Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Review)

Welcome to my much-delayed review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I needed a lot of time before penning my thoughts on the film. Some people love the movie, and some people hate it. However, after multiple screenings, it ultimately came down to three things for me.

The Force Awakens left me with unimaginable joy that brought my favorite franchise back to glory. The Last Jedi threw me through a subversive loop that made me question what I had seen. The Rise of Skywalker made me feel nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The final chapter of the Skywalker saga is brutally hampered by the film’s breakneck pace. It moves from scene to scene without allowing anything to marinate, keeping many pivotal moments from being earned.

Emperor Palpatine returns and is revealed as the mastermind behind everything that transpired in the sequel trilogy. I had total faith J.J. Abrams wouldn’t resurrect such an iconic character without a great reason.

“The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”

That’s all we get. It’s a cool line from Episode III, but it’s lazy storytelling

There is A LOT crammed into this rapid-fire 142-minute feature. Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewie have to find a thing, that leads to another thing, that leads to the thing that finally leads them to Palpatine’s hidden Sith planet, Exogol. If that’s not enough, there is a plethora of fan service along with several moments that retcon the narrative strokes Rian Johnson established in The Last Jedi.

The most significant plot point altered is Rey’s parents being nobody. While Johnson’s idea of Rey not being related to Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi created a beautiful message that anyone can be strong with the Force, it wasn’t a satisfying answer since the previous film teased something more.

Rey is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, the most powerful Sith Lord ever, which explains why she was so naturally powerful without any training. Rey being a Palpatine ties in well thematically. However. the familial connection felt shoehorned in because Palpatine’s return wasn’t earned.

J.J. Abrams spent so much time retconning what Rian Johnson presented; none of the new characters except for the tiny droid smith, Babu Frick, got time to shine. D-O is the new droid on the block who is cute, has a backstory, but his lack of screen time will make him forgettable by the time the end credits roll. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), whose character was just as divisive as the film she debuted in, is reduced to an extra with a couple of lines.

Sadly the script gave Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine very little to work with as his looming presence over the film was emphasized more than the man himself. The performance is fine, but there is nothing memorable about it, which is crazy. Palpatine is one of the most quoted characters in the franchise, but he was given just enough material to move the plot forward.

One of the main plot points involved Finn wanting to tell Rey something important was left unresolved. It’s revealed that Finn is Force-sensitive near the end of the film when he felt Rey’s passing. The thing is, the average moviegoer doesn’t equate a feeling to one having force powers.

My wife is as casual as casual gets when it comes to Star Wars. She didn’t pick up on it and was disappointed that we never got the answer. J.J. Abrams confirmed in an interview that Finn wanted to tell Rey that he feels the Force.

Why wasn’t that moment in the film?

I’m a diehard fan who listens to every interview. My wife, not so much. If it wasn’t for me telling her about the interview, she would never know, but that still doesn’t make up for the experience in the theater of not getting the answer to a question that was asked.

Despite the film’s problems, there are some good things. The dynamic between Kylo Ren and Rey is the film’s emotional epicenter. Abrams built upon their relationship and delivered a satisfying conclusion. The humor was very much on point, which was not the case in The Last Jedi, where Johnson’s use of Marvel humor failed. When it comes to hilarity in Star Wars, Abrams gets it.

The smooth-talking smuggler Lando Calrissian brought the magic as only Billy Dee Williams can deliver. His screen time was short but sweet. We learn why he was absent in the trilogy’s prior films, and he serves a purpose in the story.

The passing of Carrie Fisher made many wonder how Lucasfilm would handle using her unused scenes from The Force Awakens to say goodbye to Princess Leia. Besides one scene, her presence flowed and felt natural. Even that one-off moment didn’t feel intrusive considering the situation. Leia’s swan song was handled with love.

If Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and J.J. Abrams had owned the choices made in The Last Jedi, warts and all, The Rise of Skywalker would have had more time to flesh out the narrative. This would have allowed pivotal moments to breathe, provide substance to the new characters, and focus on being its own movie instead of trying to make everyone happy.

Star Wars fandom has become a toxic place these days. I didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker. However, I’m not going to insult people who liked the film or publicly bash those who made it. You will not find a single creator in any form of entertainment who purposefully puts out lousy material. Abrams did what he felt was best, and for me, it didn’t work.

Regardless of how I feel about Episode 9. I’m still going to buy the Blu-ray the first day it goes on sale,  and watch it several times when I get home along with intermittent viewings going forward. I’ve loved Star Wars since I was five years old, and I’m not about to abandon it simply because they got one wrong. After all, a wise man once said: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

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