Let’s start this Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker review with the following: Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was easily the boldest entry in the new Star Wars trilogy. It rattled the mythos and dared to question how we learn from history. The past should not be killed, as Kylo Ren said, but learned from, as Yoda stressed about embracing the future.
Such a picture gave so much hope for the next chapter that it’s depressing to report that returning director J.J. Abrams falls back on his old bag of tricks. Similar to how he approached his second dip into Star Trek, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finds little more than nostalgic wonderment amid adventure most generic.
Too Much For One Film
Rather than build off of the thematic elements previously established, the film instead whips up a mixture of too many questions with new elements and too many answers to questions that didn’t need an explanation. Did we really need to know the truth behind the Sith considering how underwhelming it seems? What does this add?
Consider how within the first few minutes we’re given more explanations than apparently the introductory title crawl will allow. The story is already busying itself with MacGuffin hunting and spy coordination that there’s hardly a moment to enjoy the returning characters.
It is at the very least pleasing to see the trio of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) all together at the beginning of the film. Some fun comradery perhaps? Some, yes, but I was still left wanting. Every scene of great back and forth always feels cut too short because there’s another mission on the horizon.
Be it a map coordinate to seek, a bounty hunter to track, a spy to contact, a fleet to combat, or a droid to be fixed, everyone is too busy. There’s so much going on, especially with Rey, that Finn and Poe are mostly cast aside with new companions to keep them company while the Jedi story takes center stage.
The Two Jedi
We thankfully get plenty more scenes of the rivalry between Rey and the troubled villain of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Unfulfilled with rage and a bitter desire for power, Kylo once more outstretches his hand to Rey to join him in his dark side crusade. Their moments together are the most compelling, especially when we get to see just how far their Jedi powers stretch.
Yes, there’s some more soap opera style reveals but it’s their very conflict on the nature of the Jedi and Sith that is most intriguing. This aspect thankfully doesn’t require the most pointless of dialogue. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get as many of these powerful moments. As the picture goes on their path seems to be one of destiny for an adventure most mild.
There are some surprises raised and they open up new avenues to explore nature versus nurture and how the past failures must be learned from. This is all good stuff but it’s all introduced so late into the game that there’s hardly a moment to let it breathe. The rushing results in an ending more vaguely routine of a hero’s path than a genuine shock.
Same Star Wars Quirks
There are bits and pieces of a great Star Wars picture within this story. There’s even a fantastic message about defining oneself as more than their pedigree. Many simple moments of adventure have some great humor, as when the trio go traversing through an underground cavern.
Worth noting is that C3PO truly feels like a sidekick in this entry, given his perfectly timed remarks as the meek droid. A lot of these sequences are fun, including a run-in with a serpent that takes a different route.
It’s unfortunate that when the film settles into the moments we know are coming that the impact is lessened. One can probably fathom that a few cameos to be present and not just the ones noted in the trailers. But there’s an emptiness to how it’s all just sort of smushed together.
Yes, Billy Dee Williams returns to the role of Lando but if you’re hoping for him to do little more than get giddy about piloting the Millenium Falcon one last time, you’re out of luck. There’s a big battle to close out the picture, of course, as one of the biggest starship encounters of the whole trilogy. But it all just feels like a massive smear of Star Wars stuff more than Star Wars storytelling.
The Problem with Retcons
This is the elephant in the room that is perhaps the most difficult aspect to address. A lot of the events of The Last Jedi are sadly tossed out or even forgotten about in this final film. Abrams pulls back on a lot of these elements to provide twists that may not have been inspired by fan-theories but certainly echo the sentiment. While I don’t want to hold the filmmaker to such a degree to adhere to his predecessor’s template, there’s something off about his approach.
The film spends so much time trying to weave the REAL story of the Jedi that it hardly has time to harp on the greater appeal. There’s so much busywork that the film feels more akin to a video game of going from point A to point B, without enjoying much of the sweet stuff in the middle. It’s for this reason why watching Kylo Ren track a beacon or CP30 kinda/sorta getting his circuitry rewired doesn’t carry a lot of appealing aspects.
When I think back on what I loved most about Star Wars, it’s not just the ships that go boom or the Lightsabers that go voom. It’s the genuine sense of comradery and adventure amid the drama that once seemed too silly within the confines of Flash Gordon. Now it almost feels like we’ve come full circle as science fiction returns to the sillier nook of basic heroics and mythos.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Conclusion
The Rise of the Skywalker doesn’t offer much of anything notable, past some legacy references that are more intriguing to connect than enjoy on their own. There’s some classic battles of good versus evil, as well as an added element of thumping against lineage, but none of it packs as big a punch as the previous pictures.
There’s some great visuals, per usual, but nothing anywhere near as striking as the red-room Lightsaber battle or Holdo maneuver from The Last Jedi. I know that’s not fair to compare the likes of Episode VIII to Episode IX. Perhaps it’s just because I don’t want to believe a Star Wars film can feel so middle-of-the-road with adventure, veering hard towards the safe exit rather than the rockier end. This is more a celebration of the things Star Wars has rather than what it better represents as a story.
Did you see The Rise of Skywalker? What are your thoughts on the film? Do you agree with the opinion in this review? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Want to read another review? Check out our Angry Birds Movie 2 review.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The Rise of Skywalker finds little more than nostalgic wonderment amid adventure most generic.
- Epic Visuals
- Some Fun Character Chemistry
- Deeper Jedi Lore
- Too Exposition Heavy
- Greater Themes Lost
- Lacking in Grander Character Arcs