After weeks of planning, writing, and texting, I am thrilled to share this post with you all! Maribeth is a dear friend of mine, and an ardent fan of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy–as am I (though I still love the prequels best). The two of us thought it would be great fun to share our love for the sequels by working together on a blog post about it. Instead of responding to criticisms of the Sequel Trilogy, as was my first thought, we decide to go with a faux interview format instead–one that would allow us to focus on our appreciation for the trilogy without rehashing anti-ST arguments once again. 😉 Now, here is our
heady fangirling post!
When did you first watch the Sequel Trilogy? Was it love at first sight, or did it take you a while to become a fan?
Eva: I first began watching the Sequel Trilogy in 2019. I remember holding my phone in the darkness of my bedroom, hearing the familiar Star Wars fanfare, and being transported to a galaxy far, far away. I loved The Force Awakens right from the start, and I watched and enjoyed The Last Jedi soon after. And then I had to wait and wait for The Rise of Skywalker to be released! Pretty much the only thing that’s changed with how I view the Sequel Trilogy is my opinion of Kylo/Ben. I loathed him in TFA, rolled my eyes at him in TLJ…and then promptly fell in love when I saw RoS. XD
I would say that my good opinion of the Sequel Trilogy has only grown from 2019 to now–partly because Maribeth’s enthusiasm for the ST has rubbed off on me. And I’m not ashamed to say that. ❤
Maribeth: I first saw The Force Awakens when it was in theaters. That was such a dynamic theater experience: the audience cheered, gasped, and applauded through the whole movie. I, meanwhile, promptly adopted Rey as my new favorite heroine. Unfortunately, I fell for the negativity surrounding The Last Jedi and didn’t even bother to see it (one of my greatest film-related regrets), and only decided to see The Rise of Skywalker in theaters because I knew I’d hate myself if I didn’t hear the opening fanfare one last time in a theater.
Much to my surprise, I pranced out of that theater in giddy delight. The Rise of Skywalker has its problems, but it ignited my love for the Sequel Trilogy, rescued me from writer’s block, cemented my admiration for Rey, and left me head-over-heels in love with Ben Solo, a character I’d despised since TFA.
Eva: I love how we both did a complete 180° about Ben after seeing RoS!
Maribeth: I mean, Adam Driver is just that talented.
What is your favorite film in the trilogy?
Eva: While I certainly love all three films, there is one that rises above the rest due its depth, artistry, and heart. And that film would be The Last Jedi. I know, I know! The Last Jedi is one of the most controversial ‘fandom films’ ever made. But I appreciate what Rian Johnson did with/for the Star Wars universe and the continuing story of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo.
TLJ is a beautifully shot movie. The Throne Room fight? The Holdo Manoeuvre? Crait? Those conversations between Rey and Kylo? The Last Jedi contains perhaps the most interesting concepts and beautiful cinematography in any Star Wars movie. But even more than the visual beauty of the film, I love the characters. Rey, searching for her identity everywhere but within herself. Poe, learning that you can’t be right every time. Finn, coming to realise that the fight against the First Order is more important than he first thought. Kylo, continuing to struggle against the light that calls to him. And Luke. Dear, wonderful Luke, whose journey is perhaps the most powerful and poignant of any character in The Last Jedi.
Maribeth: I completely agree about The Last Jedi. Each of the Sequel Trilogy films has its own special place in my heart for a variety of reasons, but The Last Jedi is, in my opinion, the most well-written of the three. I also agree with you, Eva, about the visual beauty of it. The cinematography of Ach-To (filmed on an island off the coast of Ireland!) is especially breathtaking.
The Last Jedi’s greatest strength, however, lies in the way it handles each of the characters. One criticism of this film is that very few of the characters succeed in their goals. Poe is foiled by Admiral Holdo, Finn and Rose fail miserably in their mission, and Rey’s hopes of bringing Ben Solo back to the Light are dashed. But isn’t that how the second installment of any trilogy is supposed to be? This is the darkest hour; this is where our heroes must face their own fears (and demons) before they can confront the evil outside themselves. I love seeing the conflict and complexity within Poe, Finn, Rey, Luke, and Ben, and I love seeing each of them grow and change because of that conflict.
Talk about some of your favourite scenes in the trilogy!
Eva: Where to begin??? I guess I’ll mention a favorite scene from each film in the trilogy (otherwise, I could go on for the whole post, just talking about my favorite scenes). In The Force Awakens, a scene that stands out in my mind is Rey and Kylo’s forest battle. It’s an intense scene. Kylo has just murdered his own father–and he’s badly wounded. Despite his inner turmoil and physical pain, he still thinks he can crush Rey in a moment. Instead, she defeats (and scars) him before escaping on the Falcon. It’s a defining moment in both of their character arcs.
There are many, many scenes I love in The Last Jedi. Everything from the whole Poe subplot to Luke coming to the rescue on Crait to Yoda’s cameo. But I’m going to have to go with the Throne Room scene. What a rollercoaster! Kylo betrays Snoke, he and Rey fight off the Praetorian Guards (LOVE their teamwork), and then everything goes wrong again because neither Rey nor Kylo will swerve from the path they have chosen.
And then there’s The Rise of Skywalker, which contains a scene that makes me ugly cry: Han and Ben’s conversation. Kylo has been fighting his father throughout the trilogy–first, the ‘weakness’ inside him that he believes is Han’s fault, and then the memory of what he did to Han. With Han’s appearance (however it came about) and the cleansing conversation that ensues, Ben finally emerges from the shadow of Kylo–for good. Ben throwing away Kylo’s lightsaber is one of my favorite Star Wars moments, ever.
Maribeth: There’s one scene that surpasses all the others for me: the moment in The Rise of Skywalker when Rey realizes that Ben has come to help her fight Palpatine. I love the way her expression shifts from sheer terror, to wide-eyed disbelief, to the softest, sweetest look of joy and trust. And the way he looks at her, and then nods to let her know he’s got her back? PRICELESS! And don’t get me started on the twinkly, rather romantic version of the Force Theme playing in the background. It’s my favorite moment in all of Star Wars.
I will say, though, that the Throne Room scene from The Last Jedi is a very close second.
Eva: I also love that Reylo scene in RoS. For almost three whole movies, Rey has been trying desperately to bring Ben back to the light. So that moment where she realizes that Ben has finally renounced the darkness is loaded with significance–it works so well.
What do you think is the most unique thing about the ST as opposed to the other trilogies?
Eva: There are a few different things that feel unique to the Sequel Trilogy. For one, we have a female protagonist. Both the OT and the PT had a male Skywalker as the protagonist, while the Sequel Trilogy has Rey (a Palpatine, no less) as the heroine of all three films. While the Star Wars universe has always been home to amazing female characters (like our ICONIC QUEEN Leia), it’s cool to see Rey at the centre of the Sequel Trilogy.
A couple other differences between the Sequel Trilogy and the two previous trilogies: gorgeous visuals (often made possible through the use of CGI that simply wasn’t available for the first six Skywalker films) and more of a focus on the ‘everyman’ characters in the SW universe (like Rose or Finn–just a simple stormtrooper!–or even that stable boy in The Last Jedi). There’s so much that the Sequel Trilogy gives us that is fresh, new, and unique to Star Wars–while still remaining true to the spirit of the films that have come before.
Maribeth: Personally, I believe the characters of the Sequel Trilogy are far more believable and approachable than the characters of the Originals or Prequels. It also features a front-and-center female protagonist who is both tenderhearted and fierce, a balance rarely found in modern heroines. There’s also an epic realism to the “look” of the movies–the cinematography, the costumes, the ships and tools, etc.–that neither the limited-budget Originals nor the CGI-heavy Prequels have. For the first time, Star Wars actually felt real to me, and I believe that’s one of the Sequels’ strengths.
Which character do you admire the most? Which character do you relate to the most?
Eva: What character do I admire the most? Well, any answer besides Leia Organa-Solo is WRONG. So there’s that. XD (I kid, I kid…barely.) In all seriousness, I do have a huge amount of respect for Leia. And Luke. And Poe really managed to win me over in The Rise of Skywalker. His growth from a hotshot pilot to the leader of the entire Resistance fleet is pretty awesome. So there are several characters in the Sequel Trilogy who I admire!
As for which character I relate to the most, I have to say that Rey’s search for a father figure really struck a chord with me when I rewatched the trilogy recently. My dad passed away in 2017 and I do often wish I had a good, steady father figure. Throughout the course of the Sequel Trilogy, Rey had to learn that her identity, worth, and strength were not found in who her parents were (or weren’t), but rather found within herself. Star Wars isn’t a Christian franchise, so there are humanistic flaws in Rey’s character arc, but I still see parallels to myself. As a Christian, my own worth and identity are found in Christ–it’s just up to me to recognize that and accept it as the truth.
Maribeth: If it ever sounds like Rey is a huge reason why I love the Sequels, then I can confirm those suspicions, haha! I admire her strength, kindness, and optimism. I also relate to her struggles with identity and her disappointment when her idealistic hopes are crushed. Yet Rey never gives up. Her stubborn, cheerful hope and her courage as she stands on her true identity have inspired me on more than one occasion.
To be honest though, I find Finn very relatable, as well! I suspect he’s a stand-in for the audience: for example, he (like us) wonders, “Why does everyone want to go back to Jakku?!” He struggles with fear and a wild desire to run away and hide from danger, too, something I think we all understand. But Finn is also the “everyman hero,” overcoming his terrors and inspiring us to fight for what is good and right.
We have to talk about Kylo Ren/Ben Solo for a minute! What are your thoughts on this villain/hero/BEST CHARACTER EVER?
Eva: Ben Solo is my favorite character in the Sequel Trilogy, hands down. He would be my favorite Star Wars character in general, if another Ben hadn’t already stolen my heart. I’m a huge fan of well-written, complex, sympathetic villains, but it wasn’t until Kylo Ren flung away his lightsaber and became Ben Solo once again that I fell in love with the character. (I think I was too blinded by my hatred for what Kylo did to Han to really appreciate him before that.)
That’s not to say I don’t like both sides of the character now–I do! Rewatching the Sequel Trilogy has made me appreciate Ren a whole lot more. But those fifteen or so minutes that we got with Ben Solo? They were enough to make me obsessed for the rest of my life. XD As much as I love a good villain, I love a good redeemed villain even more. Ben gets a beautiful (if truncated) redemption arc. Adam Driver, amazing actor that he is, absolutely sells the change from Kylo to Ben–his screen presence literally feels lighter and more free. For almost the entire trilogy, Ben has been ‘torn in two’. But once he returns to the light, he knows exactly who he is and what he must do. And I love that!
Someday, I may write a blog post dedicated entirely to Kylo/Ben. There is so much to the character (and Adam Driver’s performance) that I could discuss. But for now, I’ll just say that Disney was an idiot for killing him off. That’s my professional (fangirl) opinion. 😉 There was so much more to be explored, so much potential for a more full, complicated, and captivating redemption arc! Ah well. I’ll just have to be satisfied with what we got.
Maribeth: Where do I begin when it comes to this character? I hated him with a passion after The Force Awakens, but now he’s one of my favorite heroes of all time. (Yes, I just called him a hero, and I’m sticking to it.) So what happened?
Well, the conversion of Ben Solo–AKA “the Bendemption”–happened. It began with Leia’s sacrifice, continued with Rey’s healing and Ben’s acceptance of Han’s love and forgiveness, and ended with Ben’s rejection of evil and his embrace of goodness and truth. Star Wars isn’t a “Christian story,” yet the Bendemption beautifully echoes the Prodigal Son parable, and it resonated with me in a deep, meaningful way. And then, if that wasn’t enough to sway me, Ben’s change of heart was powerfully portrayed by Adam Driver in his facial expressions and movements, and in the way he sacrificed himself so willingly for Rey. I mean, how could I not love him?!
Now that we have a complete trilogy (plus extra material like the comic series The Rise of Kylo Ren), I’m convinced that Ben Solo is the most tragic yet compelling character in all of Star Wars. He was preyed upon by Snoke/Palpatine from the time he was an infant; we really don’t give him enough credit for fighting off the Dark Side all by himself for the first 23 years of his life! And yes, he eventually succumbed to it of his own free will and did horrible things in the name of the First Order. But that wasn’t the end of his story. Let’s be real: Star Wars is really just a fairytale in outer space–and in both fairytales and ancient myth, fallen heroes are often redeemed through love and sacrifice. Ben Solo’s story is nothing short of a modern fairytale, and that’s part of why I love it so much.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him, though. No one is ever really gone in Star Wars, and methinks that, given the right story and the right director, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley will return. Just give it some time, folks.
On a related note, we should also talk about the Dyad! What are your thoughts on the relationship/connection between Rey and Ben?
Maribeth: Okay, I’m gonna hop back onto my Fairytale Soapbox here, haha! I love the Dyad’s story; in fact, I wrote a whole post about its mythological/fairytale roots last year on my blog. Basically, Rey and Ben’s story shares a lot of parallels with stories like Beauty and the Beast, the myth of Eros and Psyche, and even Jane Eyre. All these tales focus on the redemption of a fallen hero through the persistent kindness and compassion of an intelligent heroine…which is exactly what happens between Rey and Ben.
I’ve always loved stories like this, so it was probably only a matter of time before I became a full-blown “Reylo” fanatic. In fact, I once saw a tweet that said, “If you were a Beauty and the Beast fan as a kid, you’re a Reylo fan now.” Guilty as charged on both counts.
Now, here’s the big question: do I ship Rey with Kylo Ren? NO, not at all. But do I ship Rey with Ben Solo? YES, absolutely. Rey herself said as much: she wanted Ben’s hand, not Kylo’s. I support a healthy, well-adjusted Reylo, not a toxic one.
Eva: AGREED. I only ship Reylo if the ‘lo’ stands for Ben SoLO and not KyLO Ren. 😉
I think the Dyad is a beautiful concept, and one that makes for some pretty amazing scenes. (The hand touch in TLJ! Kylo grabbing the necklace from Rey! THE LIGHTSABER HAND-OFF!) Although I do ship Rey and Ben, I am of the opinion that their relationship goes beyond a simple romantic attachment (not that there’s anything wrong with romance for romance’s sake). They are uniquely bonded through the Force, truly soulmates in every sense of the word. Like I said, it’s beautiful.
John Williams knocked it out of the park (as usual) with his scoring for the sequel trilogy. What are some of your favourite musical moments in the Sequel Trilogy?
Maribeth: “Rey’s Theme” is a masterpiece. The wind instruments, the whimsical chimes, the soaring strings, and the three different “mini-themes” within the broader score are just wonderful.
I’m also very fond of “Peace and Purpose” from The Last Jedi soundtrack, and “The Rise of Skywalker” from, you guessed it, The Rise of Skywalker. I once heard a theory (but I forget where I heard it–sorry) that, given certain similarities with Kylo Ren’s theme, the latter track might’ve been originally intended as a redeemed Ben Solo’s theme…or maybe even Ben and Rey’s “love theme,” similar to Anakin and Padme’s “Across the Stars.”
Eva: I agree about Rey’s theme! Absolutely wonderful, and so perfect for her.
Honestly, I haven’t really listened to the soundtracks for the sequel trilogy–at least, not the soundtracks on their own. So my answer is more based on what I’ve heard in the movies. One moment that really stands out to me is the scoring for the final scene of The Force Awakens (‘The Jedi Steps and Finale’). Although I know now that Luke is just going to throw that lightsaber away, that fact doesn’t take away from the impact of Rey finally finding ‘the last Jedi’. And the music in that scene? Brilliant. It starts out quietly, wistfully as Rey searches for Luke on Ahch-To, but then builds and builds. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!
I also love ‘The Spark’ from The Last Jedi. (I guess I have a thing for Luke moments in SW soundtracks?) You get the Force theme, Leia’s theme, AND hints of the Imperial March, all wrapped up in new scoring for one of the best scenes in the sequel trilogy. *heart eyes* Literally so good.
Even with our deep love for the Sequel Trilogy, we know that it’s not perfect…what’s one thing you would have changed about it?
Maribeth: If I could change one thing, I’d make General Hux the main First Order villain in The Rise of Skywalker. Neither he nor Kylo, in my opinion, act in that movie in a way that’s consistent with their actions or personalities in The Last Jedi. I think it would’ve made far more sense if an extremely miserable, conflicted Kylo had defected to the Resistance at the beginning, giving him a chance to work with Rey against a common enemy (not to mention a chance to fall in love with her properly and in person!). Hux, meanwhile, would’ve taken over and formed an alliance with Palpatine. (Alternate version: Hux overthrows Kylo, who escapes to the Resistance.) I suspect Rian Johnson was setting up something similar: after all, Hux nearly murders an unconscious Kylo in The Last Jedi. I can’t help but wonder if Rian assumed Hux would lead a coup against Kylo and take over the First Order at some point.
Eva: I am a Domhnall Gleeson fan AND a Hux fan, so I would have loved to see that as well. I was so shocked when Hux was summarily shot in The Rise of Skywalker! Sigh.
Now, as for what I would change…well. *rubs hands together with glee*
Rey should have been a Kenobi.
I just? It would be SO PERFECT, you guys. Maribeth posits that Rey should have been both a Kenobi and a Palpatine, and I think that would have been good too–Rey’s struggle with the dark side is too fascinating for me to want it removed from the narrative. But I want her to be a Kenobi first and foremost! Can you imagine the storytelling potential? The granddaughter of Obi-Wan and the grandson of Anakin restoring balance to the Force and ending Palpatine’s reign of terror once and for all. I CAN’T. I’m going to get choked up just thinking about it.
Plus, it just makes sense considering the legacy of the first two trilogies. In both the OT and the PT, the relationship between a Skywalker and a Kenobi is pivotal. Anakin and Obi-Wan, and then Luke and Ben. Obi-Wan was a consistent presence in the Star Wars universe…up until the sequel trilogy. He was alluded to once (“it was a Jedi Master who trained Darth Vader”) and named once (but only when R2 replays the “help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” message for Luke). And that’s it! (Well, besides voice cameos in TFA and RoS.) My guy deserves better, and having Rey be his granddaughter would have *cough* restored the balance in my opinion.
What are your concluding thoughts on the trilogy as a whole?
Eva: Even with all the gushing I’ve done throughout this post, I’ll be the first to admit that the Sequel Trilogy is not perfect. What Star Wars property is? (Well, besides Rogue One.) From its troubled production history to some weak storytelling choices and dialogue (“Somehow, Palpatine returned” *face palm*), the Sequel Trilogy has its share of flaws. But you know what? I still love all three films–very, very much. The Prequel Trilogy is still my favorite, but the Sequel Trilogy holds a special place in my heart. The ST gave me Ben Solo. It gave me an epic battle between good and evil. It gave me The Last Jedi. And, most of all, it gave me more Star Wars. At the end of the day, that’s all I ever really wanted. ❤
Maribeth: I believe that the Sequels will eventually rise to the same adored status as the once-vilified Prequels. I say that with confidence because I know there are children out there who were introduced to Star Wars through the characters of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Ben–and those characters will stay with them as they grow up, even if they’re too small at the moment to understand why. Sure, we can nitpick the plot points and grumble at Disney till the cows come home, but at the end of the day, even little children respond to stories of kindness, courage, and victory over darkness. The Sequels, flawed as they are, still celebrate those three things–and that’s why I believe they’ll endure.
It has been a blast, collaborating on this post–and sharing it with all of you! It ‘s always so fun to spend some time talking about that galaxy far, far away. We’d dearly love to hear your thoughts on our answers, the Sequel Trilogy, and your love for Star Wars in general.
Eva-Joy (& Maribeth)