At least The Rise of Skywalker couldn’t be worse than the prequels right? Right???
After a strong but predictable start with The Force Awakens, a creative dead end with The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker was Disney’s last hope at winning over the Star Wars fans that were feeling either cheated, marginalized or defensive about the new films.
While I was traveling Europe for several years I noticed Star Wars had a presence in every country I went to, from Portugal to Armenia. Star Wars was alive and well in the collective culture of the world.
To approach it as anything other than a cultural phenomenon to be treated with care and respect is a massive oversight.
Let’s take a look at if The Rise of Skywalker is able to patch up the rift within the Saga.
The Rise of Skywalker essentially boils down to yet another Easter egg hunt to reach the conclusion of the movie. It shouldn’t be any surprise The Emperor shows up out of nowhere as the main villain (not a spoiler if it’s in the trailer) because Rian Johnson decided to kill off the previous big bad that was Snoke in the previous movie.
It seems like The Rise of Skywalker is a desperate attempt to fill in the void left by The Last Jedi and crammed 2 movies into one to try fit it all together.
There is a conclusion at the end of The Rise of Skywalker but it is only superficially satisfying.
Daisy Ridley as Rey remains the weakest link of the Sequel Star Wars series. It’s not entirely her fault as the writing of her character has not given her an arc or much to overcome or learn. I would have liked to see Rey’s temptation of the dark side and Kylo bring her back.
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren / Ben Solo is the high point of the movie he really seemed to be able to channel the complexity of his character and cram in a the redemption arc when it really seemed his character was too far gone.
John Boyega as Fin comes off as criminally short changed and deserved more exploration of his character through the Sequels. He essentially was kidnapped and forced to be child soldier by The First Order. He should have had some PTSD as a result but really nothing deeper in Fin is ever really dug into. Fin deserved better.
Oscar Isaac as Poe was given more characterisation in The Last Jedi although that is not saying much and is relegated to supporting action hero which again is a shame. He could have had a lot more by being dropped into dealing with Leia’s Role of leadership after his wonky character progression in The Last Jedi. Also it seemed some of his backstory as a rogue smuggler was shoehorned in and left on the cutting room floor.
Carrie Fisher as Leia has been digitally added after her death during the making of The Last Jedi. There is an odd disconnect between her and the rest of the characters on the screen. That notwithstanding it was nice to see her one final time. May the force be with you Carrie.
Mark Hamill reprises his role of Luke Skywalker in force ghost form. Mark really seems to be the one in the cast that really got his role and the Star Wars universe and it would have been nice to see more of him in The Rise of Skywalker.
Billy Dee Williams as Lando returns, it is a very welcome return for the charming scoundrel but again it seems he had more story that didn’t make it to the screen.
The Bad Stuff
The Rise of Skywalker from the weird opening crawl to the beginning of the second act clips along at a pace that is akin to a bad acid trip.
The story is delivered in info dumps of exposition and boil down to “get the thing to find the thing to go to the place”. A lot of the characters are either relegated to the background or only serve to propel the story to the next set piece. New powers are dropped in with no context only to make things happen in the plot.
Whole plot lines are hinted at only to be dropped, victims of trying to fit too much into one movie that should have been 2.
Rey is meant to be teased as falling to the dark side, but this has never been really been established at all, impulsive at times but Luke at the beginning of Return of the Jedi was more convincingly emo.
The conclusion when you think about it undercuts all of the other Star Wars movies and makes their actions ultimately futile.
The Good Stuff
The Rise of Skywalker looks fantastic and is well shot for the most part. Beautiful settings are backdrops for action and battle set pieces. Visually the effects are amazing as we have come to expect from Lucasfilm.
There are some good scenes of Fin, Poe and Chewie operating as a crew and working together and this is where the movie works best and comes together cohesively.
The concept designs for the locations and ships feel weighty and real within the Star Wars universe.
Adam Driver is the one actor holding the core of the movie together. Kylo has been characterised as an impulsive spoilt brat in the other movies but unlike Rey you see some of the internal conflict of being torn between the dark and the light play out in the performance.
The Rise of Skywalker isn’t the pointed insult to fans that The Last Jedi was, more of a drunken rambling 3am phone call of an apology.
The desperation of trying to repair the damage that was done by Rian Johnson’s “Subversion of Expectations” meant The Rise of Skywalker had a huge task ahead to try fill in its own middle and end of a trilogy in one movie.
Unlike The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker is a more complete film despite being overstuffed.
More disappointingly when you take a longer look at the big reveals they seem to thematically undercut everything that has happened in all of the other movies.
This is the sour note that brings a close to the Skywalker saga.
How bloody good is The Mandalorian though?
Watch it if you:
Want to see the conclusion to the 9 core movies 2 spinoff films, a live action series, hundreds of episodes of animated series, thousands of comics and books, dozens of games and countless toys and other merchandise.
Have felt positive about the sequel series so far.
Just want something to unplug and munch some popcorn to.
Skip it if you:
Are over Star Wars (check out the Mandalorian instead)
Want an ending that will satisfy in the same way that Return of the Jedi did.
Loved The Last Jedi as it pretty much undoes that movie.
In Cinemas now