Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

 If you haven’t been a reader of my reviews very long (welcome), I haven’t always been the loudest and proudest devout supporter of the Star Wars franchise. I have a respect for the imagination and world-building, and I appreciate the enthusiasm of its loyal fan-base (at least when some of them aren’t calling for an actresses’ death because they didn’t like her in a movie). I love the idea of Star Wars, but it has never meshed with me in the same way other science-fiction fantasy series’ have. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and began to unravel their latest Trilogy, I was enthusiastic, and I even enjoyed them. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was derivative of A New Hope and I wouldn’t say it introduced a lot of new elements to the series, but I was at least entertained. The Last Jedi made certain Star Wars fans scream out in bloody murder and I do believe it could have trimmed the fat in-terms of its subplots, but, because of the relationship with Kylo and Rey, among other things, I do believe it might be my favorite of the series in-general (I tell you this now, encase you want to stop reading).

   Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the end of Star Wars. Or, at least, that was sort-of the marketing strategy for it. At the very least, it will be the end of the Episodic saga that began back in 1977 and the Sequel Trilogy. The film was produced, co-written, and directed by J. J. Abrams (same as The Force Awakens) and brings back our familiar cast of characters – Daisy RidleyAdam DriverJohn BoyegaKelly Marie TranCarrie FisherMark Hamill, and others, as the “Skywalker saga” meets its end.

   The film was a profitable disappointment, grossing over a billion dollars. The film is ranked as the third highest grossing Star Wars film worldwide, but that comes with an asterisk. Adjusted for inflation, the original film, both its immediate successors, The Phantom Menace and The Revenge of the Sith would have out-grossed the film in-terms of ticket sales. If you adjusted inflation for Rogue One, then that film also out-grossed The Rise of Skywalker. It sounds like it still made a lot of money, but when you consider the theater’s cut of the profit, the 275 million production budget and a marketing budget that would no doubt bring expenditures to half-a-billion, the return-on-investment wasn’t ideal. 

   The polarizing critical reception (it has the lowest percentage of the live-action Star Wars franchise on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fan-response to both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, likely played a part in the dwindling box-office sales. As well as brand saturation, through the release of the misfiring Solo film. This won’t be the death of the series by any stretch, but I anticipate Disney will be more particular with the series hereafter. 

   I don’t think Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is as bad as they say, but that isn’t the biggest compliment in the world. The Rise of Skywalker sees Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron lead the Resistance in their final stand against Kylo Ren and the First Order, who are now being assisted by the return of the deceased galactic emperor Palpatine; the mastermind that manipulated Darth Vader earlier on in the series.

   Saying the film isn’t as bad as they say, I feel, is necessary, if only because I can’t allow anyone to pretend that The Phantom Menace isn’t on another level of bad in-terms of story, acting, and special-effects. I do believe, however, that this is the worst of the Sequel Trilogy. However, this isn’t a film that draws much of a response for me that shifts one way or the other. A lot of it feels like the rest of the Sequel Trilogy, to me, with a taste that is neither gross nor delectable overall.

   One of the biggest criticisms I have heard about this film is that it “retcons” a lot of what was established in The Last Jedi. I was worried about that, especially in one particular field. In The Last Jedi, one of my favorite parts is when Kylo reveals that Rey’s parents were no one special to the series. For me, I believed that served as a necessary fight against established convention. Star Wars is a soap-opera and as Lucas has said “it rhymes,” but Rey’s parents not being, say, Han and Leia, or someone else like that, went against that. It meant that she had to find her own place in the galaxy. This film does make certain tweaks and adjustments, and I do not believe they were necessary by any means, but I do believe they take out the same principles only to reinstate them again – that Rey is her own person.

   This isn’t a film that draws much of a strong reaction from me in the end. The special-effects are dazzling and expensive, but I never feel that the series does anything interest in its fight scenes. They are explosive and energetic, and have all the makings of a popcorn blockbuster, but the choreography and the use of the environment always feels surface-level and superficial. The characters are colorful and they carry a level of charm to them, but it isn’t enough to elevate the film.

   I can’t help but feel this film also didn’t have any forward momentum. Ideally, a three-arc film is meant to feel like it is building to something and all the films prop one another up, whereas I feel it didn’t have that in-terms of central conflict. The Prequel Trilogy had that. The Original Trilogy had it. If you wanted, you could argue that the films are about Kylo Ren and his relationship with darkness and light, and the return of Palpatine is meant to cement following in the footsteps of Darth Vader, but it can’t help but feel uneven and abrupt, and I feel like they could have accomplished the same thing with Snoke playing the role of Palpatine.

   It doesn’t matter if I recommend watching the film or not, I don’t think. I believe it is the weakest of the Trilogy, but it’s not like it is a nosedive in-comparison to what came prior. It is, at best, an average film and a below-average conclusion to a beloved series of movies (until the next installment).

Placement on the List: The (Lower Tier) Decents

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *