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Documentary review: “The Skywalker Legacy”

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm
2.5stars
Director: Debs Patterson
Release Date: March 13, 2020

Blu-ray and DVD bonus features are, by definition, completely expendable.

For a movie’s diehard fans, they can be illuminating and often provide an interesting piece of trivia or two that can be shared around the water cooler at work. But, for everyone else, they’re not much more than a mildly amusing time suck.

But no bonus feature in the history of film has sucked time quite like “The Skywalker Legacy” – a feature-length (i.e. well over two hours) documentary attached to the upcoming Blu-ray release of the newest “Star Wars” film, “The Rise of Skywalker.”

If you’re enough of a “Star Wars” fan to purchase “Rise of Skywalker” on Blu-ray, it is almost certainly worth a watch – full of behind the scenes footage showcasing the dazzling puppetry and special effects and set design that have made the franchise pop since the 70’s. But for more casual fans, it will probably just be mildly perplexing – Sure, it’s interesting but hardly revelatory.

The doc more or less follows the plot of “Rise of Skywalker” (my review of which is forthcoming in the next week) and walks through the film scene by scene, highlighting the challenges faced by the scriptwriters, actors and technical team. The sheer number of folks interviewed in “Skywalker Legacy” is downright impressive, and most of them seem like genuinely nice people who care about their work. Unfortunately, few really leave much of an impression.

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

There are exceptions to that rule of course. Billie Lourd, actress and daughter of the late Carrie Fisher, has some of the film’s most emotional moments reflecting on the franchise’s meaning to her family. Stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart is enough of a cutup that you wish they had found a role for her in the “Rise of Skywalker.” The great Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, who has been with the franchise since day one, reminds us why he is the heart and soul of “Star Wars.”

A number of other franchise veterans – from Mark Hamill to Denis Lawson to Harrison Ford giving off distinct homeless man vibes- pop in although none have anything particularly revelatory to say. Lawson’s one quote is something to the effect of “Hi! I’m Denis Lawson!”

There are some interesting pieces of trivia here and there. For example, did you know that Alec Guinness’s granddaughter has a cameo in “Rise of Skywalker”? And did you know that the film’s prop department created a prop to honor every single one of franchise composer John Williams’ Academy-Award nominated films? Well, you do now.

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

“The Skywalker Legacy” is really at its best when leaning into the “legacy” part of its title by using a surprisingly large amount of archival footage from the making of the original trilogy – from Ralph McQuarrie sketching to Peter Cushing blowing a line to Guinness and Ford being jostled about on the Millennium Falcon. These sequences, along with archival interviews with Hamill, Fisher, Daniels and George Lucas, are among the highlights of the film.

But you have to think that something could have been left on the cutting room floor. And, like most making-of features, this one feels too self-congratulatory and overly reverent. I know Disney isn’t going to let somebody slander their film on camera, but it would add a little color at least. As it is, this is downright bland in places.

Still, “The Skywalker Legacy” (unrated but with PG language) succeeds as a tribute to all the creative folks who have brought these films to life both in the past and present. And if it doesn’t feel like the definitive final word on “Star Wars” – nothing does these days- there is still plenty that will likely deepen fans’ love and appreciation for the franchise while putting a smile on their faces.

About the author

Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves.  He can be reached at staticandscreen@gmail.com.

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Blu-Ray

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