Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Review

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Cover

A long time ago in a movie theatre far away, this was the best franchise in the world… the Rise of Skywalker does its best to remind you of this, but not enough to make it true.

No spoilers here, but obviously if you don’t want to know anything about the film, look away now. 

Star Wars changed everything in 1977. A film, which at its core is about space wizards and blue milk, managed to cause a cultural shift that changed the landscape of film, fandom and science fiction forever. As one of many people the world over who has been heavily influenced by this cultural phenomenon, it pains me to see what it has become. 

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is a bad film. Not just a bad Star Wars film; but a poorly paced, poorly written, nonsensical mess of a movie, trying far too hard to get the nostalgia crowd back on side after the controversial The Last Jedi. At multiple points I felt as though I were watching a very expensively produced fan movie, or a collection of them; because in many ways, nothing ever tied together. Wouldn’t it be cool of Rey did this? What about if Kylo Ren did that? And what if that guy shows up? That would be great wouldn’t it? 

Plot

Perhaps this fan service is what you want. But with these forced moments crammed into every nook, there is no time to build emotions and tension, or see a character grow into any situation. Avengers Endgame, whilst not perfect, showed that even in a film which closes off a 10 year, 20 movie plus story arc, characters can still develop in their own personal journey in the final instalment. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is the epitome of that – the longest established character has legitimate character growth and realisations which makes his own conclusion all the more impactful. Contrast this to Rise of Skywalker, and fairly one dimensional “Chosen one, Scoundrel, Hero” types just hop from one video game mission to another doing “Chosen one, Scoundrel, Hero” stuff. 

Of course there is a plot, a long convoluted plot full of maclunky mcguffins, deus ex machinas and what the writers will try and tell you is the moment you’ve been waiting for, delivered with the sincerity of the cinema attendant who is still working at midnight, baying you to enjoy the film. The main plot is the basic Star Wars template; “Big bad guy tries to take over galaxy, but wait, Jedi!”  and whilst there are attempts at putting a twist on it, these are largely predictable or when attempting to be clever, the result is at best, pointless or at worst, bewildering.

Where the film really suffers is not entirely of its own doing; rather the fault should largely be placed at the feet of Disney, who ehem, “Masterminded” the trilogy as a whole. From minute one, it’s pretty clear that effectively nothing in the last two films count for much, with different baddies shipped in, less liked characters phased out, and for some reason, whole new characters introduced as if they had some purpose, only to act as the dullest plot devices of 2019. The lack of planning is clear as daylight, and whatever you think of the Last Jedi, this couldn’t have been a clearer attempt to pander to the Gen X crowd who just came to hear the hits. The only plot points from previous films that are mentioned, Disney swiftly ties off or dismisses them as unimportant. Remember the Knights of Ren? Well we finally get to see them; for all of 5 minutes in total, their big fight scene maybe lasting 2 if you’re being generous. 

Characters

The main characters are the definition of “ok.” The acting is by and large decent, with the cast doing the best they can to care about the nonsense which is unravelling around them. But try as they might, it’s a real struggle to care about any of them. Characters do die in this film, a few in fact, but even beloved character deaths aren’t felt. Everything is just happening too quickly and erratically for an emotion to ever really settle. For one character in particular, the juxtaposition in tone from the scene to the death was so odd someone in the cinema burst out laughing.  

It’s no real spoiler; old favourites return, and whilst some of these returns should feel like massively significant moments, instead it feels like a cameo chucked in to give a nod and a wink to the audience (remember me?) before disappearing again not really to affect the film at all. Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing in 2017 and inclusion in the film is treated with an admirable respect rather than a CGI monstrosity, and so the mish-mash cutting of old footage is somewhat forgivable – even if it does create a host of out of place scenes.

Other signposted returns include Billy D Williams’ Lando Calrissian and Ian McDermid’s Emperor Palpatine,  and whilst the former is nod and a wink central, Palpatine plays a more pivotal role. Neither are bad or even unwelcome in their respective roles, but in the continuing theme, one walks away from the cinema wondering: what exactly they were doing there? Despite the former emperor having an important part to play on paper, looking back he does nothing in this movie that links back to anything he has done previously. Aside from name dropping, the writers could have swapped him out for “Darth bad bloke” and it wouldn’t have made a single difference to the plot. 

Purpose?

In Avengers Endgame, we praised the film for showing a certain amount of respect for its audience. It was telling a story – and you either went along for the ride or you didn’t, but the filmmakers set a line in the sand; if you are here watching this movie, we are going to assume you want to be here, and you know what’s going on. 

Arguably the biggest crime committed by the Rise of Skywalker is the complete lack of respect it has for the audience. The over indulgence of feel-good fan service is hammered down your throat, and by the end the feeling of being given cheap sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner makes even the biggest Star Wars fan queasy. Disney don’t appear to know the basics here; if you love your kids you give them real food most of the time, who knows, it may make them appreciate the sweets more. 

On top of that, the unending stream of jargon is enough to convince you the film came with its own drinking game. Without counting, I would guess the words “Sith,” “Saber” (the light part is so old school), and “Palpatine” go about 10 mentions apiece, with the latter being particularly jarring as it’s not really been used that much before now. Names of new planets and characters are also massively overdone in a vague hope that the audience will remember them, despite the majority of new entries having seemingly no importance. 

So who was this movie for? I class myself as a fan, but being born long after the Return of the Jedi I feel a lack the blind love for the original series which provoked such massive backlash to The Last Jedi. Indeed many of those fans I spoke to couldn’t offer much of a reason for their displeasure more than “it’s just not Star Wars.” 

I make a couple of comparisons to Endgame here, for good reason. Endgame showed just how to cap off a long running story – respect the material, the fans and most of all, make a solid film. Star Wars may be the original saga, but in the end the pressure from those who love it, coupled with a lack of single vision from the top resulted in a final film which could not bring balance to the force.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.