Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

The Rise of Skywalker

“I can feel the conflict in you.”

Yes you can, Luke, yes you can.  Because there are a lot of battling thoughts in my head after seeing Rise of Skywalker.  Ultimately, did I like it? I mean, yes.  Its still Star Wars after all, and I really like these characters; particularly Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren.  However, Force Awakens and Last Jedi were both superior films, and there is certainly some level of disappointment in how Rise of Skywalker was executed.

I don’t think I can do this without spoilers, so I am giving my *SPOILER WARNING* right now for the rest of the review.

They tried to be as exoteric as possible with this film, even going as far as addressing the whiny nitpicks from those vocal minority fanboys who decried the Last Jedi.  This was disappointing to see, and as such a lot of this film felt like it was retracting from where we left off instead of progressing.  There were a lot of decisions made about the story that I disliked; the first of which being the return of the Emperor, but especially the decision to make Rey his descendant.  This felt like a fan theory come to life, but didn’t fit with the ongoing tale we’ve been watching for the last four years.  But whatever; I was still able to accept this as the premise and keep following the story, disappointed though I was.

The early plot consisted of a lot of searching for objects.  In fact, there was much more emphasis placed on objects in this movie than Star Wars has ever really had.  We have these diamond-shaped maps to the secret Sith location, some sort of dagger … it was weird.  Much more something Indy would be into.  There was a lot of treasure hunting.  This stuff felt very much like fan fiction (though maybe not as much as actually having Leia training Rey Dagobah style).

Some parts of the story really worked for me though, most of which revolved around Rey and Kylo Ren.  Their dynamic is electric and both actors put in strong performances to emphasize this.  Having Kylo Ren turn was predictable, but was still very satisfying.  I also liked the way in which his breaking point came.  I was really happy how their story resolved.

Another aspect I really liked was seeing our main band of characters actually go out on missions together, even as ridiculous as the missions themselves were.  These are enjoyable characters, and watching them play off of each other is a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the quicksand scene a lot.

New characters were introduced, however they weren’t given space to allow them to captivate us and seemed extraneous at best.  There’s a new character called Janna who seemed entirely unnecessary and could have easily been replaced with Rose, who is already established.  There’s also a bounty hunter (?) from Poe’s past who served her short purpose but didn’t need to return after that.  There’s a new Imperial Officer (Pride, I think they called him) who was actually important to have as the face of the First Order threat, since Hux is a joke and Kylo is sort of doing his own thing.  But he’s still pretty bland, as most Imperial officers are.  I did like the pixar droid, but again its inclusion was unnecessary.  That little technician creature was awesome though.

I could also go on about all of the blatant fan service there is in this movie, but I don’t want to belabor that point too much.  This is already an overly critical review for a movie I still got some enjoyment out of. I will say, however, that there was a moment with Chewbacca at the end of the movie that almost made my eyes roll to the back of my head.

What I find myself most disappointed in is the film-making itself.  The first act feels poorly paced, rushing from one thing to the next.  The story simply wasn’t given a lot of room to breath.  Meanwhile, the visuals and spectacle were so bombastic that it was overwhelming and caused the power of individual moments to suffer.  Compare this to The Last Jedi, which had a number of powerful scenes and let us actually live with these characters for a while.  Think about how awesome the red room scene was, or how impactful it was when Luke walked out to face the whole First Order on his own.   Nothing in Rise is at that level, because the moments aren’t set up as well, or paced as well, or scaled back to an appropriate level.  Instead we have the Emperor shoot enough lightning from his fingers to stop every ship in two fleet just cause “its big!”.  Even the nostalgic beats worked better in the previous two films.  I actually felt something when Han and Leia saw each other for the first time in years, or when Yoda showed up on Luke’s island.  Here we have moments which should be on the same level, but just come and go without much weight.  Its become quite obvious that Rian Johnson is the superior film-maker.

So clearly I can’t help but feel let down by this movie.  That’s not to say I hated it or even disliked it.  Again, its still Star Wars, and I had quite a lot of investment in these characters.  I do wish it had been stronger and confident in what it wanted to be, instead of trying so desperately to be what it thought we wanted it to be.  But then again, if I put myself in the mindset of 1983, Jedi probably seemed a disappointment from Empire.  We have come to accept it as the conclusion of that story, and so I think I can be okay with this conclusion as well. Maybe.


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