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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

December 21, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review  

Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 141 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action

Daisy Ridley – Rey
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren/Ben Solo
John Boyega – Finn
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
Keri Russell – Zorii Bliss
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Ian McDiarmid – Palpatine
Naomie Ackie – Jannah
Lupita Nyong’o – Maz Kanata
Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Richard E. Grant – Allegiant General Pryde
Dominic Monaghan – Beaumont Kin
Greg Grunberg – Snap Wexley

Every journey, every saga must come to an end. Thus, the Skywalker Saga for Star Wars reaches its conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker. The Force Awakens filmmaker J.J. Abrams returns to wrap up the trilogy, coming off Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, a polarizing film that divided fans. Unfortunately for The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio’s attempts to please everyone with this installment have the opposite effect. This leaves The Rise of Skywalker a bloated, messy sequel. While it is not devoid of its appealing characters and quality moments, the film possesses flaws that plagued previous entries to the Sequel Trilogy.

Picking up not long after the events of The Last Jedi, the First Order is expanding its grip over the galaxy under the leadership of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his Knights of Ren. The ragtag Resistance is maintaining the fight, but after The Last Jedi, their forces have dwindled. Not to mention, a new dark power, Kylo Ren, has risen to influence. General Leia Organa (Fisher) has now assumed tutelage over the Force user Rey (Ridley), who grows stronger every day, but she’s still unsure of her abilities and haunted by her past. What’s worse, Emperor Palpatine’s (McDiarmid) presence threatens everything the Resistance holds dear. With the First Order building its forces to quash the rebellion once and for all, Rey, along with her trusted comrades Finn (Boyega), Poe Dameron (Isaac), Chewbacca (Suotamo), BB-8 and C-3PO (Daniels), head out on a last-ditch mission to fetch some ancient artifacts that might lead them to a place.

First of all, in defense of Disney and Kathleen Kennedy, it’s not as if bad and mediocre Star Wars movies didn’t exist beforehand. George Lucas made plenty of bad decisions while he was still in charge of Lucasfilm. Not to mention, the best Star Wars production since the original trilogy to this very day is The Mandalorian, which is produced by Disney and Kennedy.

The Rise of Skywalker is not only a course correction from The Last Jedi, but a backtrack to The Force Awakens. Even with the copious material that was likely excised, The Rise of Skywalker is comparable to having the plots of an entire trilogy of films all smushed into one movie. It results in an unwieldy, bloated narrative. The film has material that probably should have been seeded back in The Force of Awakens, tries to both acknowledge and fix the so-called “problems” of The Last Jedi and then attempts to create a satisfying conclusion. There is simply too much going on. New concepts are introduced and are not given the time and development required to fully sink in.

Not only does The Rise of Skywalker attempt a course correction for The Last Jedi, but it gleefully insults the film. Abrams and Terrio’s interviews to the media where they discuss The Last Jedi in such measured statements now come off as infinitely more patronizing and wishy-washy. They would not just say how they really felt about the film. Fans who loathed The Last Jedi might find the digs at the movie amusing. One or two would have been fine, but the multiple cracks at The Last Jedi are not only excessive but feel like blatant fan pandering. It’s no wonder Rian Johnson did not attend the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles. Who wants to watch a movie overtly roast your work over the course of almost two-and-a-half hours?

The Rise of Skywalker is plagued by the glorified fetch quests for Rey and her friends throughout the film. As a result, parts of The Rise of Skywalker come off like Canto Bight all over again. Fetch quests in RPG are not a definitively bad thing. In video games, they generally serve a functional purpose to have the players explore or open up new areas. Here, the fetch quests appear rather pointless.

The love and reverence the film pays towards Carrie Fisher is understandable. In some ways, it’s commendable. However, the Leia scenes that are in the film do not work. They look and sound awkward. The scenes are made up of footage and dialogue that are clearly spliced together and taken out of context from other sources. The effect is similar to the “The Return of Chef” episode of South Park.

Generally, Leia’s scenes don’t fit into the narrative at all. One in particular is head-scratching and makes no sense. This subplot would have been better served for Luke Skywalker (Hamill). If The Last Jedi committed any grievous sin that should have been amended, it’s the death of Luke Skywalker. Unfortunately, the execution was bungled to basically have Luke play All Might to Rey’s Deku.

The presence of Emperor Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker is problematic. Abrams clearly has learned nothing from the execution of using Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. The obvious implication from The Last Jedi was that Kylo Ren was the final villain of this new story. Abrams and Terrio appeared to be skittish in committing to that idea, so Palpatine gets rehashed. This is far worse than any of the complaints regarding lazy rehashes for previous installments in the Sequel Trilogy. Including Palpatine is not a bold move. It’s a highly illogical one that negates the events of previous films. The justification for Palpatine’s return is never realized. And wow; the second Death Star and Palpatine’s throne room stayed remarkably intact after it was nearly vaporized in Return of the Jedi.

The film does contain some quality scenes. There are definitely some fun genuinely funny moments to be had between the legacy characters, such as C-3PO. Finn and Poe have quite a few scenes together and generally have a good rapport. It’s nice to see Billy Dee Williams back as Lando Calrissian, but he doesn’t really serve an important, meaningful role, other than to score nostalgia points for his presence.

Of course, John Williams always delivers rousing and inspiring music cues. There is some entertaining action to be had at times. Unfortunately, the execution is rushed and inorganic.

Two aspects that hurt the movie the most are the awkward editing and pacing. The first five minutes are incredibly jarring as the movie rushes through delivering and dumping a cavalcade of information. Even the famous opening crawl reads in a very rushed, abbreviated fashion. There are basically several prologue sequences here, so much so that Abrams and Terrio appear to be playing catch up by running through ideas that previous movies never addressed. Considering his background on Justice League and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s a sense that Terrio, as a writer, is not good at handling multiple spinning plates in these major studio tentpoles. Abrams and Terrio attempt to squeeze in too much plot and quickly introduce and establish new concepts, which results in the film trying to do too much way too fast.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is largely able to get away with long run times and packing in so many characters and subplots because many of the major developments are spread out among multiple films. Characters are already established, fully realized and developed by the time they are introduced in Avengers: Infinity War or Endgame. The Rise of Skywalker does not have those advantages.

One of more surprising aspects to arise from The Rise of Skywalker was the idea that this is considered to be the final chapter and conclusion of the Skywalker Saga for Star Wars. That idea alone came off as rather arbitrary. But with the sour, bitter taste that The Rise of Skywalker leaves the audience, perhaps closing the book on this trilogy of trilogies is for the best.

The good news is that there are still good stories and products coming out of the franchise with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, The Mandalorian, some of the spinoff comics and various other releases. If you are a hardcore fan, this franchise isn’t a total loss, but Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is most definitely a letdown.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
The days of The Force Awakens, where things with the sequel trilogy were optimistic and new, are now a distant memory. The Rise of Skywalker attempts to send off the Skywalker Saga with a bang. Instead, in trying to pack in too many plots, the film results in a bloated, messy conclusion. The return of Palpatine is more of a rehash than any sin committed by the previous sequels. The inclusion of various characters and subplots are haphazard. In effect, forcing this film as a conclusion to the Skywalker Saga is remarkably arbitrary, and frankly, unnecessary. At the very least, The Mandalorian is still in business for one more season.