Rise of Skywalker
When I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for the second time in theaters, I had two thoughts when I left:
- “Whatever Rotten Tomatoes says, I still genuinely enjoyed that movie.”
- “Man, they really screwed over Kelly Marie Tran, huh?”
After the film’s release, I made a list of “corrections” and “fixes” that JJ Abrams made to both The Last Jedi and his own fist movie The Force Awakens. (Spoilers follow) These contain major beats, like Snoke and Rey’s origins, or more minor ones I appreciated, like leaning into Finn’s Force sensitivity. But I forgot one “correction,” Rose Tico’s reduced screen time, because she was seen for such a little amount of time that I genuinely even forgot she existed, and so I left her off my list completely in my first draft.
As it turns out, her screen time is even less than you might imagine. Slate clocks it at just 1 minute, 16 seconds in a 2 hour and 22 minute movie. And that’s being generous, with the author including things like her hugging Chewie in the background of the final scene, or the side of her face when Poe is talking. And it’s in sharp contrast to The Last Jedi, where she received almost ten times the screen time with 10 minutes and 53 seconds.
The saga of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico is a sad one, and perhaps the controversy that best sums up the recent toxicity surrounding the new Star Wars films. Fan critics of The Last Jedi pointed a lot of their rage over the film directly at Tran and Rose, citing her “useless” storyline with Finn as one of the things dragging down the film. And yet there were no cries to make her more “useful” with more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker, and that same crowd is celebrating her near-removal from the final chapter.
Rise of Skywalker
This is, of course, largely rooted in racism and sexism. This is not implied, this is explicit, as Kelly Marie Tran was chased off social media due to unrelenting racist harassment after The Last Jedi.
At first it seemed like those involved with Star Wars had her back. JJ Abrams famously said that casting Tran was the “greatest thing” Rian Johnson did (and it seems pretty clear now Abrams hated nearly everything else Johnson did). So if Rise of Skywalker was supposed to fix The Last Jedi’s “mistakes,” wouldn’t one of those be to perhaps give Rose a better storyline than she had?
Initially it looked like that might actually happen. In an interview before the cast saw the final cut of Rise of Skywalker for the first time, Tran spoke excitedly to IndieWire about new scenes with Rose, including some with Rey for the first time.
“I think it’s really cool at all that they are even in scenes together because in ‘Jedi’ we weren’t in any scenes together,” Tran said. “It was really cool to have feminine energy on set. I wish I could tell you more but I’m really excited for people to see [Rose and Rey] interact. They both have the some objective which is to fight for the things you believe in and the people you love.”
Ouch. I’m wincing just reading that.
If you’ve seen the film, you know that those scenes were nowhere to be found in the movie. In fact, Tran’s role is almost non-existent. I could see this coming in the film’s opening where Finn invites Rose to come along on their grand adventure which has room for a Wookie and three droids, but she declines, saying that she must stay behind to study Star Destroyers. Truly, the most crucial of objectives.
The rest of Rose’s role in the film is sitting at home base, occasionally speaking on the radio, and then briefly getting in on the action in the climax, though Finn and Jannah are the ones doing the heroic acts as Rose just frets about them over the radio.
Rise of Skywalker
Whatever potential romance she had with Finn has completely fizzled, or at the very least, been scrubbed away in edits. Finn doesn’t even get an alternative, either. Abrams and Boyega swear Finn wasn’t going to confess feeling for Rey, he isn’t romantically linked to Jannah, and Disney was too chicken to go through with the Finn-Poe pairing. That leaves plenty of room for Rose’s arc to continue and conclude with Finn, and yet it’s just completely missing, as are other, non-boy-related scenes she was supposed to have with Rey. And who knows what else was left on the cutting room floor.
It’s not like actors have never had their role reduced through editing before. But this, more so than other Last Jedi “fixes,” feels like a cowardly response to two years of constant abuse of Tran, the lesson being that if you hate a character, and in turn, an actor, enough, you can influence directors and writers and megacorps to cut them out of your favorite franchise.
I’ve seen some comparisons of Rose with Jar Jar Binks, which is offensive on about three different levels. While I’ll agree that Rose could have used a better storyline than the casino planet in TLJ, her character beats, her performance and her relationship with Finn was stellar and deserved more explanation. Jar Jar was a horrendously conceived character from the start and yet even he was treated better in the subsequent films than Rose was here, her entire arc concluding with a hug from Chewbacca and little else. This was barely one step above just writing out her out completely by saying her ship crashed on the way back to her home planet.
All of this has been thoroughly gross. Yes, on the part of the fans who harassed her, but also what Abrams did her by cutting her role down to nothing, despite going out of his way to proclaim what a big fan he was of Tran’s.
The logical end of this story is for Kelly Marie Tran to hopefully land a starring role in the next Rian Johnson Knives Out-like megahit. But Rose? Rose will never find justice now.