Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Rating2.0 / 5
Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega
19 December 2019
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
It’s said you’re not a true Star Wars fan unless you hate Star Wars. If that’s true, then The Rise of Skywalker could be the new fan favourite.
A mysterious message from the long-presumed dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) echoes throughout the galaxy, bringing foreboding signs of the First Order’s mass retaliation and uprising that could lead to a Sith regime and vanquish the Rebels for good. Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) follow a trail of clues left by Luke Skywalker to track down and stop the Emperor, but new information about Rey’s past threatens the balance of the force. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), now Supreme Leader of the First Order, is sought allegiance by Palpatine, but once again finds his loyalties tested.
There’s no better visual metaphor for the creative direction behind Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy than that of Kylo Ren’s Vader-reminiscent helmet. It was introduced in J.J. Abrams’ nostalgia fueled The Force Awakens, shattered to smithereens in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and finally, quite literally glued back together again for Abrams return in The Rise Of Skywalker. It reflects how Abrams has attempted to pick up the pieces and make it all resemble something meaningful with the supposed ‘final’ chapter of the Skywalker saga.
For the third time in many-a lifetime, we’re being led to believe this is the main Star Wars’ storyline coming full circle. With the burden of concluding nine films over 40 years (not counting spinoffs) and tying up all the broken threads, there’s no way Episode IX can live up to its gargantuan obligations, right?
Well yes, right, unfortunately. It’s easy to lay blame at the feet of Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi – probably the most divisive entry to a franchise ever. While its defenders will fight this, it is at least partially to blame for a lot of The Rise of Skywalker’s problems. Many fans took ire with TLJ for superfluous reasons, but whatever your opinion of it, there’s no denying that its purposefully left-field creative decisions backed the trilogy into a corner. Johnson, so determined to subvert expectations, ultimately tied up most of the lingering mysteries and story arcs in an unsatisfying manner. Bold, maybe, but not ideal for the second part of a trilogy.
Since the colossal fan backlash, Disney bringing Abrams back to the fold has reeked of damage control – a point now proven, as he spends a great deal of Rise backpedaling on a number of things set up and finalised last time. Since the big bad of the trilogy (Snoke) was killed off with a shrug in TLJ, Rise makes the rather desperate move of resurrecting Emperor Palpatine as its villain, purely for the sake of needing a recognisable evil for the climactic chapter.
With little in the way of real defining character traits, the central trio are severely lacking the chemistry of Luke, Han and Leia, or hell, even Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme. Finn and Poe are again given nothing to do, while Rey’s hazy arc is attempted to be given some purpose by throwing in another twist that makes little sense. Where TFA had Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and TLJ had Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), TROS is the first time these new characters don’t have an OT stalwart to bounce off (save for a handful of recycled deleted scenes of Carrie Fisher’s Leia), and their absence is felt as the lack of real characterization of the newbies is made truly apparent.
The actors commendably give the poor writing their all, particularly Daisy Ridley, who does everything she can to make her un-enthrallingly overpowered Rey seem interesting. Adam Driver, whose Kylo Ren was once the new trilogy’s most fascinating addition, is now neutered and tragically sidelined. He deserves much better, but at least tries to deliver an admirable send-off.
There are a few positives at least, like the continuation of the new movies’ stunning visual flair. The lightsaber duel amidst the crashing waves of a water planet is very impressive. Billy Dee Williams‘ return as Lando Calrissian is brief but enjoyable, and there’s approximately one or two gleeful moments in the final battle that – for a fraction of a second – feel reminiscent of the joyous climaxes of older chapters. But the oppressively dark tone constantly reminds us that we’re a long way from those. Finally, we conclude on several baffling decisions that outdo even the most contested with ones made in The Last Jedi – it’s doubtful that unintentionally hilarious is what J.J. was going for.
Maybe Rian Johnson isn’t so much to blame. He was simply applying his skills to the chapter he was given and doing what he thought was intriguing with the box of mysteries set up by Abrams. Perhaps one day fans will forgive him for this. Maybe a trilogy helmed entirely by Abrams, or entirely by Johnson would have paid off with more consistency and gratification, but now we can only wonder what could have been.
It was certainly brave of Disney to experiment with a Marvel-esque universe expansion of one of the biggest intellectual properties on the planet, but let’s hope they take some time and practice some Jedi training before they attempt to hyperdrive us back into that galaxy far, far away.
Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures