Here’s our review for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, Dec. 20…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If there’s one thing that’s certain after the end of the latest trilogy of “Star Wars” films its that the powers-that-be at Lucasfilm had no defining vision for the end of the Skywalker saga.
When “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was first released in 2015, J.J. Abrams took many of the same plot points from the original “Star Wars” film in 1997 and remade them into a newer version that kickstarted a sequel trilogy. While some complained that “Force Awakens” mirrored “A New Hope” on too many levels, Abrams really just went back to a formula that worked while handing off the franchise to two more directors, who were expected to finish what he started.
Then Rian Johnson came along with “The Last Jedi” and he set out to disregard or otherwise discard every choice that Abrams made with his film. From Luke Skywalker being a curmudgeonly and despondent former warrior to the mystery surrounding Rey’s parents just disregarded as nothing more than a hoax that she actually came from an important lineage, Johnson seemingly went out of his way to undo everything Abrams tied together with his film.
Then came the third movie in the series — “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.
After “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow was initially on board to helm the film, he went through a break-up with Lucasfilm over the notorious “creative differences” and Abrams was brought back to right the ship.
To his credit, Abrams did the best he could but without tossing out any blatant spoilers, there were so many course corrections that had to be made from “The Last Jedi” that it was clear he ran out of runway before he could make a steady landing. In other words, “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a bad film by any means — it’s actually rather fun for a big part of the movie — but Abrams had to make so many changes in order to try and offer a satisfying ending to every “Star Wars” fan across the galaxy that he was inevitably going to have the accuracy of a Storm Trooper while desperately trying to hit his target.
The biggest issue that Abrams faced — and this isn’t to excuse the mistakes of “The Force Awakens” or “The Rise of Skywalker” — but it’s evident that there was no overarching story that was set up from the day the new “Star Wars” trilogy began. There was no (pun intended) End Game in mind when Abrams first started with “The Force Awakens” — he didn’t go into that movie knowing that eventually he’d have to get to Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
Instead, Abrams set the stage and hoped that the next two directors would take his idea and then create their own vision to finish it. And that’s ultimately what doomed the Skywalker Saga — there was no grand design. No beginning, middle and end planned when this whole thing started. It seems as if they were just making it up as they went along and the end result was a bit of a jumbled mess with clashing ideas about how to handle legacy and new characters, who had to share the screen through three movies. What resulted wasn’t necessarily an unsatisfying conclusion but rather one that felt like it just could have been so much better.
With that said, let’s get to our full review of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”…
An undetermined amount of time has passed since the events of “The Last Jedi” and the Resistance are gearing up for one more fight against the First Order. Throwing everything into chaos is the return of Emperor Palpatine, who has long since been thought dead after he was tossed down an energy shaft in the Death Star by his former pupil, Darth Vader.
Now Supreme Leader, Kylo Ren is tasked with shutting down the Rebellion once and for all while he tries to out live his predecessors and dealing with the struggles that he faces as the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa as well as the grandson of Anakin Skywalker.
And finally, Rey has continued her training to become a Jedi in hopes that she will eventually have the kind of power necessary to take on the First Order and defeat Kylo Ren.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
Considering how little she had done prior to landing her role in “Star Wars,” Daisy Ridley really did have a lot of weight pressed down on her shoulders to help carry this franchise for fans both old and new. Ridley probably hasn’t received the credit she deserves for a truly brilliant performance in all three movies, capped off by her work in “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Ridley truly does cover the entire emotional spectrum in this movie as she plays the reluctant savior, which she plays much differently than Mark Hamill did as an ambitious Luke Skywalker, who wanted to take on the Empire in the original ‘Star Wars.”
Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac settled into his dashing role as Poe Dameron, although his comic relief in this movie was somewhat unexpected. The same goes for John Boyega, who almost felt like a secondary player in “The Last Jedi” but he jumps back to the forefront in this film.
As far as the script goes, Abrams and Chris Terrio had a lot of work ahead of them to not only clean up Rian Johnson’s mess (although I’m quite sure they’d never say that publicly) while trying to offer a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. It was an impossibly tall order and overall, they did the best they could.
It’s not a bad script — it just feels incomplete and somewhat thrown together because so many of the plot points in this movie were just created for this particular film rather than carrying on set ups made in either “The Force Awakens” or “The Last Jedi”. That goes back to the heart of the original issue with this trilogy is that it doesn’t feel like anybody actually knew how this saga was going to end when it started.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
The biggest problem was addressed earlier — the lack of vision for a complete story when this new trilogy started is a major issue and one that’s nearly impossible to overcome. Abrams tries valiantly to get it done — he accomplishes it in some ways and falls flat in others.
If there was one theme that did run through all three movies it was the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey. In the original trilogy it was Luke and Vader — at first bitter enemies who were later reunited as father and son. When it comes to Kylo and Rey, there were just opposite sides of the same coin. One was good, one was evil.
“The Last Jedi” tried to build that into a more organic relationship between them and Abrams attempts to carry that forward into “The Rise of Skywalkerr” but instead of serving as a backbone to the story, it really felt like it was weighing everything down. There’s one particular moment towards the conclusion of the film involving Kylo Ren and Rey that should have everybody rolling their eyes.
It’s also no spoiler to mention that Emperor Palpatine is back in this film — that’s been teased for months and he’s even shown up as a voice in the trailers — but his return really feels like a cop out because nothing regarding this character was ever even remotely teased in the first two films. If Emperor Palpatine never actually died and he’s been pulling the strings on these puppets for two movies already, shouldn’t his fingerprints have been discovered at least by the close of “The Last Jedi” so that fans are left gasping at the knowledge that he’s back?
Instead, we learned that Emperor Palpatine was alive and well thanks to his maniacal laugh heard at the close of the original trailer for “The Rise of Skywalker”. What’s even worse is the inclusion of Emperor Palpatine negates a lot of the pieces put in place in the earlier film and it seems like Abrams needed to find a big bad for his last go round on “Star Wars” and this was the only one available.
Make no mistake, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a fun film with some incredible effects and action shots that are out of this world. The battles are epic and there are a few tear-jerking moments scattered throughout the movie that might require a tissue.
That said, “The Rise of Skywalker” is still flawed because the three pieces of the puzzle that make up this new trilogy just don’t fit together very well. Perhaps if Abrams had directed all three movies, we’d be having a different discussion right now but as it stands, the Skywalker saga is finished and it feels like it’s less than it could have been in the end.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” gets 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale: