Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac
Writers: Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams
Genre: Action / Fantasy
Rey (Ridley), Finn (Jon Boyega), Poe Dameron (Isaac) and the surviving members of the Resistance must defy the odds and enter the final battle to defeat the First Order led by Kylo Ren (Driver). However, Rey herself must also embark on her own personally journey to discover who she truly is.
Just to reassure you all, as with all my reviews, there are no spoilers.
As much as I find the Star Wars films all perfectly enjoyable (admittedly some more than others), I have never been a huge fanboy or regard them as ‘life-defining’ like some people do, but I most certainly do appreciate not only the humongous cultural impact they have had, but also the endless commercial potential of the world building. The Rise of Skywalker is supposed to be the final chapter of the supposedly ‘main’ storyline that has spanned over 40 years in terms of films – so no pressure! Though saying that, another trilogy has been announced, and how closely it will be linked to chapters 1 – 9 is anyone’s guess, but either way it is not like this is the last Star Wars film ever, but I do understand what this means to a lot of people – so there is a fair amount of pressure on returning director J.J. Abrams to deliver something special.
The fact is that Abrams and co were never going to please everyone, and it would appear that they have buckled under the pressure of trying to please as many people as possible by including a fair amount of cheap and lazy ‘nostalgic’ elements to what is a chaotic, messy and overall unsatisfying film that certainly is not the finale such a franchise deserves. It is definitely no Return of the King (which is in my view the film that sets the standard for all big blockbuster finales), in fact it does not even come close!
The Rise of Skywalker is by no means a bad film, and is perfectly entertaining in its own right, with some individually satisfying moments throughout the story, but there is just way too much going on for it to get though all the plot strands in its 141 minute running time. The first third goes at a breakneck speed and lazily relies on the tried and tested MacGuffin plot device as our characters rush from one planet to another to complete various missions to acquire this mysterious item that will allow them all to find their way to get to the one place for the narrative’s big finale. It does at times feel like a greatest hits tour as this allows some older characters to make appearances, while also allowing Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams script to mix excessive exposition with references to previous chapters, but it often just feels more lazy and convenient than actually truly utilising the franchise’s rich mythology. All involved know that every line of dialogue and every shot will be over analysed again and again for deeper meanings and connections, and it does seem that Terrio and Abrams take advantage of this by throwing random things in without any real justification or genuine thought behind it.
Once we have managed to catch our breath from the intense (and often quite random) planet hopping, some big revelations are made that then shape the rest of plot. These are all fairly predictable, and what follows from this is even more predictable, contrived and clichéd character journeys that leads to an even more predictable finale. Well, I say ‘finale’, but is it?
As for the characters, there are just too many for the film to deal with. However, what makes things worse is that the film introduces new characters, and with so many potentially interesting characters fighting for screen time it is inevitably going to lead to a lot of characters just appearing at the narrative’s convenience, and so adding to the overall unsatisfying feeling that the narrative provides.
Of course, it is no spoiler to say that the two main characters are Rey and Kylo Ren, and it certainly shows, as they are basically the only two characters that do have any kind of arc. Though these arcs are very conventional and quite predictable, they are satisfying enough and produce some good individual moments within the narrative. As Rey, Daisy Ridley has certainly grown into the role and her performance cannot be faulted at all, as she certainly puts everything into both the emotional journey her character experiences and also the internal conflict and confusion that she encounters. While as great an actor as Adam Driver is, I have always felt that he is miscast as Kylo Ren, and so once again proves it in The Rise of Skywalker, but what doesn’t help is his extremely contrived (and Batman Vs Superman-standard lazy) character arc.
The rest of the cast fair even worse; while it is great to see the likes of C3PO and Chewbacca getting some individually satisfying moments, the rest of the cast might as well just be generic fighter pilots with no names. In the remake that called itself a ‘reboot’ The Force Awakens Finn and Poe Dameron played crucial roles, but despite sharing what is a potentially quite interesting and often hilarious bromance, the two of them do feel wasted in their roles. Other characters from the previous chapters fair even worse and are just in the film for the sake of it (but might as well not be in it all) and the new characters that are introduced certainly have potentially interesting backstories, but these are hardly explored, so making the character’s appearance within the narrative completely redundant and pointless. Meanwhile we are given a plethora of appearances from older characters from various chapters through flashbacks, the force doing whatever the narrative needs it to (in a lazy Harry Potter way) or just internal voices, but as much as it is obvious that Abrams is trying to pay respectful homage to the franchise’s mythology, it often feels quite cheap and lazy.
As the film enters its inevitable big finale it is predictably loud and spectacular, but the narrative fails to convey successfully what is supposed to be at stake, and once again relies way too much on clichés and contrivances to produce any true genuine tension. It (like the whole film) is certainly very watchable and entertaining enough, but overall quite underwhelming, and therefore very forgettable.
A hugely significant cultural and cinematic saga that has gone on for over 40 years ends with very much a whimper instead of a bang; though watchable enough because of the affinity audiences will have the characters, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a chaotic, contrived and underwhelming experience that fails to do this iconic franchise justice.