THIS IS A 100% SPOILER FREE REVIEW SO KEEP READING, NOTHING WILL GET RUINED.
It’s tough reviewing movies like Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker after seeing it only one time. Movies like this, similar to Avengers: Endgame, are some of the biggest movies every put on screen and are a lot of a movie, filled with action set-pieces, a dozen characters, and tons of plot. Watching a movie like this is an overwhelming experience and a lot to take in, especially when you have such a love for a property like I do for Star Wars, which can make it tough to really analyze certain aspects of the movie.
But there is one thing I can base my judgement on, especially for a franchise that I love. Of course I can judge the performances and action and anything visually, but the real test for seeing a film like this is emotion. The emotion that I feel during the film, during the action, during the dialog, during the score, during the finale, during the credits, and after I leave the theater.
During The Rise of Skywalker, there was a feeling that stayed with me for nearly the entire 140 minute runtime: underwhelmed. The Rise of Skywalker never wowed me like pervious Star Wars films had. There was something, or multiple things, missing from the film that kept it from being another great entry in the Star Wars saga.
Rian Johnson’s 2017 entry of the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi, is arguably the most divisive of all Star Wars films. Some didn’t like the route Johnson went, deviating from the traditional storyline and taking us to new levels of the universe and making us really question what Star Wars is all about and how expansive this universe really is. There are others, like myself, who think The Last Jedi is one of the best Star Wars films and love how Johnson subverted the entire franchise to give us a bold, new vision. Rather than bring Johnson back for the finale, JJ Abrams, director of the first film of this new trilogy, The Force Awakens, was given the keys to finish off the film, a choice many liked but one that showed Disney wasn’t about taking chances and they wanted to end the franchise on a neat, safe note.
And that is exactly what they got, though that works more against the film than for it. The Rise of Skywalker is a film that nearly retcons all of Johnson’s bold thematic and cinematic decisions for a less exciting, relatively boring looking film that makes sure every character from this trilogy, new and old, and gets their perfect send off and every story is tied up neatly. However, because Johnson deviated so far from the path, Abrams tried to right the whole ship the way Disney wanted it in one movie, which forces the film to be overly plotty and messy while seemingly ignoring any sort of character depth, something The Last Jedi succeeded at greatly. The character arcs are sped along, which particularly disappointing when it comes to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) arc, as their relationship was the strongest element of the entire trilogy.
The look of the film is very flat and uninspired and lacked any sort of energy. There is no color pallet in the film and everything feels generic. There are some cool shots here and there, but I think Johnson spoiled us with the color scheme and life he added to The Last Jedi and giving us elements like Snoke’s striking Red Room. There were some relatively entertaining action sequences, particularly the beginning of the film, where we see Kylo Ren massacring what looks like hundreds of creatures on one planet, showing us just how deep Ren has gone to the dark side. This is the only scene of the movie that really stood out to me and it happened minute one. There are some space chases, and a couple lightsaber duels, and yet none of them wowed me and most of them are forgettable. The finale of the film is a hodge podge of action, loaded with ships, explosions, lasers, lightsabers, and emotionless chaos.
I say all these negative things, but The Rise of Skywalker is not a bad movie and there are some things I liked about the film. Not all the characters get their right exit, but some do and Abrams does this with class, honoring the legendary characters. Adam Driver is great as Kylo Ren, solidifying Ren as one of the greatest Star Wars characters and Driver giving one of the best performances ever in the franchise. Daisy Ridley is also exceptional as Rey, creating one of the great cinematic heroines of the 21st century. The M.V.P of the film is John Williams and his epic score. Williams is going to town and when the film lags, Williams score really stands out.
As I said at the beginning, it is tough to truly judge this film after simply one viewing or even two viewings. My opinion on The Last Jedi changed overtime after multiple viewings, but even after my first viewing of The Last Jedi I had an emotional connection. Nothing in The Rise of Skywalker hit me on an emotional level. The closest was the final shot of the film, which was simply perfect. It is tough to get into my issues with the film without giving away spoilers, but the near complete retcon of Rian Johnson’s previous film really changed what this film could have done and rather than expand on the universe, as Johnson was trying to do, Abrams just followed what Disney wanted and gave us an easy-to-swallow finale. For a franchise that I have loved since I was a child and a trilogy I was fully invested in, The Rise of Skywalker underwhelmed and disappointed me.
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