(This article contains some spoilers for Rose Tico’s role, such that it is, in “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.” I would say these are not major spoilers.)
The “Star Wars” journey for Kelly Marie Tran has been a weird one since she was brought into the ensemble as one of the main characters in “The Last Jedi.” After that breakthrough role, things were very different for her character, Rose Tico, in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” as she was relegated to a minor background role in the saga finale.
After Rose was introduced in “The Last Jedi,” and a certain subset of folks who didn’t like that film decided Rose was the symbol of everything they thought was wrong with it. And so they harassed her off social media for it.
It was a bad time caused by bad people. And yet “The Rise of Skywalker” nonetheless feels very much like parts of the film were constructed specifically to cater to those harassers — and the way it takes Rose, who was a main character in the last movie, and dumps her into a minor role is Exhibit A.
Now, when Rose was first introduced back in “The Last Jedi,” it wasn’t necessarily the cleanest fit. She spent most of the movie with Finn (John Boyega) going on a side adventure that had no real bearing on the main plot and thus, unlike the characters who were in “The Force Awakens,” never actually got to establish herself as part of the new trilogy’s ensemble. She never got to be part of the group, and thus felt kinda extraneous.
That’s not an unfixable problem. John Boyega promised that the main crew of this new trilogy would spend a lot more time together in “The Rise of Skywalker,” so really all that needed to be done was to include Rose in that crew. After all, extraneous or not she was inarguably one of the film’s main characters and even got to deliver a line of dialogue summing up what amounts to the moral of the story. And at the end of “The Last Jedi,” Rose and Finn have basically become a couple, so it would make sense to bring her along on Finn’s adventures with Poe and Rey.
Except that doesn’t happen, like at all. In “The Rise of Skywalker,” Rose basically gets the same treatment Jar Jar received in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.” Relegating her to a very minor role — barely more than a cameo — the film tries to present her like she was never actually one of the main characters in this new trilogy. And her interactions with Finn suggest nothing more than professional courtesy, an especially weird thing to do considering the last time we saw them, they were kissing.
I can’t pretend to know exactly what the thought process was behind this decision, but there are not all that many reasons why they would push Rose out of frame like this. The big one, as we all know, is that a bunch of freakin’ nerds conducted a months-long harassment campaign that drove Kelly Marie Tran off social media after “The Last Jedi” came out. Actually, that’s the only reason I can think of. That doesn’t mean it is the only possible reason, obviously. “The Rise of Skywalker” is full of shockingly inexplicable creative decisions — we’re talking about a movie with a huge fleet of Death Stars here. But if there’s some other reason why she’s only in a handful of scenes, it’s not something we could ever intuit.
One gets the feeling that “The Rise of Skywalker” is trying to undo the setup provided by “The Last Jedi,” sort of like how that film set out to defy your expectations based on how “The Force Awakens” kicked off the trilogy. Abrams and co. will insist that’s not the case, but Rose serves as pretty solid evidence.
And that’s annoying! I can understand, in a general sense, criticisms of how her character was handled in “The Last Jedi.” What I can’t understand, in the third movie of a trilogy and ninth movie of a series, is simply refusing the play the cards you’re dealt. You can’t just toss one of the main characters aside just because a couple dozen angry internet nerds didn’t like her in the last movie.
Or I guess you can, since that’s exactly what happened with Rose in “The Rise of Skywalker.” And that’s not great, Bob.