Since I began writing this column, I have mainly used it to express my views on things that I love or facets of the entertainment industry that have left me grumbling for one reason or another. Many of those articles have mentioned “Star Wars” in some capacity. I like “Star Wars” a lot. I always have. Over the past year or so I have tried hard to branch into different parts of the entertainment industry, writing about Spotify, podcasts and the Chinese marketplace just to name a few. It’s been a long time since I went back to the old “Star Wars” well. But in a few short weeks “The Rise of Skywalker” will be released in theaters, ostensibly a final conclusion to the story that began a long time ago in a decade far far away, and I would be remiss if I didn’t get my two cents in before all is said and done.
I’ve argued time and time again in these pages that the ending of a story is what defines its meaning. The curious thing about “Star Wars” is that it has already ended. Twice. In 1983, “Return of the Jedi” brought the original trilogy to a conclusion that left audiences thinking “Star Wars” was about the redemptive power of love and the relationship between a father and a son. In 2005, “Revenge of the Sith” brought the prequels to a close and in doing so redefined the then six-part saga as the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. Now “The Rise of Skywalker” will seek to put its own stamp on the story George Lucas told and, in turn, must justify the Disney trilogy’s entire existence.
It feels like a lifetime ago that Disney first bought Lucas film and announced that there was to be more “Star Wars” and yet, as it so often goes, it also seems as if the years in between have gone by much too quickly. When “The Force Awakens” was released, I was a senior in high school. I actually got into Michigan the same day the film came out. Driving back from the movie theater, I pulled into the park by Barton Pond, loaded Wolverine Access on my friends phone and heard the news. My time at Michigan will forever be linked with the time these movies came out. Now the last movie in the trilogy is coming, and as the future of “Star Wars” once again becomes uncertain, so too has my own. Unlike senior year of high school, I don’t know exactly where I’m going to be next year. I don’t know what kind of job I will have or who I will be living with. But I know I’m glad that I took the journey. Glad that I’ve had the experiences I’ve had at Michigan, that I got to see what it was like for your team to go to the Final Four while you were in school and what it was like to anticipate a “Star Wars” movie. The anticipation of these movies cannot be discounted; If nothing else, I have deeply enjoyed the experience of wondering what was to come. The number of conversations I had after “The Force Awakens” about Rey’s parentage and what Luke was up to were among the best times I can remember as a fan of “Star Wars.”
So what do I expect to see out of the final movie? I expect it to be exciting, fun, maybe a little bit sad. After “The Last Jedi” I’ve learned to let go of what I want these films to be, and just take them or leave them for what they are. That’s not to say that I’ve come around to thinking that “The Last Jedi” is a good “Star Wars” movie (some things can never be redeemed), but it means that I will not enter this new movie with the expectation that anything in particular happen at all. That’s not what I’m here for anymore. For me at least, it’s no longer just about the movie itself. It’s the lead up to it, the weekly re-watching of all the movies in my student house, the intense discussion right after we leave the theater, the thrill of seeing a movie with a huge crowd on opening night, that communal viewing experience we so rarely get in this age of Netflix and Disney+. It’s not just about going to see the movie, it’s about the people you see it with. The best stories were meant to be shared with others. No matter what I think of the Disney “Star Wars” movies, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me and so many people I love to have a meaningful theater experience together. I have cherished each and every opening night. And so as we approach this final chapter of the Skywalker Saga I think not just about how this chapter of my favorite film series will come to a close, but how this chapter of my own life will soon come to a close as well.
So many people have asked me what I’m planning to do next year. It’s a good question; after all, I have many friends from the film department who graduated last year who still don’t know what to do. But that question does not interest me. Not right this moment. Not when Michigan still has a final shot at Ohio State. Not when I have two papers due in the next two days. Not when I can still get that experience of seeing new yellow text roll across the screen to booming John Williams music for the first time. Not when there are still old classmates to reconnect with, parties to hold, study spaces to uncover, stories to tell, adventures yet to be had. Not when I only have six more months of living in a home with six of my best friends. The question that interests me is not “what are you going to do next year,” but rather, “what are you doing right now?” To that I simply answer the same way C3PO did in the final trailer for the final “Star Wars.” I’m taking one last look at my friends.