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Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – “Better than I thought it would be”

Well, the end is here and now in cinemas.

Adam and Chris have already reviewed the film, but I thought I would throw in my thoughts on it.

First of all, to get some perspective, I enjoyed The Force Awakens. I can see that J.J. Abrams did lift a lot from the first Star Wars movie, but I could see why they would do that as it had been a while since Revenge of the Sith and they were trying to recapture the magic of what had gone before. It set up some interesting questions and characters and I was looking forward to finding out more. Then along came The Last Jedi which, for me, was full of moments of cringe, poorly thought out plot points and odd creative choices. It looked beautiful, but on the whole, left me feeling cold and disappointed (my full review of that can be read here). It also closed off pretty much everything set up in the first film and felt more like the ending of a trilogy than the mid-point.

I also really enjoyed Rogue One and Solo told a decent story and had some good characters and details but was a little forgettable and nothing special.

Now we have The Rise of Skywalker and I really had no idea what to expect. After my disappointment with The Last Jedi I was not really excited about the whole endeavour, but knew I would still go and see the film. I had hoped to be going with my daughter as we have been to see all of the Star Wars films, but she has not been too good this year so this was the first time I was seeing one of them by myself. It is a shame as there are a few moments in the film that did make me turn to smile at her as I know she would have loved them but she wasn’t there.

I digress.

Minor spoilers ahead.

With the narrative blackhole left by Rian Johnson, it was going to take a writer of some skill to bring us an intriguing, action-packed adventure that would bring balance back to the splintered fandom. I would have loved to have seen what could have been done by a great writer as sometimes great things can rise from troubled waters. A Kylo Ren fully taking control of the First Order to bend the galaxy to his will would have been a sight to behold, or the Resistance slowly putting together an army, or Rey seeking out more lost secrets of the Jedi.

Instead, we get J.J. Abrams falling back into his old Alias habits of various MacGuffins leading the players on to the next person and place that will then lead them on to the next MacGuffin until the story comes to a close. Tie that in with Abrams wanting to finish what he set up in The Force Awakens, including shoe-horning in Palpatine because they could not think of another Big-Bad to use (maybe an invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong that meant the Resistance and First Order had to unite to save the galaxy)due to the death of Snoke and you have a Frankenstein of a Star Wars movie, with bits of the new smashed together with elements of the old.

Somewhere within this film, there are the makings of a semi-decent story, but everything (especially in the first 40 minutes or so) is just so rushed and messy that you can almost feel the whiplash of being thrown from one scene to the next. The whole experience was almost like when you are sat at home and you have got something playing on a streaming service, but you are also on your phone. You know what I mean, you look up and something catches your attention and you watch that while trying to remember how it ties in with what happened before. Then your attention fades and you are back on your phone until the cycle begins again. The Rise of Skywalker felt like that, but I was not looking at my phone.

Ah, maybe a better explanation could be when you were a kid (this one is for the older readers) and watching a film on videotape that you had seen before and you spend all your time fast-forwarding to the good bits, but they are not quite as good as you remember.

It felt like two films had been made and then bits and pieces had been pushed together to make one, but with none of the build-up or quieter moments that you would expect.

Instead, we zip around the galaxy, seeing some cool places, aliens and spacecraft, but then you are suddenly somewhere else where another person goes into exposition mode to tell us what is happening and where the plot is going. There is no space to breath and take things in. Maybe this is the perfect movie for the generations raised on YouTube?

Much of the development of the main characters seem to have happened between The Last Jedi and the beginning of the film. Adam Driver does a good job with what he has got, but again it all feels rushed and unearned (yet still better than Game of Thrones Season 8 so there is that!) The trio of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are not given much to work with and characters bickering about anything and everything is not great character development. It was good that they finally remembered that Finn used to be a Stormtrooper (one of the most intriguing aspects of The Force Awakens) but again that really doesn’t go anywhere.

By the way, Richard E. Grant is the MVP of the film. He gives us a menacing, sinister First Order leader who I would have gladly watched in many more scenes.

There is also very little peril in the film. I can see where we are meant to feel like things are going wrong or the heroes may be in trouble, but you never feel it. They just go pew-pew with their guns or somebody or something turns up to save them and that happens all the way through.

However, we do finally get answers to questions that do make some sense and also give good set-up for things that happened in The Last Jedi (Mary Poppins Space Leia I am looking at you). We also kind of find out where Snoke came from, why Rey is so powerful in the Force, Just a shame they happened after the fact. There are also some nice little cameos.

There are also many moments that feel like Abrams giving the finger to Rian Johnson for ruining what he set up. In particular the first line you hear from Luke. It made me chuckle, but is not something that should really be happening in a trilogy such as this.

The whole Palpatine thing feels so forced and ill-thought-out. Also, what was the deal with all the people in his temple/HQ? They reminded me of the crowds in the Phantom Menace and I was expecting the whole thing to end with Rey and Palpatine Pod Racing to finish the whole saga! We also get Abrams thinking that making things bigger makes everything better. Hundreds of Star Destroyers with Death Star weapons. The biggest fleet of Resistance ships ever seen all brought together in what seems like moments and more.

While the film is better than I thought it would be after reading some of the plot leaks (many of which, but not all, turned out to be true), I still cannot really say I enjoyed….no, I did enjoy some moments – the moment where Kylo contemplates his future after the battle with Rey on the water planet. Chewbacca hearing some news. Luke Skywalker being the optimistic Luke he always was. A small flashback moment – but on the whole, I just don’t feel much of anything about it. It’s not brilliant, it’s not dreadful…it is just there. I suppose it is a film which may bring balance to the splintered fandom, but I just don’t know.

Some people love Last Jedi, some people hate it. I do feel that for what was meant to be a new trilogy it feels choppy and splintered. Like Rian Johnson decided to one-up or mess with J.J. Abrams and then Abrams did the same to Johnson. All well and good in the schoolyard, but with a multi-billion investment, I feel Disney should have had more of a game plan for the trilogy as a whole instead of just letting a couple of directors do their own things. With all the hirings and firings on the other Star Wars films, it does seem there was no clear vision of what to do with the films.

Lucas did provide Disney with lots of information and plans to carry on the adventures in the galaxy he created and, along with the hundreds of books, comics and video games, I am just shocked that all of that appears to have been thrown out the window. That is a discussion for another time as Maz Kanata would say! Disney owns Marvel Studios. They have shown what can be achieved when you have someone with a singular vision at the helm guiding things and I do feel that going forward, Disney really need to get someone on board to help guide Star Wars into the future. I am not saying copy the Marvel formula, just have some kind of plan for things instead of what happened with this new trilogy. Star Wars Rebels, Clone Wars and now The Mandalorian, have shown that it is possible to tell great stories in the galaxy far, far away. I just hope we get that one the big screen again.

As always with reviews, this is just my opinion and I am totally fine if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on it.

I hope you enjoy the film, I really do. I wish I had enjoyed it as much as I am enjoying The Mandalorian. I hope that kids love the hell out of it and are inspired to go out and have imaginary lightsaber battles with their friends or fly spaceships of the mind to distant galaxies.

Thank you for reading.

Share your thoughts on the film in the comments below.

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