5/10. Rushed and lacking logic. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hastily wraps up a convoluted trilogy with a film that means well but ultimately misses the mark.
Heading into the screening, early reviews for the film were already buzzing around social media that this was the worst Star Wars film out of the whole saga (prequels included). While I think that’s a complete overreaction because there’s still enough to like about The Rise of Skywalker, even though I have a huge number of issues with it that ultimately bring it down.
So, let’s start with the positives.
Visually, The Rise of Skywalker again sets a precedent for incredible special effects and colourful imagery. Say what you want about the plots, but no one can deny that at the very least the latest trilogy looks fantastic. I’m glad they didn’t just stick to highlighting planets where the locations where mainly of deserts, which in my eyes feels like a lack of imagination, and instead gave us a nice diverse scenery. My favourite was the Palpatine’s lair which is probably as close as Star Wars will get to look like something from a sci-fi horror film and that’s a surprisingly different but great aspect.
Similarly, the acting was also another fine point, although it wasn’t really anything spectacular. More so just another solid outing from the lead cast of Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega who again do their best with a bad situation.
There are also some nice shots from director J.J. Abrams with a few fight sequences using extended long takes that would have taken some time to coordinate and get right. Again, nothing that would blow you away but still solid overall.
And finally, there are some parts of the story (which I can’t reveal without spoiling) that are interesting and add to the mythology, even if they are far and few between.
Which brings me to the negatives: the plot.
Like any film, you can make it look nice and have it well acted and shot brilliantly, but if there’s no substance to the story and if it doesn’t make sense, all of it is for nothing. And unfortunately, there is a lot about The Rise of Skywalker that falls in this category.
From the opening scroll, so much in the background has transpired from the events of The Last Jedi that in my eyes, it feels like damage control to correct the course of action that preceded The Rise of Skywalker. Events offscreen have happened with little explanation and just like that you’re swept up into a scavenger hunt with no time to question what is going and why.
To be fair, Rian Johnson somewhat put the trilogy between a rock and hard place so, in order to wrap up the trilogy while still providing fan service, these were really the only shortcuts J.J. Abrams could take. Palpatine was never part of the last two films, but all of a sudden, he’s needed in order to make fans happy and “wrap” everything up “nicely”.
It would have been bolder if they took it into a new direction and didn’t rely on rehashing old villains/tropes from the original trilogy, but this is Disney, and playing it risky with a billion-dollar franchise isn’t what they like to do. Especially given they took that chance with The Last Jedi and look how that turned out (even though it made them a small fortune). However, if they did, that’s what would actually be service to the fans: expanding the universe with new ideas and characters.
Coming back to The Rise of Skywalker, a lot of the first hour felt like it was rushed, moving quickly from one place to another place as part of this ludicrous scavenger hunt and in many ways, that’s kind of fitting for how the whole film felt: rushed.
There are moments that happen early on between characters but never get brought up again. Relationships developed from past films that are seemingly forgotten in this film. And character arcs that were set up with an interesting premise but aren’t touched upon or even fittingly concluded.
It’s like every scene was quickly put together but no one stopped to think about how they all worked together in the bigger picture. This is surprising given this is the same company that owns the Marvel Cinematic Universe; a series of ten or more films that build upon one another with an overall plan to each of them.
But the biggest problem comes from the little things: the details in the story that just makes absolutely no sense.
Some might say “oh, you’re just being nitpicking and bias”, but a film should be judged for everything that occurs within in from start to finish and while a few small errors here and there might not be enough to ruin your experience, they’re still an error and with The Rise of Skywalker, there are heaps of them. And even as someone who isn’t the most serious Star Wars, they’re still enough to irk me.
It’s hard to say exactly what they are without saying, so I’ll leave a list of examples at the end of this review (spoilers obviously). What I will say is that they’re also annoying in the sense that many of them represent missed opportunities for what could have been interesting to see.
Much like Suicide Squad, the more I think about these details and the film overall, the less I have to say positive things about it. Ultimately, I don’t believe in any sense that this is the worst Star Wars film made (sorry George Lucas), but I still don’t think it’s a great one even if there are parts that I like about it. I’m undecided if this is better than The Last Jedi but at this point, it feels like splitting hairs so for now, it gets a soft 5/10.
List of specific issues about details of the plot, spoilers ahead:
- If Palpatine is Rey’s grandfather, who is the grandmother and at what point did they have a child?
- At what point did Rey learn to use the power of force healing? Who trained her with this ability and how come she wasn’t looked down upon in the same way Anakin was when he just mentioned the ability to heal someone?
- Hearing the voices from all the Jedi was a nice touch, but it could have meant so much for if they all were to appear behind her in ghost form, similar to what happens with Harry at the end of the Goblet of Fire.
- The Knights of Ren could be one of the most useless group of soldiers that do absolutely nothing and in my eyes, are on the same level as basic stormtroopers.
- The scene where Pao and Finn are running through corridors includes several stormtroopers who still cannot hit a target that’s less than five metres in front of them. There was almost no threat level to that scene and each stormtrooper was again useless.
- Finn’s character arc of being an ex-stormtrooper was never fittingly concluded and he remained a sidekick the entire film. It could have been great if he recruited or began leading a revolt in other stormtroopers (perhaps an epic speech at the end) against the first order. What’s worse is that he actually does meet a group just like this but not much happens between them.
- Finn mentioned something to Rey just as they were drowning in quicksand but it’s literally never brought up again.
- The entire Rose and Finn dynamic from The Last Jedi is put aside and never brought up for the entire film.
- The trio of Poe, Rey and Finn feel less like a group of best friends, that was meant to mirror the original band of Leia, Han, and Luke, given the amount of time they spend apart and bicker to each other.
- Kylo Ren doesn’t say anything in the last hour of the film, even though his redemption was fittingly completed. Could he have not said something to Rey at the end before his death?
- Snoke being a clone is casually brought up with little thought and not mentioned at all.
- We still don’t know who Darth Plagueis is and this film could have been a great opportunity to explore that.
- Rey’s line of “And I am all of the Jedi” feels like a cheesy rip-off from the ending of Avengers: End Game.
- Hux turning to become a spy is an interesting touch but the decision for him to stay on the ship after his betrayal doesn’t make sense. What was he expecting when he returned seemingly “unscathed” after the prisoners “managed” to escape?
- The final battle sequence again feels very reminiscent of the ending to Avengers: End Game but the main difference is that we knew almost everyone who was in the reinforcements of the latter film. In The Rise of Skywalker all of a sudden a fleet of two thousand ships comes out of nowhere but we don’t know who they are or where they came from so why should we care about them? Even when Goku called upon the people from Earth to create the spirit bomb, we could at least see who they were.
- The large fleet of first-order destroyers each has the ability to destroy planets but don’t do anything for the entire film and only destroy one planet (which apparently is still the worst thing a villain can do in this saga)? It’s not like they only showed up at the end. They were there for the entire film.
- The large fleet of first-order destroyers could not take out a small group of rebels flying on small fighter pilots and riding horse-like alien creatures?
- All that was needed to kill Palpatine, in the end, was two lightsabers that returned his lightning strikes? The same lightning strikes that didn’t kill him in The Return of the Jedi?
- Poe trying to get a kiss at the end doesn’t come across as humourous but just out of place and awkward.
- Many jokes fall flat e.g. laughing at Chewy for being a “cheat” and too good at chess?
- The crew falling into a sandpit which just so happened to have the exact thing they were looking for is just convenient for the sake of being convenient, rather than them cleverly figuring it out.
- C3-PO couldn’t read out the translation without having his memory wiped was the only reason they left and went to another planet to find someone who could do the translation but in the end, this was just a waste of time and led to C3-PO still needing to read out the translation. Not to mention that his memory was returned to him by R2-D2 which supposedly was meant to be out of the question/not possible?
- Chewbacca surviving Rey blowing up the carrier, even though they didn’t show him being taken on a second carrier.
- The ability to teleport between force connection from Rey and Kylo again exists as an ability that just comes from nowhere but isn’t something that could have been trained?
- Kylo having his mask repaired with red glue for the extra edge, only to use it for less than 5 minutes before taking it off again. What was the point?
- Kylo turning to the light side finally after three movies just because his mother called out to him? Didn’t this happen several times before and it didn’t work so what’s different now?
- Rey not deciding to force heal Kylo back from the dead even though he did the same for her?
Much more but you can get the point.
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