MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action/ Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams/ Runtime: 142 minutes
I would just like to start this review up by saying that under penalty by JJ Abrams and Disney of being tied to a chair and having to watch the Star Wars Holiday Special on a endless loop for an entire day there will be ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS in this review. This is not just because that’s the way I operate to begin with, but also out of respect to everyone who has yet to see this film in theaters. That being said I will also not be discussing the film’s plot; this is because there is so much going on in this film that even the bare minimum could result in seriously spoiling your movie going experience and I am not about to do that either; indeed if you want to know what the movie is about then either go see it in theaters, hear about it from someone else, or go give Reddit a look.
Now with all of those pleasantries out of the way, I feel it is safe to begin this review by saying that there really was practically no conceivable idea in place on how to end this time-honored saga in any way, shape, form, or fashion that was meant to accomplish the singular objective of making every single Star Wars fan in the entire world feel 100% completely satisfied. Thus I feel you should be able to tell based off that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will NOT be the film to bring balance to the fan base force. This is because those who loved The Last Jedi, all 10 of them, are most definitely going to be irked due to this film ejecting into the cold, empty darkness of space the narrative elements that the undoubtedly controversial in every way film introduced. Yet on the other side of the coin, it should also be said that those irked by The Force Awakens’ nostalgia-baiting will also have reason to be annoyed. This is because Rise of Skywalker manages to do the same rehashing of familiar beats and bountiful amounts of fan service that Force Awakens did in droves. Indeed it should be said that with all of the intense amount of laboring that this film does in its quest to both simultaneously check every plot box, check them twice, and then see to that the fulfillment of the plot’s duties towards the previous 2 films are less naughty and more nice. Indeed it should go without saying, but this is all done so much throughout the course of the film’s 142 minute runtime that you can practically hear the filmmaking wheels of the creative brain-work not only squeaking terribly, but also seem like they really could collapse at any given moment. Thus by the time this movie finally reaches its conclusion, you dear reader will also be reaching the conclusion that this film really truly is a messy, and highly yet also unnecessarily complicated end to a saga that has been beloved by many since the 1st one came out all the way back in 1977.
Now to be fair, this is a film which does manage to possess both a fair amount of heart, and also some quite lovely cinematography during the duration of the film with particular regard to a water-laden duel between Rey and Kylo that I feel also has been showcased way too much in this film’s marketing materials. Yet even with those positives going in favor of the film, they are then subsequently and quite terribly undermined by an all-encompassing implementation of the film’s narrative that is as loopy as much as its passionate albeit with a plot that not only contains enough decent-size holes that it could be an intergalactic golf course, but also which would much sooner fall back on making this voyage through a galaxy far far away as familiar as possible for the masses, while simultaneously also using cheap yet effective emotional cues in order to enable audiences to really root for the more engaging points contained within the finished film.
In addition, this is a film which contains a first half that is just laden down with not only way too much narrative exposition, but also several Indiana Jones-esque item hunts for its own good. Indeed the movie’s plot honestly only begins to start rolling when we finally get to the narrative’s overarching conflict on both a physically and psychological front between Rey and Kylo Ren/ Ben Solo. Indeed it saddens me to say, but other than Leia and Palpatine, they are the only people in the film who truly either matter or have a significant enough impact on what goes down during the course of this film. Yet while several new characters are cool-looking, they really do not contribute that much to what happens in the movie; on the plus side however, this does manage to create wiggle room for long-term franchise staples such as C-3P0, Chewbacca, and, a returning for the first time since Return of the Jedi, Lando Calrissian to do a magnificent job of contributing equal doses of both humanity and levity to the proceedings.
That being said, this is a film series which, when you take out everything else, really truly is about both the conflict to bring forth a little bit of light in the darkest of situations possible, but is also an intergalactic how-to series on keeping hope alive and well even when you find yourself with your back against the wall, and the odds seem absolutely dead set against you. Thus I will concede that in regards to that, this movie still does manage to do a winning job of showing off just what exactly has managed to make this franchise the iconic franchise that it is. However when you look past that you quickly are able to see that none of the people behind this film, both studio executives and filmmakers alike really knew where to take this new trilogy. Indeed it should be as clear as day by now that JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson really truly managed to possess 2 distinct takes on just where these movies were eventually going to wind up, and suffice it to say that due to the overall message and endgame being completely muffed right from the word go, that the final movie in this trilogy completely and totally is hurt because of it.
Indeed it should go without saying, but for all of the vast and numerous issues that existed in the prequel trilogy, I do feel that at the very least those three films did actually have something of a road map and design for not only what kind of films they were aiming to be, but also for where the story was supposed to wind up. Yet when it comes to this new set of films, I ultimately feel that the filmmakers decided to just throw having a true conclusion in mind to the wind, and just make it all up as the films progressed thus causing me to teach you lesson #1 for franchise filmmaking boys and girls: if you are going to make a series always knowing where this will all end is equally as important as knowing where to begin.
Now another issue with this film is that there just plain and simply a ton of movie contained into a two-hour and 22-minute runtime yet as a lot of films who’ve learned this the hard way will tell you: more film seldom will equal better film. Indeed this is most certainly true as we see Rise of Skywalker giving us a third act that actually really pushes dangerously nearer to the look and feel of perhaps one of the worst DC comic book movies or even one of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians movies since this film chooses, like those films did, to possess a terrible addiction to visual effect work in order to blot out whatever cheese fest is currently happening on screen at that particular time. Indeed the dynamic duo of nostalgia and poignant emotion made help this film get to where it needs to, but there are a lot of pot holes that occur along the route this film takes, and I guarantee that several of these that are made in the final act of the film will prove to be argued about amongst the fans now and always.
Finally, I can at least be positive when I say that, despite the heartbreaking and tragically untimely demise of Carrie Fisher, this film does manage to truly make her role in this work against all odds. Indeed while those with a sharp eye should able to detect just where exactly these reassembled takes first came from, I still feel that the moments with Fisher still manage to get pulled off as well as we could honestly have hoped for under the heart wrenching circumstances. Indeed if you know that she didn’t film any new material for this film, then I beg you to please suspend your disbelief in her honor, but if you are one of those who doesn’t know how this was accomplished then I can promise you that her arc in this film will be a more effective showcase of the late Leia Organa rather than one that takes you out of the movie completely.
All in all any audience member going into this film will quickly discover upon walking out that there truly is a lot to come to terms and unpack within the runtime of this film. Indeed I get that although this is a film which has to conclude over 40+ years of story threads, at the same time that was still way too many to put on just one film. This is because for all the amounts of care, affection, and respect for what came before that exist in this film, this is also a very paranoid film in regards to the film being seemingly terrified of letting down the audiences across the planet that have made this franchise as iconic as it has been all these years. Thus when you have that kind of fear it really goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the…..unusual constructive decisions and just downright awkward implementation of how this film moves forward from a narrative perspective. Indeed make no mistake: if you are willing to just keep your head down, tell yourself that this might not be 100% of the droid ehh film you are looking for, and move in a single file line like a Stormtrooper in order to make it through the duration of the film, then this film’s positives might just be enough to help you get through. Key word of course being might. However, if you are one of those audience members who really craves a little bit of stability and reason to the concluding installment in what has been an otherwise intricately designed and constructed universe, then you should just come to grips right now with the fact that this celebrated franchise sadly just fell short of delivering a 100% satisfying payoff to everything that happened prior. Yet even when these movies have been at their most controversial, I definitely still feel that this is one franchise which has offered generations across the planet quite a bit to embrace and celebrate, and when all is said and done, we still should try to at the very least see this film as an ode to an iconic franchise quite unlike any other in the entire galaxy. On a scale of 1-5 I give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a solid 3 out of 5.