Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

One of the biggest sagas of all time goes out with a whimper.

The story is lazy and contrived. The emperor is back for no real reason, cheapening the arc of the first 6 films, and is there purely because they needed an antagonist after killing Snoke. Rey is also his daughter because they wanted a big shock reveal, but this comes across as a cynical response to The Last Jedi and has no real influence on the plot. The first half of the film largely concerns the protagonists chasing after multiple MacGuffins, and they often just get wildly lucky to advance the plot. The final act is also a total rehash of Return of the Jedi, with an almost identical showdown against the emperor, another big ship battle, and a big celebration after across the galaxy. The galaxy is in the exact same place as it was at the end of the original trilogy (emperor defeated, rebels win, young Jedi ready to continue Jedi order), which is really emphatic of how little they had to add by making the trilogy. It makes it all feel like a redundant waste of time. So in summary, although this doesn't cover everything obviously, this is a truly awful script and it's almost shocking it was given the green light. It's painfully stupid.

There's no real emotional payoff or stakes, and the script seems scared to do anything. There's a dramatic scene where C3P0 gets his memory wiped, but it's restored later anyway! Another dramatic scene involves Rey inadvertently blowing up a ship Chewie was on, but lucky he was on another ship! Every time there's an emotional scene it's rushed and cut short anyway so it has no impact on the viewer. It feels like they were scared for scenes to run too long so the kids didn't get bored. At least after the first hour the pacing became a bit less erratic - the opening act of the film borders on the unwatchable due to the messy editing. Many emotional moments were clearly shoehorned in, such as Kylo and Rey's awkward kiss, and as a result merely elicit a "huh?" reaction.

The Leia scenes are clunky but maybe did the best with what they had, I'm not sure. It wasn't an easy situation. The character who again stands out for the wrong reasons is Finn, a conceptually interesting character who the franchise clearly just hated after the first film. He has no arc and is just a generic resistance fighter now. I never really brought the bond between the central 3 new characters given the lack of screen time together in the first two films. I liked The Last Jedi, and the way it continuously ignores themes and character arcs explored there is embarrassing pandering, and shows the studio were more concerned with pandering to the lowest common denominator than just making a good, natural conclusion to the trilogy.

There is a lot of action in this film, but how much of it is memorable? Can they not think of anything other than force lightning for the emperor, and yet another blue sky beam? I thought the two lightsaber fights between Ben and Rey were pretty good, and I remain a big fan of Adam Driver as an actor. He often does the best with what he's given, which in many circumstances isn't much. There were also some smaller individual scenes that I thought worked well enough on their own. As with almost all $250m blockbusters the technical aspects are impressive, but more so than its competition? It does nothing that really inspires in that regard, and is proof that all the effects in the world can't dress up a hollow and soulless film as something thrilling.

But hey, if Rian was trying to say that anyone can be a hero in The Last Jedi, maybe JJ was trying to say that anyone can be a screenwriter? In that case, mission accomplished. This film is cynical and lazy, and if this is the best they can do the franchise deserves to die.

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