Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker concludes the forty-plus year-long saga of the Skywalker family, and while it does provide closure, the journey there is mind-numbing.
Star Wars’ big-bad Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned out of seemingly nowhere to cast his wicked ways onto the galaxy yet again in The Rise of Skywalker. Determined to stop his new onslaught, the last remaining Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and her trusty band of Resistance fighters, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and her top lieutenants Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), along with their helpful droid friends C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), BB8 and R2D2 set out on a mission to end all missions and rid the galaxy of the evil Sith presence for good. In their way is Rey’s nemesis, and current Sith overlord, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), whose goal is to have Rey join him on the dark side, and together, sit on the throne held by the evil Emperor.
The film’s story revolves around the search for Palpatine’s hideout in what is a cat-and-mouse chase for clues to his destination for most of the film. Along the way, they’ll visit new planets and find themselves in all sorts of mischief, and meet some new (mostly disposable) allies. Rey and Kylo will confront each other numerous times, with Kylo’s will to bend Rey to the dark side his main motivation. They’ll each face some pressing existential crises as they try to figure out their true place in the universe, and this time, there’s less talking and more lightsabre fighting.
The relationship between Rey and Kylo has been the strongest story element of this new, modern Star Wars trilogy, which was significantly expanded upon in 2017’s The Last Jedi, and again here. They are the polar opposites of the light and dark side of the force, and both deeply conflicted individuals. The tension between the two is at boiling point in The Rise of Skywalker, resulting in many a lightsabre duel to see who can one-up the other (Rey too is trying to convert Kylo to become good). The good vs evil trope is one that’s always intriguing at the core level, and it often depends on how it’s manifested in art that determines the audience’s attachment to it. In the case of these two representatives, and considering we’ve followed their journey from two prior films, the dynamic works well and his handled with poise by director J.J. Abrams. We get emotionally invested in these characters, but only to a point, as we’re not given enough time to really let the emotions be realized.
This is where The Rise of Skywalker suffers – dramatically. The film’s pace is relentless right from the opening scene, never slowing down for long enough to allow the audience to absorb the information they’ve just been shown. It’s not so much that the film’s plot is difficult to follow, rather, we can’t savor any of the awesome moments that are presented – there’s no nuance to any of it. The characters in the film are in a rush to get to where they need to be, but surely that doesn’t mean the audience has to be as well, does it? A slower pace and more time for character development would have gone a long way in giving the biggest franchise in film history the sendoff it deserved. Despite the frustrating pace, the film has a few redeeming qualities. It looks and sounds beautiful (thanks John Williams, these movies wouldn’t have been the same without you), and the large (and small) action set pieces are superbly crafted. All of the scenes featuring the Emperor look like they’ve been ripped right out of a horror movie, which was a key highlight of the film.
Since A New Hope came out in 1977 and turned the pop-culture world on its head, Star Wars has been full of ups and downs. We’ve received some truly amazing Star Wars films and some less-than-desirable ones. The Rise of Skywalker should have been the greatest entry in the series, but sadly, it seems that fan backlash after The Last Jedi got the team at Disney paranoid, forcing them to go down the path of mediocrity with this one, too afraid to take any risks in case the fans weren’t satisfied. The fans aren’t that stupid though and can see through the flashy veil that’s hiding what should have been a masterpiece. Leave your brain at the door before going into this one and enjoy it for what it is – a feast for the senses that’s lacking a bit of soul.
When George Lucas originally laid out plans for twelve episodes, then reduced that number to nine episodes, he said that C-3PO and R2-D2 would be the only characters to appear in all nine. This will prove to be true, as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi, the only other characters to appear in every movie of the original and prequel trilogies did not appear in the sequel trilogy. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) will also become the only actor to appear in all nine movies.