Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn't the end, not by a long shot

Commentary: We're in infinite Star Wars now.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
6 min read

Star Wars is half in my head now.


I saw Star Wars as a kid. It was broken, dirty. It was weird, reckless. It was everything the stable, clean, boring Star Trek wasn't. It was... maybe even cyberpunk. It took place in the past but felt like the future. It was magic and tech combined. It was mystery.

That's what drew me in, made me dream. Now it's my recollections of the past and the hopes of what could be... it's a process of endless expectation compared with reality.

Star Wars has always been important to me: enough for me to play John Williams' soundtracks nonstop on my phone, but not enough to keep up with the unending comics and games and books. I never wanted an Extended Star Wars Universe. I just wanted a few iconic, special films. I've been lucky enough to get them, more than I'd ever have expected.

My family, though, doesn't care much about Star Wars. My kids don't want to see old Star Wars movies with me, or The Mandalorian. I was the only one who wanted to go to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (we did Universal's Harry Potter, which was great, too). Marvel is my kids' Star Wars. Harry Potter is my kids' Star Wars. Star Wars, for them, is a bit like James Bond: It's dad's old stuff. 

My attempts to bring my kids along for the Star Wars fandom ride turned out like Luke's warning in The Last Jedi: "This is not going to go the way you think."

If Force Awakens was a magical reboot/echo and The Last Jedi was a meta-mystical cynical reversal, The Rise of Skywalker should serve as The Return of the King, The Return of the Jedi, the triumphal restoration, the final piece in a generational crystal lattice tic-tac-toe board connecting the '80s, the '00s and today. If J.J. Abrams was the accidental inheritor of the job, could the project even succeed in the first place? In a way, isn't Star Wars already tapped out on imaginative directions?

Could I just write a review of Rise of Skywalker... without even having seen it? So I did, based on trailers and fever dreams.


None of the following is an actual Rise of Skywalker plot point!


***Imaginary spoilers begin here***

  • A new character called The Whisper says Ren has a boss, and maybe Snoke still exists. After most of The Resistance has been destroyed, the rebuilt team on a distant moon decides to go look where R2-D2 is finding a strange signal indicating where evil is lurking. A great scavenger hunt begins, full of puzzle-clues.
  • The droids go off on their own on a side story, and this family of five -- C-3P0, R2-D2, BB-8, D-O and HYU-76 -- feel like a saga on their own. They have a whole conversation in robot. It's a silent film for about 20 minutes. It's brilliant.
  • As for Rey... of course she was made of midichlorians. And her parents are the same as Poe Dameron's, making them brother and sister. Matta Dameron and Hygo Dameron feel like New England parents, in a nice Connecticut house on a civilized planet where Rey and Poe no longer feel at home. They stay for a night to refuel, and have awkward breakfast with mom and dad the next morning. 
  • Leia floats off and becomes a Force Crystal, allowing Luke to absorb her, and their fused Skywalker spirit ends up becoming an energy beam to give new midichlorian life to twins that appear suddenly in Rose's belly. Finn and Rose get married, and become the guardians of a new Force.
  • Crusty Lando gives up his fortune and dies in a heroic attack with the Falcon, wishing he could have seen Han sooner. Lando's ruthless gambling and investments helped rebuild The First Order, making him another cog in the war machine.
  • Holdo sends a long-distance transmission revealing she's alive, but encased in robot armor, a Vader of goodness recovering on Kamino. 
  • Chewie knows how to speak Space Horse, and the Space Horses worship Chewie as an evolved horse-god.
  • A lone Ewok is found in the abandoned Death Star (so sad!) and he tells of the lost Ewok party that ate itself.
  • Finally, a coda a thousand years later: Marko Scrivener, the one who writes the introductions to each Star Wars movie, resides in his Library of Time. Here we see Star Wars will continue, on and on, and Scrivener will keep recording. He puts Episode 9 on a long bookshelf, and talks with the Time Council about the past. Then we realize there's another war happening, of course. War never ends. And the shelves in the library are nearly infinite.

***End imaginary spoilers***

This is how I deal with things I haven't seen: I get excited about the impossible and prepare for the inevitable. I was disappointed in degrees by the Star Wars prequels, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Prometheus and even many aspects of the entire new Star Wars trilogy. I try to embrace what I like and grimace through what I don't. 


Baby Yoda isn't in Rise of Skywalker. This is from The Mandalorian.


It's OK  to be both excited and bored by Star Wars. The fatigue is strong with this franchise, which was never meant to bear this load. As the biggest childhood Star Wars fan, I'm learning to be comfortable with letting go, letting Star Wars be one more thing in a universe of immortal, ever-rebooted and repeated things. A Ready Player One-iverse of content being repurposed, forever, nonstop. Star Wars is one part of that ever-flowing river. It's my dadhood. It was once something old and remembered, and now it's forever, ever-present.

The Rise of Skywalker of my imaginings will not be what is. And that too is OK. I'll still show up. As New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said of Rise of Skywalker, "The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up." It's my life as a New York Jets fan. I get it. Evergreen franchises are now what life is all about. You can feel however you feel. It doesn't matter. The team will keep playing.


This isn't Rise of Skywalker. This is a moment from the VR game Vader Immortal.


So, after I saw Rise of Skywalker

Does it matter what I think? It wasn't as interesting as many of my fantasies and predictions. It felt about as exciting and meaningful as the Disney Plus series The Mandalorian: well-produced, full of action, plenty of geeky connect-the-dots fan service, and, well, my kid was happy to see it with me. It had its moments, good and bad. The movie, for me, didn't invalidate The Last Jedi or repave its intentions. It's not quite what I dreamed of it being.

And that's OK. Really, what is? I'm not sure I live in that kid-ignited Star Wars world anymore. Or if I do, it's things beyond Star Wars that spark those dreams. Star Wars is much, much bigger than any movie now, anyway: It exists in a lattice of content. Theme parks that last forever, virtual reality simulations, online games, comics, TV shows, Lego variations. Skins and special events in Fortnite. A parallel multiverse that extends for miles in all directions.


This isn't Rise of Skywalker. This is a moment in Disney's new Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney.

Bridget Carey/CNET

Maybe the thing I've really come to accept is the demise of the old-fashioned feeling of going to a singular movie-cycle as dramatic as the original Star Wars trilogy. The evolution of an ever-flowing pipeline of never-dying content is here. Like The Emperor, every thing you've ever loved is undead now. Star Wars is one more constellation of stuff in the matterverse.

In the next decade, I expect us all to be wandering around in an increasingly reality-blended life, where fictional things follow us around, the world is filtered by AR lenses and fantasies can follow us anywhere. In VR, in AR, in immersive games and increasingly interactive theme-park experiences. What Star Wars is for me then... well, at that point, do movies even really matter anymore?

There's no point in saying goodbye, because with something like Disney's Star Wars, there's no end in sight.

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Originally published Dec. 21.