Disney’s decision to buy one of cinemas most iconic franchises received mixed reactions from audiences. Some saw it as a potential to right the (many) wrongs George Lucas presented with his prequels, others couldn’t see it as any more than a feeble attempt at raking in easy cash.
The ‘new’ trilogy started back in 2015 with The Force Awakens. A solid start which created a huge amount of opportunity for the future of the franchise. A fun ride, which payed service to the old timers of the series, whilst also paving way for something new and exciting. There was one big issue though, which was that the first instalment played it incredibly safe.
Fast forward to 2017 and The Last Jedi made its way into theatres. Rian Johnson took over from Abrams previous role and directs a far more ambitious sequel. It was controversial and created its own identity from what had been previously structured. This time the risks were certainly taken, but it distanced itself too much from what we know and love and didn’t get the pay off many were hoping for.
So, we’ve seen what happens when you play it safe, and we’ve seen what happens when you take the risks. Both films offer some undeniable faults, so what can we expect from The Rise of Skywalker?
Well, a little bit or both, or it’s a bit of neither, maybe. The Rise of Skywalker lacks the heart and compassion that The Force Awakens presented, but also the ambition that divided viewers of The Last Jedi.
It’s narrative structure feels more like scenes randomly strung together, in order to please the fans of each generation, than it does telling a compelling and ultimately worthwhile conclusion story. It crams enough content to fill another entire trilogy, into a two and a half hour movie.
There’s a lack of conviction in most of its elements. Some of the character arcs come to a complete dead end, some receive unsatisfactory send offs, and on the whole, this leaves more questions than it did answer any previous ones.
For a film that has promised so much, it came to a conclusion that felt rather empty and uninspired. When you’re closing a series (certainly one as beloved as this), the stakes should be higher than ever before. You should be hit with twists you never would have seen coming. You should be genuinely saddened by some of the deaths of the characters. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker fails to reach that level of emotion.
The visuals are undeniably stunning, which is something each film has passed with flying colours. The set pieces, in which there are good ones here, look fantastic, even if none of them quite hit the levels previously laid out in other instalments.
For the most part the characters are still fun to watch. Rey unsurprisingly steers the momentum of the story from the get-go, with Finn and Poe having their share of moments too. With the return of Lando, although being a nice addition, he isn’t there for much of a reason other than nostalgia purposes (which this film hangs on a lot).
Discount Darth Maul (aka Kylo Ren) feels a little wooden at times, which isn’t helped by his characterisation being hacked on and rather unprovoked.
As demonstrated from its trailer, Palpatine is back. A return that would have been much better suited had it remained a surprise. His role in the film, although making perfect sense, doesn’t add much (if anything) to the overall dynamic. Feels more like a last ditch effort to save whatever was left of the series’ timely legacy.
The issues don’t just lie there. With Rian Johnson leaving so much open, Abrams had to wrap up an awful lot in one movie. The pacing struggles early on, and much of what was built up in The Last Jedi went nowhere in this follow up. There’s a lot of things happening and most of it feels forced and thrown in to a story in which it doesn’t necessarily belong.
Its middle act suffers the most, noticeably with its shift in tone. Our friends find themselves in a bizarre scavenger hunt scenario that could’ve easily been pulled from the Goonies. There was more deserving things that could have been focused on, certainly when trying to bring an end to something as big as this.
The Rise of Skywalker is by no means a bad movie, but it is a confusing and rather uneventful finale which doesn’t quite fit the bill of a Star Wars movie. I wanted more bang for my buck, but every opportunity to deliver, all it provided was a fizzle. It wouldn’t surprise me if in time, it becomes more divisive than The Last Jedi.