Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

"Taking one last look, sir... at my friends."

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this film, and a vast majority of the criticism is pretty accurate – but perhaps a bit too severe.

Okay, let me get the bad stuff out of the way. This film has two major problems, pacing and continuity. Given everything that happens in this film, there must’ve been a three-hour cut which was then trimmed to take out everything superfluous, and yet we still ended up with a movie overstuffed with plot. The main consequence of that kind of plotting is that things are introduced and not given room to grow before being paid off or dropped. There are logical holes in plot that are created because of a need to short cut certain details, and the speed of action and pacing is so relentless and non-stop that even the great moments are not given a chance to breathe.

This is very much a case of the whole is not as good as the sum of its parts. Interesting characters are introduced and then not given very much to do, returning characters are pushed back to almost cameo status (namely Rose), or are there because they had to be there. Don’t get me wrong, Lando works and what we got of him was great, but he does feel a bit unneeded given how much stuff they packed in. There is also the Leia problem, and I won’t go into spoilers but it is very clear that they finessed the footage they had of her to the limit. Add to that the fact Carrie isn’t with us anymore, and it becomes obvious that they had plans for the character and had to make do, namely a scene later on that had a different character that should have been Leia.

There are also some choices made that feel at odds with The Last Jedi, almost to the point that at times it feels like JJ Abrams is attempting to retcon Episode VIII, or maybe it's just another case of studio interference. This is largely aimed at certain reveals and changes made to certain characters. Again, Rose had a much smaller role, and I bet it was because of the trolls that lashed out at Rose and the actress that plays her when the last film came out. I am not even going to go into certain narrative leaps that felt like pandering or explicit fan-service, because your mileage may vary with those elements. Personally, they didn’t bother me much, but I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan.

I know that is a whole lot of negative. If the pacing, plot and characters choices aren’t good… than what is good? Well, for one, the acting is outstanding. Given the script (which is not awful as far as dialogue and character interactions go), the characters really felt right, and I never felt like a character was acting odd or forced. I didn’t cringe once from a line of dialogue (which may be a Star Wars first), and we finally got a chance to see our main three (Rey, Finn, Poe) interact for more than a few minutes. If they had cut out a few plots points and let our mains just interact and fight a bit more, this would’ve been an amazing film. Unfortunately, that’s the rub. I firmly believe with a bit more script polish and trimming of irrelevant plot points, this might’ve been the best entry in the franchise, and that feels like a massive lost opportunity.

What is kind of interesting is that despite the divisive character choices, there were some deeply emotional moments that paid off forty years of storytelling. Not to mention we got one of the creepiest villains ever, and some lovely closure. We also got answers to pretty much every question we’ve ever had about any of the movies in this series, to the point that I have to give credit to JJ Abrams for actually fulfilling a complete narrative, and giving us a guided tour inside his Mystery Box. It is also a simply gorgeously shot film, with breathtaking visuals and such attention to detail that we’ll be finding new things for years to come.

Which brings me to my final point. In a decade when we look back, will this trilogy hold up?

There’s no way to know. To put it another way, there are prequel enthusiasts now, so anything is possible. The Disney era of Star Wars films has been an interesting journey. No matter what we think or feel about them right now, they are now a part of a bigger universe that we are only just beginning to understand. Because of that, we will be watching and re-watching these nine films in perpetuity… and I bet once we have some distance and time from these films, we’ll start to fully grasp their importance.

3 out of 4 Epic Battles for the Fate of the Galaxy

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This... was an effing disaster.

JJ broke Lost, then Star Trek, and now Star Wars. He has more corpses behind him than EA (sorry, video game "joke").

I hope they never ever ever give him the reins of any other decent franchise.

Anonymous said...

Force awakens was a decent foundation to begin with and then they threw everything out in The last jedi and then everything new from that movie was thrown out in this one.
I liked Rey slightly more in this one than I had in the first two but she is still too Mary Sue ish for me. Since the first film she has been way overpowered and we find out her powerful lineage. This film had some good ideas and team ups that weren't allowed to breath. The second film is the disaster the trilogy couldnt recover from. Entertained but disappointed.

@anon
I saw two good films buried in this jumbled mess. Most of my complaints are with Rian Johnson. Im disappointed with this film but saw alot of potential. On the other hand I really REALLY dislike Last Jedi. I liked very little in that.

Psyborg said...

Well, maybe this just proves that I don't know how to review movies or that my opinion isn't as good as others', but I personally thought this was an excellent film, but I have to add the qualifier that I don't have the same venom for the Last Jedi that others have either.
Now, to give a tiny bit of background, I'm not a Star Wars fan. I haven't thought of the series as great since Return of the Jedi came out. I still felt that movie ruined the series irreparably for making Vader a whiny weakling under an intimidating exterior. (The Ewoks were horrible too, but I could have forgiven Lucas for them, if that had been the worst problem.)
But maybe it's the fact that I'm not a Star Wars fan that made me like this one so much. I didn't go in to any of these last three with the excitement that the fans have. I went in to be entertained and that is exactly what I was. I thought the Force Awakens was a very good movie, with an unfortunate tendency to be predictable. I applauded the Last Jedi for working so hard to subvert the expectations the fans had for the new trilogy. I could agree that Rian Johnson went a bit overboard on the subversions by leaving none of the mysteries of the previous episode, and then he kind of painted himself into a corner, since there wasn't really anything to do at the end, except say that Rey and Kylo Ren are going to fight.
But I thought the Rise of Skywalker told a great story, and my only complaint is that it would have benefited with some setup in the previous ones (I know they didn't know what was going to happen at the time; I simply mean that this told a story that could and should have been stretched to at least two, possibly even three, movies).
But to say this movie is a "disaster"? No.
The only Star Wars movie that I thought was a disaster was the Phantom Menace, which still astounds me with how it ever got made in the first place. That movie has no sensible story, no interesting characters, and the acting is practically non-existent (especially the usually great Liam Neeson, who I thought was sleep-walking through it). I have friends who defend it because of the "art direction", and frankly, having nice locations doesn't make up for having a story that doesn't even begin to make sense. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. I'll stop now, because I'm turning this into a review of Episode I, when it doesn't even deserve a review.
I'm sorry for writing a novella for a comment, but it really bugs me how much hate this movie is getting when I thought it was great enough to make me want to see more. I would rank this as the third best of the entire saga, with the Empire Strikes Back the best (by a mile), and A New Hope a modest second.

CoramDeo said...

Psyborg, the only thing that proves is that you have different tastes than most, and that maybe you don't think everything is either the best ever or the worst ever like the internet tends to do.

Anonymous said...

Well, sometimes something is the best ever or the worst ever.

I do think this was the worst Star Wars ever. It was a complete mess. Even Phantom Menace or Solo are better than this.

Was it better done?. Yes. Did it have better actors?. Yes. But the writing was a POS, and having to undo much of what Rian Johnson did (sorry, perpetrated) in SW8 didn't help either.

Oh, and what a pity what they did with Leia as well. It would have been better to kill her offscreen (and dedicate the movie to her, BTW) than this... this "let's try and redo the dialog around the three things of her that we didn't use in 7 or 8". What a stupid way to die. And as out of character as Luke was in 8.

I don't believe I'm an extremist in any way imaginable. My expectations before watching this were below the floor (as they were before watching SW8, and that helped me enjoy that one a bit). But this was a complete disaster, hands down. JJ tried to fix it by turning the fan service spigot up to 14. And if you guys don't see it, then I envy you. Perhaps I'm too old for this. Perhaps, after 35 years, I expected JJ/Disney to have more respect for the material.

What an utter disappointment.

Dimo said...

A lot of feelings about this movie. The new trilogy did a lot to mess up the mythology of Star Wars. I mean, the prequels may have been shit movies, but the biggest "mythology mess" was probably the introduction of midichlorians, which is not even close to all the bullshit they introduced here like Hyperspace skipping, holdo maneuver, tie fighters with two pilots and hyperdrives etc.
Lucas knew not to mess upp the Universe he built too much, the choices he made were mostly stylistically bad.
In the new trilogy, the stylistic choices are mostly top notch - the films look great, act great and feel great. But they butcher the lore and apart from TFA have meandering messes of story with bad comedy.

The big take away for me from this new trilogy, is that no, I will not be watching and re-watching these movies it in perpetuity. I've watched the OG trilogy many times. Too many according to some, and can still enjoy watching it just like that.
But these new movies really do not make me want to watch them again. Unearned drama, big moments that feel small, meandering plot, breakneck pacing, cringe-worthy comedy, and gaping holes in the lore are all just too much to be able to "enjoy" the movies as movies.

And btw, probably the only one of the new movies not to mess up the lore with weird additions is Rogue One. Imagine that. Although I haven't seen Solo yet.. heh

Nick said...

I have read so many extreme reactions and reviews to the film that I feel most discussion of the movie would inevitably devolve into sides screaming at each other. I'd just leave it at: I enjoyed the movie too.

CoramDeo said...

Finally saw it. Didn't hate it. It mostly made me sad that the trilogy missed all of the great potential it had, from the incredible starting point of The Force Awakens to the strength of the new cast and characters.