***I just recently finished the Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson. Naturally, as the “Expanded Edition,” it’s intended to supplement the events of the film and hopefully fill some of those gaping plotholes. Naturally as a Star Wars geek, I’ve got opinions. Too many to fit into a single review. Thus, welcome to the fourth and final of my multi-part Rise of Skywalker novelization review!***
By Rob Siebert
Holds the Holocron of Useless Knowledge
1. Hux Hated Kylo Ren’s Hair
Obviously Armitage Hux despised Kylo Ren. They were at odds since we first saw them in The Force Awakens. Eventually Hux would betray everything he stood for to make sure Kylo Ren was defeated. He hated him for a great many reasons…
But his hair?
There’s a line early in the book about Hux not liking Kylo Ren’s hair because it wasn’t regulation. True, obviously. Perhaps a nice little reminder of just how deep Hux’s hatred ran. But what a weird thing to mention in a Star Wars novel. Not bad. Just weird.
2. The Interrogation of Chewbacca
This has gotten plenty of press. So I won’t go on too long about it. But yes, for some bizarre, inexplicable reason this scene was cut from the film. A scene where Kylo Ren gets to interrogate his “Uncle Chewie.”
To her credit, Carson writes it very well. Complete with quick flashes to Ben Solo’s childhood. I’m not sure if they filmed it or not. But at least we get to see it here.
3. Threepio in Chewie’s gear
There was a promotional image floating around for this movie that absolutely terrified me. On numerous posters, there was an image of Threepio wearing Chewbacca’s gear and carrying his bowcaster. Naturally this sparked a lot of questions, not the least asked was, “What the hell is happening with Threepio in this movie?” We’d seen the shot of him with the red eyes, and now this? Were they turning this robotic British butler into a war machine? *cue the AC/DC song*
But, to quote Eric Bichoff, “Context is King.” During the mission to rescue Chewbacca aboard Kylo Ren’s ship, there’s a scene where Rey thrusts all of the Wookie’s things into Threepio’s arms. When we next see the droid, he’s wearing Chewie’s bandolier (THAT’s what that thing is called…) and satchel, and carrying his bowcaster. He’s not using them. He’s simply wearing them for comedic effect.
I’m assuming one of two things happened here, and both of them take place in a marketing meeting. One possibility? Some oblivious executive saw that shot of Threepio with weapons and said, “Hey, that looks kinda cool. Let’s use it.”
On the other hand, it could have been someone completely in the know, who saw that image and said, “That’ll drive the fans crazy and drum up all sorts of speculation. Let’s use it.”
Ignorance or intelligence? It’s a question we find ourselves asking far too often in more than one walk of life…
4. Poe Dameron is a secret asshole.
I’ve grown to dislike the Poe Dameron character. Hindsight being 20/20, he should have died in The Force Awakens. But that’s another story for another time. (Literally. I’m going to write something that breaks that down.)
He didn’t do himself any favors in my eyes by treating C-3PO the way he did in The Rise of Skywalker. I get the sense they were trying to establish a dynamic like the one Threepio had with Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. The problem with that is that while they’re quite alike at face value, we actually like Han Solo. He’s a charming, snarky rogue. Poe Dameron is not charming. He’s childishly impulsive and got a lot of people killed in The Last Jedi.
That’s not to say Threepio should be revered or considered a relic. But Carson establishes that Leia has told Rey about the droid’s long history. This is the third war he’s been in over the course of 50 years. If Leia told Rey, you’ve got to believe she told Poe at some point.
The final nail in the coffin is that in Empire we liked Threepio. So we forgave his endless whining and nagging. By the time we get to The Rise of Skywalker, ol’ Goldenrod has been with us for nine movies. More than that if you count the Clone Wars cartoon. So while he shouldn’t be revered in-universe, he’s very much revered by us. So picking on him excessively just makes Poe look mean.
5. Wicket W. Warrick
The Rise of Skywalker desperately wants to be Return of the Jedi. Thus, we have a cameo from Wicket. It’s implied in the movie that the little guy next to him is his son. The novel confirms that is indeed the case. Wicket has a son named Pommet. (Pommet Warrick?)
Until I saw the movie a second time, I’d forgotten they borrowed from Jedi (the special edition at least) yet again by cutting to various planets we’ve been to throughout the saga. In that context, the Wicket cameo makes much more sense.
While the novel only takes us to Endor, the movie shows us Bespin and Jakku as well. They probably went with Bespin because of Lando being in the movie. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have opted for Naboo or Coruscant, though. Heck, maybe even Canto Bight.
6. Who Came to the Rescue
While the novel doesn’t reveal the identities of the Jedi that Rey hears, it does tell us who responded to Lando’s distress call. Or at least the names we know…
– The Mon Calamari fleet, who we saw in the Allegiances comic from Marvel.
– Phantom Squadron. If I’m not mistaken, this is a reference to the old Star Wars: Legacy book Dark Horse did. It took place 130 years after the Battle of Yavin.
– The Ghost, the main ship from Rebels. Hera is likely aboard.
– Alphabet Two, a callback to the Alphabet Squadron books by Alexander Freed. The first one is sitting on my nightstand. I couldn’t get into it, but am going to try the audiobook.
– Zay Versio, daughter of Iden Versio, the main character from Battlefront II.
– Kazuda Xiono, the main character from the Resistance cartoon.
I’ve also heard some buzz about Dash Rendar being among the rescuers. His ship, the Outrider, definitely appears in the movie.
7. All You Need is Love
When you get right down to it, this the main reason the book is better than the movie: It gives valuable context to Leia’s sacrifice.
When she reaches out to Ben with the Force, the former Kylo Ren realizes his mother has forgiven him. That she has continued to love him despite his turn to the dark side.
Snoke lied and manipulated him for years, convincing him that his family never cared about him. Just the New Republic. Later, the Resistance.
But Leia’s sacrifice changes all that. Kylo Ren dies when Ben Solo sees that he is loved. By both his mother and his father. Cue the Harrison Ford appearance.) I can’t even begin to say how important these details are. It explains how Han and Leia’s son turned to the dark side, broke up their family, and set about conquering the galaxy with the First Order.
More importantly, it makes sense. Imagine being the only son of two war heroes, one of whom was one of the leaders of the original Rebel Alliance. Imagine being the only Force-sensitive descendant of the Skywalker bloodline. Your uncle is Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi and the one tasked with reviving the order. Your grandmother was a beloved queen and senator, and ultimately one of the founders of the Alliance.
Your grandfather was a Jedi, a hero of the Clone Wars, and in the end the one who brought down the entire Jedi Order and bent the galaxy to the Empire’s will.
Ben Solo thought his parents saw him as a tool. A means to an end. Not a son. But something to strengthen their New Republic, their cause. This could explain part of why he was so interested in Rey. Originally, it was because of her strength in the Force. But in The Last Jedi he learned that she cared about him. The way his family supposedly never had.
But of course, they loved him all along. Had these details been explored in The Rise of Skywalker, or even better, in The Last Jedi, it would have effected the entire sequel trilogy for the better.
Anakin Skywalker’s journey was about not being able to save the people he loved and winding up alone.
Ben Solo’s journey was about identifying with Darth Vader’s loneliness to the point of idolization, only to realize he was never alone at all.
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