Just so we’re clear this article isn’t about all the reasons I think it won’t make money at the box office.
The truth is, it will make some money. There are plenty of Star Wars zombies out there, who will happily shamble into a theater to watch any piece of shit so long as the name Star Wars on the marquee. Solo made $400 million world wide and that was when the wounds from Last Jedi were fresh. So you can count on The Rise of Skywalker to haul in at least that much. And if the Mandalorian (which launches in 60 days) revives interest in the franchise it may well harvest around $800 million. But that is the absolute max.
It also shows you how bad a position the movie is in. This is like having to hope that Agents of SHIELD would make the next Hulk movie popular.
Regardless, the fail I’m talking about is the failure of this last trilogy as a story.
When Rey was first introduced in the Force Awakens, we saw this scrappy kid, scratching a hand to mouth existence out of the desert. She was crawling over starship wrecks trying to find anything that was salvageable, just so she could survive for another night on “one quarter portion.” She was being paid in…almost-food and it wasn’t enough of it to live on. Rey dreamed of past glories. She wanted to climb into an X-Wing and fight the long banished Empire. She wanted to meet the legends from that age (be careful what you wish for).
It was a great little snapshot of her life. This kid had issues. She was clearly going through a lot of shit. I freely admit I was interested in Rey’s story.
She then rescues this orange metal testicle from a Not-Jawa.
There wasn’t a strong motivation for her to do so but that was okay too. It was a standard “save the cat” scene. Audience is introduced to a character and runs around with her for a little bit so that they will identify with her. Then you have her do something randomly nice so that they will like her. All well and good.
Then the Simon Pegg Blob Monster offers Rey sixty whole portions for BB-8. It is unknown riches in her world. She is tempted but refuses.
Now we have a problem.
Why did Rey refuse to sell BB-8?
In the Star Wars universe Droids have always been treated with about as much affection as a car. You could grow fond of one and you’d get pissed as hell if someone steals it from you. But you never treat it like a person. This treatment of droids was consistent for the first six films.
When R2-D2 ran off in A New Hope. Luke wasn’t concerned that something bad would happen to it out in the desert. He was worried that Uncle Owen was going to find out that he’d pulled the restraining bolt and that the old man was going to be out of a lot of money. He was worried that he wasn’t going to to able to go the Academy if the droid was lost.
Why did Rey refuse to sell BB-8? Because J.J. needed her keep it and he couldn’t come up with a reason. She had made it plain in the scene before she wanted the droid to move on tomorrow. There was no reason given for her to keep it other than it was “the right thing to do.” Was it? How right could it be? She didn’t know that BB-8 was a Resistance Bot. She didn’t know it held the key to finding Luke Skywalker (fat lot of good that did). She had no reason not to sell it.
Maybe if the Droid had gone into hysterics and she tried to give it some speech about “you’ll be better off with the Simon Pegg Blob Monster ’cause I can’t take care you properly.” A lot of pathetic beeping and she gives in out of a soft heart. Or maybe the droid tells Rey there would a big reward for returning it to it’s owner and it would be in real money, not gruel packets. Regardless, you needed a scene like that. But Abrams works in visuals not dialog and he wanted to get to his next visual as fast as possible
It was first hint of the horrors to come.
It wouldn’t have been all that difficult to establish a reason why Rey could fly the Falcon. Quick example: she used it to make short in system cargo runs for Simon Pegg Blob Monster. Instead of the Millennium Falcon she refers to it as the Manure Sled because that was what she hauled in it. The running gags with Han right themselves.
But these obvious opportunities were all missed and she could “mysteriously” fly the Falcon like she had been doing it for thirty years.
The reason she could is the utter incompetence of J.J. Abrams as a storyteller.
The, (by now), dreaded “mystery box” of J.J. Abrams is a bad joke to every writer in Hollywood or for that matter, the world.
Look a little bit of mystery at the start of a story is just fine. Curiosity is a decent hook. Hopefully by the time you’ve satisfied that curiosity, you’ve already got the audience too engrossed in your narrative to leave.
But with Abrams this hook isn’t the first thing, it’s the only thing. Lost was intriguing at first because of all the mysteries on the Island. But then the mysteries began to conflict so more mysteries were introduced to try and distract you from the fact that there was no there, there. Then Abrams confirmed everyone’s worst fears with the ending. There never was an answer that would tie all these mysteries together. Turned out, everyone died in the crash at the start of the show and they’d been in Purgatory the whole time. Maybe. Who the fuck knows? The ending was that clear.
Abrams has a gift for visuals but he has no restraint over that gift. He can picture a scene in his mind that will look spectacular…for a moment and then you think about it and itpretty much takes you right out of the story.
From switchblade katanas to flickknife lightsabgers. Spectacular visuals at the expense of continuity and common sense are the hallmark of any J.J. Abrams project.
Abrams second Star Trek fully revealed Abrams obesseion with secrecy. For months he insisted that Benedict Cumberbatch was not playing Khan but some other character named Harrison. Why the frantic insistence on this charade even after it became a joke. Because “who is Harrison?” was one of his mysteries for the film. That and visuals are all he brings to the party.
Then there is Abrams aggressive contempt for continuity. He had Khan transporting himself from Earth to the Klingon homeworld. Which left everyone yelling, what? This was a break with fifty years of continuity in the Star Trek-verse. Transporters had a range of orbit to planetside and no farther. Everyone knew this. Interstellar teleportation was never even hinted at. But Abrams wanted to get Khan there as fast as possible so he could get to his next visual. So now something only Q could manage was performed almost a century before ST:TNG and was completely forgotten about afterward. Abrams open scorn of cohesion was probably at it’s most blatant in Into Darkness but it was also very much present in The Force Awakens.
In any world J.J. Abrams creates there are The Mystery Boxes and their evil twin, The Questions the Audience Is not Supposed to Ask. Khan was a dictator not an engineer, so why way he building weapons for the Federation? And since was born three hundred years ago, how was he building them? Where did the First Order come from? Where did it get it’s resources? How did it build an even bigger Deathstar without anyone noticing? The Jedi and the Sith are extinct, so where did Snoke come from? Why does Rey have a connection to the Skywalker lightsaber when no one else ever has? Why did Rey refuse to sell BB-8?
The list goes on and on. As much shit as I give Rian Johnson (justly so). I can’t blame him for chucking all of Abrams questions that had no answers in the first place. Which brings us to the reason that Star Wars the Rise of Skywalker will fail.
This last movie will require payoffs to the setups that weren’t tossed out by Rian Johnson. Payoff your setups and setup your payoffs are two very big principles in writing. JJ Abrams has never paid off a single setup in his career. Let alone tied a bunch of payoffs up in a nice neat little package.
In order to succeed this movie will have to be not only the greatest Star Wars movie ever but quite possibly a the greatest film of all time. And there is no story here in the first place.
The best screen writer in the world couldn’t pull this off, so you know damn good and well that J.J. Abrams can’t.