It may sound cliche, but it feels like it was only yesterday when The Force Awakens released, now here we are at the end of the new saga of Star Wars. I had some issues across the new trilogy but really enjoyed the last two films. The conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker continues those problems then adds some on top to make for an anticlimactic finale, leaving a sour taste in my mouth despite all of its delightful qualities.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) now knows Emporer Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) lives on, so he must go on a quest to gain that power. Meanwhile, the resistance continues the fight against the new fashion of the Empire, The First Order, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) must continue her training to lead her movement into victory while battling her internal struggle due to her mysterious past. After some recycling old ideas and pandering to the audience, the same story is told with a sprinkling of fresh elements to brighten up this dusty narrative.
Bringing back Palpatine felt unnecessary, but out of the unneeded return of characters from the original trilogy, this one ended up being much better than expected. It is far better than going back to previously visited planets or bringing people like Lando (Billy Dee Williams) into the story to get a cheer from viewers.
I know Rey is virtually lady Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) is the new young stud rebel like Han Solo (Harrison Ford), but I still love the new heroes. Finn (John Boyega), Rey, and Poe all match up wonderfully with some great chemistry during the darkest and happiest moments of their battle against the space Nazis. To heighten the characters, everyone’s performance continues to wow me to make these personalities come alive on the big screen.
Kylo will always be far from the best of the villains in Star Wars, but he is not close to the blandest. I did not understand the choices made for his personality traits in Force Awakens, but I ended up loving to hate him in The Last Jedi. Sadly, Abrams and his team of writers decided to take his arc in a direction that felt as shoehorned in as much of the plot of this damn movie. All I will say is that by the end, I internally oy veyed and rolled my eyes, tilting my head way back in my seat.
With that said, I still think Driver is one of the best actors in the industry right now. I may not like these decisions for his emotional wanna-be Darth Vader, but he executed that arc the best he could without letting the writing hold him down to perform.
The pacing initially felt off. Things moved rather too quickly for the sake of checking things off a list. Eventually, the film mellowed out to a light jog that worked better than its weird speed in the first chunk.
The action had a classic Star Wars aesthetic with stormtroopers who cannot aim and heroes blasting away until they needed to be stopped for the convenience of the plot. It may get overdone, but seeing ships soar through the sky, Rey and Kylo dueling with their lightsabers, and seeing the protagonists pulverize the white and black-suited army always entertains.
The editing has sloppy moments. The opening feels awkward, yet badass as Kylo Ren destroys some aliens that are in his way. A few scenes randomly cut into something else before going back in to finish out what happened seconds before, causing a disruption in the flow of the movie.
All of the wrongs that have been done to this universe gets partially made up with the eye and ear candy that is the visuals and sound design. The classic TIE fighters have the iconic audio of flying past, lasers getting shot, and the lightsaber trigger always pleases the nostalgia hungry part of my brain. If the new trilogy does one thing better than previous entries in the franchise, and miles superior to most blockbusters, is its special effects to bring this universe to life.
John Williams continues to impress as he always does across his long career. His leitmotifs and traditional sound that he crafted for these movies, the classic score, or the new tunes created will live on forever. This man knows how to make timeless music that makes even the worst moments much more tolerable.
The Rise of Skywalker is no magical ending to the new trilogy as it maintains many of the previous issues and instills new ones across its run time. Nostalgia is its worst enemy, but the attempts at surprises come to no positive effect. Episode nine is an enjoyable experience to stream on Disney+ and not one to spend money on at the theater.
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Image via Lucasfilm/Disney