The Skywalker saga is older than I am. I was born into a world where it was already working its magic, and somehow I survived to see it "end." Was I going to get emotional about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a movie that was likely to be loaded with callbacks to every other film in the saga?
Does an Ewok s**t in the woods? Of course I was going to get emotional.
(Editor's note: Ewoks live indoors, but we don't know the state of their plumbing.)
There is no way for me to be objective about the new movie, and honestly I have no interest in even trying to be. I celebrate and love everything that is Star Wars. I'm not a critic. I love everything in the galaxy far, far away unconditionally, flaws and all, and my joy doesn't stop for anyone or anything. It was virtually impossible that the new movie — one that seemed from the first trailers onward designed to make fans emotional — wasn't going to make me emotional.
This movie sprays emotions like it's a 4-year-old caffeine addict with no decorum having a gargantuan sneezing fit. That's a compliment. The callbacks that the film uses are rooted in story, but how necessary are they on that level? Aside from that, how well do they function in terms of, no other way to put it, giving the feels?
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Massive ones.**
I'll get this out of the way right now — every callback in this movie worked for me. Nobody asked, but the entire movie also worked for me. Go figure! I love what I love and I am what I am. Snoke em if you got em and take it Sheevy.
In terms of story, some of the callbacks are fun character grace notes, and others were a part of giant plot points. Some use a pin, some of them use a sledgehammer, and others poisoned me weeks ago without me being aware. Here are the callback moments that I enjoyed the most. I hope you did, too.
Palpatine's greatest hits
The movie wastes no time in bringing in the Phantom Menace back from the dead. Ian McDiarmid is back in all his gutsy glory as Sheev Palpatine, and he definitely had some fun new lines to throw into the mix... as well as the new ability to throw force lightning at an entire armada of ships. Sheev brought out some old favorites, though, and the two of the most notable came from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
One of his first lines is, "The dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural." The other hit, which is a personal favorite of McDiarmid? "Do it!"
Story: Not essential, but welcome. Palpatine is a huge deal in the film, plans within plans within plans, and the entire legend of the Unknown Regions finally proved to be pivotal. These lines weren't pivotal, but they were welcome all the same.
Feels: Scary ones, but also kind of warm? Is it weird to have warm feelings about the main villain of a film? Eh, who cares.
Chewie and Dejarik
Early in the movie, Finn and Poe play a round of Dejarik with Chewie. We've seen Chewie play this game before, and he usually loses. He didn't do very well against Tobias Beckett, and he lost to R2-D2 as well.
Not anymore! Chewie has become a master of the game. Poe and Finn are so frustrated with Chewie's winning streak that they accuse him of cheating.
Story: This is a fun grace note for Chewie, and a part of the ongoing joy of our heroes mostly being together for a lot of the movie. It doesn't have much story relevance other than fun.
Feels: Chewie has so many great moments in the movie and this is one of them. He's been around forever, and this movie does right by him. Nobody needs to let the Wookiee win anymore, he can win on his own.
The Holdo Maneuver
This is a brief line, but a good one. During a planning session, Dominic Monaghan's character brings up that the Resistance should just start doing Holdo Maneuvers left and right. It's not a feasible plan, but the legend of what Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) did in Star Wars: The Last Jedi has not been forgotten.
Story: Not very important, but now that we know the move is possible, it makes sense that someone would suggest doing it.
Feels: Huge. I love Holdo, I love her sacrifice, and I love The Last Jedi.
Tell us the odds
Han Solo never wanted C-3PO to tell him the odds, and Poe Dameron never had much use for them either. When Threepio has to come through for the team in a clutch moment, Rey is the one who finally asks him what the odds of success would be. No one knows odds better than goldenrod.
Story: The scene around this is very important, and this line ties into Rey and Leia's exchange about never underestimating droids.
Feels: So many. Threepio was a constant joy in this movie (it might be his best one, unsure), and the fact that someone actually asked him this question was not something I saw coming.
The return of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) is a central highlight of the film, and just having him back was great. Even better than that? Him showing up to save the Resistance fleet with an entire armada of what looks like a million ships — all flown by people just wanting to do the right thing. The Ghost from Star Wars Rebels is seen, and we don't see who is flying her. We do see Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson) however, and it was great to have one of our favorite OT pilots back in action.
Story: The armada coming in for the save is highly important. Did we really need to see who was flying some of those ships? Yeah, because then we care more about them.
Feels: This entire scene, set to a triumphant rendition of the main Star Wars theme... just come on. Seeing Wedge fly in with them was icing on a cake that I was already enjoying and wanted more of immediately
A gift from Maz Kanata
Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) has a thing for Chewie. We know she does, and in the end of this film she gives him a gift. Many fans have lamented the fact that mighty Chewbacca did not get a medal at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope, but Chewie's canonical comic miniseries established that he did get a medal... we just didn't see it.
Chewie gave his own medal away as a token of friendship in that miniseries, but Chewie will not go sans medal. Maz gives him what I assume is the medal that Han Solo received, and that it just about perfect.
Story: The main story is just about over when this happens, but what are you, some kind of monster?
Feels: Just seeing the medal itself was emotional, and Chewie's breakdown over Leia almost killed me earlier in the movie. He's losing all of his old friends, but now Maz has given him a token from the best friend he ever had. It makes us think of Han and Chewie together again, so yeah, emotions.
Return of the Wicket
When Palpatine's evil fleet goes down all over the galaxy, we see a few of the locations. One of them is Cloud City, another is Jakku (the ship crashes right behind the crashed ship from The Force Awakens in a hilarious touch), and then we see the forest moon of Endor. Who is watching the ship fall there? None other than Wicket W. Warrick, played once again by Warwick Davis.
Story: If you are writing a devoted chronicle of the life of Wicket, this is something to add.
Feels: I did not see this one coming either, and I can't believe they did it. I cheered, and I cheered loudly. The fact that it was Davis himself returning after all these years made it even better.
Luke finally lifts the X-Wing
We all expected Luke Skywalker to return as a force ghost, and he did not let us down. In one of the best scenes in the film, Rey returns to Ahch-To, and there she reunites with Luke. He chastises her about tossing lightsabers around (cheeky, coming from him), and then sits down ala Obi-Wan's ghost to share some wisdom.
The best part of the scene comes when Rey is ready to leave, but she has no ship with which to do so. Not a problem — remember that shot of Luke's submerged X-Wing from The Last Jedi? The Force ghost of Luke effortlessly lifts it out of the water with an utterly priceless look on his face. It's taken so very many years, but Luke finally got an X-Wing out of the water.
Story: Important for Rey, important for Luke, and important because Rey needs to get off of the island.
Feels: It hits, and hits hard. Everything about it was magical, and I was half cackling, half crying while it was happening.
Father and Son
Another one for the "did NOT see this coming" roster — Harrison Ford is in this movie. Han Solo returns, he may just be a memory (or somesuch) in Ben Solo's head, but he's here.
Han and Ben have a little take two of their fated scene on the bridge from The Force Awakens. This time, Ben does not stab the memory of his father through the chest. He throws his crazy crossguard lightsaber into the sea.
Story: Highly important, and an essential beat in the redemption of Ben Solo.
Feels: Notice how I haven't called him "Kylo Ren" once in this entry? That's because this scene finally let me forgive the poor boy. Adam Driver's performance is once again electric, and the scarred, scared young man finally comes out in full beneath all of the anger and bluster. It's a masterful scene from Driver, and then there's Ford.
I didn't expect to ever see Han Solo again in a movie. I saw Han Solo again in this movie. Not only that, Han Solo (and Leia) suceeded in turning Ben back to the light.
I had feelings about it. A lot of them.
Leia and Ben, one with the force
Continuing on with the Ben Solo train of emotion, I was astonished that when the time came, I didn't want him to die. I've wanted Kylo Ren dead since he killed Han Solo, but the thing is that Kylo Ren was already dead. Ben Solo was alive, and I loved him. I finally get it.
Ben died a noble death, and sacrificed himself for Rey. You know what that means — his body vanished, like Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Luke before him. Not only that, but the body of Leia Organa vanished at the same time, as she sacrificed herself earlier to bring light back to her son.
Story: It's the death of a major character and also Leia Organa becoming one with the force. It's major major major.
Feels: Everything involving Leia in this movie goes right for the heart. Once you put Ben into the mix? If you don't feel something when this happens you might actually be physically dead.
Be With Me
Many fans didn't just want Luke as a Force ghost, many wanted a million Force ghosts. I myself am included in that group. Rey also wanted them in the film, as some of her early training with "Master" Leia (seriously give me a tissue) included her trying to commune with Jedi of the past.
In her most desperate hour, she succeeds. We don't see physical forms (many of the Jedi involved here don't have that ability), but we hear voices... so very many voices. Not only do we hear Luke prominently, but we also hear Yoda, and Hayden Christensen as Anakin. We hear Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, and we even hear Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. Even Jedi who only speak in Star Wars: The Clone Wars are heard, including Luminara Unduli (Olivia D'Abo). There are many, many more... but I've only seen the thing once. Believe me, I will be breaking this scene down forever.
Story: This is the turning point in Rey's battle against Palpatine and it gives her the strength to defeat him. She is not alone.
Feels: One of the most powerful moments in a movie full of powerful moments. To have so many voices from so many Jedi across the saga (Hayden! Neeson!) was something I hoped for but dared not dream of. It was better than seeing the actual bodies. I was slackjawed, I was in awe, I was gasping with delight.
Back to the homestead
Almost everything about the movie's final scene is a callback in some form, and it ties everything up in an incredibly perfect way. Rey visits the Lars homestead on Tatooine (the only time we visit the planet in the sequel trilogy), and and she buries the Skywalker lightsabers (oh yeah, Leia had one too...just, wow), and then ignites one of her own. Hers has a yellow blade, and it's the first time that we see one of those in live-action.
Someone passing by asks what her name is. Rey looks over as the force ghosts of Luke AND Leia look at her, content, and says that her name is Rey Skywalker.
Story: Look at the title of the movie. Rey reveals that she is the Skywalker who has risen. She is a Jedi at last, and a Jedi on her own terms.
Feels: Not only is this a perfect way to end the sequel trilogy, it's an incredibly fitting moment for the end of the Skywalker saga as a whole. Not only do you have Luke and Leia, but you have twin suns, Rey sledding down sand, more of the glorious John Williams score, and the Lars homestead.
I walked out of the theater feeling light as a feather.