JJ Abrams returns to direct the sequel to the Last Jedi, a highly divisive film that destroyed the fandom apart. So Lucasfilm had no choice but to go in safe for the final film, and on that JJ Abrams delivers. It’s a movie filled with nostalgia and Star Wars tropes, one that also has great action and enjoyable characters. Did I enjoy the Rise of Skywalker? To a degree. It’s far from my favourite Star Wars film and it does not push the saga forward in any new creative direction like the Last Jedi did. JJ seems so worried about pleasing all the old Star Wars fans that he tries to hard to rely on fan service and as they say, when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.
There are merits to this film however. It’s a fun ride. I was never bored and the characters are all together now, which is something we haven’t seen yet in the previous two films. The interactions between Daisy Ridley, Poe Dameron and John Boyega is fantastic and the trio really works well together. Adam Driver is also really great as Kylo Ren once again and he has been probably my favourite part of this new trilogy. JJ continues to develop his relationship between Rey through the force, and their chemistry together is just a marvel to watch.
You are on the adventure with them and of course you want them to succeed in their journey. Daisy Ridley in my opinion gives the best performance in the movie as she continues her training with the help of Leia Organa. Carrie Fisher has sadly passed away in 2016 so Disney decided to put her in this movie by adding old footage from The Force Awakens to fit her in the narrative. Does it always work? No, but at the end of the day, Carrie Fisher is still in this movie and it was bittersweet to see her in the final installment of the saga. They did the best job they could have to give her closure to her character. Luke Skywalker also appears in the film and completes his arc from The Last Jedi. His scene is great in the movie and definitely one of the highlights. They at least did his character justice.
The newcomers Keri Russel, Naomie Ackie and Dominic Mohagan are all fine for what they’ve been given. Naomie Ackie was probably my new favourite character and she might have implications for future Star Wars content down the road, so keep an eye out for her character. Keri Russel was also interesting and provided a good love, romantic interest for Poe but I wanted to know a bit more about their past history. Dominic who I love, doesn’t do much in the movie, which is understandable, there’s just so much you can do with the amount of screen time that you have.
Billie Dee Williams is also back as Lando, and he was one of my favourite parts of this movie. He seemed to have a blast in the role once again, and it was really great to see him reprise his role for the first time since 1983 in live-action.
The music by John Williams is amazing. While I didn’t get to hear one particular theme from the soundtrack, it was euphoric and it hit all the right moments.
There are some moments that I love in this movie, a couple revolving around Kylo Ren and his character arc and where the characters end up at the end without giving anything away. The action is at times really exciting and the lightsaber fights are all fantastic. The whole death star sequences is just fabulous.
Now to the negatives. I was excited to see what JJ does with Emperor Palpatine, but he seems so shoehorned in this movie without many purposes or reasons that it left me very underwhelmed. Ian McDiarmid gives it his all, but there’s not much there except to have a recognizable bad guy.
There’s too much that they do with him without so much as an explanation and that’s a problem. My major issue with the movie is the script and that’s not surprising when Chris Terrio also wrote BVS, one of the most horrendous scripts I’ve seen in the last number of years. It’s just so crumbled and messy and it rests so much on conveniences after conveniences that it almost becomes laughable. Their entire mission revolving a dagger felt so dumb to me. It was lazy and uninspired and that’s what this movie feels like and is just a rehash of things previously seen in Return of the Jedi, and not in a good way. Rian Johnson seemed like a director who liked taking risks, who gave us something new and challenging in the Star Wars universe.
JJ has returned to basic, something he did exceptionally well in The Force Awakens, but now it’s overstayed it’s welcome. If Star Wars wants to stay relevant and keep surprising the audience it needs to start by growing beyond the original trilogy and stop trying to please the old fans and start gaining new ones. There is so much fan service in this movie, so much so that this started to feel like fan fiction to me and not an actual Star Wars film.
Kelly Marie Tran, the actress that plays rose, has less than a minute of screen time in this movie. She went from a prominent character in The Last Jedi to being reduced to a background character in The Rise of Skywalker, instead of joining the heroes on their journey, which really rubs me the wrong way. It’s almost like JJ and Disney we’re like “the fans are racists so we’ll just appease to them and remove her like Jar Jar.” That’s basically what they did, they gave her the Jar Jar treatment, which kind of pissed me off actually. I thought JJ was a better filmmaker than this. She deserved better and the actress even stated that she filmed scenes with Daisy Ridley that have been cut out of the film. It’s just unfortunate to see Disney reacting this way and how desperate they seem in trying to gain the old toxic fans back.
Without giving anything away, the message of the film is completely ignored. It’s one of those things where the filmmakers try to come up with an overall theme of the movie, but then the ending happens and it sort of destroys the message that they wish to bring.
Overall, The Rise of Skywalker despite having strong characters, good action and a great score, is a mixed bag of nostalgia and fan service moments that got in the place of the narrative and relies too heavily on the past and what came before.