Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — Let’s Get It Over With

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Film Info

  • Genre: Epic Space Opera
  • Director: J. J. Abrams
  • Screenplay: J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
  • Producer: Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot Productions
  • Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams
  • Running Time: 142 minutes
  • Release Date: 20 December 2019

Going to watch this in a block screening was me “getting it over with” as the trilogy had been questionable in execution thus far. I had already given up on it bearing the weight of the original trilogy’s legacy due to what the previous two films had established. I didn’t have expectations of a satisfying conclusion, but still have a mindset of wanting to enjoy it. What I got was a Star Wars film I somewhat liked, albeit with plenty of caveats.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the sequel to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I gave a 7/10 score to based on its cinematography. But as time passed, my feelings about that movie became more conflicted as I got to ponder more on its flaws. Never mind that it may have “ruined” Star Wars for a lot of fans. For me, it lacked the narrative integrity that would have made it airtight enough.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Because of my later thoughts on it and what I’ve seen in this movie, I have to change my score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s my blog, so I can do whatever I want in it. Then again, this is Star Wars. At this point, you shouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s like Star Wars was designed to be a colander—meant to be full of holes.

Because of that, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had to patch up a bucket full of holes, which it succeeds in. However, it’s main function of fixing what had been broken has stunted its potential.       

NOTE: This is a full review, so here be spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Story of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Each film of the sequel trilogy was written by different writers and directed by different directors. Even if you didn’t know that beforehand, that much is obvious as soon as you see the difference between the first and second films. That makes for an incohesive story since the more recent writer and director would set out to fix whatever the previous writer and director broke.

This film had a high PPPM (plot points per minute) due to this. It looks like Chris Terrio did his usual of cramming all the crucial lore in the first act. That blistering pace and exposition dump were meant to contextualize whatever the hell happened in the previous two films, but not completely.

On the other hand, plenty of things were thrown away, like whatever happened to those kids in Canto Bight. Even in this film alone, things like what Finn wanted to tell Rey in the middle of the movie were later forgotten. It’s like they think no one would care about them, except plenty do care, making this trilogy not resilient to scrutiny.

Star Wars is all about the big moments, and they should’ve just stuck to that for the whole trilogy. The sequel trilogy doesn’t have dead ends, but gaping crevasses. You want to know more about those gaps? Read the novels. I’m sure most people will have time and attention span for that~.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Cast/Characters of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Palpatine is the bandage that attempts to bind the biggest wounds in this trilogy. Revealing him and his role in Snoke’s existence is like teflon tape around the leaky pipe The Last Jedi corroded, although not completely. He has one thing most other Star Wars villains (or characters, for that matter) don’t have—commitment.

Mr. Plinkett of Red Letter Media sums up Palpatine nicely in his Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith review:

I guess I like Palpatine so much because he’s the only character with any kind of passion. He’s fucking evil, and he loves it.

However, I’m not sure if he had been part of the plan to begin with, but it sure looked more like he was a failsafe. Simply explaining Snoke away as a throwaway puppet adds to that impression of him being shoehorned into the story at the last minute.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Rey is better at being Starkiller from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed than Starkiller himself. She makes use of way more force powers in this film than all of the original trilogy combined. She could heal, sense other people from far away, move heavy objects, leap great distances, and so on with ease. She swung her lightsaber like a baseball bat before, but she now does so with more finesse. She’s Kamille Bidan if he were a Jedi instead of a Gundam pilot.

Her being told of her parents having been nobodies because that’s what they wanted and that she’s a Palpatine is similar to when Obi Wan’s force ghost tried to explain himself when Luke accused him of lying about his father being killed by Darth Vader.

Kylo Ren had fewer tantrums, looked more competent as Supreme Leader, and spoke with more sincerity and confidence, as if a load was lifted off his shoulders after killing Snoke. While he was under the employ of Palpatine after discovering him in Exegol, he was working towards a goal instead of just fulfilling commands.

When he returned to being Ben Solo, he was a different character. He didn’t have big lines, but he showed much of who Ben Solo the Jedi was through action. He showed levity after getting a lightsaber from Rey to dispatch his former knights, a cleaner fighting style, and a genuine smile in his last moments before dying in Rey’s arms.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

That’s a character I want to know more about. I like Ben Solo; he looks like a swell guy. Too bad he was there only for a while, but at least we got to see him before the end.

Finn wanted to say something to Rey, but nothing came of it. Also, was he dumped by Rose? Were they an item to begin with? Perhaps it’s because he knew she was safe since she was back at base the whole time. Meanwhile, I did like his interaction with Jannah, the fellow ex-stormtrooper.

Poe has a past, all of a sudden. Somehow, despite wanting to gut him like a tauntaun, Zorii Bliss later helps him, maybe due to latent sentimental feelings. Whatever past Poe had is most likely in a novel, but there wasn’t much precedent other than him being a disobedient soldier.

Whatever happened in between films doesn’t merit Rose becoming a background character, even if you could justify that she already had her spotlight in The Last Jedi. This film did her dirty by giving her barely a minute of screen time. Was she punished for being in that Canto Bight subplot~?

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Lando was here mostly for fanservice. He can barely string together a coherent sentence in interviews and most likely had to sit on a stool while shooting his parts. It’s good to have him here, but at what cost? Chewbacca embracing him on their reunion serves as one of the audience’s connections back to the original films. 

Leia being a trained Jedi is most likely a major detail in the novels. I’m sure her being trained by Luke in lightsaber combat and the Force after Return of the Jedi isn’t that big of a stretch, and it was shown that she had mastery when she flew through space. But there was no other precedent in the films, just a scene with a young CGI’d version of her sparring with her CGI’d brother.

How they were able to use extra footage from The Last Jedi for Leia’s scenes is commendable. No longer having Carrie Fisher present to shoot more scenes since her passing and still have something coherent with her in a major role is nothing short of awe-inspiring, in my book.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Whether Han Solo here was a force spirit or just a vision in Kylo Ren’s head that turned him back into Ben Solo is beside the point. They had to give a concrete enough reason for Kylo to turn back into Ben, and Han was there to assuage his son’s suppressed guilt.

Finally, there’s Luke, or Mark Hamill. He was here to flip off Rian Johnson. You could tell that while he caught the lightsaber Rey frustratingly threw into the fire and said to her, “You don’t just throw away a lightsaber,” he was giving Rian the middle finger at the same time.

Many say his character had been destroyed in The Last Jedi by no longer being the Jedi superman that fans idolized. He went through things after Return of the Jedi, and I’m surprised how people can find that objectionable.

Direction of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

In terms of cinematography, this film was more toned down compared to The Last Jedi, even if it still looked good. The previous film had a lot more incredible shots, so much that it had me score it a 7/10 while it deserves a 4/10 instead. That was certainly my bad—I didn’t think of that film deeply enough.

As for pacing, this goes along what Martin Scorsese harps on about comic book movies and similar films being “amusement park rides” instead of true cinema. Quiet moments are neither quiet nor long enough, and adding some would’ve made it longer than The Last Jedi. Most of the 142 minutes moved ever forward, either physically, emotionally, or logistically.

It was made to go from one plot point to another for two and a half hours to make sense and conclude everything that was set up in the previous two films, and it does so like how someone completes the first playthrough of a computer role-playing game. It leaves a bunch of side plots, but does fairly well in ending the main one.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It must have been four whole hours in the first cut and they had to cull tons of scenes for the theatrical cut. You can say you have to forgive most of it because it’s Star Wars—a franchise that was great at building a world, but shoddy in places when it came to characters and plot. But only so much can be forgiven and disregarded.

It looked like Rian Johnson wanted to make his mark, and he did so with two things—incredible visuals and subversion of almost everything that Star Wars had been thus far, either at his own volition or at the behest of Disney. Conspiracies aside, perhaps he did what he was meant to do in that film, but it did create a lot of problems for Star Wars going forward.

To that end, J. J. Abrams set out to rectify all that with this film. Was it merely to please disgruntled fans? Was it Disney being displeased with Rian Johnson’s work? These questions will always hang over this film and trilogy like a sword of Damocles. I do think by showing contrition, it made the sequel trilogy even weaker in the long run.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Before I forget, C-3PO having a bigger role in this film is a good thing.

Final Score

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
4 / 10 out of 10
Pros
  • Finally, it's over
  • Rectifies previous two films
  • Rey is a better Starkiller
  • Lightsaber fights have more finesse
  • Carrie Fisher’s last performance
  • Luke and Han make appearances
  • The other side of Kylo Ren
  • Awesome Palpatine
  • Bittersweet ending
Cons
  • Whole film is a cop-out
  • Whiplash-inducing pace, especially in the first act
  • Still leaves plenty of plot holes
  • Visual downgrade from last film
  • Revolving door of locations
  • Many references unexplained in film
  • Rose put in backseat
  • Obvious red herrings
  • Stunted potential from the start
Summary

This is one of the most admirable patch jobs I’ve seen. The Rise of Skywalker had to work on concluding a trilogy with two broken films. It did so in various ways, like bringing back old characters, show things that weren’t previously there, trim a good bit of fat, and leave some questions unanswered.

But because it's meant to conclude a broken trilogy, it can't stands on its own. When viewed with the previous two films, the bridges over gaps are obvious. While it does provide an adequate conclusion, it must be said that the journey is just as important as—if not more than—the destination.

The whole time in Star Wars, we're shown how being the chosen one doesn't mean shit, and The Last Jedi confirmed it. Rey's parents being nobodies was a good idea since that meant anyone could be a Jedi hero and being in a "royal family" doesn't mean you can't turn to the dark side. This film backpedals from that.

That's why I give this film 6/10 at first, and that was generous. I initially gave The Last Jedi a 7/10, and having to change my mind with a lower score adds to the reasons why I have to give this a 4/10, even if I did enjoy it.

Do you want to know a space adventure film franchise that gets everything right? Guardians of the Galaxy.

Learn about the standardized review system [here].

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