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Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The One Where JJ Fluffs It

My thoughts on ‘Rise Of Skywalker’. A film desperate to be discussed, so drop me a message when you’ve experienced it.

The One Where JJ Fluffs It (With All The Connotations That Denotes)

My last three midnight showings have been ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘IT: Chapter II’ and ‘Rise Of Skywalker’. I almost fell asleep in all three and that’s unforgivable on both our parts.

The start is absolutely relentless. You can feel the urgency JJ has/feels to undo what’s gone before it. Want Palpatine? Fine. Here he is 3 minutes in like he’s starring in Branagh’s (underrated) ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’.

Want weird ancient things that have never been mentioned before? I’m not sure why you would but sure go for it.

Want “banter”? You got it.

Boom, crash, ruin. It’s like a trailer for the film itself. To the point where if they hadn’t spunked the opening crawl, it would’ve suited better 5 minutes in. But they have to crawl, right? Can you imagine the reaction if they didn’t?

If it weren’t for the poor wi-fi/1G at my cinema, I would’ve called Phil, and put him on speakerphone. “Phil? WTAF is going on?” He’d know, too. He’d tell me it was mentioned in one of the Extended books and I’d roll my eyes.

Star Wars has alienated its own fans in the most spectacular way in the last few years, by undermining what’s gone before it. Odd, strange decisions, straight out of left field. I’ve never seen a fan base get so splintered, so quickly.

That’s a lie actually, Manchester United, but you get what I mean.

It’s a bold start and should be congratulated. I agree with Rian Johnson recently when he said films shouldn’t pander — and JJ Abrams proves that point here. Spectacularly. He resets so hard, so soon, it becomes a running joke. Some of the undoing of the Luke stuff will have people spinning.

I suppose the point is it’ll also have some punching the air. Yet does it all have to be so heavy-handed? Where’s the nuance?

The internet has created a powder keg where people will just cry off peoples reactions. Don’t get me wrong, if they’re hounding JJ on Twitter, they need to give their head a wobble. But to just re-set Star Wars, seems misjudged. Yes, they grew up. We all did. No, it’s not theirs to own, I get that too. So whose is it? Several hours later, I’m not sure who this film is for? It’s so frantic I think the person I know who’d get most out of it is 5.

The one thing I didn’t think JJ would do was overindulge. I think he’s an incredibly productive and efficient filmmaker. But I can’t lie, 10 minutes in, I felt dizzy.

There were glimmers of what I love. Light speed to light speed. Nods. Cameos.

“Alan Partridge. What’s your favourite Beatles album? I’d have to say… their Greatest Hits.”

It actually feels like that. We get some stunning scenery — when it’s not blacker than a black cape — and we get some fantastic homages to what’s gone before. Either through the score, as ever, or visually.

Much of what I presumed were images from the finale happened much earlier than I thought, and oddly, it all felt a bit anticlimactic as a result.

Many of the major reveals just didn’t land. If they do for you, I’d be genuinely envious, but it feels like there’s some serious crowbarring in of stuff that should never have left a 3 pm meeting on a Friday. “What if….” or worse… “They’ll never expect this!”. No, they wouldn’t. Because they aren’t stupid.

I guess again, with the benefit of looking back, Star Wars has always had this issue. We/I take the “I am your Father” twist for granted, really. I just don’t understand why they keep feeling the need to retread old ground. Tread new ground, but in a way that doesn’t feel patronising, of left field. It doesn’t feel hard, or too much to ask.

The irony is, I’ve literally just described ‘balance”, which most of the later films don’t have a lot of.

Oh well. Not for me. I can live with that. I’ll likely see it once more. I should be going again today as I’m off. I have zero inclination. The litmus test will be when my boys see this. 5 and 12. Perfect ages. I actually think they’ll love it. Shame much of it is so dark — aesthetically more than thematically — that the 5-year-old will likely have to wait. Then again, that’s one less time I have to see it. I might watch ‘Marriage Story’ to cheer myself up.

I’m sat finally watching the extended version of ‘Tree Of Life’. Not there’s a polarising, bold, divisive film.

I’ve kept this spoiler-free. Some of the stuff in the last 30 is totally inexcusable, and for a bulging million dollar film, should never have been allowed. Maybe it worked after all. I’ll need to re-visit, just to ensure I haven’t made up some of what I saw/heard in my head.

The chummy reaction from the Actors has left me uncomfortable. Being vocal now that some of them almost want to disown ‘Last Jedi’ is spectacularly cowardice. Let’s see in a few years how they feel about this. I can’t imagine it’ll age well.

This pre-amble is an important context for my relationship with Star Wars, and bits that have undoubtedly influenced my opinion. But it’s 2019, and attention span is everything, so I’ve put it after the review, because, like JJ, everyone is getting lazy.

The discourse post-‘The Last Jedi’ has been more spectacular than anyone could’ve imagined. It’s been enough to make even the most ardent Marvel/DC/ReleaseTheSnyderCut {a different breed entirely} cringe.

Yet the machine rages on {literally now}, and I sit hit feeling really naive that I could feel any different way about ‘Rise Of Skywalker’. In hindsight, a hard reboot like this was always going to be divisive. Ordinarily, I love divisive. I love that my default is contrary to how most think. And more than anything, I love Star Wars.

Not all of it, as it turns out. I’ve never invested in the books, comics or cartoons. I’m talking about films only. Turning up to ‘Phantom Menace’ with a dual-sided light sabre — albeit not in fancy dress, and with no sound in, because I’m not an animal.

Last night offered a brilliant way of viewing ‘Rise Of Skywalker’, too. The ever-generous (apart from food prices} Cineworld put on a triple bill. Leading all the way up to a midnight showing — which started at 11:55, and was worth it for the faces of any of the muppets who strolled in at 11:59.

So my first viewing is tinged with having ‘The Force Awaken’s fresh in my mind. A film that’s aged brilliantly, I feel. A film that now from the benefit of time, I can watch and admire the only bits that ever jarred for me — namely Ford and Fisher’s stilted performances. It’s also the first time I’ve watched Adam Driver since ‘Marriage Story’, and you realise he’s the MVP of this saga. And one of the major reasons why I’m full of regret that he’s done as Kylo Ren.

Rolling into ‘Last Jedi’, I prepared myself. A film that’s undeniably artistic, and gorgeous to look at — especially the throne room on — it’s problematic in the extreme.

Watching it again, post-furore on the internet, I actually smirk through most of the film. But I cringe in equal measure, as so much of what the film tries to do/undo just feels wholly unnecessary. I’d forgotten that Yoda — after a ridiculously giddy dance, draws lighting down to destroy an ancient tree, that’s barely been mentioned in the preceding eight films. It should’ve been a warning.

My biggest issue with it is the midsection where they break off to find a code breaker. It derails all of the energy of what’s gone before it and undermines the rapturous finish. Harry Potter style horses, indeed.

Still, at least JJ will reboot it all, and we’ll be back to square one/nine. Because that’s what we fickle lot want, isn’t it?

Right? Right?

Turns out the grass isn’t always greener…..

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