Nicholas’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m going to try to keep this as vague as I can and avoid spoilers, but I will say if you truly want to know nothing I would skip this review. If you’ve seen trailers and know things about the marketing and all that, I think you’ll be fine to read this.
Also, I want to get this out of the way. This is just one person’s perspective on this film and I don’t want to come off as saying, “I know what Star Wars is and what these movies should be and what this saga is about” because I hate that stupid idea that people or fans know better when it comes to these films. The beautiful thing about Star Wars is that it means so much and so many different things to so many different people. So when I talk about Star Wars and what it means to me and what I know it to be, I really mean just me. Other people feel differently, and that’s okay!
Also, I love The Last Jedi and if that is going to bother you, then don’t read this.
With all of this being said, The Rise of Skywalker is a pretty big disappointment. With all fairness, I was expecting this film to be a disaster, so to say that it’s just kind of bad feels like somewhat of a relief. But most of my praises come in the form of solid action filmmaking (mostly from a formalistic standpoint), fun world-building, and a couple of character moments that felt like they truly and genuinely resonated.
But other than that? This film is kind of a clusterfuck. The first hour alone might just be some of the most boring and tedious and contrived stuff in any of the Skywalker Saga films. It introduces a litany of new information, most of which are plot devices or MacGuffins that serve no real purpose other than to guide this story along from action scene to action scene. There is little to no attention given to earned character development, and it’s all just plot. But it’s not good plot. It’s the gang trying to find these machines, which lead to more things, that lead to other things, which causes some type of issue that’s resolved by some coincidence. And coincidences and contrivances don’t bother me assuming it feels like it’s motivating character development or growth, which sadly is not happening here. It’s just this hour of plot manipulation so the film can try to make sense of the destination it tumbles towards in the final act. And it’s overstuffed and sometimes confusing? JJ Abrams doesn’t even make an attempt at explaining why Palpatine is in this film, other than a throwaway line that basically leads to way more questions than it does answers. The Palpatine stuff is pretty bad, through and through. He serves no real purpose in this film other than to appease to hardcore OT fans, which I’ll get to the fan service stuff later. However, it’s kind of fun to see the core characters on adventures together! But there isn’t a strong dynamic and again, there’s virtually no character development.
Also, poor Rian Johnson. If you were worried about retconning, well... that happens here. In a lot of aggravating ways. And you know, I get it. A lot of people didn’t fuck with The Last Jedi but I feel like it’s easy to compromise on the sentiment that The Force Awakens laid the groundwork for theme and character to blossom in the following movies. And I also think it’s fair to say that Rian Johnson attempted to create a cohesive thematic thread that could carry into the final film. Now whether or not you thought it was good is one thing, but Rian Johnson certainly made an attempt. I personally thought it was successful, but that’s just me. So when you take a movie like The Last Jedi and try to retroactively fuck with the themes and the ideas in that movie because fans didn’t like it, that creates a problem when you look at the trilogy as a whole. The characters are inconsistent in terms of their development and the themes of the trilogy are borderline incoherent. So yeah; poor Rian Johnson, but maybe more importantly, this kind of tarnishes these films as a trilogy.
Retconning and trying to reverse creative decisions is usually done in service of fans. Which leads me to the fan service in this movie. I think it’s worse than The Force Awakens fan service by a long shot. Everything that these new characters do are not a product of their own decisions, these characters are not self sufficient in this movie, these characters are not independent. A majority of the characters decisions and motivations are a byproduct of nostalgia breathing down their necks. Which is so disappointing to me, personally. For the filmmakers to knowingly pander to an audience that can’t accept creative decisions and new ideas, the same audience that edited out all of the women in The Last Jedi, the same audience that drove Kelly Marie Tran off the internet simply for portraying a character and doing her job, the same audience that caused Ahmed Best to contemplate suicide, is incredibly disappointing. OBVIOUSLY, I am not saying that all Star Wars fans are like this. I am a Star Wars fan, most fans of Star Wars are awesome people, the majority of my friends are Star Wars fans. But there is an incredibly toxic and vocal fan base of Star Wars whose keyboard wars influence creative decisions in these movies, and it’s sad to see. Because we could’ve gotten an amazing new trilogy, and The Last Jedi indicated that. But for the sake of money, they chose the borderline creatively bankrupt route in order to tap into the nostalgia of hardcore fans. Fan service can be fun! There are movies that came out recently that had lots of fan service that I loved! But when you manufacture your whole movie around satisfying an audience and prioritizing their happiness versus making a good movie, there’s gonna be a lot of problems. So I guess my ultimate complaint is that there is no real risk taken in this film.
And to me, that’s what Star Wars has always represented. Risks. Creativity. Imagination. Boundary pushing. Genuine and engaging characters. Arguably the biggest risk put to film was the original 1977 Star Wars. The original trilogy consists of three amazing films that represent artists taking the miraculous foundation and expanding it and doing incredibly creative things with it, with incredible characters and world-building to boot. And for Disney to buy and finance their own trilogy in which they give themselves a new opportunity to wrap it all up and give it a new finale only to utilize nostalgia and iconography and character arcs and story structures from the original films (barring The Last Jedi, sorry not sorry!) is beyond disappointing. I had some fun with this movie watching it, but the more I let it stew in my head, the more disappointed I feel. But again, that’s simply my own perspective.
Quick random thoughts:
- Kylo Ren has consistently been the most interesting character in this trilogy and he is completely wasted in this film.
- The queer representation is Disney at it’s most laughable.
- The humor is fine.
- I like the Leia stuff although sometimes it’s obvious that they had to write around the dialogue that they had available with her old footage. But her sendoff is touching.
- There is a joke that I really want to make about this movie but I can’t because it’s a spoiler so stay tuned for whenever I watch this again and I’ll make the joke in a second review!
That’s all, folks. May the Force be with you. ❤️❤️❤️