Review of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Spoilers)
I am not really capable of a proper film review, as I know so little of the process of film-making… but my friend Clint is busy, and this blog isn’t going to let the final Star Wars film pass without acknowledgement.
I’m also not as good as Clint as keeping it spoiler-free, and I’m assuming that most readers, if interested, have already seen “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”.
So here goes.
“The Rise of Skywalker” is an entertaining, lively and fast-moving (sometimes too fast-moving) film. The effects are spectacular, of course. The trio of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are watchable and fun.
In addition, it daringly kills off a beloved major character; it deals adequately (in my opinion) with the loss of Carrie Fisher before filming; it introduces not one but two new female characters; it has interesting new ideas (that Rey might do better using the Force for healing rather than killing, and that other storm troopers before Finn might have thought to defect); and it gives C3PO a long-overdue moment of heroism.
There is exactly the right amount of Ewok, and I cannot deny the nerdish thrill of spotting Denis Lawson returning as Wedge Antilles for the final fight.
You are sensing a “but”.
Oh boy, this film is disappointing.
Possibly unlike most people, I liked both “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”, but it certainly can’t be denied that they seemed to be coming from different places – that questions and issues raised in TFA were cavalierly thrown aside in TLJ.
Most obviously: Who is Snoke? (Who cares – let’s just kill him) and Who are Rey’s parents? (Nobodies, although frankly how could Kylo Ren know?) The only question raised by TFA that TLJ answered – and answered well – was Why did Luke run?
The two films did however both set up the Big Conflict: Rey on the Light side, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on the Dark. His journey to the Dark/Sith seemed complete at the end of TLJ.
Given that Star Wars is what it is, there seemed only two ways this could go. Kylo stays bad and is defeated; or he is redeemed like his grandfather. I really hoped they could find a third, interesting, option.
The two films together, for all their differences, had given us a powerful picture of the creation of a new Sith lord, ending up with a great villain (with a second-in-command promisingly ready to mutiny.)
The one thing “The Rise of Skywalker” did not need was another villain. But it gave us two: one appeared from nowhere, and his personality could be summed up as “Ruthless Evil Commander”, and the other…
SPOILER (unless you’ve seen the trailer)
For no reason, and with no explanation… Emperor Palpatine, back from the dead, with a whole new fleet from nowhere!
This shows a lack of confidence and imagination that is breath-taking, although admittedly it follows the traditional franchise rule that the good side can never catch a break: there is always, suddenly, a bigger Death Star.
In other respects, “The Rise of Skywalker” took TLJ’s trashing of its predecessor to new levels. TLJ had brought in a strong female character, a very likeable one (whatever one may think of what the plot gave her to do). She had about two scenes in this film, seen poring over a computer. It was as if “The Return of the Jedi” had opened with Lando Calrissian dropping Luke off on Tatooine and saying “You’ll be OK now, I suppose?”
TLJ had Rey “learning” that her parents were unimportant, thus sending a hugely valuable message that you can be a Jedi without being born to it – the new film gave her the most preposterous aristocratic Jedi backstory possible.
TLJ gave us that sad moment of a call for help which no one answered. The new film…
didn’t even have the grace (or the nerve) to say something like “Well, we were all on the way. It takes time to organise a rescue mission.”
Who other than me spent the film waiting for Rey to tell the two bad men who were giving her A/B choices – “I don’t have to do it your way. I’m choosing C”? We waited in vain.
And… it killed off a major character but immediately undid the death; it introduced interesting new ideas in order to do nothing with them; and as for C3PO… I guess the old question is finally answered: yes, droids are sentient moral beings, but no, we’re still not required to think twice before mind-wiping them for our convenience. (Poe otherwise had a good film, but that was a low point.)
I haven’t even mentioned the “I’ve got something to tell you” moment that was referenced later, but never explained.
After all this ranting, however, I can’t help remembering a young idealistic boy who was told (long, long ago) that someone called Darth Vader “betrayed and murdered your father.” When Luke discovered that Darth Vader was his father (or did he? Vader said so, and Luke’s “feelings” confirmed this, without seemingly the need for birth certificates or blood tests) he sought an explanation for this manipulative and self-serving lie. Obi-Wan Kenobi claimed that his original statement was true “from a certain point of view.”
This either demonstrates that Kenobi, like other Jedi, isn’t nearly as nice, honest or wise as he likes to think he is… or that George Lucas hadn’t got around to planning the plot of “The Empire Strikes Back” when issuing “Star Wars Ep 1.”
I find it utterly astonishing and indeed deplorable that some team or other released “The Force Awakens” as the first of a new three-part saga… without apparently anyone having any idea where the story was going to end up. But, well, maybe it has happened before.
In any case, the makers of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi” did, on the whole and in the end, craft an overall arc that was fairly coherent and memorable.
Sadly, I don’t think this is true of the next generation. The adverts said “The saga will end”. I think it probably should.
(Wow, that was fun. I probably needed an excuse to rant today. Anyone wanting to push back?)
Love from the PPI Blogger