“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”- Movie Review

It’s crazy to think how a simple space opera from 1977 has evolved into one of the most iconic cultural phenomenons of all time. Star Wars has become commonplace in the public conscience. For over 40 years the series has expanded into various forms, including but not limited to sequels, prequels, video games, novels, TV shows, toy merchandising and even fan projects. It seems like the franchise won’t stop growing anytime soon. But alas, in the words of Nelly Furtado, all good things must come to an end. Even if it’s just a temporary end. This year we finally say goodbye to the Skywalker saga. Will it go out with a bang or a whimper? 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finds the Resistance on its last leg. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) lead the rebellion against the First Order and sith master Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training under the watchful eye of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, R.I.P.). Their battle is further complicated with the sudden reemergence of an enemy thought to be long gone. Now with this new threat at play, our heroes can pull no punches. They must fight with everything and everyone they’ve got if they’re going to succeed in liberating the galaxy.

Prior to the film’s release, critics predicted that audiences would be split on The Rise of Skywalker. Those who liked Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, they said, would probably walk out hating Episode IX. Those who hated it with the burning passion of a thousand suns would probably view Episode IX as a welcome apology for Johnson’s vision. Having seen The Rise of Skywalker for myself, I can say that these are some pretty valid arguments. Personally, my opinion on The Last Jedi is similar to my overall thoughts on the sequel trilogy- it’s fine. I neither love it nor hate it. I enjoy the series for what it is. But even someone with a middle-of-the-road opinion like mine can see this film has some serious faults.

Objectively speaking, it’s a mess. The pacing is wonky, for one. Much of it is due to an equally wonky story structure. The film packs a lot of new information into brief periods of time, but it rarely takes enough time to pause and let these elements to sink in. The “big threat” is introduced early on, and the script tries to convince you that they’ve been the puppet master all this time; that their inclusion in this trilogy was part of Lucasfilm’s grand plan and not a shoe-horned plot device meant to pander to fans of the original trilogy. Given the lack of narrative cohesion amongst these sequels, I have a hard time believing this was the case.

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It’s pretty clear that the filmmakers’ main priority here- in addition to wrapping up 40+ years worth of storytelling- is to patch up the deep divisions within the Star Wars fandom. Don’t get me wrong, much of it seems to be crafted as an apology for those who hated The Last Jedi. At the same time, however, it doesn’t completely erase the ideas introduced in Johnson’s film. Director J.J. Abrams does carry one or two plot points from there to here. The problem is that he doesn’t do anything further with them. The only plot thread to receive any significant development is Rey’s arc and her complicated relationship with Kylo Ren. The rest are either ignored or brushed aside. The latter’s effect on the overall plot was so minimal they might as well be wallpaper. The filmmakers try to combine everything the fans love into a single movie. Unfortunately, that single movie happens to be the last movie in a series.

So yes, the film is quite the hot mess. It’s filled with unnecessary moments- fake out deaths, safe and predictable storylines, plot conveniences, a revelation you can see coming from miles away, and a consummation between two characters near the end that feels like something straight out of a tumblr fan fiction. Nothing particularly new is added to the Star Wars mythos or characters to flesh them out (*cough, *cough, Poe and Finn, *cough, *cough). But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a fun time watching it. Part of the enjoyment is due to the theater I saw it in. My boyfriend and I saw this movie in a 4DX theater, which turned the viewing experience into an awesome theme park ride. Besides that, there are great moments to be found in this film. The acting across the board is strong. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver especially deliver rock solid performances, and they do a fantastic job at portraying the fraught relationship between their characters. The visuals are stunning, and the fight sequences are thrilling and rife with suspense. This isn’t a boring movie by any means. If you can shut your brain off and accept the story as it is, you’ll have a good time.

In the end, I have mixed feelings about The Rise of Skywalker. You probably don’t believe me given how much of a negative-Nancy I’ve been during this review. But it’s true. I can see what Abrams and his team were going for. They wanted to make a Star Wars movie that would bring a fractured fandom together. Unfortunately they had several things working against them- the lack of a cohesive narrative roadmap for this trilogy, the hardened toxicity among the fanbase, and the fact that Episode 9 is their last shot. They tried their best, and although the flaws are too big to ignore, I still had a really fun time. As a piece of entertainment, the film works very well. As a Star Wars movie, it’s okay. As the conclusion to a saga 40 years in the making, it fails. 

Cosmic Grade- 3.4/5 Stars

 

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