Of the many complaints lodged against The Rise of Skywalker, one of the most persistent has been the sidelining of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico.
When she was introduced in The Last Jedi, Rose became the first woman of color to play a significant role in the Star Wars universe, and Tran became the first Asian-American actress to star in the franchise. Earlier this year, The Rise of Skywalker director and co-writer J.J. Abrams said that casting Tran was the “greatest thing” The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson did.
But however grateful Abrams may have been, the gratitude did not translate to onscreen time. Effectively a co-lead in The Last Jedi, Rose is reduced to a bit part in The Rise of Skywalker, her absence from the plot flimsily explained by her need to stay at the rebel base and pore over the specs of Imperial star destroyers.
Just how bad is it? I conducted an investigation, watching both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker with my finger poised over a stopwatch app. And while I noticed Rose’s glaring lack of a presence, the results surprised even me: In The Rise of Skywalker’s 2 hours and 22 minutes, she appears for just 1 minute and 16 seconds, give or take a few seconds.
Even 1:16 is a fairly liberal appraisal—while I tried to be strict about only letting the timer run when Rose was actually onscreen, my definition of “onscreen” was generous. For example, I included the scene at the end where she hugs Chewbacca at the Rebel base, although it’s possible to argue that she wasn’t quite in the foreground of the action. I was so alert for any sign of Rose that I even included the part where she is only seen in (partial) profile staring intently at Poe while he speaks.
The impact of Tran’s part in The Last Jedi can’t be measured in time alone, but even so, the different is stark: Rose appears on screen for 10 minutes and 53 seconds of The Last Jedi’s 2 hours and 32 minutes.
Johnson hasn’t publicly commented on The Rise of Skywalker, but he did post a picture of Tran, resplendent in a red gown, at the movie’s premiere, accompanied by an emoji of a queen’s crown.
Tran’s absence in The Rise of Skywalker is especially troubling because she became the target of widespread racist harassment after The Last Jedi was released, to the extent that she had to delete her Instagram account. That the new movie not only shunts her aside but does so without bringing any closure to her character makes it seem as if Abrams caved into to some of Star Wars’ worst fans, or at the least that there was no involved who understood how deeply Rose’s casual exclusion would hit those to whom she meant so much.
A minute and 16 seconds may not be much time to work with, but more thoughtful filmmaking might have been able to elevate even these few seconds into something that did more justice to Rose’s character, who essentially saved the day in The Last Jedi.