Depiction of Evil in The Rise of Skywalkerby Todd King, contributing writer
Star Wars Updates from MousePlanet
December was quite a busy month for Star Wars and it's hard to keep up with all the goings-on. MousePlanet has got you covered! Be sure to check out these three recent articles about Galaxy's Edge and its attractions:
Disneyland Resort Update for January 13-19, 2020 - For those who want some tips on getting into the virtual queue at Galaxy's edge and who want more than just a glimpse at the new attraction, Rise of the Resistance, then read this update that includes a video of the ride's full run. Spoilers are there, of course, and even so, I've been told (since I haven't yet been there myself) that a 2D video certainly does not do the whole experience justice.
Walt Disney World Resort Update For December 24 - December 30, 2019 - Included here are some details on the Star Tours updates (with Lando!) where scenes from The Rise of Skywalker have been added to the attraction! Would they include places from The Mandalorian someday? Indeed "the adventures continue" in more ways every year!
Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities - This article by MousePlanet contributing writer Gregg Jacobs is a fascinating look at the coolest gift shop in the galaxy! I can't wait to get to Batuu someday and fly the Falcon and escape the First Order, but this is where I need to stop in order to take some of Black Spire Outpost home with me. I could sell my house to get all the lightsabers.
Skywalker has Risen, the Last Jedi Confronts Fears, the Force Awoke Good and Evil
Now that The Rise of Skywalker has been out for a bit, I've finally been able to take a breath, step back and look at the sequel trilogy as a whole and consider its story, characters, and meaning. I must say it has been a wild ride (almost as wild as Mr. Toad's). Each episode introduced many new concepts that expanded the lore of Star Wars and added to its history. Since 2015's The Force Awakens, many discussions, arguments, and debates have taken place in-person and in online social media about every aspect of the new films. Let's cover them all now, shall we? …
Yeah, no, talk about a fool's errand! I mean, what would I choose to discuss? For so many topics there are heated conversations on both sides, sometimes on multiple sides. Taking that further, I feel pressure to choose a side. Like on the topic of The Last Jedi: do you like it or not, choose! People on social media want to know your side so they can place you in categories and stamp you with labels. I've never felt the movies have polarized fans, I believe fans have polarized fans. It's unnerving and makes it difficult to just have a civil discussion about Star Wars where you listen to other points of view, consider them, and add to the dialog while at the same time being listened to yourself.
Honestly, I've avoided engaging in most any kind of commenting on social media because I've seen other threads go off the rails so quickly and simple statements like, "I like [this character]" be used to instantly judge a stranger. Well, not all fans are so negative, not all the fandom is toxic, but character-limited tweets and short comments can't paint a full picture of a person or their thoughts—but it's sometimes all that people argue against.
While all that's going on, however, I have had some fantastic in-person talks with friends and coworkers that have been amazing. One discussion led to a deep look at the philosophy of the Sith and how they desire to control their lives by controlling their death. The Emperor has returned and like he had mentioned some power before, he cheated death. He said it was a power that was unnatural and–as we've seen–it's not a power he was ever willing to share with anyone, not even his most-prized apprentice, Darth Vader. In thinking about evil and its depiction in Star Wars, much of the evil derives from fear and leads to destruction.
Everyone who has ever been associated with Palpatine, in hopes of gaining power or anything, has ended up being just another one of his pawns. He played Queen Amidala to get the vote of no-confidence (Episode I). Darth Maul was sent to face two Jedi and reveal the new existence of the Sith only to die (Episode I). Count Dooku would act his part to stoke the fires of the Clone Wars (Episode II) only to end up decapitated at the behest of his own master, right in front of him (Episode III). Palpatine (his first name is Sheev in case you didn't know) manipulated Anakin Skywalker to join him and make him believe he would have great power only to end up losing everything he wanted to begin with (Episode III) and then prompted Anakin's son, Luke, to kill him—right in front of him—and take his place (Episode VI) and, while that didn't quite play out the way he intended, it proved that Darth Vader was as expendable as the rest in his eyes.
All of these people were just suited to his immediate purposes of "cheating death" but why? Why cheat death? Because Palpatine, like others who followed him, feared death. "Fear is the path of the dark side," said Yoda on more than one occasion. This is the primary fear of the Sith but it is a fear we all have.
What can we do about this fear? What choices can we make? Well that's what this sequel trilogy comes down to: our choices. Palpatine makes the choices time and again to step on top of others for his own ascension. He dismantled the Republic, he abused his power to lead the planets into calamity, he lied to Dooku, Anakin, Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren, and heck, he even lied to Snoke whom he simply churned out of some clone machine.
Palpatine would betray his own family if he had one. Wait. He did have one and somehow (knowing his history) through some twisted dark means, he had a son. Maybe he sensed what was going on with Vader and thought that Sith blood would be more powerful than Jedi blood? That son managed to flee and eventually have a daughter whom he sent into hiding at the cost of his own life. Rey, the granddaughter of Palpatine, seemed to be led by powers beyond her to find her way into the continuing battles of the Jedi and their enemies.
The Force seemed to call Rey when it could no longer call on Luke Skywalker. Eventually, Rey's life and her power would be used for Palpatine, just as the others before her. He would continue his deception even against her, promising her that she could save her friends if she would simply kill him to complete a ritual of power. It would seem to make sense that you could end it all by ending him. But that was same the lie he told Luke, who almost gave into it. Rey knew, however, that Ben Solo was coming to join her and together they would outmatch the Emperor. Like times before, the Emperor knew he could manipulate even this situation and turn it to his advantage.
At this point, Palpatine seemed completely unstoppable. After all that we've seen happen through nine episodes, this evil cannot be shaken. Obi-Wan Kenobi once said of the Sandpeople, "They'll be back, and in greater numbers." The same can be said of the villains of Star Wars, especially the Empire and the Sith; evil isn't really conquered, it is pushed back and kept at bay. It is similar in our world. The bad news never ceases. Evil is always taking things that are good, twisting them into something evil, and presenting them as something good. But it is always a lie. Palpatine would posit a statement like: "Death is a bad thing, right?" Therefore, it should be avoided, it should be destroyed, according to them. How do you do this? You use others for your own benefit, even if it means they lose their life, it is only yours that matters, they would say. It is the easy path. They are avoiding death, yes, but really they are avoiding their fears. Because of this, they put all their powers into stopping death and it makes them appear to have such power.
Luke said to Rey, "Facing your fear, it is the destiny of a Jedi." Rey faced her fear: that her fate is not in her control. She didn't know if the Force was leading her to something good, she didn't know why her parents did what they did, and she didn't know that her powers and her abilities, things she was beginning to identify as herself, were beget from a source of evil. But all her life was filled with choices she made herself from making a living as a scavenger, to helping Finn escape Jakuu, to finally heeding the call of the Force and taking up a lightsaber that had before brought her such fear. She even became frightened of her own power, a power she thought she couldn't control and that it would destroy anything she tried to save like Ben Solo and Chewbacca, both of whom almost died at her hands. But it was her choices that helped to save them, too.
It was Rey's choice to face the Emperor knowing she may not survive but also knowing that she would have help. When Poe asked Lando how the Rebellion defeated the Empire, he simply said, "We had each other." Things don't always go right for Rey in The Rise of Skywalker when she goes alone. Finn knew this and tried to stay with her, but Rey kept thinking she had to protect him. After her choice to finally face the Emperor after Luke's guidance, she personifies Lando's words that "faith in your friends," which the Emperor always considered a weakness, is what gives the good side all that it needs (to paraphrase Leia).
Rey then believes she is not alone and actively ensures that she won't be. When she goes to Exogol, she alerts the Resistance. When Ben Solo shows up, she gives him the lightsaber. When she felt the most alone, she called on the Jedi to be with her.
The Emperor had tried to gain the power from their bond and again used something good to turn it into something for his evil purposes. But just as the heroes keep evil at bay, the Emperor cannot destroy good and can only keep it at bay as well. Good keeps coming back and in greater numbers! The good may have fear, but they are not foolish. They may have fear, but they do not avoid it. They may have fear, but it doesn't control them. Evil is a slave to its fear. Good fears only fear itself. When you are no longer bound by fear, evil has no power over you anymore. To me, that's what Rey embodied in the sequel trilogy. Her choices led to her destiny—a destiny she controlled herself in the end. Even her family, both by blood and by spirit, were her choice in the end.
These are the messages of the entire saga. And for all the trilogy's faults and missed opportunities, I can still find the ideas of facing fears and recognizing evil to be sources of inspiration in my own life. I don't want to lament the flaws in the movies, I want to celebrate the great moments. I will not ignore the problems and unanswered questions, but they will not control me. Maybe I fear engaging in discussion, but then what is it that I really fear? Confrontation? Losing an argument? Losing a friend? In the end, however, it's misplaced fear. These are things that can bring us together, even if we don't agree. We can find that we share a passion for this fictitious world because it informs our real world. We shouldn't fear, but we can't help it. Life is not perfect and the movies aren't either. Can I like them in spite of their flaws? Yes. I can find the good. It's in there. There's conflict, yes. The dark and light are always there, as they are here. There are some things I cannot change. I cannot change the past just like the Sith finally cannot avoid death. But my choices, like Luke's and Rey's, can lead me to peace