Tremendously fast-paced, often visually incredible, but the final act of the Star Wars sequel trilogy really lays the overall flaws for all to see.
The final battle is upon our heroes as Rey trains her abilities with General Leia, while Finn, Poe and the others gather crucial intel on a new gathering darkness in the galaxy. Newly appointed Supreme Commander Kylo Ren also tracks down this new power, as it intends to dwarf even the First Order.
Star Wars movies are always events, regardless of how frequent they have become, so the start of this review shall be spoiler-free; a general overview of the film as a film. Not as an entry for one of the biggest franchises in movie history, spanning forty-two years.
Directed by J.J Abrams, the man behind the first entry to this trilogy, The Force Awakens, the film has a lot of visual flare and awesome sound design. Like most Star Wars films do. There are many worlds to visit, and many more fun and interesting characters to see and react to. For all intents and purposes, it feels like a Star Wars film. We have Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, C-3PO and Chewbacca working together as a team, investigating what new threat is looming over the fledgling Resistance, also warding off attacks and threats from sequel trilogy baddies, the First Order.
You no doubt noticed the mention of Leia. Actress Carrie Fisher tragically passed away, but the character of Leia was still leading the Resistance. The film-makers (despite having done this in the past) wisely did not resort to CGI recreation, and instead wove in unused footage from the previous films. These scenes are heart-wrenching, easily the most emotion felt in the film, purely because of her presence.
The comedy writing, while it does have some jokes that fall completely flat, is probably one of its strongest elements. Anthony Daniels as C-3PO quite possibly steals the show. The performances are all good, Daisy Ridley as a deeply troubled Rey, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren are still the main driving force of this trilogy.
But the film is not perfect. Not by far.
The overwhelming sense that the storyline running through this trilogy is a mess is evident from scene to scene. There was clearly no attempt at considering a cohesive narrative for the trilogy, and as such, Rise of Skywalker is doomed to fail, for anyone paying attention. Its predecessor, The Last Jedi, was so divisive and saw a steep drop in fan affections after it released, that this film straddles a yawning chasm of appeasing lost fans, and maintaining those who appreciated Episode VIII. Unfortunately, and predictably, this has not worked.
If you enjoyed The Last Jedi, you will find Rise of Skywalker as a retcon; a reversion to safer storytelling. If you didn’t like The Last Jedi, you will have more ammunition against it.
Now, on to some spoilers (and the negativity intensifies)
The sequel trilogy is a mess of storytelling. There is no real character development with our primary heroes. One course of thinking is that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi wasted time, and deliberately trolled the fans with subversion for the sake of it, without thinking of the ramifications. Another course of thought is that the lack of narrative throughline for this trilogy, has fractured the episodes into sort of “stand alone” stories, when viewing the “End of the Skywalker Saga” feels completely unearned.
“The dead speak!” is the first line of the opening title crawl, and flat-out announces the return of Emperor Palpatine. More than that, the film’s first ten minutes are a completely nightmare of rushed exposition. The Emperor is alive! He has his own fleet hidden away somewhere! This is so impossibly left-field that audiences are left stumped. Why was there no hints at this in prior movies? This does not feel earned.
This issue persists throughout the film. MASSIVE SPOILERS incoming, you have been warned twice now. One of the most glaring retcons from The Last Jedi is when Rey is about to toss Anakin’s lightsaber away, when who stops her? Ghost Luke. He goes on to say something akin to “We should take care of this, shouldn’t we?” The man who famously tossed it away in The Last Jedi. Also, turns out Luke’s X-Wing on the Jedi Temple planet works, and he could raise it from the water. So, wait… to help everyone in The Last Jedi, he could have just raised the ship and flown there. Instead of, y’know… killing himself to do the same thing. Finally, Rey is a Palpatine. Yes, Palpatine is Rey’s grandfather. This is so absurd, it is hard to know where to begin with it, and the film didn’t have the guts to follow through with it either.
This review has gone on long enough. Sufficed to say, it is a sad film; it is laboured with an impossible task to appease everyone, likely through committee-made decisions. It isn’t a bad film exactly, but for what it is supposedly ending and resolving, it fails miserably. History will view this trilogy as an example why planning and writing is so important.
Now for many Additional Marshmallows!
1. Luke Skywalker reveals his handmade lightsaber from Return of the Jedi. For some unknown reason it is blue now and not its original green. What the hell??
2. The Knights of Ren are here… They are almost as useless as Stormtroopers.
3. Finn has the most confused relationships with people. Rey, Rose, now someone called Jannah? Even after that adventure with Rose, now Jannah, he’s still pining for Rey?
4. That was probably one of the most uncomfortable on-screen kisses in movie history.
5. How did Darth Vader’s helmet survive Starkiller Base exploding? Kylo Ren literally ran all the way back to his inner sanctum as the planet was exploding to save it?