Spoilers have a bad feeling about this.
There is a lot riding on this last instalment of the mother of all franchises. All that being said, I still expected it to hold up as a movie itself. I understand that a lot of things have been setup beforehand, so in addition this is the glue that must hold the final trilogy together. At the same time, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi gain the retroactive duty of being memorable enough. All the beats and hints and foreshadowing get their chance for payback. This means the new film has the power of making them better or worse. Bring me the hydrospanner.
The Rise of Skywalker starts setting its tone right from the text crawl as we learn of a threat via a transmission from the Unknown Regions. The threat comes from Palpatine himself. We’re literally getting what is supposed to be a big reveal through text. I say supposed, because Ian McDiarmid’s role in the last movie has been already implied by his presence on stage after the film’s trailer dropped which ends with his signature cackle as the Emperor. Yes, he’s the main antagonist here.
The film’s plot is hard to explain. There is a theme of good vs bad in the film, but exactly how and where we go about it gets convoluted. Each scene tries to set up something that then it either resolves or reverts immediately. The Force here is literally capable to reviving someone close to death or destroying spacecraft far away. The good guys are continuously running towards their next objective with little to no planning whatsoever. Characters appear and disappear as they are being set to fulfill some minor goal and show up only to celebrate in the end.
Star Wars was based on the old adventure serials of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. From its conception, it embraced the idea of a fantasy soap opera set in space. It became the most iconic definition of a hero’s journey and amidst all the fun and adventure it also gave us the biggest twist ever with the villain being the father of the hero. To do that, it had to tell a story with a certain amount of skill. Star Wars movies do not get a pass just because they are kid friendly. They are certainly entertaining enough for adults too. I seem to remember a quote about who George Lucas wrote them for, “a whole generation growing up without any kind of fairy tales”.
That can’t be said anymore for this instalment. The storytelling is tied up in knots. The only way to describe this plot is contrived. Very, very contrived. The pacing issues are off the scale. Rey gives Luke’s lightsaber to Leia, a new quest is uncovered that she somehow knows Luke was after (?) and Leia gives her the lightsaber back. C-3PO goes with her because reasons, and says goodbye to R2-D2 as he is never going to see him again. Literally, he tells him he’s his best friend in case they never see each other. People randomly hug each other and say hello and goodbye many times in this movie and I feel that those scenes are just used randomly whether a battle was won, lost or for the finale.
Why does this movie has so many quests? First, a Sith Wayfinder. We gotta get it. Run, run and fly away to another planet. Talk to this new character. They might be an old friend of one of the main cast. Or a potential love interest that shares an identical background. And then they completely disappear from the movie after providing some clue or item until the finale. It almost felt like I was watching Saturday Night Live with a bunch of cameo appearances that won’t be seen again until the final bow. Why are we introducing so many characters? Is Disney planning a spin-offs movie for each one?
Not recommended. If you’re a fan, you’re going to watch it anyway, and I can’t blame you for that. If you are not a fan, you’re not invested so it becomes a toss. For a casual viewer expecting to be introduced to the saga, the experience might end up just as frustrating as for a jaded old school fanboy. I don’t think the storytelling, the pacing issues or the lack of cohesiveness is going to make the experience any nicer to either. If you don’t care, you might enjoy the movie in the same level you’d enjoy a collection of cutscenes from a video game that might include some out of context, some in the wrong order and some that belong to a timeline where different decisions made. I swear between the directing, the editing and re-shoots any semblance of a cohesive vision for the film was lost. I can’t even think of one that would encompass the entire Disney trilogy.
Highs, Lows, Jawas and Ewoks:
- In a scene somewhere in the movie, probably close to the end but it doesn’t matter, Maz Kanata gives Chewbacca a medal. This is obviously because someone thought Chewbacca should have received a medal back in the day. I get the sentiment, but this is completely done out of context and out of the blue. No ceremony, no big announcement, nothing. Why Maz Kanata? Because we haven’t used her for anything. Unfortunately, this is still not a thing to do. This little scene represents the entire way this movie is made. It bears no connection to anything else, does not further the plot, but we’re a few minutes closer to the ending.
- Remember Benicio Del Toro’s mercenary character? Nothing was done with him. Remember Captain Phasma? I guess she really died. Remember Rose Tico? She’s here… Barely. Why are new characters being added that are never followed upon?
- I think part of that response is in that scene on Ryan Johnson’s The Last Jedi where Rey hands Luke the lightsaber, a scene that was the ending of J. J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. Was Abrams passing the proverbial baton to Johnson? And if so, was Luke throwing the lightsaber away Johnson’s way of ignoring all the foreshadowing and doing his own thing? After watching this last film, I think both questions are true.
- In retrospective, The Last Jedi seems to be more of a farewell to the trilogy with Luke’s death while The Rise of Skywalker feels like it re-starts plots and characters from The Force Awakens. That is not to say that makes any more sense, unfortunately. There is very scarce progress made. It feels like things are being set up for the first time in all three movies.
- The classic trilogy took a few years off between movies. We missed those characters during those years as an audience, we had doubts of whether we’d see another one and the filmmakers had time to craft and streamline each film. The Disney trilogy feels rushed and slapdash-y. Ever played a video game and recognize the new level as the same than a previous one but with a different palette? Yeap, that’s exactly what the new trilogy feels like.
- We’ve had major characters die all over the place, almost invalidating them as major characters. New characters appear in this film that are not fully develop and yet seem to be treated as major characters. Palpatine can get away with it somewhat since he existed previously. Some hint of his existence could have been added somewhere though.
- Every time we have a new development, it was just an excuse to set up a visual scene with some new fancy character: A mercenary from Poe’s past, flying stormtroopers, a new droid (more on that coming up), a new adorable cutesy character to sell dolls of, a supposed new spaceship that looks exactly like the old one but has a new weapon or a couple of new wings sticking out or is just a different color…
- Yes, literally we have another droid and it has another clue… Why are there so many droids? C-3PO has a slightly bigger part in this one, but R2-D2 gets very little scenes here. I think nobody remembers R2-D2 is kinda essential for that last minute save in a bunch of scenarios in the past trilogies. He is kinda absent in this movie.
- A Sith Wayfinder to find Palpatine. What was the point of that if he just wanted to be found? A dagger that somehow indicates the shape of the ruins of the Death Star where another of the Sith gizmos are located. And to top it off all these quests require a new planet.
- Lando’s scene with Jannah (Naomi Ackie) was just creepy. Also, just like a lot of cutscene-like scenes sprinkled throughout the film, it was completely unnecessary.
- C-3PO’s memory gets erased because he reveals a translation from a forbidden language used by the Sith. He doesn’t do that voluntarily though. His supposedly adoring friends decide to do it to him. Then he tells them his memory will be wiped but it’s ok because he wants to do it now. That was a very deep scene…
- But then we later learn the other droid could guide them. And to top it off, turns out it gets undone as R2-D2 restores his memory back. That robs any enduring gravitas from what we experienced earlier.
- There’s nothing in Tatooine for Rey. I know they did it to bring us back there, but to be honest there’s already way too many desert planets in this galaxy.
- It was nice to see Harrison Ford again. See, not all bad.
- Leia’s death didn’t feel right or proper. I know they really wanted her to be involved with Kylo’s redemption, but this was one of those things that if you can’t do smoothly you should have just stopped trying.
- The tone was all over the place, specially regarding comedy. The original trilogy knew when and where to put humour. The prequels a little less so. This last one, which I’m referring to as the Disney trilogy as other people have called it just puts comedy beats scattered about the place that rarely land. They also tend to take me out of the movie experience that I’m already having a hard time watching.
- Way too many Nuke-The-Fridge moments. The Force can now stop and destroy an entire ship, cure critical wounds instantly, teleport objects and force lightning can now fly through the air hundreds of miles and affect an undetermined number of ships selectively picking out the allies from the enemies. TOO MUCH. Yes, Yoda once lifted an entire X-Wing and it was awe-inspiring. Palpatine’s Thor-God-Of-Thunder moment was just ridiculous. The whole Rey-reviving-Kylo and then dying followed by Kylo-reviving-Rey made me literally throw my hands in the air.
- The Rey and Kylo/Ben kiss was cringe city right there. They don’t have that type of chemistry. Their bond was established in the previous films and we have it present, but it feels more like a brother-sister kinship. That kiss just felt wrong.
- Retroactively I can now see problems starting in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi that just lessens them as films. They are bridges to nowhere. The Rise of Skywalker is the collapse. One vision was needed but we got two sparring ones and now Abrams seems to be retconning everything even as the final act is going on. It’s very tiring to watch, specially if you feel the need to try to follow along. There is little to no payoff to that investment. At some point, I was just begging to see the credits.
- Looking to the future, I guess Disney has set up more than a few characters to do spinoff projects from. Perhaps standalone films or shows are the better way to go. Seems with a narrower scope and lessening the number of agendas to keep will work better. We can only hope.
That will do for now.