LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Actually Makes The Rise of Skywalker Fun
If you need proof that LEGO games are magic, look no further than what The Skywalker Saga does for The Rise of Skywalker.
I’ll never forget seeing The Rise of Skywalker for the first time. I initially had little interest in scrambling to see the movie on opening weekend, but it’s sometimes hard to ignore the appeal of an “event movie” at a time when there are so few films that fall into that category. So, I grabbed some last-minute opening weekend tickets and soon discovered that the roar of the crowd at the sight of the Star Wars logo was enough to draw me back in. Despite the franchise’s struggles, I was still struck by that wonderful “This is it!” feeling that the debut of a new Star Wars movie should inspire.
Then the movie happened. I won’t call The Rise of Skywalker the absolute worst Star Wars film (although it’s in that conversation), but I do know that I’ve never seen a new Star Wars movie drain the energy out of an opening weekend crowd quite the way that one did. About halfway through the movie’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime, you could just feel the enthusiasm leave the room. Rise of Skywalker‘s sleepy performances, loosely connected scenes, and constant retcons quickly turned “This is it!” into “This is it?”
I tried to revisit The Rise of Skywalker not long after and found that not much had changed. There were aspects of the film I respected on some level, but there was little about the movie that inspired joy or made me lose myself in it. As such, I was really dreading the prospect of having to play through Rise of Skywalker in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
Interestingly enough, though, it turns out that the LEGO version of The Rise of Skywalker is significantly more enjoyable than the actual movie.
It starts with the level design. Too many scenes in The Rise of Skywalker felt like they were constructed to visually stand out in some way rather than help tell a cohesive and compelling story. As it turns out, though, that approach works surprisingly well in a video game that kind of just assumes you’ve probably already seen the movie it’s based on and isn’t really bothered with trying to retell the whole thing.
For example, that Festival of the Ancestors scene in The Rise of Skywalker that felt like a weirdly elaborate detour from the actual plot proves to be a pretty great video game level for pretty much the same reason. It works in the game as an interesting scenario you’re just kind of thrown into, and it looks fantastic. Indeed, Rise of Skywalker‘s visual design was always one of the movie’s strongest elements, and it’s a lot easier to appreciate those visuals when you’re gawking at the ways that developer TT Games recreated them with digital LEGOs and not really thinking about how those sequences are supposed to be getting you emotionally invested in the plot or even just helping to keep the story moving along. Some of the most memorable video game levels ever work on their own, and there are several Rise of Skywalker scenes that weirdly work better when you judge them as video game levels.
On that note, it really has to be said that the parody-style humor of the LEGO games is a big part of the reason why The Rise of Skywalker works as well as it does in that format. For instance, the game doesn’t expect you to treat something like the return of Palpatine as anything but ridiculous. That change in tone actually makes it much easier to appreciate him for the Saturday morning cartoon villain vibes he brought to the movie. You kind of have to learn to laugh at Rise of Skywalker in order to get the most out of it, so it’s nice to experience that adventure in a way that just embraces the absurdity and is actually trying to make you laugh your way through the entire thing.
Don’t take that to mean there isn’t heart in the LEGO version of The Rise of Skywalker, though. In fact, I found the game’s ending (which is fairly true to the film’s ending) to be surprisingly effective. In the movie, scenes like Chewbacca finally getting a medal and Rey calling herself Rey Skywalker felt unearned, cheap, and representative of a trilogy that could never decide if it wanted to be anything more than a chance to pander to the fans. In games that are obviously designed to celebrate the spirit and fun of Star Wars, though, those same scenes feel strangely appropriate.
Mind you, none of that means that The Rise of Skywalker section of The Skywalker Saga is the best part of the game. It’s honestly probably the weakest overall episode in the game. If you end up saving Rise of Skywalker for last, you will recognize most of the gameplay and narrative tricks it offers and probably start to feel a little fatigue setting in. I guess there are some aspects of Rise of Skywalker that even The Skywalker Saga can’t fix.
Still, the ways that the LEGO version of The Rise of Skywalker manages to find the fun in a movie that too often felt like a chore really help you appreciate the magic of The Skywalker Saga and all of the LEGO Star Wars games so far. As the Star Wars prequel meme community has shown us, it’s sometimes a lot easier to appreciate the worst Star Wars movies for what they are if you’re willing to present them in a way that finds the fun in their flaws.