Jamelle Bouie’s review published on Letterboxd:
It is undeniable that THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is a reaction to THE LAST JEDI and an attempt to satisfy a vocal cadre of fans who rejected the previous movie for its attempt to subvert the tropes of a Star Wars film.
Unhappy that the principal cast was separated for most of TLJ? Well, TRoS keeps them all together for most of its runtime.
Unhappy with Rian Johnson’s clear contempt for bloodlines and familial legacies? Well, TRoS makes clear that Rey is special because of who she comes from.
Mad about Rey’s ability to master the force without serious training or annoyed at plot points like “the Holdo manuever?” This movie has you covered.
Disappointed in the treatment of Luke Skywalker? This movie gives you the heroic, almost swashbuckling Luke a lot of people wanted.
Did you hate Rose Tico? Well, she’s been reduced to a handful of speaking lines.
And so on, and so on. But here’s the thing. Those are legitimate choices. I disagree with them, but I also think it is fair if J.J Abrams wanted to step away from subversion and deconstruction and give fans a more classic Star Wars story. The problem is that he doesn’t really do that either.
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER isn’t a movie. It is a product. It is two-and-a-half hours of fan service and Easter eggs connected by a never-ending fetch quest and edited such that nothing ever has a chance to breathe. We move from scene to scene in a constant stream of exposition and no attempt to appreciate the world we’re watching.
Characters die and return mere moments later, the impact of their apparent deaths erased. Emotional scenes that need time to land are quickly undercut with uninspired, quippy dialogue. The logic of the world is inexplicable in ways that stretch the not-terribily-logical world of Star Wars. Key character actions are clearly driven by the demands of plot, previous actions and characterization be damned.
No, this film isn’t on the border of unwatchable like the 2/3rds of the prequel trilogy. But unlike those movies, which for good or ill bear the unmistakable imprint of George Lucas, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is spiritually inert. It has no spark. It is the cinematic equivalent of a fast food hamburger, designed to hit a specific set of pleasure centers in the most inoffensive way possible. It doesn’t satisfy, it satiates.
That works for some people, I suppose. It doesn’t work for me.
You cannot blame the actors for any of this, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley do the most they can with the script they were given.
The death of Carrie Fisher profoundly altered the plan for this movie and there probably wasn’t a way to recover from it.
Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren remains one of the most compelling and emotionally nuanced characters in all of Star Wars. A truly great performance that shines even in a movie as flawed as this one.
Give Babu Frik his own Disney Plus show.
I actually don’t have a problem with all of the insane Force stuff since it is no less crazy than what we saw in the Expanded Universe.
One positive thing I will say about this movie is it comes close to actually giving us a clear picture of what the First Order is — an Imperial nostalgia cult fueled by plunder and a will to power.