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2/3 Of ‘The Skywalker Legacy’ (Movie Review)

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is already available on digital streaming video on demand platforms and will be available on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD in a myriad of stand-alone releases and ‘The Skywalker Saga’ 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray box set (a Best Buy/Amazon UK exclusive). One of the bonus features found on the release is ‘The Skywalker Legacy’, a feature-length (Over 2 hours) documentary chronicling the production of The Rise Of Skywalker, complete with interviews and behind the scenes footage. Every Star Wars Disney film during their run has included a documentary like this, so its no different in that regard. When I sat down to watch this for my upcoming 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray review, I had too many thoughts on this documentary (And kind of the angle they have played on these as a whole) to limit it just a few sentences recap in my extras section. So, here we are, a bonus feature for a disc getting its own film review aside from the the release.  But I figured it was worth the exploration and discussion.

On the surface, ‘The Skywalker Legacy’ is a well put together, informative and happily nostalgic look back at the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  Everyone is happy and extremely enthusiastic about the film, everything on the shoot went very smoothly and my oh my that original trilogy archive footage, right? What an experience, how true to Star Wars this film entirely was as proven by its archived footage, eh? ALL of Star Wars. Its the Skywalker Legacy, so this goes over that entire legacy, right? Yeah?

Let’s get this out of the way first. The archive footage, much of which I had never seen before, is an astounding treat in this documentary. It consists of a boatload of interview footage featuring Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammil, Billy Dee Williams, George Lucas and many more. There are rehearsals, planning meetings, special effects workshop footage, training footage and more. This is a real delight for ANY Star Wars fan. Heck, as I was watching this documentary, I had the realization that I would watch a Blu-ray release of nothing but loose archived footage from the history of Star Wars. Its neat to see that they are trying to craft a parallel story of shooting Return of the Jedi and shooting The Rise of Skywalker. And its all been lovingly restored in very high clarity and resolution. All of it very impressive, however, much of it very skewed.

‘The Skywalker Legacy’ has a desire to craft its own narrative, one that rings a bit hollow, phony and false through much of this documentary that left a bit of icky taste in my mouth when watching it. Many of the archival interviews are giving you sound bites that are completely out of context and trying to make it sound as if they are discussing The Rise Of Skywalker. When in actuality, the actors the saga these legacy actors are talking about concluding and bringing to a close is Return of the Jedi. George Lucas’ own words are being construed in such a manner (From a myriad of different periods) that its playing as a “See! George said this and we did that, so we are true Star Wars” or something along those line.  A person who is severely lacking from ANY archival interviews, with even no mention of his name is Gary Kurtz, who was incredibly integral and instrumental in the success of the first two Star Wars films. If you’re making something honoring the history of Star Wars, you might consider his inclusion important.

Even more curious in its choice of non-inclusion from telling the story of The Skywalker Legacy, is that of the original Skywalker, Anakin. Sorely lacking from pretty much the whole entirety of this documentary that wants to relish in the history of the saga while telling us how they made they new one is The Prequel Trilogy. Aside from one moment where JJ Abrams tells us his (troublesome) idea for bringing Palpatine back came from the opera scene in Revenge Of The Sith. Other than that, there is barely the use of even showing the tiniest bit of footage from those films and no one else even references those films. Regardless of your thoughts on the quality of those films, they are just as important a part of the Star War “legacy” as any of the others. Their productions, which this documentary’s focus is about, SHOULD be compared and show the mirroring to this trilogy as well as the original.

It would have been even better to see unseen interviews with Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid and George Lucas (And of course, others) as they give their thoughts on closing a trilogy and connecting back to the original. There is reflective footage of Daisy Ridley training for lightsaber battles as she and Adam Driver have voice overs about preparation to go with Mark Hamill’s own work to ready himself for his third Star Wars film. If you want to talk training for a lightsaber battle, Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor HELLA prepared for Revenge of the Sith (As well as their other films). There is a balance, a rhythm that would ring true and enhance this story instead of trying to shut it out in some act of embarrassment or whatever the thought process is in JJ Abrams world of Star Wars.

The story of ‘The Skywalker Legacy’ feels oddly empty when all that is discussed is also just Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Kylo Ren. There was more to the Skywalkers, to the Jedi. It exists, it happened. Embrace it in whatever way feels pertinent to you, because ignoring it is to dishonest. The legacy of the Skywalkers is also one of filmmaking and one of storytelling ideas (Remember, Darth Vader wasn’t original Luke’s father. Leia wasn’t his sister. Those later choices gave us this “Legacy”). Its one of different eras from over 40 years of pop culture impact and events. You can’t just zap out the middle section. Hell, that’s sacrilegious as the “god” to many, George Lucas, STARTED his story with the middle section. Just as much as Rey (Skywalker) and Ben Solo ARE Star Wars, so are Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidaala. It all counts.

This documentary also doesn’t seem to be at its most honest with itself. They paint the picture of such a smooth and fun production. There is not a word of Colin Trevorrow and JJ Abrams as replacing him. Nothing of having to rush through this production to meet their deadline. Chris Terrio is just “there” (And comes across as a dull fanboy) with no introduction as to why he’s here for this film. Kathleen Kennedy is relatively not very much of a presence in this documentary as she had been more of a force with the previous ones. It pinpoints the “important” moments in the film but oddly leaves some of the major ones out (Like the “voices” as Rey rises to defeat Palpatine). You also get to cringe at their story ideas and how wrong they were in many places. Even including a cringey moment in a meeting about repairing and having Kylo Ren wearing his mask again that has Kathleen Kennedy repeating the reasoning for it that you can tell she is questioning whether its a good idea or not and its framed as if she’s agreeing about it. If you watched this documentary, you’d think this was the smoothest production of Star Wars ever film. But we all know much differently. Like the equally phony Rogue One celebratory documentary, a little bit of honesty would have gone a long way.

‘The Skywalker Legacy’ is an easy watch for the most part, mostly fascinating in its showcasing of archival Lucasfilm footage from the original Star Wars productions. There are issues with authenticity about, however, its lack of inclusion of the Prequel Trilogy as part of the history of Star Wars is the biggest offender. A film production isn’t all roses and bubbly, there are actual challenges and butting of heads, but we see none of that here. We see mistakes and misunderstandings of lore and storytelling patted on the back though hollow (I about vomited when someone was discussing the generic set for Kijimi and gleefully stated “This is our tribute to Kurosawa!”). I’ll easily admit that this is an entertaining watch, not denying that. There IS a fascinating story to be told about the production of The Rise Of Skywalker (As well as this early 5 film Disney era), but this ain’t it.

‘The Skywalker Legacy’ can be found with digital purchases of

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and 4K Ultra-HD and standard Blu-ray Editions

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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