After the poor fanboy receiption of the previous last Star Wars film The Last Jedi, Disney and Lucasfilm set on a correction course hiring back original film The Force Awakens director J.J Abrams to make the third film to close out the trilogy and give fans what they were asking for. While Disney have done this successfully, they have alienated an entire audience who fell in love with the Last Jedi and instead of delivering a coherent follow up film, Rise of Skywalker falls into fan serving territory with a clunky story and more side wipes than you can poke a lightsaber at. While it is not the worst film to come out this year, it definitely falls into that disappointing category with previous main cast members sidelined for this outing, some even downright ignored while the focus is on Ray, Finn and Poe and an array of robots. Fanboys will rejoice finally geting the service they feel entitled to, others will be bored by the same old gotcha filmmaking techniques and endless lightsaber fights that go on far too long. Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker is the biggest disappointment of 2019 (Charlies Angels can now breathe a sigh of relief!)
The story is set around our three main heroes from Force Awakens Poe (Oscar Isaac) Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) as they set out to find a lost item that was being tracked by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) before his unexpected demise in the previous film. The item will lead them to the new order’s base where they have world killing ships ready to destroy everything in the universe. Rey has finished her Jedi training under Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and her connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is stronger than ever before. The two can freely communicate with each other, transport to each other’s location and more importantly duel it out whenever they have finished dropping a ton of exposition to the audience. This review is spoiler free so I won’t go too much further into that side of things.
The problem with the story is that it is a final part of a trilogy and it completely ignores everything that was in the second film. While you can attempt course correction, blatantly ignoring the previous canon forces this film to try and be two films in one. The first quarter feels like what they wanted the Last Jedi to be and then it moves into the finale. It is quite jarring and the famous Star Wars side swipe tends to happen whenever things don’t make sense. While fans will happily be bewitched by this, everyone else will be scratching their heads saying “Umm what?”
The GOTCHA! kind of story telling is also not something that works well for this film. There are a couple of moments that seem heart breaking and they are quickly swept under the rug and then the moment hits and you just go oh that was weird and unnecessary. This happens far too much in this film and is a complete detriment to the story. The pacing is also off, there are times when things are really quite snappy and move quickly and others (like Rey and Ben’s ship top lightsaber fight) that are so clunky and slow, they drag out for a painfully long amount of time and overstay their welcome.
It’s not all bad news though, the sets and environment are gorgeous. They reek of old school Star Wars with HD spit and polish to really sell the locations as authentic. Similarly the cinematography is Abrams-esque, there are secenes at the start and end of the film that play with light and black shadows that are reminiscent of an old school horror movie. Performance wise the main players bring their A game here with Isaacs, Ridley and Boyega leading the way. Fisher only has a supporting role in this film due to her untimely passing and while the filmmakers advertised she would be in it a lot, her screen time is minimal but definitely used the best of what they had left. Newcomers Keri Russell and Naomi Ackie are incredible additions to the movie but aren’t given enough material to do much with their characters. Driver is the stand out of this film, portraying the dark and light side of the Force is a difficult role to fulfil and he brings vigour and a redemption arc worth watching. His chemistry with Ridley is perfect and watching their scenes together is definitely the highlight of the film.
Visually we are in familiar territory here. The ships fighting with neon laser effects are the same as they have always been, the lightsabers are also of the same design. There is a new darker planet with a lot of heavy lightning and smoke effects which is a welcome addition to this instalment. Cinematographer Dan Mindel knows how to light the sets perfectly and how the reflections play off the robots and interact with the environment.
Star Wars : The Rise Of Skywalker finishes out this generation of films and is meant to be the final film with the Skywalker family at the centre. That being said there are a few easter eggs dropped which could be a catlyst for a revival in future films. While the story and pacing is horribly clunky and is obviously a course correction with a limited run time, the performances from all involved do enough to overshadow this issue. That being said there is enough fan service here to keep long time fan boys happy. While this movie will undoubtably hit the over 2 billion dollar mark, it’s a shame that more time wasn’t given to give this trilogy the great story it needed. (Did anyone else appreciate the Lost reunion with Dominic Monahan and Greg Grunberg?)
Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker is now showing in cinemas.