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A ‘Star Wars’ saga

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I watched the original “Star Wars” movie.

The year was 1977 (B.C.) and a buddy and I had not much going on that Saturday night, so we decided to catch a new sci-fi action flick that had just hit the theaters.

We had no clue that we’d still be watching the descendants of that movie all these decades later, that “Star Wars” was the genesis of a cultural phenomenon whose diehard devotees have a fervor that could best be described as “religious.”

I thought the first “Star Wars” was an OK film. It was basically a Western, with chases and shootouts, good guys and bad guys, hints of romance and a cantina scene that echoed the old adage, “If the odds are good, the goods are odd.”

I felt deep empathy for Luke. Like me, Luke was stuck on a small farm out in the middle of nowhere. Luke grew up on a moisture farm and I grew up on a dairy farm, so we both worked to supply the fluid market. Like Luke, I often gazed wistfully at the sunset, longing for an indefinable something that lay beyond the far horizon. I also wished that I’d worn sunglasses.

Nobody knew that “Star Wars” would become one of the galaxy’s most powerful marketing platforms. In the months following the movie’s debut, sales of lightsabers skyrocketed by more than 1.2 billion percent.

Over the ensuing decades we have been saturated with “Star Wars” prequels and sequels, spinoffs and spoofs. You can’t swing an Ewok without hitting some sort of “Star Wars” cultural reference.

The latest installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” has been promoted via commercials and teaser trailers since before Baby Yoda was born. It’s purported to be the end of the saga that began with the first “Star Wars,” which bore the confusing numeration of Episode IV. I have viewed “The Rise of Skywalker” and used the Force to form some forceful opinions which I will forcefully unpack here.

Let’s begin at the ending. I walked out of the theater feeling dazed and confused, which, I admit, is fairly normal for me. But it was worse than usual.

For instance, how could Emperor Palpatine still be alive? Wasn’t he vaporized by nuclear-strength static electricity when he was hurled down a bottomless shaft on his Death Star? A Death Star that was blown to atoms minutes later? Shouldn’t that be permanently fatal?

Nope! Turns out that Palpatine was very much alive and even more powerful. He must have a killer GoFundMe page because he was able to finance the construction of enough star destroyers to fill the sky of his hideout planet.

Carrie Fisher tragically passed away in 2016. Her character, Leia Organa, was still able to play a central role in “The Rise of Skywalker” thanks to the potent combination of skillful film editing and clunky screenwriting.

Han Solo (portrayed by Harrison Ford, age 103) made a powerful cameo despite being run through by a lightsaber and plummeting into a fiery pit during the previous episode. Han must have a really good healthcare provider.

Luke’s character had evolved over the years from a lonely guy living in a remote, hardscrabble place to a lonely guy living in a remote, hardscrabble place. Even though it was abundantly clear that Luke kicked the bucket during “The Last Jedi,” he plays a crucial role in Episode IX. Apparently, death for a Jedi is but a minor inconvenience, like catching a cold.

I think Kylo Ren dies three times. His final and permanent demise (or is it?) occurs near the end of the film when he shares a kiss with Rey, the movie’s heroine. He should have listened to his schoolyard chums’ advice regarding girls and cooties.

The movie is overambitious. There are too many shootouts and too many exotically alien planets and too many shifting alliances. New and unexplained characters abruptly appear, like Pop-Tarts from a toaster.

For example, Poe seems to have a history with a mysterious woman who has a penchant for skintight red leather outfits and gold space helmets. All we actually see of her are her eyes, and only for a few moments. I guess we’re supposed to guess the rest from that.

Unless you’re a fanatical fanboy, you’ll need a flowchart to keep track of everything that happens in “The Rise of Skywalker.” And it isn’t very good storytelling if it needs to be explained with a chart.

I left the theater feeling as though the kitchen sink had been thrown at me. Also that I can’t wait for the next “Star Wars” movie.

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