Note: This review is spoiler-free, in that it does not reveal plot details or hidden surprises. However, if you want to go into this movie blind, I suggest going to see it before reading this review.
I love Star Wars. I grew up with Star Wars. I swung a plastic lightsaber around and pretended I was Luke Skywalker for a majority of my childhood. The first PG-13 movie I ever saw was in 2005 when “Revenge of the Sith” took me on a ride across the galaxy. Even as an adult, I grew to love Star Wars even more as a film student with an eye for unique stories to inspire those around me.
The franchise that raised me has seen some tough times in the past decade. While “The Force Awakens” was a safe retread of what we had seen before from director JJ Abrams and co., the heartwarming nostalgia, in combination with the new interesting characters, left me excited for the future of what Disney had planned.
Then “The Last Jedi” happened. Writer and Director Rian Johnson crafted a film that, despite my labeling of it as a modern blockbuster masterpiece, was hated by many, and subverted any and all expectations, taking the franchise in a vastly different direction than many fans wanted, or expected.
Now, JJ Abrams returns to the helm to conclude the Disney trilogy he helped to kickstart and conclude the 40-plus years and nine films that have defined the story of the Skywalker family.
Unfortunately, despite some entertaining moments and nostalgia-induced happiness, “The Rise of Skywalker” concludes the epic saga with a disappointing mess, choosing fan service over plot and logic, and crafting a film that feels like a course-correction for a series that was never headed in the wrong direction. The film plays it safe, and loses any and all originality in the process.
The film is not a complete bust, as cinematographer Dan Mindel has crafted a visual feast that left me in awe in several moments. John Williams’ score, as per usual when it comes to Star Wars, was spectacular, and the weaving of nostalgic older themes into the themes of the now worked magically.
There are also some terrific action and character moments present. For what they were given, each actor did wonderfully, with Adam Driver in particular standing out, giving a nuanced and powerfully emotional performance as Kylo Ren. I can’t get into too much without divulging spoilers, but several character moments left me truly pleased.
Unfortunately, for every step forward, the film took two steps back. On a basic filmmaking level, the pacing of the opening act feels as though they tried to shove three hours of content into 45 minutes of movie, feeling more like a video game fetch quest rather than an actual plot.
There is also some of the worst dialogue ever featured in a Star Wars film present in “The Rise of Skywalker.” I lost count of the amount of times I had rolled my eyes or sighed heavily at the words coming out of the characters mouths. Themes and messages are stated in about as subtle a manner as laser sword fights and space battles, leaving each character interaction feeling as robotic and cheesy as the droids littered throughout this franchise.
The most frustrating aspect of the film, however, is the fact that it feels the need to play damage control to a franchise that wasn’t particularly damaged to begin with. After many felt displeased at the way “The Last Jedi” handled the canon of the Star Wars universe, it feels as though the corporate overlords at Disney wanted to please fans again, and gives them nuggets and moments that they wanted, without considering the basic needs of logic and story sense needed to make them work.
The results from this corporate meddling plays more like a greatest Star Wars hits collection rather than a unique and interesting conclusion, as the film focuses so heavily on what came before it that it entirely abandons what comes after. The film plays it entirely too safe in an effort to please everybody, and pleases nobody in the process, as what we get feels like everything we’ve seen done before, in so much worse of a manner.
It is difficult to discuss “The Rise of Skywalker” without spoiling it, but to summarize my spoiler-free thoughts in just a few short statements, I offer the following.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” despite its beautiful looks and fleeting moments of excellence, concerns itself so much with what fans want, that it sacrifices any originality and excitement in the process, resulting in an overdone, messy, and pandering conclusion to the epic story of the Skywalker family.
While not a complete failure, Episode IX is a far fetch from the epic conclusion that the Star Wars franchise deserved, and sends the Skywalker family off on an incredibly unsatisfying note.