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Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker: True Love and Sacrifice Win the Day


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By Kelly Rae Mathews

Warning: Spoiler Alert!

If you’re like me, you’ve been captivated by the chemistry between Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and you will be more than satisfied with “Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker.” As an incurable romantic, I have always loved the Dark Lords of literature and myth. This is because to me, the antihero make us question what is normal, and help us see spirituality as incredibly complex. This in turn lifts us out of where we are, mentally for a moment, and helps us view the world with a much needed new perspective.

Where does Kylo Ren/Ben Solo fit within the proverbial cannon of romantic dark lord archetypes? Frankly, Adam Driver’s incredible turn as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo portrays the metaphorical Dark Lord archetype of literature and film to the point where he transcends them, thanks to the powerful bond he has with Rey, as portrayed by Daisy Ridley.

Intriguingly, both Rey and Ben as light and dark, yin and yang, slowly reveal themselves to each other. This particular trilogy is satisfying for any romantic who loves gothic storylines with the dark and brooding antihero.

A dark lord archetype can be defined as a person who, although they may have some power, supernatural or otherwise, who is often ostracized by society for his passion and not fitting neatly in the mold of who he is supposed to be as a person. Sometimes, as in the case of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, he is driven mad, and is haunted by demons, inner or outer. Ben had a loving childhood with parents who cared about him, only to fall into the clutches of the evil ghost of Emperor Palpatine.

Like the cinematic Dracula, Kylo Ren is a being who craves companionship and love despite his heinous acts. Dracula offers an undying bond forever in exchange for joining him, which makes him a favorite with most romantics. Kylo Ren, seeks to seduce Rey to the darkside offering her to rule the galaxy together. Only, Ben, has been beat at his own game, as Rey is capable of making him feel emotionally naked and vulnerable when he tries to psychologically seduce her. Rey however, knows what he is doing, since she could sense his feelings.

This chemistry is why the story often works best when Ben and Rey confront each other or are together on screen. However the true love and sacrifice that save the day also come from friends and family. Everyone works together to help both Ben and Rey realize they can overcome their struggles, or heritage or the destiny they are supposed to have and choose what is right for themselves.

When Ben finally learns Palpatine has been his inner demon all these years, who got into his head when he was vulnerable and tortured him into madness, Palpatine makes him an offer to give him everything he wants if he kills Rey. Palpatine, doesn’t seem to sense the true feelings Ben has for Rey. Ben is able to conceal this, and is far more powerful than Palpatine considers him.

During a crucial fight at the remains of the old Death Star, when Rey is feeling the power of the Dark Side course through her, Rey turns Ben’s lightsaber on him for a killing stroke when he is attacking her, when he is distracted by Leia calling out to him using her last bit of strength. Rey, seeing Ben is dying, heals him. This was foreshadowed earlier when she heals the giant snake creature and it in turn helps set her free. Rey heals Ben not just physically, but spiritually sending her literal lifeforce into him. It is more than mere redemption, or atonement, but release from the torture Ben has endured for decades at Palpatine’s hands.

Her vulnerability is clear. She loves him. Rey leaves after telling him her true feelings. Ben has a last force ghost chat with Han, who lovingly tells him go come home. Ben is able to call him dad again. He tells Han he can’t go home, Leia is gone. Han reminds him everything she stood and fought for are alive. Going home now means being with Rey.

In the spectacular finale, Rey has to make an ultimate choice: choose to become an evil Sith Lord as Palpatine Intended, with all the thousands of Sith Lords possessing her, or figure out a way to overcome it. Palpatine makes much of the fact she unlike Luke, has no one to help her. Palpatine, however, cannot sense her special bond with Ben.

They confront Palpatine together. Things look bleak, when Palpatine sucks the life from them to himself and throws Ben off a cliff as revenge. When Rey regains consciousness, she meditates reaching out to all the Jedi, who say they are with her. She channels all the Jedi who have ever lived to truly remove Palpatine and all the Sith demons. She sacrifices herself for everyone she loves.

Ben, thrown off the cliff, finally gets back tot he top. He runs to Rey, holding her in agony. You can see everything he is thinking on his face, all of his love for Rey, and what could have been and should have been if he had not gone to the darkside in the first place, if he had gone with Rey before, even. He does the only thing he can. He sends his lifeforce into her and resurrects her. For a moment, when she is resurrected, they kiss, and she joyfully calls him Ben. He smiles then dies, immediately disappearing completely like Obi Wan in the original, probably so Rey won’t try healing him again.

But now Rey has to go on without him. She has to help her friends rebuild everything in the Galaxy that the first order and the Sith are all gone. The movie ends on a semi-odd note. Rey is back on Tatooine at Luke’s old farm. This is where she says she is Rey Skywalker and Luke and Leia look on, but there is no force ghost for Ben. My son is of the opinion his ghost just wasn’t ready to show up yet. Allison Dunlap, organizer of the local Spokane Science Fiction Club theorized Ben used all the lifeforce that would have made him a force ghost to resurrect Rey. I admit I wondered briefly if she could be pregnant with the way things work in Star Wars land, having absorbed Ben Solo. But, that moment of Ben loving Rey back to life, I found healing on a number of levels. It was as though all the tragic stories of love and antiheroes in literature had all been resolved. It felt to me like one of the most powerful moments not only in Star Wars, but in cinematic history. I didn’t want Ben to die, because to me he was Rochester, Dracula, The Phantom, The Crow, Orpheus, Heathcliff and every Dark Lord antihero ever rolled up into one person. It seems to me, it would have been better to have Ben live, and show them all together building and working together years later down the road, rather than cut back to Tatooine with Rey alone. Otherwise, I loved it. I still believe true love and sacrifice can save the day. I still believe that everyone can make a difference.  And I still find myself crying about this goodbye, even as I write this review. Well done, and the characters from my childhood and beyond will always live on in my heart.

May the force be with you.

Kelly Rae Mathews
Kelly Rae Mathews
Kelly Rae Mathews grew up in culturally and faith diverse San Diego, Calif. during the 70s and 80s before moving to Spokane in 2004. Growing up in a such a diverse environment with amazing people, led Mathews to be very empathetic and open to the insights of many different faiths, she said. She loves science fiction and this also significantly contributed to and influenced her own journey and understanding of faith and values. She agrees with and takes seriously the Vulcan motto, when it comes to faith and life, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." Therefore, it is no surprise she has a degree in anthropology as well as English. She has studied the anthropology of religion and is knowledgeable about many faiths. She completed an anthropological research project on poets of the Inland Northwest, interviewing over two dozen poets, their audiences, friends, family members, and local business community who supported the poetry performances. Mathews gave a presentation on How Poets Build Community: Reclaiming Intimacy from the Modern World at the Northwest Anthropological Conference, at the Eastern Washington University Creative Symposium, the Eastern Washington University Women's Center and the Literary Lunch Symposium put on by Reference Librarian and Poet Jonathan Potter at the Riverfront Campus. She was a volunteer minister in San Diego for about 10 years while attending college and working in various editorial positions. Her articles, poems and short stories have appeared in Fickle Muse, The Kolob Canyon Review, Falling Star Magazine, Acorn, The Coyote Express, The Outpost and Southern Utah University News.

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Patty Bruininks
Patty Bruininks
4 years ago

I enjoyed this article! I came across this article in Vox and thought it might interest you? I study the emotion of hope and only recently came across this term, hope punk. I’d love to chat about it sometime if you’re interested. https://www.vox.com/2018/12/27/18137571/what-is-hopepunk-noblebright-grimdark

Kelly Mathews
Kelly Mathews
4 years ago

I am very interested in this concept of hope punk! It is precisely what the world needs right now. I’d like to discuss this with you, for sure. Let me know what interests you most about it.

Kelly Mathews
Kelly Mathews
4 years ago

Thanks! I’d love to chat about it too, Patty! I’m very interested in the concept is hope punk!

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