Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

The final installment in the Skywalker Saga falls rather than rises to its gargantuan ambitions and narrative leaps.

The Fall Of Star Wars

(This is a NON-spoiler review) 

 

I have enjoyed almost all of the new Star Wars movies we have gotten in recent years save for the Han Solo movie released last May. Even in its most divisive moments like The Last Jedi, I stuck with the choices made and had a blast rewatching the movie despite some glaring flaws that haven’t aged well. Reaching the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, my expectations have been cautiously optimistic as I was eager to see just how they would pull everything off given the new status quo. 

The Rise of Skywalker is a mixed bag filled to the brim with plot, action, and emotions that sometimes work out and more often falls flat. The movie has the gargantuan task of trying to conclude a 9 movie saga while also appeasing a divided fan base that has grown disdainful towards Disney Star Wars movies. This was their Hail Mary, and while there is some things that worked it ultimately tries to bite off more than it can chew and leaves a bitter taste for both hateful and loyal fans of the franchise. 

To keep things vague in terms of the plot, the film follows Rey, Poe, and Finn as they try to find a way to protect the galaxy from the vicious First Order while Kylo Ren is being drawn by a mysterious presence that fans know as Emperor Palpatine. The journey takes us to many different planets and introduces some new characters for the final chapter in the story of Skywalker. 

The thing that works in this movie the most is the element that has carried this sequel trilogy from the beginning and that is both Rey and Kylo Ren. Both of them are fascinating characters and here they are given a lot more to explore both in terms of their ambiguous shared connection and who they are as individuals. Kylo Ren has been my favorite character and Adam Driver gives a strong yet subdued performance in this final outing that is continued to be riddled with complexities and conflict. Daisy Ridley once again rises to the challenge of the young Jedi knight, imbuing a new sense of vulnerability that we haven’t seen in the previous movies. 

While Rey, Finn, and Poe do not have the same friendship and dynamic that the original trio had, it is still fun to watch them all together on the same mission. They have some quite funny banter between one another and specifically Finn and Poe are scene stealers with their dialogue. You can tell that Rey and Finn definitely have a strong bond that was established in The Force Awakens, but the trio dynamic isn’t as consistent as it can be due to the fact that we haven’t seen them all together until now. That does hurt the attachment we would feel towards their team but regardless it is fun to see them all together. 

Unfortunately, the story these characters are given falls completely flat and fails to invest its audience consistently in a narrative structure. Our heroes jump from planet to planet, searching for this person or this thing, looking for this clue or getting this information, and ultimately just going on a glorified scavenger hunt for the first two acts. The movie moves at such a breakneck pace that there really isn’t time to breathe with how much ground they have to cover. By the time the movie reaches the third act, you feel exhausted rather than exhilarated given how much exposition overload and unnecessary sequences you had to endure. 

The narrative questions that you had going into this movie are all answered but the answers aren’t just jumping; they are leaping. All of the reveals and twists in this movie are such a far reach and aren’t given the proper explanation they deserve. Information is given and you will either accept it or become frustrated with it. While most of my friends I saw the movie with decided to accept it, it was painfully frustrating to me to see how some of the choices in this movie were handled. It seemed as though the movie was really trying to please everyone who was turned off from the previous film but it was at the expense of any logic or explanation. The reveals simply put do not make any sense at all and leave huge plot holes that unfortunately cannot be overlooked. 

J.J. Abrams is  trying to appease people who didn’t like The Last Jedi’s subversion of expectations, answer all the questions The Force Awakens set up, and conclude the trilogy all within a two and a half hour run time. The first half of the movie is filled with so much whiplash jumping from planet to planet that it feels like it should have been its own movie replacing The Last Jedi. Looking back on this trilogy of movies, it is painfully obvious that there was no road map of where the overarching narrative was going. These movies now seem like an inconsistent and sloppy set, rather than a cohesive and intriguing trilogy. The events set up in the first film were not properly followed up and now the third film tries to accomplish way more than it can at the cost of an entertaining film. It is really sad to see and Disney needs to take a hard look at something before they just spew out new content. 

With it being a conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, the movie attempts to double down on its action and fan service but it doesn’t give the rousing emotions and chills that it was hoping too. The third act set piece is just so over the top that it was hard to feel any emotional attachment to the conflict going on. Certainly characters like Finn and Poe are easy to root for given their charismatic demeanor, but the rest of the crew isn’t given the same emotional weight that made me want to root for them. Even moments where the film attempts to honor the legacy of Star Wars made me feel absolutely nothing, and I was thinking on the way home what would have made me really get excited as the conclusion ramped forward. 

The action in this movie certainly is impressive, and there are some entertaining sequences scattered throughout. Particularly, any scene involving a light-saber of some sort was intriguing and enthralling. From the different planets to inside big star destroyers, the action does keep you entertained but it certainly is not the best the franchise has had to offer. I was underwhelmed by the film’s end in the sense that I wanted more out of it from a conclusion standpoint. Nonetheless those looking for an action packed movie for the winter break,  The Rise of Skywalker certainly has the explosions and fights you are looking for. 

The movie plays with the Force a lot in this movie in a lot of unexpected ways. Things are done that haven’t been shown before in the movies and it seems like they use it as a plot device most of the time instead of relying on its intriguing mysterious elements. While there are certainly elements that are cool and emotional, I do think the filmmakers just used the Force more out of convenience rather than retaining its mystical elements in the story. 

It’s no spoiler to say that Emperor Palpatine returns, and his inclusion in this movie looking back feels utterly forced into the overall trilogy. Granted I did enjoy seeing Ian McDiarmid chew the scenery yet again in such an iconic role, but you really feel that J.J. Abrams included him because Snoke was killed in the last movie. The movie doesn’t do the best job of organically weaving him into the conflict and you are left with more questions than answers with his return. 

This was truly a mixed bag for me, and I can’t say that I enjoyed the majority of what The Rise of Skywalker had to offer. There are definitely certain moments in the film that were intriguing and entertaining to watch but the story was just too unnecessarily convoluted that it was hard to keep my interest at times. While the third act can feel rather clunky, it does attempt to pay tribute to the legacy that Star Wars has and delivers a few crowd pleasing moments. I can’t recommend that you go see this movie in theaters now, but undoubtedly you have your own opinions and questions that you want satisfied. I say go see for yourself how you like the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga and figure out if the Force will be with us always. 

 

7.0/10 Chaotic

If you want my spoiler thoughts on the film: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker SPOILER Review

Check out my other reviews:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

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