Let me start by saying that I am a fan of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy we are currently living through that will culminate this December with The Rise of Skywalker. Yes, The Force Awakens can be derivative, but it’s still an incredibly rewatchable movie. And, most importantly, it’s a pretty great Han Solo movie, starring Harrison Ford, which most of us thought we’d never see again. The Last Jedi is polarizing, but I’m on the side of history that thinks it’s a Star Wars masterpiece. Not to mention that both of these films have introduced us to a brand new cast that is just wonderful. I think we take for granted just how good Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac all are – because we’ve certainly seen what happens in these movies when actors don’t quite mesh correctly.
But there’s one huge problem with these movies that, for the life of me, I can’t get over. And though no one is really admitting it, I suspect the filmmakers had a lot of problems with it, too. So here it is: We are about to wrap up this trilogy and I still have no idea what the Resistance and the First Order are! And I bet you don’t either. Yeah, I know, there are kind of vague explanations buried in the books, but I can ask other hardcore Star Wars fans to “explain the Resistance to me” and they start stumbling over their words. (Also, we shouldn’t have to read books to know what these two factions are.)
And, yes, I’m guilty of this! When asked, I confidently say, “Oh, yes, of course,” then find myself stuttering over words and going on side tangent explanations. At best it’s very confusing and at worst it doesn’t make any sense at all.
So, here’s why this is kind of a problem.
The Original Trilogy didn’t have to spell it out, but it became apparent very quickly that the governing body that controlled the galaxy, the Galactic Empire, was “bad.” The small group of freedom fighters, the Rebel Alliance, was “good.” There were basically two factions we had to pay any attention to at any given point and it was pretty easy. The Empire had all the big ships and huge weapons because they were in charge. They had all the money. The Rebel Alliance just had to make due with what they had and find help where they could from deadbeat smugglers who were not even a members of the Rebel Alliance until the third movie.
The Prequels, which have a lot of problems, at least attempt to explain how something like the Empire could exist in the first place. So we had three Prequel movies just to show us how this evil thing started, then the next three movies show this evil entity at its full power, then eventual downfall. From Episode I through Episode VI we see the idea of the Empire start, all the way to the Empire’s final crushing defeat. The Empire was “the thing.” Without an Empire, we don’t really have these movies.
So, what happens after the Empire, the most evil governing body that ever existed? Well, we get the Resistance and the First Order – which, frankly, just seem like lesser versions of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Which, over the course of nine movies, it now feels weird to watch this upcoming final chapter and the stakes are, “Well, I hope the good guys can beat these much lesser versions of the bad guys they already beat three movies ago.”