“Let go of your hate.” – Luke Skywalker

It sounded so simple. All I was asked to do was write about “The Rise of Skywalker,” the final episode in the “Star Wars” Skywalker saga that opens in less than a week. 

“The surviving resistance faces the First Order once more,” goes the generic description of the film, “as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.” 

All there was for me to do was to sample some of the excitement buzzing around in the “Star Wars” community, write it up and ship it on over to the editor’s desk. Easy as falling off an ewok.

And then I made the regrettable mistake of going to YouTube to research the movie. YouTube was abuzz, all right, but not with excitement and hope for the new flick, oh no! Movie spoilers had been emerging on Reddit, as they often do, and now the entire community was buzzing with rage over “The Rise of Skywalker” before it had made it to a single theater. 

“I don’t think that it can be understated that the return of Palpatine destroys the legacy of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker,” seethed popular YouTuber Nerdrotic. “And you can now call it ‘The Fall of Skywalker.’ Bringing back the emperor is one of the cheapest moves in cinematic history. It just shows that they didn’t have a plan. . . . What do you expect from the people who made Han Solo and Luke Skywalker stepping stones for Rey Palpatine?” 

Nerdrotic, as it happens, was preaching to the masses. 

“Rest in Peace ‘Star Wars,'” lamented one commenter. “My GOD, I wouldn’t have believed it eight years ago if somebody told me ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ are the prime examples of trash garbage writing.” 

So much anger. So much hurt and indignation. I knew all about the debacle of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”  final season – my heart is still broken over that – but I know next to nothing at all about “Star Wars.” Clearly I needed a guide to help me along as I attempted to weigh the level of anticipation in advance of “The Rise of Skywalker.” 

Joseph Carro, of Portland, dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, has mixed feelings about the movie. “I’m really apprehensive about ‘The Rise of Skywalker.’ Part of me wants to skip it.” File photo

Fortunately, I have a few people on my speed dial who know a thing or two about the “Star Wars” world and the characters who live there. Joe Carro is at the top of that list and he didn’t hesitate to answer when I looked him up. What was all the fuss about, I demanded? Who is this emperor and why should I care? 

A lot of the anger and low-expectations, Joe told me, go back to “The Last Jedi,” the previous episode in the saga, which was almost universally despised. Fans are mad at Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed that film. They’re mad that Disney has taken over the franchise. And now, as Nerdrotic fumed in his video, they’re more than a little miffed about the fiendish Emperor Palpatine’s return to the mix.  

Carro explains. 

“Palpatine died at the hands of Vader, whom Luke Skywalker successfully turned back to the light side of the Force back in the final film in the original trilogy,” he told me. “Because of the divisive nature of ‘The Last Jedi’ – and the main villain of the new trilogy, Snoke (Andy Serkis) being unceremoniously killed off in ‘The Last Jedi’ — a lot of people feel like bringing back Palpatine is a cheap move to save their behinds and draw in all the fans they were potentially going to lose.”

Whew. There’s a lot to consider there for us not-so-invested movie-goers who were just up for some holiday space fun. Or not.

“I GOT A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS.” – HAN SOLO

“The Rise of Skywalker” will be in theaters Dec. 19. After interviewing as many fans as I could about the release, I’ve come to some firm conclusions. Millions will go to see the movie, that much is clear. Yet many of them – the hardcore fans, anyway – seem to have expectations that are lower than the moon dust on C-3PO’s feet. 

“I’m actually not doing anything huge or exciting for it,” says Lewiston’s Ben Santos, a fan of the “Star Wars” series and founder of cosplayconventioncenter.com. “I have mixed feelings about the trailer, so I feel bad, but I just don’t have much to offer up on this one. 

“The challenge ‘Star Wars’ has,” Santos continued, “is that ‘Empire Strikes Back’ set the bar pretty high – and to date we haven’t had another ‘Empire.'” 

Brian Wilson, of Lewiston, is an administrator of the Maine “Star Wars” Fans Facebook page, a small but dedicated group of fans. I figured if anyone would rant, rave and carry on at length about the upcoming movie, it would be him. 

Nope. 

“I really liked ‘The Force Awakens,’ he told me. “I didn’t like some parts of ‘The Last Jedi.’ I am cautiously optimistic about ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ especially seeing recent trailers.” 

The head of a “Star Wars” fan page and the best I could get was cautious optimism. I kept asking around. 

“‘Star Wars’ isn’t what it used to be,” said Jeanne Marie, of Lewiston. “Just feels like all the new movies are a money grab. . . . The last installments just feel horrible. I didn’t like the characters or the story lines. It’s beating a dead horse.” 

“My interest stops with baby Yoda, to be honest,” said Jessica Lea, of Auburn, referring to a character in the new “Star Wars”-based television series “The Mandalorian.” 

The fans, you might say, are lukewarm on Luke Skywalker’s rise. 

The flat-line reaction to the new movie serves as a reminder that the fans of the “Star Wars” series take their fandom seriously. Like the followers of “Game of Thrones,” these are not people who will take just any scraps thrown their way. These are folks who know the “Star Wars” characters, the lore and the history perhaps as well as the people writing the scripts. They expect a lot from plot advances, and when their expectations are not met, they are not shy about talking about it. 

Few “Star Wars” fans are casual about it, and Carro is no exception. 

“I am a longtime ‘Star Wars’ fan,” he said. “I grew up on the old action figures and comics and the original trilogy back in the 1980s. I watched all the digital re-releases and re-masters when they came out in theaters. When I was in high school, the prequel trilogy started coming out and I watched all those. They weren’t great but they had their moments and Episode III was my favorite out of the prequels  so that’s why I cosplay as Obi-Wan from that movie for charities and parades and just for fun.” 

He has all the movies in a Blu-Ray collection, and like so many other “Star Wars” fans, he is avid about “The Mandalorian.” When “The Force Awakens” premiered in 2015, Carro and a friend dressed as Obi-Wan and Anakin for the opening. Everything was beautiful at that point, Carro said, and fans couldn’t wait for the next installment. 

“That’s when ‘The Last Jedi’ (2017) threw a wrench into everything,” Carro said. 

“I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING.” – DARTH VADER 

He hated that movie so much when he first saw it, he watched it several times over, trying to find what some others liked about the film. As it turns out, though, Carro was not in the minority at all. The truest of “Star Wars” fans despised “The Last Jedi” with a passion.  

“I don’t know how you make a movie as bad as ‘The Last Jedi,'” roars a YouTuber named Vito. “It takes one of the most beloved franchises of all time, throws it in the trunk of a car and then backs it into a river. I’ll probably keep going to see these movies because it’s interesting to see how much money you can spend setting a dumpster on fire.” 

Disagreements have been ongoing between casual fans who liked “The Last Jedi” and serious fans who most definitely did not. 

“A lot of people who defend the film have the mindset that those of us who disliked it take it too seriously,” Carro said, “but to me, aside from the numerous story problems and continuity problems in the script, there is also the fact that Rian Johnson was brought in and threw away Abrams’ script entirely and did his own thing.” 

“The Last Jedi” did major damage to the legacy of the original trilogy, in the opinion of Carro and others. It was depressing, they say, with most beloved legacy characters dying off without much to show for their suffering. And with all that in mind, it’s hard for some to work up much enthusiasm about “The Rise of Skywalker.”  

“Han Solo is dead. Luke is dead. From the looks of the trailer, it appears that C-3PO will be dead, too,” said Carro. “And we all know Leia will probably die because Carrie Fisher died in real life. Snoke even died. 

Ben Santos, of Lewiston, plans to be at the theater, reluctantly, when “The Rise of Skywalker” opens on Thursday. File photo

“So I’m really apprehensive about ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ he said. “Part of me wants to skip it. Because, as a fan, I don’t see what’s left to see.” 

Oh, but when Dec. 20 has arrived, it’s a good bet that Carro will be inside a crowded theater somewhere. Even the most ardent of fans-turned-critics of the franchise will go see “The Rise of Skywalker.” Why, it’s almost an obligation, if you’ve followed the saga from the beginning. And once the movie is out and the fans have had their taste, opinions will vary and disagreements will begin at once on the Internet. 

It’s part of the fun, really. 

“I argue with my friends all the time, lately,” Carro says. “It’s like the 2016 elections all over again. . . . It’s wild out there in the ‘Star Wars’ fandom.” 

Wilson, the head of Maine “Star Wars” Fans, said he plans to get a group of friends together and watch the movie at Smitty’s, a cinema in Topsham. 

Santos, who’s lack of enthusiasm over “The Rise of Skywalker” was a sad thing to behold, said that his low expectations probably won’t keep him out of the theater. 

“Yeah,” he said wearily. “I’m going to see it.” 

Me, I’m still in the dark. I have no idea what a Sith is, I wouldn’t know Emperor Palpatine if he punched me in the face, and I don’t care at all whether Rey ends up with Finn. Who the Force is Finn? And who is this Rey character anyway? 

But, as a fan of “Game of Thrones” who was utterly deflated by the final seasons, I understand the “Star Wars” fans’ apprehensions about “The Rise of Skywalker.” For their sake, I hope against hope that things turn out better in that galaxy far, far away than they did in the Seven Kingdoms. 

To put it another way, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.

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