by Hans A. Carpenter
Release Date: December 20
Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Carie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Adam Driver
Mister Marquee Says: An average end to an iconic story
Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDermott) is back from the dead! Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the gang must find a way to save the galaxy from this threat while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) tries to snuff out r rebellion while navigating this new threat to his rule.
The conversation around Star Wars has been so nasty over the last few years I’m almost afraid to talk about it in public, it is like I’m bringing up politics, religion, and sex at the same time. That’s truly a shame, as I love Star Wars and always have, as anyone who read my review of the entire Skywalker saga the last few weeks can tell. The simple fact is, it’s not very fun to talk about any more.
The Rise of Skywalker had a tough challenge. With the fanbase divided after The Last Jedi, and the sequel trilogy in general, how do you win over such a split, malcontent crowd and serve as a capstone to a nine-picture epic that’s carved into the popular consciousness? JJ Abrams answered the call with a movie that’s big, loud, fast, and chalk full of callbacks. On its own, Rise of Skywalker is a bit of a mixed bag. While I enjoyed it overall, it’s by far the sloppiest of the sequel movies. The plot is a breakneck sprint from the opening crawl to the end credits. That may have been in the hopes that by keeping things moving quickly you’re less likely to notice that a lot of the plot doesn’t make much sense at all, far more than the knit picks the first two movies invited. The end result is a movie that feels sloppy.
This is a three-hour movie scrunched into 142 minutes. Like with The Force Awakens, where Abrams is limp in imagination, he at least compensates with heart. The character moments are very strong indeed, and the acting is excellent, particularly from Adam Driver who has been the shining light of this series as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, easily the most interesting and compelling character. The handling of Leia was appropriate and impressive in light of Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing. When Rian Johnson took over where JJ Abrams left off, Luke Skywalker was standing on an island meeting Rey for the first time, Rey handed Luke his old lightsaber, and Luke unceremoniously tossed it over his shoulder. Johnson did the same with JJ’s mystery box plot devices, like “who are Rey’s parents?” and “who is Snoke?” When JJ took over the third installment, he picked up Johnson’s lightsaber and tossed it over his shoulder again, tossing out most of The Last Jedi and reworking what he wanted from the beginning. At least I hope that’s the case. An increasingly likely explanation is that Disney turned to the king of the crowd pleasing nostalgia flick to cobble together a desperate Hail Mary to try to win back jaded fans.
Either way, the result is the same; this is a disjointed saga that doesn’t have a cohesive thread the way the other two trilogies do. This trilogy is an award fit into the nine-part Skywalker saga. For all of their flaws, Lucas at least had consistent themes and a defined story thread through the prequel movies that fit nicely narratively and thematically, not necessarily in the small details, but in broad strokes with the original trilogy. Those felt like one cohesive story, and the new movies with this conclusion feel tacked on, and that’s a shame. It’s a shame for the continuity of the series, but a greater shame because these movies in a vacuum are good movies.
Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining movie with many great character moments and great action and set pieces. It just feels like a safe, generic reply to fan backlash. If Disney would have stuck to JJ’s vision from the beginning, fine. If they would have had the courage to stick with Johnson’s change of course, fine. Disney has been reactive with Star Wars instead of proactive and as a result, has created a chimera of a trilogy. As the Emperor once said, “you will pay for your lack of vision.” The prequels were what they were, but there was ambition. However you feel about The Last Jedi, it was ambitious. I’m much more likely to forgive ambition that doesn’t land. This isn’t a bad movie. I had a good time, and would love to watch it again. I just can’t help but feel that for all its sound and fury, the final chapter of Star Wars ended with a bit of a whimper.