Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The rhythmic flow of this latest trilogy of Star Wars film has been anything but steady. Force Awakens proved a very satisfying return of the franchise to screens, opening the door to a whole new generation of fans whilst introducing a multitude of new characters and conflicted villains. Then came Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. Critically successful, but a film that divided fans to the core like never before and which was clustered in with an oversaturation of Star Wars films that began to rub any gloss off of new releases. With JJ Abrams back on board as director on this ninth adventure, anything could happen in this final send-off. The question on everyone’s lips is does it deliver the pay off the franchise deserves?
Supposedly a year has passed between the events of The Last Jedi and this latest instalment, and much to the fear of the Resistance, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has made his return known to the galaxy, spreading fear far and wide. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has continued her training under Leia (Carrie Fisher), becoming noticeably more powerful, knowledgeable and confident in her abilities as a Jedi. She is however still frightened by her connection with the dark side and is seemingly still bound to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who himself sees Palpatine’s return as a threat to his power and leadership, commencing a hunt for the Sith Lord himself. In one final stand, Rey, Poe (Oscar Isaac) Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) shoot across the galaxy in search Palpatine in a bid to stop his Final Order in its tracks, requiring some help and guidance from old friends along the way.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a very, very busy film. There is simply so much that wishes to be said in the 160-minute duration that the running of events flows in a full barrage of manic activity, hastened on-the-nose dialogue and clunky, convoluted plot themes that leave countless plot holes and unexplained theories countered simply by an extreme overdose of fan service. The constant unravelling of information doesn’t have a particularly organic feel to it, with the biggest reveal of the trilogy that finally answers Rey’s heritage raising more than a few question marks as the film tells you to deal with it whilst swiftly brushing any form of explanation under the carpet.
The adventure that has been written to keep our key group occupied for a large proportion of the film is nothing more than a MacGuffin, aiming to send them on a quest that ultimately has no meaning other than filling screen time. It could be argued that such a plot mechanism gives time for some more character development, introducing some old favourites like Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) whilst also exploring new colourful planets. The actors also do their part to keep the film as enticing as it can be, in particular Ridley and Driver, who once again grow their leading characters’ ambitions, emotions and traumas to the most exciting extent, carrying the franchise home.
Poe, Finn and Chewbacca bring the Resistance dimension to foreground once again, reminding the audience that this isn’t simply a story about Rey and Kylo Ren, but a greater battle between good and evil. The biggest issue with the characters actually lies in the relationship that has been forced upon the audience. Rey, Poe and Finn have actually spent more time apart from each other than together over the course of the last three films, so why try and sell this best friend trio to the viewer? They are no Luke, Leia and Han Solo, and no one believes otherwise. Furthermore, characters like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who saw time and energy invested in them during The Last Jedi, have in this instalment taken a total backseat as we see the plot veer sharply back to that of a sequel to Abrams first Star Wars film The Force Awakens, spoiling the continuity of characters across the trilogy.
One seriously niggling foible that continues to resonate throughout the film is that in almost all of the Star Wars films there has always been an enticing villain, from Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, to Darth Vader commanding the original trilogy, so bringing back Emperor Palpatine to take the mantle just seems an ill-thought-out, last-minute decision. What’s more, the inclusion of this character completely robs Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader of his heroic story arc through episodes 1-6 that concluded with rising up against the Sith lord. Was it simply a lack of imagination that meant this had to be the way nine movies tied together? These are of course small things, but to fans, they can make the difference between a magical experience and spoiling the lot, especially when a nauseating amount of fan service, much like that in The Rise of Skywalker, can tread dangerously close to ruining a film.
This is very much a Star Wars film and in its own way there is, of course, much to be excited about as lightsabre duals and incredibly shocking moments (not least to do with Rey’s power as a Jedi) twist the plot. John Williams has returned with a sentimental score that warms hearts and elevates danger and the cinematography is of course nothing short of spectacular. There are some new intriguing faces such as scoundrel Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) who we certainly want to see more of, most of all droidsmith Babu Frick (Shirley Henderson), who receives the biggest reception and laughs by far. If the Disney team want to get together and green light a Mandalorian, Baby Yoda and Babu Frik dream team series that would be very much approved of.
This is a franchise conclusion that is fair, but it ultimately leaves you wanting more: something different, something unique. It’s certainly a fun experience and times flies by as fast at the plot, but the movie feels more like a straight sci-fi, lacking the enchantment of a Star Wars picture. In short, endless fan service doesn’t make a film good and The Rise of Skywalker feels, ultimately and frustratingly, distinctly average.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released nationwide on 19th December 2019.
Watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker here: