It’s taken me nine ‘Episodes’, one animated movie and two standalone features to get there, but I’ve finally realised that the experience of watching Star Wars in this modern landscape is always going to be at the mercy of fans whose perceived ownership of the property overrides any individual opinions that you might try to express. In terms of this sequel trilogy, the apparent last in the Skywalker saga, I loved The Force Awakens and felt equally positive about The Last Jedi, a crime worse than murder for some on the internet! In what seems like a bold and unusual stance, I was actually excited to see The Rise Of Skywalker.
And for the most part, I have to say that I was satisfied. Wrapping up such an anticipated and scrutinised story was never going to be an easy task, especially when the film does its darnedest to ignore and rebuild everything that was done by Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi. The Rise Of Skywalker continues the journeys of Rey (Daisy Ridley, Kylo Run (Adam Driver), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and co. and their resistance war, initially against the familiar First Order, and then later against an even bigger threat in the form of the returned Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
Here’s the thing, perhaps I’m not the most learned and qualified Star Wars fan. I’ll admit that I have little grasp of science fiction details, of the rules of this genre and the some of the mythology that exists within the universe. I watch for spectacle and for cool and cute character moments, I can’t say that I had many complaints on that front. If anything, the film perhaps feels too ‘fan servicey’, linking characters and backstories that didn’t really need to be linked. Key plot details surrounding Rey in particular felt like a direct return back to safety, especially after The Last Jedi dared to take things in a different direction.
For that, I blame that loud section of fans who railed so hard against Episode 8 that they make it basically impossible. As a result, The Rise Of Skywalker is two and a half of hours of good old fashioned intergalactic action fun with a heap of sentimental references and character moments, but it also feels like two rushed movies in one in an attempt to re-do the perceived ‘wrongs’ of its predecessor. The annoyance for me being, simply, that I didn’t see many wrongs in the first place.
It’s not criticism of any particular instalment that I reject. We’ve all got our own opinions and film is innately subjective. The problem is that swathes of Star Wars fans seem to forget that. When you start seeing retroactive praise pieces about and softening views on instalments like Attack Of The Clones, then you know that the fanbase is a venomous snake that will never stop trying to eating itself. I think people have forgotten just how much nostalgia comes into play when talking about Star Wars.
The short of it is this. I liked The Rise Of Skywalker a lot. It was filled with lots of great moments and some of the best new puppet characters and droids in the whole of the new trilogy. There is no getting away from the fact, however, that it is a trilogy that doesn’t particularly feel like one. If you compare this saga finale to the other high profile one this year, Avengers: End Game, the difference in cathartic satisfaction is night and day. The conclusion I have to come to on that is the fact the MCU displayed and evoked much more cohesion and fluency across its instalments.
When it comes to the cast, it’s nice to see everybody again, most I’m assuming for the very last time. Daisy Ridley remains great as Rey, as does Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Their magnetic chemistry was always a highlight of the trilogy for me, and it’s a shame that the rushed ‘two in one’ nature of this last instalment means that some of their development felt over accelerated. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are sufficiently heroic as Finn and Poe, but there’s no doubting that it feels very much like Ridley and Driver’s movie.
Every sight of Carrie Fisher as Leia gave me a little kick in the heart. The film does the best it can given the tragic real life circumstances, but there is certainly a sense that certain plot points would have been different had Fisher still been with us. I will refrain from much more commentary on cast and performances for fear of spoilers, but rest assured that the wide range of inclusions provides a little something for everyone in terms of nostalgia and full circle satisfaction. As I mentioned before, the puppets and droids are really in full swing throughout, and some of the new side characters actually prove to be the most memorable and fun of all.
Overall, The Rise Of Skywalker, for me, is a thumbs up. Is it the absolute most fitting and epic feeling conclusion to this story that it could be? Possibly not. But I’m not going to pander to the haters and rip it apart, because the fact is that I sat in the cinema and had a great time. I ducked and swayed with the action sequences and my emotions swelled when they were supposed to. It’s not perfect, but I don’t think that any Star Wars movie is perfect, and that includes the ‘sacred’ originals.
Godspeed to any filmmaker brave enough to take on responsibilities for whatever is to come in the franchise. Through no fault of its own, in my opinion, it has become a poisoned chalice. I will continue to enjoy this sequel trilogy, and for my sanity, I’ll stay away from the online criticism circus. I’m tired guys, I’m just really tired! It has not escaped me that this review is more about the criticism of the film than the film itself, and to be honest that’s a perfect summation of what Star Wars has become. Calm down my dudes, it’s just not that deep.