 million pushing the worldwide total to over $215 million.
1917 held on to second place earning an estimated $15.8 million, a 28% dip from the previous weekend. Domestically, it has earned $103.8 million. Internationally, it brought in an estimated $23.7 million from 50 markets to bring that total to $96.6 million and $200.5 million worldwide.
Dolittle came in third place with an estimated $12.5 million, a drop of 42.8% from the previous weekend. Lack of films aimed at kids is helping this one. But, it has a long way to go to make back its $175 million production. The domestic earning now stands at $44.7 million. Internationally, the film earned $13.2 million to bring that total to $46.4 million and a worldwide total that now stands at $91.1 million.
The Gentlemen debuted in fourth place with an estimated $11 million. It received a “B+” CinemaScore from the opening day audience. The audience was 60% male with 55% of it aged between 25 and 44. STX was happy with the opening and will be expanding it in theaters next weekend.
Internationally, the film expanded its limited release adding 20 territories where it earned $3.1 million to bring the international total to $22.5 million and worldwide total to $33.5 million.
Jumanji: The Next Level wrapped up the top five with an estimated $7.9 million to bring the domestic total to $283.4 million after 7 weeks. It also added $9.6 million internationally where it has earned $454 million for a worldwide total of $737.4 million.
Out of the top five, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkercame in at #7 earning an estimated $5.2 million to bring its domestic total to $501.6 million. It’s only the 15th film to cross that total domestically. 2017’s The Last Jedi earned $620.2 million domestically and 2015’s The Force Awakens earned $936.7 million.
No comic films charted on the weekend box office but we’ll have further analysis of 2019’s releases in an hour.
It’s pre-ordering time! Four new pre-orders are now open on GentleGiantLtd.com, for four amazing items! A new extra-large Legends in 3D bust, a mystical new Marvel Statue, and two hotly anticipated Star Wars busts! Follow the links to pre-order!
A Diamond Select Toys release! That’s a big Marshmallow Man! The villain of the original Ghostbusters film gets captured in his largest scale ever, with this approximately 10-inch resin bust! Sculpted in half human scale, this portrait features detailed sculpting and paint applications, and comes packaged in a full-color, hand-numbered box. Limited to only 1,000 pieces! Designed by Joe Allard, sculpted by Rocco Tartamella.
A Gentle Giant Ltd. release! By the Vishanti! Doctor Strange wields an adorable axe and casts a super-cute spell in this, the latest animated-style statue from the Marvel line! Based on the variant cover artwork of Marvel Comics, this approximately 5-inch statue comes packaged in a full-color box with a certificate of authenticity. Sculpted by Paul Harding.
A Gentle Giant Ltd. release! Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has come! The new Star Wars movie introduced the world to Sith Troopers, with their distinctive red armor, and this new mini-bust depicts one wielding a matching blaster rifle. Measuring approximately 6 inches tall, this 1/6 scale bust features detailed sculpting and paint applications and comes packaged in a full-color box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. It is limited to 1,000 pieces. NOTE: This item is currently only accessible for pre-order by Premier Guild members; any remaining inventory will go on sale to standard customers on January 31.
A Gentle Giant Ltd. release! People can’t stop talking about The Mandalorian on Disney+, and now the highly requested mini-bust is here! Measuring approximately 6 inches tall, this 1/6 scale bust depicts the bounty hunter with blaster and flamethrower at the ready, and features detailed sculpting and paint applications. Bust comes packaged in a full-color box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. It is limited to 3,000 pieces. NOTE: This item is currently only accessible for pre-order by Premier Guild members; any remaining inventory will go on sale to standard customers on January 31.
Bad Boys for Life debuted with the second-largest MLK four-day performance and was Sony’s largest R-rated opening ever. Dolittle debuted in second beating expectations.
Bad Boys for Life opened with an estimated $68.1 million over the holiday with $59.2 million over the three-day weekend. That’s the second-largest January three-day debut.
The film should do well with an “A” CinemaScore and 97% audience rating on RottenTomatoes. That positive word of mouth should drive the film through the month. The opening weekend audience was 55% male and 61% of the crowd aged 25 or older.
Internationally, the film brought in an estimated $38.6 million from 39 markets. It opens in Frane, Russia, Brazil, and Japan through January and Italy in February.
Dolittle opened in second place and wound up outperforming low expectations. The movie earned $30 million over the four days with $22.5 million over the three days. The film has a long way to go with a budget of $175 million.
The movie received a “B” CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences and has a 76% audience rating on RottenTomatoes. The crowd was 51% female and 43% aged 25 or older.
The movie opened in four overseas markets to bring its total to 46. It brought in an estimated $17.2 million for a global total near $50 million.
1917 came in third place with an estimated $22.1 million over the three days and $27 million for four to bring its domestic total to $76.8 million. The movie also earned $26 million from 37 international markets to bring that total to $62 million and a worldwide total of $143.5 million.
In fourth place was Jumanji: The Next Level with an estimated $12.6 million for the four-day weekend to bring its domestic total to $273.5 million after six weeks. Internationally, the film added $17 million to bring that total to $438 million for a global total of $709 million.
Rounding out the top five was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with added $10.6 million over the weekend to bring its domestic total near $492 million. That puts the film in the top 15 all-time domestically. Internationally, the film added $10.9 million to bring that total to $534.6 million and a global total of $1.029 billion.
We’ll be back in an hour for a deeper dive into 2019’s comic move adaptation releases.
1917 has got momentum after high profile award wins and nominations taking the weekend box office. The film’s theaters expanded as well as its gross with the film earning an estimated $36.5 million. The movie’s theater count went from 11 the last two weeks to 3,434 this past weekend, perfect timing for its award wins. That saw a massive increase in dollars beating expectations. The film also debuted in 30 international markets earning nearly $20 million.
The movie received an “A” CinemaScore for its limited release and an “A-” with the wider release. The crowd was 60% male and 80% aged 25 or older.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dropped to second place earning an estimated $15 million. That brings its domestic total to $478.2 million after four weeks. Internationally, the movie earned $24.2 million to bring that total to $511.4 million. With a worldwide total of $989.6 million, there’s little doubt the film will cross the $1 billion mark this week.
In third place was Jumanji: The Next Level with earned an estimated $14 million after five weeks. Domestically, the film has earned $256.8 million. Internationally, the film added $22.6 million from 65 markets to bring that total to $414 million. Worldwide the film has earned $671 million.
Fourth place looks to be a virtual tie though that may change as the numbers get adjusted. Like a Boss and Just Mercy each earned an estimated $10 million.
Like a Boss‘ debut is jut shy of expectations and the film generally survived bad reviews. The CinemaScore was a “B” from opening day crowds and the audience was 56% female and 65% aged 25 or older.
Just Mercy expanded to 2,375 from 4 the last two weeks. Audiences gave the film an “A+” CinemaScore and the film has been receiving positive reviews. The audience was 60% female and 85% were aged 25 or older.
While no comic related films made the weekend box office list, we’ll be back in an hour for a look at how they did over the week.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker made it three weeks in a row at the top of the box office. The film earned an estimated $33.7 million dropping 53% from the previous week. The movie has now earned $450.8 million domestically. Internationally, the film added $50.5 million to bring that total to $468 million. Worldwide, the movie has earned $918.8 million making little doubt that the film will cross the billion dollar mark, the seventh film of 2019 to do so for Disney.
Jumanji: The Next Level came in second place with an estimated $26.5million. Domesitcally, the film has earned $236.2 million. Internationally, the film added $42.4 million to bring that total to $374 million for a global total of $610 million. The film will be released in Brazil on January 16.
Little Women came in third with just a 19% drop. The film earned an estimated $13.6 million to bring its domestic total to $60 million. It added $9.5 million internationally from six markets to bring that total to $20.4 million.
The Grudge debuted in fourth place with an estimated $11.3 million beating expectations. The film received an “F” CinemaScore so don’t expect it to do too well. The audience was 53% male and 51% was aged 25 or older.
Frozen II came in ffith place with an estimated $11.3 million to bring its domestic total to $449.9 million. The movie also added $42.4 million internationally to bring that total to $875.3 million and $1.325 billion worldwide. It’s now the highest grossing animated release of all time.
No comic film made the weekend box office list but we’ll be back in an hour to look at 2019’s releases.
Now that 2019 is in the history books, it’s time to have a look back at some of the comics, movies and events that really stood out for me during the year. Now this is all based on what I’ve read, and if your favourite comic isn’t here, it may be because I may not have read it, not because I didn’t like it.
Just like last year, we’re looking at comics (ongoing or miniseries) without focusing on single issues or breaking them into specific categories, I’m going for everything in one. If it came out in 2019, then it’s fair game for me. Below you’ll find Eight of them in fact, that for one reason or another rocked my socks off. Underneath that, you’ll find my list of comic book/nerd based movies and T.V. shows. Same general format as the comics, though the total number may be different.
I haven’t decided yet.
I was playing with the order of these right up until I sent it off for publication. I’ve no idea why I only allowed myself the number I did because there were far more comics I read that I wanted to include here. Comics like X-Force, Batman: Last Knight On Earth, Crecy and X-O Manowar were tough to leave off this list, but at the end of the day the books below are the ones that had me the most excited.
For me, these were the very best books (whether miniseries or ongoing) of the year in a sea of high quality comics from all publishers.
8. The Last God(DC Black Label)
Recency bias? Possibly. But over the three issues of this book that I’ve read, I have become thoroughly enamored with how the twin narratives play into and off each other. I almost missed the comic, if I’m honest. It wasn’t until a coworker at my LCS put it in my hands and told me to take it home that I actually did. I haven’t regretted buying this book for a second as I devoured the three issues one after the other. I’m not normally one for fantasy in my comics, but this year that’s almost exactly what I’ve enjoyed the most.
7. Berserker Unbound (Dark Horse)
I had picked this book up purely because it was a new Jeff Lemire book, and Lemire is an author whom I’ll give his comics a chance without knowing what the story is about because I’ve yet to read a book of his that I don’t life. The four issue story about a barbarian thrown from the realm of fantasy into New York City tackles the loneliness and loss felt by those who have nothing left, and the hope that a new friend can shine upon your life. Plus, it’s brilliantly illustrated, with Mike Deodato Jr. using a fantasy inspired high art style that’s eerily reminiscent of the Conan magazines without ever feeling tired.
6. Dead Man Logan (Marvel)
The final send off for Old Man Logan before his younger counterpart is resurrected properly, this twelve issue series always had an ending that we’d expect. There was no secret that Logan would die in the comic, but Ed Brisson was still able to make you care about the death of an alternate version of a character many consider to have been over exposed for much of the first half of this century. I couldn’t get enough of this character’s story, and to finally see an end to Logan’s story left me feeling complete.
5. The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada (Valiant)
Man oh man. I don’t have enough space to rave about how much I loved this series. It is the culmination of Joshua Dysart’s work on the character which began with Harbinger #1 in the 2012 relaunch of Valiant. This series focused on one of the most complicated men in the Valiant universe, telling the story of his life and death (it’s in the title, it isn’t a spoiler), and we’re left wondering whether Toyo Harada was really the villain he’s often portrayed as or whether he was simply a misunderstood hero whose methods rarely aligned with what the world found acceptable in his quest of Peace – at any cost.”
4. Incursion (Valiant)
Perhaps one of the more underrated of Valiant’s miniseries this year, but but had been on my radar for some time given that one of the featured characters was the Eternal Warrior – easily my favourite character in the Valiant universe (as I type this, I am wearing a custom made Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior shirt), and so I knew I’d lap this series up. I didn’t expect to be so taken with the father/daughter dynamic between Gilad and Tama as they face off against the antithesis of all life in a very private battle for the lives of billions of people – but that was only a happy coincidence for Gilad – he was determined to save the young Geomancer at any cost.
3. Once And Future (BOOM! Studios)
This book took me off guard; when my Those Two Geeks co-host Joe told me to pick it up, I was expecting a pretty decent comic (he’s never yet steered me wrong). Instead I found a re-imagining of Arthurian legend with revelations that are teased out ever so slowly as our protagonist gradually becomes aware of who he is and his place in the world. Maybe because I have an incredible soft spot for Arthurian legends, maybe because Dan Mora’s art is right up my alley, or maybe it’s something else entirely, but I love this series.
2. Voracious: Appetite For Destruction (Action Lab: Danger Zone)
I’m surprised that this series fell to this spot in my list; Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru’s masterpiece of comic book story telling was among the very best of 2019 – and considering that my expectations were sky bloody high for this series, that it was able to exceed them still blows my mind. I can’t pick one aspect or creator of this series to single out – all deserve an equal measure of praise and credit. Whether it’s Naso’s incredible writing and grasp of dialogue, Muhr’s emotionally powerful art or Tabucaru’s way of breathing life into the pages… each and every aspect of this series was spectacular.
1. Rai (Valiant)
Every once in awhile there comes a series that takes you entirely by surprise. I always hope I’ll like any comic I read because who wants to read a bad comic? But with Rai, I have been consistently shocked. Not because it’s such a marked improvement over Fallen World (which itself was utterly phenomenal and narrowly missed out on this list), but because Dan Abnett has been able to tell such an interesting story with such a simple backdrop. His way of making us question our use and abuse of technology, the loss of our privacy and our seeming inability to distance ourselves from what should be a tool is both as subtle as a butterflies kiss and a sledgehammer to the gut. I’ve never read anything like this before. (Disclaimer: this is based on having read the first three issues, even though the third issue won’t be released for at least another week at time of publication.)
The Television Shows
I didn’t expect to have so much great TV to watch this year, and I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t see it all. For that reason, given the relatively low number of TV shows to comics that were released (and that I’ve seen) I’ve gone with a list of three. If you’re wondering, I have yet to see Watchmen because I don’t have HBO.
3. The Boys (Amazon Prime)
Brutal, bloody and very well written, The Boys is a look at what happens when superheroes are as corrupt as the people they’re supposed to stop. But who stops the heroes? That’s where Billy Butcher (played spectacularly by Karl Urban) and his boys come in. Well worth checking out, but possibly not worth a long subscription to Amazon Prime to do so (unless you’re getting it for the shipping perks).
2. The Mandalorian (Disney+)
If you’re a Star Wars fan, and you haven’t seen this yet, then now is the ideal time to sign up for a free week’s trial of Disney + to get your fix in. This is one of the better live action offerings in the Star Wars canon, certainly it’s in my top two from what has been released this decade. It constantly surprised me how expressive the actor beneath the armour is when you can’t see his face (I say “the actor” because there are times when Pedro Pascal was unable to be on set due to scheduling conflicts and Brendan Wayne stepped in to fill the bounty hunters helmet), and how much emotion is conveyed in the scenes from the score, camera angles and body language.
1. The Witcher (Netflix)
I was waiting for this show ever since I first heard it was coming. 2019 was, for me at least, the year of the Witcher. It was the year I started and finished the books, and the year I invested over a hundred hours into the Playstation 4 version of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I was ready for the live action adaptation of the books to be somewhere between average and good, but I wasn’t ready for Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra and Joey Batey to bring the characters I envisioned to life so well. I don’t think I have ever seen somebody convey so much emotion and gravitas with a single word as Cavill does so often and so well in this series. While there are some complaints that it feels disjointed, and I understand them, my only suggestion with that is to make it to the finale. Once you do then you’ll want to rewatch the season with a new found understanding of the events that you just witnessed. I don’t remember the last time a TV show left me wanting to reread, rewatch and replay as much as I could of the universe it comes from as The Witcher has. The sooner the soundtrack is available the better.
Well… this was certainly a year for movies, eh? Whether it was arguably one of the best DC movies in their live action movie universe or some movie about a bunch of people assembling something, there’s no doubt that this year had a lot of great movies released that fell within our sphere. Now there are movies from this year that I enjoyed more than some of the ones below, but because Aladdin doesn’t really fall into the scope of this list I’ve left it and others off the list. Try as I might, I couldn’t justify putting John Wick 3 on the list either, so I shaved the arbitrary number from eight to five.
5. Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker
I seem to be one of the minority who enjoyed The Last Jedi despite its flaws, but even I’ll admit that movie paled in comparison to the finale of the Skywalker Saga. This was everything I hoped it would be and more. I cannot wait to see it again.
4. Captain Marvel
Part of me is surprised this movie came out in 2019. It’s hard to remember a time before Endgame changed the face of the MCU, but when I looked back I realized that not only did this film come out in 2019, but I enjoyed the shit out of it when I watched it.
I remember leaving the theater after seeing this being a little shaken. This wasn’t what I expected from a comic book movie. Much like Logan, Joker transcends the supposed limitations of comic book films and evolves into a thrilling story about one man’s descent into psychopathy. Now you and I are more than aware that comic book films are just as legitimate pieces of cinema as anybody, but for some reason Joker has pulled in critics looking to talk about Batman’s arch nemesis. While I don’t know if I’ll ever watch the movie again, I will always remember that feeling of watching something special as the credits rolled.
2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
It took me a long time to decide where to place this movie. I want to rewatch this more than any other of the movies on this list, but struggled to place it above Endgame because of what that movie represented in the culmination of the entire MCU up until that moment. But why do I want to watch this more than Endgame? Because Spider-Man: Far From Home has some fantastic acting from the entire cast, especially Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhal, and it also feels a lot more personal than the exhaustively epic scope of Endgame. At this point, I’m comfortable saying that this is my favourite Spider-Man film yet.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Well shit. What can I really say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? When you look at it as a movie, it’s really good. The journey that Thor, Captain America and Iron Man take in the film alone could easily be the basis of solo films, likewise with Clint Barton. The finale is breathtaking in its scope, with each character getting their moment to shine amidst the madness. But when you take Endgame as a whole, as the culmination of twenty plus movies over more than ten years, it is unparalleled. I don’t honestly think I will see another film like it ever again.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker won the weekend box office with an estimated $72 million. The film dropped just 59.4% and it now stands at $361.8 million domestically after ten days. That 59.4% is better than The Last Jedi‘s drop of 67.5% in its second weekend.
Internationally, the film added $94.3 million to bring that total to $363 million. Worldwide, the film stands at $724.8 million and there’s a good chance it’ll cross the billion-dollar mark before its run is complete.
Jumanji: The Next Level held steady at player number two adding an estimated $35.3 million over the three days. Internationally, the film added $61.6 million. Worldwide, the film has earned $472 million.
Little Women opened in third place. The film brought in an estimated $29 million over its five-day debut of which $16.5 million was over the three day weekend. The numbers are well ahead of studio expectations which were $16-17 million over five days. The film received an “A-” CinemaScore from the opening day audiences. The audience was 70% female and 71% were aged 25 or older.
Internationally, the film launched in the UK and Spain and brought in $6.3 million. It continues to open worldwide over the month.
In fourth place was Frozen II which improved from the previous weekend. It earned an estimated $16.5 million to bring its domestic total to $421.3 million. It also added $42.2 million internationally to bring that total to $796.3 million for a worldwide total of $1.218 billion.
Rounding out the top five was the new film Spies in Disguise. The film earned $22 million over five days and $13.5 million over the three day weekend. It received an “A-” CinemaScore from opening day audiences which were 54% female and 40% of the crowd was aged 25 or older.
Internationally, the film brought in $16 million from 51% of the international market.
No comic adaptations made the weekend earnings list though we’ll have a dive into them later today.
Alex and Joe talk about The Mandalorian, the at-the-time upcoming Rise Of Skywalker and a bit of comic stuff.
As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jc_hesh if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.
A lot of digital ink has been spilled already discussing the failures of The Rise of Skywalker. It’s not a bad movie, but it has the weight of literally four decades of expectations and fandom riding on it. It was going to be impossible to deliver something that satisfied everyone.
And yet, it is incredibly clear that this film tried to do exactly that. Unfortunately, in trying to do and be everything to everyone, it ends up doing none of those things particularly well. Its plot twists are predictable enough that they’ve been guessed already by a thousand angry Reddit fanboys. I hope they are pleased with what they got.
Because what this movie feel like is “safe.” It’s the cinematic equivalent of gluing in the firing rocket from Boba Fett’s jetpack because you’re worried someone will hurt themselves with it. Yeah, it’s still a Boba Fett figure and therefore pretty damn cool. But when you create something for mass consumption based on the idea that we have to please an (angry) lowest common denominator, you end up serving up something that is blander than it needs to be.
The Force Awakens worked because despite its reliance on nostalgia and creating a new hero’s journey for our new characters, it was a reinvention of the original Star Wars for a new, diverse, and female-led generation of fans. People got angry. All the right people got angry. Good art should do that. Then The Last Jedi took that and turned it to 11. It subverted expectations and tropes, delivering something that was divisive in all the right ways. The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker could not be more polar opposite of movies in that way– as JJ Abrams described it in The New York Times, a “pendulum swing.” It didn’t need to swing that far, JJ.
It’s as if, after making the 8th highest-grossing movie of all time, “But there’s all these people who are Mad Online about it. Maybe we should make the next movie to try to please them.” And that is exactly how we end up with things like the abomination of a car Homer designs, built for the “average” person:
But great art isn’t built like this. Compare and contrast this with three of the best wide-release films of 2019, starting with Ford v. Ferrari. Shelby and the team at Ford didn’t set out to create a car for the average person. Far from it: they wanted a race car and delivered something that was, in fact, hard to drive. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a crowd-pleaser in all the right ways and delivers in all the ways fans of the detective mystery will enjoy. But it has some sharp corners that you can poke your eye out with. But it also has Chris Evans in a sweater in a scene with Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” playing in the background and him telling basically every other member of the cast to “Eat $#!t.” Sharp edges.
And then we have Avengers: Endgame, which was set up with much the same expectations and weight. But somehow they managed to stick the landing. Why giving us a film that both felt nostalgic and literally traveled through the past of the MCU, but ultimately all of that was done in service a furthering the characterization of our characters, especially Tony and Steve. So when the final “I am Iron Man” snap happens, it’s earned, it’s organic, and it’s beautiful. Yes, the giant Avengers Assemble moment at the end is a bit contrived and designed to please, but it’s so fun we don’t mind that we’re being pandered to.
The Rise of Skywalker differs in that its pandering doesn’t feel earned. It feels focus-group-tested and, frankly, boring.
If The Rise of Skywalker fails to perform at the box office, Disney is going to need to do some serious self-reflection. The first step is admitting that you have a problem with an abusive, toxic fanbase. And maybe you need to break up with them. Because they’re not letting you be your best, true self. And you’ll never be able to please your abuser enough to make the abuse stop. So stop trying to appease the unappeasable.
Now, all that being said, I actually still mostly like this movie. Because Star Wars is like ice cream. Even if it’s not your favorite flavor, it’s still ice cream, dammit. Even if it’s insipid and bland, it’s still pretty damn cool.
The film is a little basic. Most of the first two acts are a giant MacGuffin hunt, culminating in a final showdown between good and evil with a massive space battle raging overhead. It is very on brand for Star Wars. But what exactly were we expecting?
Keri Russell is Zorii, my new favorite character. She’s badass. She puts Poe in his place on several occasions. And their angry/flirty banter is like straight out of Moonlighting. She also offers the film’s populist message (not these exact words, but this sentiment): the powerful divide us and make us feel like we’re alone. But if we remember that there are more of us than of them, we can unite and overthrow them.
Of course, Poe does his same move that he does in The Last Jedi, and take the words of a smart, successful woman and repeat them back to everyone in a rousing speech– and everyone listens to him. But in this case, unlike his foil Admiral Holdo in TLJ, Zorii is sexually available to Poe (her last name is BLISS like she’s a goddamn Bond Girl. . . yikes), so her putting him in his place and explaining the meaning of the movie isn’t going to ruffle anyone’s feathers. I say this more out of a sense of awareness of the sexism at the base of criticism about TLJ than as a complaint about this movie, because I really like all the business between Zorii and Poe, and Russell and Oscar Isaacs have a definite chemistry, even when she is acting underneath that helmet. But that also says more about me as a heterosexual middle-aged white male who has had a crush on Keri Russell since she was on The Mickey Mouse Club than it does about The Rise of Skywalker, except, again, that it feels the film was built to be almost aggressively pleasing to me.
The same is true of the conflict between our two main characters, Rey and Kylo Ren. There is conflict, there is that strange romantic tension that ReyLo shippers pick up on. Oh, ReyLo shippers. . . there is so much in here for you to enjoy. Everyone else? Well, there is at least one thing in the movie that is likely going to be divisive. But the fights between the two of them are a lot of fun.
But some of the best payoff in The Rise of Skywalker comes in its opening moments where (I hope this isn’t a spoiler for anyone) there are scenes of Leia training Rey as her new Jedi Master. This film sends off Carrie Fisher in some amazing ways. While some of it seems maybe a little forced, it’s mostly just great.
There are some big hero moments near the end. They’re a lot of fun, but they punctuate a final act that feels a little messy. But we get to see Lando fly The Millenium Falcon again and team up with old friends. Billy Dee Williams has never been better. It almost forgives a lot of the messiness and contrivances that get us there.
My biggest complaint is how so many of the side characters get sidelined, especially my precious Rose Tico. She is given almost nothing to do, and in the final act heroics, Finn is paired up instead with new character Jannah. Don’t get me wrong, Jannah is great and presents some great foil moments for Finn because of her backstory (no spoilers on that), but the problem with this is it feels like in the first movie they tried to pair Finn with Rey, then in the second with Rose, and certain segments of the audience rejected that. So they give him, as with Poe, a foil who is sexually available and also black as though we’re sort of subtly saying “Oh, these two characters should be together.” That gives me oogey feelings because, again, it feels like playing to the lowest common denominator: “Here’s a ship no one can get upset about.”
But then on the other end of the spectrum, there’s C-3PO and Chewbacca. Both play integral roles to this story, and Threepio specifically steals every scene he’s in. If you would have told me C-3PO was the breakout performance of the movie months ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. It is, nonetheless, true, and he’s absolutely amazing. New droid D-O is also a lot of fun. There are also some cameos, especially near the end, that made me squeee with delight. Specifically, one character who I’ve waited the entire new trilogy to show up makes it on screen, if only briefly.
But that beautiful populist message ends up ringing loud and true through that final act. It feels in so many places like a very direct middle finger to Donald Trump, to Boris Johnson and Brexit, to all the other forces in the universe who stand with the dark side. Just don’t tell Xi Jinping, or else Star Wars will get banned from China. And no way will Disney be willing to take that.
For all the complaining about The Rise of Skywalker, it isn’t really a bad movie. It just isn’t the great movie it could’ve been. I shouldn’t be arrogant enough to expect that Star Wars is always going to cater to my tastes and be my wish fulfillment (in this case for more complex, subversive material). But, it’s incredibly important to let people like what they like. I’m sure there will be millions of Star Wars fans who love this, and I’m determined to let them have their fun. It’s doubtful the toxic parts of the fanbase will be so kind or will even like this. Maybe Lucasfilm can learn a thing or two from their corporate cousins at Marvel.