Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a good video game despite having to adapt one of the worst blockbuster movies ever made.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker remains a cursed object, ruined by a mess of decisions that feel like they were made by the world’s most terrified committee. You have the first strike against it, evident from the opening crawl: the inexplicable return of Palpatine. Then, there is the decision to apparently kill off Chewbacca, a character with a 40+ year legacy, offscreen, only to bring him back shortly after with the conclusion that he must not have been on the transport we thought he was, for some reason.
Then, there’s the decision to please neither Reylo fans nor detractors by having Kylo kiss Rey, then immediately die and disappear. And, worst of all, the choice to reverse The Last Jedi’s bold decision to make Rey’s parents nobodies, in favor of Rey being a Palpatine, instead. The movie is a chimera of choices that feel like they were made by drunkenly throwing darts at a board covered in Star Wars words and dutifully sticking with every single one of the results.
All of those moments are still present in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’s take on J.J. Abrams’ saga ender. But, Lego Star Wars’ RiffTrax-like approach to retelling the movies’ stories is perfectly calibrated to neutralize all of those decisions. You’re then left with the same, fun gameplay that gets you through the good episodes. Collecting hidden bricks and exploring big 3D versions on the environments from the movies is still fun, even if you think the movie the levels are based on sucks.
The Lego formula allows the game to successfully and comically make sense of some of the movie’s dumbest moments. For example, Kylo’s nonsense death is recontextualized here by throwing health bars on screen, showing Kylo’s health drain away as he touches Rey. Elsewhere, when Kylo says he knows what he needs to do, but doesn’t know if he has the strength to do it, Ghost Han takes his lightsaber from him and, as if it were a jar of pickles with a stuck lid, twists the top off. The game’s slapstick style makes the movie’s serious choices palatable.
So, when the source material is weaker, Lego Star Wars is able to rise above it with humorous distance. I think The Rise of Skywalker is an awful movie, so a game that parodies its beats works much better for me than one that presents them straightforwardly. From front to back, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a goofy take on the series that doesn’t take Star Wars too seriously.
Despite there being occasional deadly violence and sadness in the movies, Lego Star Wars keeps things light. You might find this annoying at times when it's spoofing something you actually care about, like when the game alters Han’s death in The Force Awakens. Instead of stabbing his father in the game, Kylo cuts the bridge and sends him falling. It’s a slightly less violent portrayal that makes the game more appropriate for the little kids that make up much of its intended audience. It's the same beat, but less harrowing, more slapstick.
Though it has some drawbacks, it absolutely works when it needs to. You might expect reverence for the source material, but in the moments when the source material is bad (and, as much as I love Star Wars, that is a significant amount of the time), the approach is vindicated. Do I ever want to see The Rise of Skywalker again? No. But if you're going to re-experience this dark chapter of the Skywalker Saga, this is undoubtedly the way to do it.
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