Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 2019
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Dominic Monaghan, Greg Grunberg, Jimmy Vee, and Billy Dee Williams
The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker represents the plummeting of Disney’s artistic integrity. Wherever one stands in the divided fandom brought on by Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it’s actively frustrating how desperate this latest trilogy capper is to immediately win back fans. There’s everything from throwaway exposition regarding Supreme Leader Snoke to teases regarding a twist about Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) origins, a few segments of Rey training with Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) because apparently, moviegoers needed it spelled out to them that she has had an abundance of Force tutoring, but nothing more insulting and inexplicable than the opening text crawl which, from the first sentence, begins with notice about a mysterious signal coming from the thought to be deceased Emperor Palpatine (a returning Ian McDiarmid once again hamming it up).
It’s a head-scratcher sizable enough to make one feel as if an entire chapter is missing between installments (maybe there will be something within The Mandalorian to smooth over some rough edges, but it’s unlikely). Nevertheless, the reintroduction to Palpatine is clumsy with his whole story arc seemingly pulled from thin air as a way to cram in some unnecessary added nostalgia. The point of killing off beloved characters is to help the new stars develop and grow as we continue to focus on them, not bring back more villains from the dead with the laziest reasoning and most generic of plot lines.
However, maybe that’s the point after the unwarranted and incessant hatred towards Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Also, if you are reading this under the assumption that taking things back to a more traditional and straightforward storytelling narrative is going to bring forth some perceived return to glory, then forget those thoughts entirely. Director J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and his team of writers and story artists (a host of names including Abrams himself, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s Chris Terrio, and Jurassic World‘s Colin Trevorrow, who was actually let go from directing this final entry) may be hurriedly retconning aspects left and right, but that doesn’t mean the corrective ideas in place make any sense. All it does is further cement this trilogy as a product of two conflicting visions where the final chapter absolutely suffers, in the end probably unable to satisfy few.
This is a spoiler-free review, but even if I did layout everything that happens in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, few people would be surprised. Rian Johnson was willing to take risks and challenge viewers to understand classic and new characters in different ways, alongside analyze rich themes. J.J. Abrams, meanwhile, is trying to course correct a ship that’s not even sinking because it’s what the fans demand. Essentially, he’s the hired gun by Disney to cater to their specific wants and demands, but he seems to not understand what that is. If what he does in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is actually what the fandom wants, then that’s depressing and unapologetic willingness to not only accept, but crave easily digestible plot structure and storytelling. Still, it’s hard to imagine many people lapping up the character arcs of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey. I’m not convinced Disney and J.J. Abrams were solely incorporating feedback from the hardcore fans, but rather pulling as many terrible proposed ideas from all corners of the Internet and smashing them into one rushed final chapter that’s like an extensive menu of items with no specialty. Everything here is basic and falls flat.
There is no denying the spectacle of the film, though, which rarely lets up on action and samples lightsaber combat to aerial dogfights/chase sequences (one of them takes place in an area resembling toxic gas which makes for a nice visual) all over a variety of new planets. Unfortunately, they don’t really get explored that much, which is a shame considering one of them introduces a Day of the Dead style celebration that is abruptly ignored for another set-piece. Battles on top of a sunken Death Star and inside underground caves tucked away on hidden Sith Lord locales are admittedly breathtaking, which makes it all the more disappointing that the film can’t quite hit any emotional highs. That’s also accounting for a huge swing and a miss trying to pay respects to both Carrie Fisher the actor and Princess Leia the character during a hollow and forced stretch that emphasizes the worst traits of nostalgia and awkward writing.
Despite the consistent narrative woes, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker somewhat sticks the landing with Rey’s journey. There are some double-backs here also (one that seemingly misses the entire purpose of why someone might find her an inspiring hero), but also a functional payoff. It’s at least attempting to resolve things in a way that should theoretically please most people in that regard, but not without faults of its own. It’s easier to just say that while the landing is stuck, that doesn’t necessarily mean the landing is in the correct place. Oddly enough, C-3PO gets the most engaging material; do with that information whatever you will.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a gorgeous and action-packed intergalactic extravaganza sure to provide excitement, but we shouldn’t be settling for the bare minimum, let alone begging for it. A better movie would further explore the importance of identity and hate rather than dole out the expected reveals and safe conclusions. Everyone from the actors to the fans deserve better; sadly, this is what they wanted. Except this time it’s different; now, both sides are going to be pissed off.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com