STAR WARS: EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – Bob’s Review

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STAR WARS is a cultural behemoth. We all know this. I don’t need to waste this introduction going into all of that. Let’s cut to the chase – all four us (plus Bob’s wife) went to see the opening night of the ninth film of the Skywalker Saga. And lo and behold, we all have differing opinions!

Bob’s follows. The others shall be linked when they are up!

Which one of us matches yours What do you think?

Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker; Rated PG-13; 141 minutes.

Directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio; Story by both of them along with Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connelly.

Starring Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammill, Ian McDiarmid, Kelly Marie Tran

Basic synopsis: A few years after The Last Jedi, the Resistance struggles to gain the momentum to destroy the First Order. When Kylo Ren finds a resurrected Emperor Palpatine, Palpantine reveals a long-hidden fleet of ships and the Resistance must find the waypoint beacon to lead them to the Emperor and face down the First Order and the remnants of the Empire.  

Spoilers within, beware;but I will try to remain vague as I can and not talk about particular moments some overall ideas will come through. 

There is no way STAR WARS: EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER  can live to your expectations. To truly form an opinion of the film, you must accept this. It’ll be hard. The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth main saga film, arriving after eight Skywalker-saga films, 2 canon side-stories, and countless TV shows, books, comics, games, etc (in canon or no-longer) – it is impossible to come in without all of those, along with whatever theories you came up with, or read about, or have had lively discussions with your friends countless times. It’s difficult not to spend much of the film looking to confirm or deny where you thought it was going to go. Don’t get upset when it doesn’t go where you wanted. Also admit, if you can, if it did follow your exact expectations of story and character you’d be disappointed for figuring it out too easy. Instead, let Abram’s film reveal itself to you on its own terms, not yours.

With all that aside, how does the last of this part of the saga (so they say) hold up?  It’s not a perfect film by any means and possibly the weakest of the non-Prequel Star Wars films, but The Rise of Skywalker is a fun, entertaining adventure that still is worthy of the Star Wars moniker.  J.J. Abrams, returning to the franchise after directing The Force Awakens in 2015, crafts an earnest film that wears its Star Wars loving heart on its sleeve like a Rebellion crest. There isn’t any cynicism. Abrams obviously loves Star Wars and wants to give us as much as of it he can and in a familiar and exciting way. He does know what many of all generations love – straight forward plotting (I’m takling no trade deals and grey areas of a war; direct good vs evil – plot points are a different story) and a large volume of practical effects. Just an attempt at bringing joyful fun with big moments, fun characters, and a hearty sense of adventure.

Oddly enough, this ultimately is an issue for the film and the one the others stem from. Abrams tries to give a little of everything and ends up with more movie than can fit in the nearly two and a half hour run time. The biggest problem of Episode IX is it’s both that and a new Episode VIII at the same time; it often feels like a sped up version of two films shoved into the running time of one. A multitude of new planets, characters, ideas, and plot points are introduced and moved past without much time to let anything breathe. 

For the first third or so of the film, this barreling through it all feel awkward and odd; akin to a “previously on Star Wars” for a film we didn’t see but JJ Abrams had in his head. This seems to indicate The Last Jedi didn’t follow the trajectory he expected, so his take gets pushed into the start of Rise of Skywalker. Yes, I’m aware of the multitude of writing credits attached, but ultimately it comes down to Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio to steer the spaceship. I genuinely liked these new planets and people and look forward to exploring them all in the New Expanded Universe (and I read/watch every drop of it.)   I do think some may have been combined (the desert and snow planets?) or dropped in order to move things along more expediently.  But if you think of this as two movies, it makes sense. But as one big film, much gets lost.

Thus, big moments don’t really have a chance to have the feelings attached to them. I felt the emotions starting to come through and then the film screams NEXT and we move on. Add in an oddity of Fisher’s scenes obviously not being written for now, multiple fake-out deaths (so, so many), plot points, and some very convenient (and don’t make a ton of sense, even compared to the rest of the series) plot pushes (I’ll leave it at the map on the dagger) and we have a first half that is rushed and incomplete.

But there enough fun and charm to keep things moving through and lead to my positive over-all view. Poe, Rey, and Finn aren’t quite as iconic as Luke, Leia, and Han but they come close and never feel like carbon copies. It’s hard to avoid many of the genre archetypes, which many confuse for “they’re the same!” but are not.  They are all exciting and fun, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and watch them interact.

The real star of the new trilogy is easily Adam Driver. Kylo Ren is one of my favorite villains, ever. Yes, it’s true. He’s been incredibly compelling in continually internally battling with multiple natures internally and externally. The dynamic between himself and Rey has been engaging and well-done. And very well performed by both. Adam Driver has had a meteoric rise to one of the most interesting and watchable actors in the last few years, very much helped along by his portrayal of Kylo Ren.

While we’re talking actors – RICHARD E GRANT as a General Pryde. Grant is one of my all-time favorite actors and to have him join the franchise as a scenery chewing, but still imposing baddie is a favorite part of the movie. I need more! Especially his interactions with General Hux, a menace compared to Hux’s overblown kid-in-his-dad’s-suit actions.  

Where Rise of Skywalker shines most is in its action sequences, both the smaller and more personal battles such  Rey versus Kylo Ren among the ruins of the Death Star II (ooh, seeing the abandoned debris was a highlight, as I love photos and exploration of abandoned places like asylums, schools and the like) on another moon of Endor (not the Ewok one) that ends Abram’s Episode VIII to the large scale space battle of the Final Order vs Resistance at the climax of the film. 

The Last Jedi was a divisive film, although I feel the detractors were a very small minority, although a very vocal one. I, for one, loved Rian Johnson’s film, but that’s neither here nor there. What is important to note is Abram’s seems to fall into the minority, or at least cowtows to them in ignoring or outright changing the revelations of The Last Jedi. Rose is pushed to a small role on the side-lines. This is one of the few things that activily pissed me off about the movie. Less Rose is giving the loud people what they want, telling them their voice was heard loud and clear. Rose should have come with the gang on the adventure.

The messages about moving on from the past are dropped to bring back the big bad of the franchise. Rey’s heritage coming from nothing is abandoned to make her Sheev Palpantine’s granddaughter. This revelation is a groan when we’re told, but ultimately is handed well and isn’t too glaring after the news. Ultimately, it does tie this sequel trilogy back to the previous too and is satisfying.

This is exactly what I mean when I say to not let our own wants and desires get in the way with where the story does go. Did I want Rey to be tied to the past? No. Did I want this to keep focus on Ren, Rey, and the current war? Yes. But it doesn’t and I’m willing to let that go, as I did like what happened.  

I set out to write a short review as we will have four on this page. I wrote a lot more. I have conflicting thoughts. I have issues with much of the film. But in my rambling, I want you to know that I still had a great time. I still think we have a quality, fun, engaging movie with great characters both new (Babu Frik) and old (Wedge!). I had a big smile on my face. I’ve only seen the movie the once, compared to the multiple times for all the rest. I can’t wait to watch it again and again. That itself shows how much it does work despite most of the review being a bit negative. 
B

PS. Who was wanting Kylo Ren to say to Rey after the Palpantine reveal.. “My Grandfather used to work for your grandfather… of course, rates have gone up.” and the Emperor’s machine sure seemed like Dr Channard in Hellraiser II.

4 comments

  1. Good review HOWEVER it was not a vocal minority that hated TLJ. Disney didn’t do what they did with TROS for a small sliver of fans…that makes no sense. And if you look beyond the official critics RT score slightly to the right, you see what I mean. Abysmal fan scores. Not saying you should like of dislike it but saying it was a vocal minority just isn’t accurate. A lot of people hated this movie.

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