It’s been literal minutes since I watched the first teaser trailer for the long-awaited ninth installment in the Star Wars saga. It’s been quite a ride.
I mean, where do I start? How much the title (The Rise of Skywalker) sends chills down my spine? How every shot featuring Rey, Leia, Lando, Finn, Poe, or Kylo Ren makes me giddy? How that final ominous laugh really raises the stakes for this movie?
But honestly, watching the film feels both familiar and groundbreaking. That’s a good way to describe this series as a whole. From handing over the torch to J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson to letting the saga’s biggest heroes face their curtain call as a new generation takes the stage, there’s this sense of possibility and adventure that the films invoke. While other films challenge our sense of the familiar, from Rogue One‘s gritty flavor to Solo‘s indecisive comedy and crime drama, Episodes VII to IX seem to ride on a more persistent vision.
It’s the same galaxy, they tell us, but you’re going to visit some new places.
You can chase after the things you want, they tell us, but you’ll find something you never expected at the other end.
The war might look the same, they tell us, but the moves aren’t always what you thought they’d be.
And that’s something that I enjoyed about Force Awakens and Last Jedi. Rey isn’t Luke, Finn isn’t Han, and Kylo Ren isn’t Vader. The First Order looks and acts like the Empire, but it’s nowhere near the strength of the original. Rey’s parentage doesn’t have to be the same path that Luke’s heritage took. Kylo Ren really can stand between the light and dark sides of the Force, making him dangerous to just about everyone who’d see him as an ally. And, yes, the Jedi Knights can come back to life, but doing so means making our ideas about the Force and the Skywalker legacy bigger than ever.
Much like how Marvel fans felt after the end of Avengers: Infinity War, we’re stepping into uncharted waters. Things are wildly different now, but they’re also a touch familiar. Some faces changed, some unexpected alliances took place, and the threat has asserted itself in a brutal way that leaves our heroes starting over from Square One.
So, yes, I am excited about how this series ends. And I’m excited for Rian Johnson’s separate Star Wars trilogy in the works, and for seeing all kinds of new material from a galaxy far, far away. It’s different, and it’s easy to get lost in the hype or to start assuming the finished product won’t live up to our ideals, but that’s okay. So long as we’re willing to be challenged, to be given a chance for an adventure, good or bad, we can experience it together as moviegoers, as Star Wars fans, and as kids who like making lightsaber sounds whenever we swing a broom around our living rooms.