written by George Hatch
For a movie that tries so hard to include small details from the previous installments, this one isn’t very memorable.
Here it is, the (alleged) final chapter of the Skywalker Saga. The spoiler-free review goes thusly: The first half of this movie is a collection of scenes, some of them enjoyable and all of them on fast-forward, duct-taped together in a way that fails to form a cohesive narrative. Director J.J. Abrams then takes the end of Return of the Jedi and tacks it onto Rise of Skywalker. Abrams’ constant obsession with mysteries and poor resolutions hurts the film in the end, but it still manages to be enjoyable, if a bit stupid.
Now: The Rise of Spoilers
You know how I said that The Last Jedi managed to close some open chapters of the original trilogy and seemed ready to give these characters a new and exciting direction? HAHAHA FUCKING NOPE.
All of the main characters regress to how they were portrayed back in The Force Awakens, except Rey, who is now supposed to be on a path to the Dark Side. Unfortunately, what with the frenetic pacing and Abrams’ inability to give scenes time to breathe, this journey feels incompatible with Rey’s character portrayal so far. Rey in the last two movies was naïve, optimistic, and competent. Replacing the naïveté with complicated boy feelings, then complicated family feelings, comes out of left field. In the end, it keeps her in exactly the same condition as when The Last Jedi ended, like a doll that’s been put back in its plastic.
In point of fact, no character is afforded any kind of growth except Kylo Ren, who I must remind you willingly participated in the mass murder of hundreds of billions of lives. He at least does a little more to “earn” his redemption than his grandfather, but that doesn’t excuse all the other awfulness. And again, this was the ending to Return of the Jedi, and it feels like Abrams tries to ape that moment without fully understanding that it’s been thirty-six years and the same old shit doesn’t fly anymore.
The biggest controversy, of course, is that Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter. That got spoiled for me a few weeks before I got to see this one, and it really put a sour taste in my mouth. It undoes Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi‘s fantastic decision to have Rey be her own person instead of a legacy, a member of a super-special bloodline and inherently better than you.
Bringing Palpatine back also just struck me as lazy, because apparently having Kylo Ren as the big bad of the films wasn’t a risk worth taking. Speaking of Rey and Kylo, their lightsaber battles felt, I don’t know…flatter than in The Last Jedi. Maybe it was because of how rushed everything felt, or the lack of any real emotional themes coming through, but it felt like every time they dueled, they were going at half-speed and trying really hard not to hurt each other.
There are other controversies, too: Kelly Marie Tran’s mere seventy-six seconds of screentime, the posthumous performance of Carrie Fisher, the utter lack of courage shown in leaving Finn and Poe as just friends. But rather than just list off things I thought were terrible ideas, I do want to highlight the positives here, too. The entire cast works their asses off with the paper-thin material they’re provided, especially Oscar Isaac. The little things Adam Driver does to show he’s not his grandfather (immediately planning on turning on the Emperor) and is definitely his father’s son (the shrug when he pulls a lightsaber seemingly out of his ass). Rey’s decision to heal the big-ass snake instead of killing it. Threepio’s tearful goodbye. Artoo having a backup of Threepio’s memories because of course he’s not going through that bullshit again. Lando’s return. The voices of all the previous Jedi. WEDGE. MOTHERFUCKING. ANTILLES!
I’ve seen a few people compare The Rise of Skywalker to Star Trek: Into Darkness. I don’t think this is accurate, as Into Darkness is far more infuriating. In fact, the film that I feel the most comfortable comparing this to is Gus van Sant’s Psycho remake. It feels like a a child putting on its parent’s clothes and pretending to be them for a couple of hours. None of it’s convincing, but you admire the earnestness.
I guess the legacy of this trilogy is going to be saying goodbye to beloved old characters, closing a forty-two-year-old saga, and understanding that pure nostalgia can’t power you through three films. Also, plan this shit out in advance next time. Judging by how most of the cast has reacted after they were done, it’s going to be a long time before we ever see them near a Star Wars movie.
So here, at the end, what do I have left to say about The Rise of Skywalker?
George Hatch can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti. Please don’t send anyone who made a movie you didn’t like harassment or death threats.