Published on December 20th, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant0
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
We bring over 40 years of story to an end with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Does the final installment do the franchise justice?
Over the last few years, some corners of fandom have become quite toxic, and Star Wars fans have led the charge to see who can be the most horrible (which is ironic, considering that Star Wars is about good friends doing the right thing). I think that’s just a vocal minority, but a lot of us are still guilty of putting Star Wars on some weird pedestal. We are soooo precious about it. Every new Star Wars movie is either, “the one could save the franchise!” or, “the one ruined my childhood!” There doesn’t seem to be much in between.
I remember the feedback on my review of the controversial, The Last Jedi, in which I was pretty down the middle — I loved some of it, I didn’t love some of it. But people didn’t like that sort of even-handed thinking; they wanted me to either love it unconditionally, or hate it unconditionally. And so, we wander back into the fray, as The Rise of Skywalker has some pretty dismal early reviews.
But let me tell you, as someone who has been a Star Wars fan since I was about four years old, when my parents took me to see the original; I have some mixed feelings and nitpicks about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But overall I liked it, and found it a reasonably satisfying ending to the trilogy.
This time around, we find Rey continuing her Jedi training with Leia, while Finn, Poe, Chewie and company (as well as Kylo, separately) discover that Emperor Palapatine has risen again, enacting a plan to take over the galaxy with his terrifying Final Order. Kylo tries to turn Rey to the dark side so they can take on the Emperor, and Rey tries to turn Kylo back to the light side so they can take on the Emperor. Everyone races around in a series of MacGuffins to save the universe (find the plans that find the planet that has the doohickey that will find the other planet where they can find the bad guys, etc).
I was a bit scared in the first half of the movie. Our heroes were rushing around, being attacked, explosions and excitement left and right, but it sort of felt…boring. Like they were just going through the motions, chasing their MacGuffins to a cranked-up John Williams score.
In fact, the movie was pretty messy in terms of how many characters they were juggling and introducing. Some of their stories go nowhere, some of them we aren’t given enough reason to care about, and there are plenty of weird shipping moments that don’t pay off. Even when it’s more cohesive, it’s distracting from the main event. For example, the cute new robot that’s introduced — he has some fun little scenes and I’m sure he’ll sell lots of plush toys, but it means less screen time with other characters, especially R2D2 and BB-8, who were already sort of the same character. Even Leia feels short-changed, though this may have had to do with Carrie Fisher’s passing.
Some of the action scenes were also messy. I love the visual palate of this new trilogy, bright hues of red and blue, beautiful planets, and amazing set design. But sometimes the action is muddy in Rise of Skywalker; it’s hard to tell what’s happening, and there’s not really a sequence that’s as exciting or well-choreographed as Rey and Kylo’s fight with Snoke’s guards in Last Jedi. I’m also not sure how some of the mysticism or Jedi powers worked. Maybe a rewatch will help, but it felt like they were flying as fast and loose as the Falcon with some of it.
Now hold on just a second. You said you liked the movie and now you’re tearing it apart like pulled Bantha meat from Aunt Beru’s slowcooker.
Rise of Skywalker picks up significantly in the second half, owing to some really emotional moments and at least one stunning surprise. In fact, even when things get painfully predictable, I was still sucked in emotionally. I guess I don’t always come to a Star Wars movie for the fantastic worlds and laser blasts — I come for the love of my on-screen friends and their triumphs and tragedies.
And I’m sorry, toxic misogynists, but I love Rey. I love Poe and Finn too, which means that even from Force Awakens they pulled off the impossible — a successful transition from our beloved Han, Luke, and Leia to a new generation. But I love Rey’s journey, her heart, and Daisy Ridley’s humanity as she becomes a tough as nails Jedi Knight. And no spoilers — but while I had no problem with what Rian Johnson did with her parentage, I love how Abrams works with that here, and I love where they take all of it. I would really like to see more of Rey; maybe a smaller, less noisy movie with more focus, much like Ant-man was a palate cleanser for The Avengers, where we get to see Rey (and maybe even Poe and Finn and the gang) going about her new Jedi quests. The main Skywalker story is over, but she could write a new one.
Does Rise of Skywalker play it safe? Is Abrams just parroting other things and not having original thoughts, as some of the reviews suggest? Sure, for the most part. It’s a corporate entity now and it definitely has shades of Return of the Jedi, in the same way Force Awakens was a beat-for-beat remake of New Hope. But I’d say it has more originality than Force Awakens (which I loved, by the way). And you can’t please the fans; if you play it safe like Abrams, they riot. If you go a new direction like Johnson, they riot. For my money, I think the Skywalker trilogy should play it pretty safe. But there’s a whole big universe where they can take all kinds of chances and tell all kinds of stories with different tones.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker won’t save the franchise. It won’t ruin my childhood. Star Wars doesn’t owe me anything; I owe it a lot. You can bet I’ll stay with the franchise, through the good, the bad and the mediocre, with my friends and my kids, watching, and dreaming of adventures that happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.