The Star Wars sequel trilogy was a divisive return to the galaxy far, far away. While it held so much promise with the success of The Force Awakens, subsequent films became the target of hate and ridicule from fans and critics to the point that everyone’s hopes for the franchise seemed to have been dashed (at least until The Mandalorian came around).
The sad truth is that this trilogy was never going to live up to everyone’s expectations, especially not with the astronomically high pedestal they had all placed the franchise on. Despite this, Disney could’ve done certain things differently that would’ve made it a more worthy follow-up to the original Star Wars movies.
While each film in the first two Star Wars trilogies was released three years apart, Disney released its sequels two years apart. And since Disney had released Rogue One and Solo between the main episodes, audience hype decreased as they knew another Star Wars film was just around the corner.
Having audiences wait longer for each film after Episode VII would have made them even more excited to see them and possibly get more people to see them in theaters. It could’ve also given the filmmakers more time to take in audience feedback and make any necessary changes to their story plans. After the fallout from The Last Jedi, Disney sure could’ve used an extra year to figure things out.
Though it was the final film in its trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker introduced many characters like Zorri Bliss, General Pryde, Jannah, and D-O, who proved too much for the story to juggle in just 142 minutes. At this point in the story, the filmmakers should’ve focused on the characters introduced in previous movies, such as Finn, Rose, and Poe.
Doing so would’ve prevented them from being sidelined in Episode IX and given the writers room to provide these characters with the endings they deserve.
While audiences were hyped to see Palpatine’s return in The Rise of Skywalker, his resurrection ended up being a rushed job that ruined the film for many as soon as it began. There was hardly any explanation for how Palpatine survived his death in Return of the Jedi, with only vague references to cloning and secret Sith powers spoken in the film.
Episode IX could’ve benefitted from a more detailed explanation, but it would’ve arguably been better off if Palpatine didn’t return at all. Even though this was based on a story from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, that doesn’t mean using this plot element was a good idea. It somewhat undermines Darth Vader’s sacrifice to kill Palpatine and save the galaxy. Also, since there wasn’t any buildup to the Emperor’s return in previous films, he seemed to have been shoehorned into the film to attract viewers.
Though Kylo Ren was very much the new Darth Vader, The Last Jedi ended with him overthrowing Snoke and becoming the Supreme Leader of the First Order. This all seemed to lead to him becoming the overall villain of the entire trilogy, setting up a unique and exciting climax in The Rise of Skywalker. But once Palpatine became his new master, the story somewhat undid what his character was building up to and diverted attention away from him as a villain.
Thus, it would have been more effective to depict Kylo Ren as the highest force of oppression in the galaxy and explore how he would lead the First Order against the Resistance in Episode IX. It would’ve also brought greater attention to his relationship with Rey, as they would’ve served as the ultimate symbols of good and evil in the galaxy.
The Last Jedi made a bold move with the revelation that Rey’s parents weren’t as special as she had hoped, and they should’ve arguably stayed that way. Rey’s character shouldn’t have been defined by who her parents were, and the fact that she ended up being Palpatine’s granddaughter seemed like a forced rehash of Vader’s “I am your father” twist.
If the filmmakers wanted to support The Last Jedi’s message about how anyone can be special, no matter where they came from, they could’ve gone in a more unique route by leaving Rey coming from regular people.
While the first six Star Wars episodes were determined by George Lucas’s plan for the franchise, the sequels seemed more like a clash of opposing ideas. Three different directors were initially hired to direct a film in the new trilogy: J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Colin Trevorrow. While the original trilogy had multiple directors, its story was written by Lucas, and Episodes VII to IX had plots developed by their respective directors.
But after Trevorrow stepped down as director from Episode IX, J.J. Abrams took over and changed a lot of what was being set up by both Trevorrow and Johnson, seemingly to win fans following the backlash over The Last Jedi. If the directors had done some more planning and agreed on a story, the sequel trilogy could’ve looked more consistent and less like it had been written right on the fly.
Whatever the world says about Rian Johnson, he had the guts to do something different with the franchise when he made The Last Jedi, which is what many fans asked for after The Force Awakens. The latter movie rehashed multiple elements from the original trilogy to satisfy fans to the point that people thought the film was unoriginal and playing it too safe.
When The Last Jedi went in the other direction against people’s expectations, The Rise of Skywalker only seemed to double down on delivering fanservice to win back disgruntled audiences. This all took the form of Palpatine’s resurrection, Rey being his granddaughter, her kissing Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca suddenly getting that medal. Disney should’ve relied less on promoting fanservice and nostalgia with this trilogy, as they got in the way of presenting a sensible and consistent narrative. Though Hollywood has always been about giving audiences what they want, sometimes that means giving them what they didn’t think they wanted.
You can stream all of the Star Wars movies and shows on Disney+.