Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker has realized fans’ worst fears that Disney purchasing Lucasfilm would lead to generic committee-led movies with no heart and no direction. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in late 2012, the news was met with trepidation. On the one hand, Disney is a major corporation that could provide new movies with greater reach and financial backing. On the other, Disney is a major corporation with regulations about its content and a vested interest in selling merchandise worldwide.

Amid these fears, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was met with tentative glee. The only movie in the trilogy to get a “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes from both critics and audiences, it offered new characters, a diverse cast, and lovingly-crafted practical effects. That hope was shattered by the mixed reception of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That movie was adored by critics, but it split the fan base down the middle, with many fans hailing it as either the best or the worst Star Wars movie in recent memory.

So when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be returning to direct the final installment in the Skywalker saga, fans rejoiced, futilely hoping for a return to familiar storylines.

The Story Thread Throughout The New Star Wars Trilogy Makes No Sense

The latest trilogy’s plot thread suffers from its constant directorial changes. It is a series pulled in multiple different directions, trying to fit the vision of different writers, the needs of old fans, new fans, global markets, and merchandising. Each movie acts as though the one before it hadn’t existed, borrowing characters and locations while introducing many new elements.

The Force Awakens introduces Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as the new evil. With his ominous mask and altered voice, he represented a new Darth Vader, serving as an interesting counterpoint to the stoic villain of the original and prequel trilogies. Where Darth Vader is unfathomable and collected, Kylo Ren is prone to tantrums. The Last Jedi undoes this by putting a greater emphasis on Snoke (Andy Serkis), the classic power-hungry evil, although this does serve to give Kylo Ren space to grow out of his villain role. The Rise Of Skywalker ignores the death of Snoke and confirmation of Kylo Ren’s power by introducing yet another, greater evil: Emperor Palpatine. Rather than serving as a way of scaling danger, it feels unfounded, a loose sci-fi version of “Monster of the Week.”

The first two movies push the plotline that Rey (Daisy Ridley) was sold into slavery by alcoholic, no-one parents. The Rise Of Skywalker undoes that, claiming Rey has been a Palpatine all along. Although some fans preferred this storyline, it subverts the previous arc, and raises more questions than it resolves. If Rey’s parents loved her so much, why sell her into slavery? Why not leave her in a kinder situation?

How Character Arc Is Inconsistent Throughout The Sequel Trilogy

One element that stood out to fans about The Rise Of Skywalker was the callous way it discarded important characters. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) is conspicuously absent, but Hux’s (Domhnall Gleeson) treatment is equally confusing. A character built up as a rival to Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens, he is killed off comedically in The Rise Of Skywalker only to be replaced by General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) serving the exact same function. Rose is also replaced by an analogue. Her function in The Last Jedi as a love interest to Finn (John Boyega) is filled in by Jannah (Naomi Ackie) with whom Finn spends much of his on-screen time bonding, even though Jannah herself is ultimately discarded at the end of the movie.

Finn’s character arc from the start of the trilogy has been about learning to fight for what he believes in. In The Force Awakens, he learns to care about his friends. In The Last Jedi, he learns to care about a cause, to fight alongside others for what he believes in. In The Rise of Skywalker, most of his functionality is abandoned, plot choices falling onto Rey or Kylo Ren rather than him. Rey begins The Force Awakens hopeful, stuck on a desert planet, anxious to escape. The audience needs only watch her positive reaction to the green plant life of Takodana to know this is someone keen for adventure and newness. The Rise Of Skywalker leaves Rey on Tatooine, a backwater desert planet identical to what she was trying to escape at the start of trilogy.

Kylo Ren’s redemption arc yo-yos. He confirms he is on the dark side of the Force by killing his father in The Force Awakens, then ends up re-confirming it in The Last Jedi. The Last Jedi establishes Kylo Ren’s relationship with Rey, one that develops throughout the movie. The Rise of Skywalker sets their dynamic back, ignoring how it has evolved, meaning Ben Solo takes almost all the movie to redeem himself.

The Themes That Got Lost On The Way To Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

The Last Jedi set up several themes that go ignored in The Rise Of Skywalker. Chief among them is the skepticism towards “blaze-of-glory” self-sacrifice. The Rise Of Skywalker reverts to old themes of sacrifice, showing multiple characters acting rashly for “the greater good” in a feat that is equal parts courageous and dangerous. Rey goes to the Death Star alone. Finn follows her on dangerous tides.

Another theme left behind is that of eliminating the old to let in the new. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) dying in The Force Awakens served a double purpose of furthering Kylo Ren’s development and signaling to the audience that the old cast has been left behind; the stories of Star Wars lie in the hands of new players. This is completely undone in The Rise Of Skywalker by having Luke reappear as a Force ghost, and by dragging Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) back into the mix. The sacred Jedi texts are burnt, signaling the start of a new era around the Force. Both Rey and Kylo Ren are conflicted by a mix of sentiments that don’t fall clearly under only “Jedi” or “Sith”. Their special bond, thematically, was predicated on this. The Rise Of Skywalker backtracks this by implying their bond comes from dynastic power.

Rey being a Palpatine undoes one of the trilogy’s more interesting themes. Rey coming from nowhere was important to the audience. Despite the scale of the Star Wars universe, conflicts seem to come back to the same families. By implying the Force can be with anyone, it not only opened the movies’ scope but implied that background doesn’t define potential. That was what the Broom Boy stood for. The Rise Of Skywalker brings the themes right back to the original trilogy: power is gleaned from familial lines. In The Force Awakens, Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) tells Rey, “The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead,” a concept left abandoned.

Star Wars Sequels Recycle Elements Of The Original Trilogy, Badly

One of the main pieces of criticism towards The Force Awakens was how similar its plot structure was to A New Hope. Some withheld judgement, willing to accept it as a soft reboot and wait to see how the rest of the trilogy panned out. Now, the broader picture is clear. It wasn’t only The Force Awakens that copied from the original trilogy; it was all three. The overarching plot structure is the same. The first film is about a young hero from a desert planet coming into the action and learning about their Force sensitivity. The second is about the Empire/New Order getting the upper hand while the hero spends time on a faraway planet training to be a Jedi with a Master who has secluded himself from wider society. The third is about finally destroying the larger evil with the help of a Darth Vader figure who eventually turns good in time to help destroy Palpatine, specifically.

The fan service throughout the three movies is staggering. Old characters constantly make cameos. The Ewoks, one of the most controversial elements of the original trilogy critiqued as a cheap marketing ploy to sell merchandise, get a cameo. The movies are unwillingness to change the status quo. The original trilogy was about the plight of Rebels, taking down the evil Empire and putting in place the New Republic. Despite the new trilogy taking place relatively soon after the introduction of a new government, shortly after we meet the new characters, they are once again cast in the role of rebels. The First Order takes over and, in all but name, is identical to the Empire. The Last Jedi awkwardly shoehorns in Finn telling Phasma he’s “rebel scum” to remind the audience what role both sides play.

Despite how heavily critiqued the Star Wars prequels were, to their credit, they operated under a completely different structure to the original movies. The setting was different, the characters and their stories were unique. Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker was the confirmation of everything fans feared in 2012 with the Disney purchase: the new movies played it safe, but there lay their downfall.

Next: Star Wars Had A Worse Ending Than Game Of Thrones