Cue the hate. The negativity. The toxic fandom. And of course the critics.
Star Wars is not easy. It garners an amazing fanbase that has grown exponentially every year for the last forty two years. Unfortunately the large fanbase also holds a lot of love and hate over different aspects of the franchise. The Rise of Skywalker will generate mass amounts of both emotions.
The film declares right from the opening scroll that this is a new world and essentially death is temporary. We also know this from the trailers. The Emperor is back. If you have kept track of the whole Skywalker story to date, this should not come as a surprise. If you’re as Nerdy as me and have read just about every book available then you know even more so that this makes perfect sense. Sheev Palaptine worked for a very long time to gain power over the galaxy. To think he didn’t have a contingency plan for his death is naive. This was already discussed in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy and why we find ourselves exploring the outer regions in this story. Have no fear though, if you know nothing of the books, comics, or television shows, you will know all that you need to from watching the first two films of this trilogy. If this is your first ever Star Wars film, I don’t know what to tell you. We literally have nothing in common.
My biggest complaint for this latest and last (perhaps) installment in the Skywalker saga is the pacing of the story. It is frenetic and at times a bit messy. We visit a lot of different new worlds and meet several new characters. But there is not enough time given to either, so we are left with very surfacy impressions of them. I truly wish Lucasfilm had decided to break away from the trilogy staple that we have been shackled to and decided to just make more Star Wars films. With that model I do believe we could have seen a much more cohesive, better developed story that brought the Skywalker saga to an end.
The general feel of the story is that our characters, sometimes in separate groups and a few times as a whole, set out on missions that succeed or fail to varying effects, but simply lead to a new objective each time. All of this obviously leads us to a final confrontation. It’s non-stop on the go, which can get tiresome. I also don’t think the film laid down the necessary up and downs in order for us to feel the weight of the final battle. It stayed pretty even throughout. As an example, in Return of the Jedi we regained Han, but lost Yoda. The Rebel fleet is nearly wiped out by a well planned trap, but a determined ground force overcomes the odds and destroys the shield generator. Luke nearly dies at the hands of the Emperor, but at the last second Vader reclaims his humanity and saves his son. These are very clear highs and lows in the story which allow us to bask in the glory of the final good over evil. The Rise of Skywalker has a lot of moments that elicit highs and lows, but unfortunately they don’t quite have the weight of Admiral Holdo sacrificing her life by jumping to lightspeed in order to destroy the First Order. That was epic.
On the flip side, I was impressed with how JJ Abrams utilized as much of the Star Wars universe as he possibly could. And by this I mean the mythos of the Force and what we know of it to date. Looking back at the history of the Jedi, it is apparent they became complacent while the Sith made strides to expand their power. This story simply takes that to the next level for one final (perhaps) showdown of good versus evil. They also draw upon much of what Luke described in The Last Jedi in that the Jedi inadvertently caused much of the pain and sorrow that occurred in the galaxy, thus they needed to go away. Although not entirely accurate, it was true from a certain point of view. The Jedi need to evolve. But that’s exactly what Qui Gon Jinn had been advocating way back in The Phantom Menace. And that’s why I very much enjoyed this film. The story does not necessary play to fan service, but they certainly go back through the history of the films to create a viable endpoint for everything we have seen and learned. Also, and this will come off as a shot at Rian Johnson, but it is not meant to be, we finally get some answers to our questions that we had wanted with The Last Jedi, but never received. Good or bad, we know a lot more truths this time around.
Rey is once again great. I can’t imagine anyone but Daisy Ridley portraying such a strong, innocent woman on her rise to become an incredibly powerful Jedi. On the flip side, Ren develops beyond what was expected. And it’s thanks to Adam Driver. His portrayal of a spoiled brat, but also a lost soul, with incredible Force powers is perfect. We don’t like him. Which is the point. Finn finally rejoins the main storyline with Poe as they pair up to take down the first order. And Chewbacca, what a wookie. Joonas Suotamo has done an amazing job conveying the strength and rough emotional journey our favorite wookie has taken over the last four of the five Disney movies. He obviously took great notes from the original, Peter Mayhew.
There are also a lot of great cameos, surprises, and twists. Keep an eye out as we see characters from past films, including the original trilogy that you may not have expected. That was a fun walk down memory lane.
Finally, I was impressed with how Lucasfilm handled the absence of Carrie Fisher and our beloved Princess Leia. We can only wonder what would have been if she remained the focus of the final film. I believe we get a snippet of that, but obviously not nearly enough.
Is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker perfect? No. Is there any chance that it could have please every fan? No chance. Is it a fun film that rounds out forty two years of storytelling and will probably only get better with age? I think so. And that is Star Wars to me. I am one month younger than A New Hope. So I grew up with the franchise and experienced it through different eyes over the course of my life. I can look back and see all the holes in every single film. But I can also choose to overlook them and just enjoy this franchise for what it is. I realize this is a soapbox moment, but I am tired of the toxic fandom that has existed basically since the prequels were created. Star Wars is meant to be fun. It was literally created to emulate a serial television show for children because George Lucas loved Flash Gordon. I am thrilled that I get to share with my kids a franchise that I too enjoyed in theaters as a kid. So as my final piece of advice, go have fun. Dress up as your favorite character, nerd out with your best friends, and bask in the glow of the final film in the Skywalker saga (perhaps).
I give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Check out the trailer below:
*Writer’s Note – Why on earth would I continue to put (perhaps) into my review so frequently. My answer is twofold. I absolutely love Grand Admiral Thrawn and his inclusion in the canon. And truth be told, I honestly don’t believe the Skywalker story is done. Good or bad, I think Disney owns a priceless franchise and will continue to put out new stories. I also believe that they will continue to shy away from theatrical releases and move more to their new digital platform similar to their current release of The Mandalorin and future series with Obi Wan Kenobi, and Cassian Andor. I have zero proof of this, just my gut feeling.
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