General Leia Organa dispatches secret agents to gather intelligence, while REY, the last hope of the Jedi, trains for battle against the diabolical FIRST ORDER.
Meanwhile, Supreme Leader KYLO REN rages in search of the phantom Emperor, determined to destroy any threat to his power...
After 8 or 10 (depending on how you count them) films and hundreds of hours of TV, finally we have reached the end of the whole Star Wars saga. Hooray, I guess. This review is going to contain spoilers but I figure anyone with any interest will have already seen this film.
Suffice to say that The Rise of Skywalker is a disappointing and confusing mess of a film. How could it be so bad?
After the weirdness that was The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker seems like a misguided attempt to play it safe. The main plot-line of Rey and Kylo Ren is continued and concluded more or less satisfactory but a bunch of little stories from the previous film are dropped. In particular, the relationship between Rose and Finn is just straight up ignored. Rose is hardly in the film at all and Finn is more of a all-out hero here, both very uninteresting choices.
Another difference from the last film - lightsabers. The Last Jedi was very sparing with the magic swords but anyone thinking of playing a lightsabers based drinking game during Rise of Skywalker will likely be dead halfway through. From the very first shot to the extra double secret surprise lightsaber introduced near the end, Rise of Skywalker could have been called Lightsaber : The Movie.
There are so many little petty and needless reversals from The Last Jedi that I suspect that JJ Abrams must actively hate Rian Johnson. Kylo destroys his mask in TLJ in an important character moment, one of the first things he does here is glue it back together. Luke throws away his lightsaber in the last film but literally tells Rey she was an idiot as he hands her saber back to her. Rey's parentage is established completely undercutting the theme (and best part) of the previous film. So many plot points seem to be inserted just for spite.
I was wondering how they were going to cope with Carrie Fischer's death. I thought that maybe they were going to try the creepy CGI from previous attempts at reanimating dead actors, instead they obviously took a couple of minutes of deleted footage from the previous films and spliced it into scenes. The effect is perfectly seamless visually but it is clear that they only had a few random phrases to work with. So Leia just says things like "Never underestimate a droid" and the other characters emote around her. It's a bit sad but they masked the effect by making all the other dialog in the film confusing and unmemorable so these scenes do not stand out. Clever.
Also sad is Chewbacca. Peter Mayhew is also dead and Chewbacca is played by someone else. You would think that wouldn't be noticeable but Chewbacca just doesn't have that ridiculously lovable loping stride that he used to. I guess you can explain it by saying age is finally catching up with Chewie.
Other random things that bugged me:
- The editing in this film is flat-out terrible. I'm all for quick jumps into the middle of the action but important parts are just missing. There is a chase scene near the beginning that is almost impossible to follow and you seldom get a good sense of where people are in relation to each other.
- The film feels unfinished in other ways. Finn keeps telling Rey he has something important to say but whatever it is doesn't appear in the final film. What a perplexing choice.
- Riding the horse-analogues across the hull of the star destroyer should have been an epic moment but it was not well set up at all. Why didn't they just land closer to where they needed to be? What happened to the horses afterwards? A couple of lines of dialog would have answered all questions but this 142 minute film doesn't have time for such trivia.
- The Sith dagger with the weird runes was straight out of a D&D campaign created by a 14 year old. Who made it? The thing it led to was only lost 35 years ago, why write the location in mystic runes on a dagger of all things? It should have been a memo. Plus the Goonies-esque slider would only work so long as the wreck didn't collapse further and the user just happened to be standing in exactly the right spot on a featureless cliff.
- Luke's revelation/hint that Rey already had one of the two artifacts that lead to the seeeecret planet makes finding the dagger, wiping C3P0s memory, and the entire trip to the death star completely pointless.
- Finn is a reformed stormtrooper, kidnapped from a young age and brainwashed into serving The First Order. In this film he meets a whole bunch of other ex-stormtroopers who have also shaken off their conditioning. So it is double weird that he straight-up murders a lot of his former compatriots in cold blood. Further tens of thousands of what are effectively slaves are killed during the final battleIt is also a weird choice that the slaved stormtroopers we meet are people of colour whereas all of the officers are whiter-than-white. Was that delibrate? Are they trying to make a point? I honestly don't know..
- I mentioned the Rose-shaped hole before, but Rose's line explaining why she couldn't go on the adventure with the big boys because she had too much trig homework or something was hilariously lazy. Did she even get to hug Finn at the end? I didn't see her.
- Rey and Kylo kissing at the end was, to use a technical film-school jargon, hella stupid.
- Why is the film called The Rise of Skywalker anyway? The Skywalker line is completely ended with Kylo's death. Rey declares herself a Skywalker at the end but this is a) a lie and b) nothing to be proud of. Between Anakin turning evil and Luke screwing Kylo's (another close relative) training, the Skywakers have been directly responsible for subjugating half the galaxy and blowing up the rest.
Enough moaning, here are some things I liked:
- C3PO got some good screen time. I didn't really like his memory wipe subplot but I guess he should be used to it by now.
- The little droid hacker guy was fun.
- The coffee-bean quicksand effect was proper old-school adventure fare.
- The way Rey and Kylo communicated across space (the most entertaining part of TLJ) was very well used and led to the one revelation that actually worked in this film, where Rey hands off a lightsaber to Kylo. The whole film should have been filled with surprises like this, instead we get one.
- The Sith planet was pretty cool, I guess, although I don't know why Palpatine insists on using force lightning all the time. I don't think there is a single instance in any of the films where throwing lightning at somebody has actually solved anythingI am skipping that chapter in this Sith textbook I am studying..
Those paying attention will note that the annoying things outnumber the points I liked. The Rise of Skywalker is a disappointing ending to the Star Wars saga. Or it would be but we both know this isn't the final stop for this gravy train.