Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.
I can’t say that I came to Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker with an overwhelming amount of hope. I might have been a lot more excited about this had I watched it before the current controversy concerning the film and the role of John Boyega. Boyega recently came out aggressively about the way that he and his character Finn were treated in general. He has a real point. In The Force Awakens, Finn was clearly put forward as one of the major new characters. His role was severely curtailed in the next film and in this one. And, honestly, he’s right.
I don’t tend to make massive pronouncements on this blog, but sometimes the circumstances force me to. I grew up on Star Wars. I saw A New Hope no less than 20 times in theaters as a kid. I loved the universe and the very idea of the universe. And now, having seeing The Rise of Skywalker, the truth is, as painful as it is for me to say it, that the Star Trek universe is a better one. It has a better overall message, and the creators treat the characters better and with greater respect. I hate that I had to say that, but it’s true.
I’m not going to try to break down the plot here because I’m not sure that I’m capable. The Rise of Skywalker goes in about 50 different directions at all times, bringing in characters from the last couple of movies for a line or two, adding new characters for no evident reason other to add them, creating new Force powers on the fly, and generally just moving from the opening of the film to get us to the climactic battle we know is coming for no other reason then the fact that we know it’s coming. We’re also going to get the final footage of Carrie Fisher as Leia, evidently pulled from unused moments from the previous film. We’ll also get Mark Hamill as Luke and Harrison Ford as Han showing up as Force ghosts. We get the reappearance of Billy Dee Williams as Lando, and for a brief, shining second, Denis Lawson shows up as Wedge Antilles in what is absolutely the film’s best moment.
But, and I hate that I have to say this as well, I spent a great deal of the film’s run time simply confused at what was happening. We’re going to spend a great deal of time dealing with new Force abilities because Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are spiritually connected through the Force. What this means is that they are (somehow) capable of interacting physically with each other no matter where they are in the galaxy. So, Kylo can strip Rey of a necklace despite not being near her and then have it analyzed to find out where she is. They can fight with each other lightsaber-style despite being light years apart. And, bluntly, it doesn’t work for me at all.
We also get Force healing, and evidently the ability for Sith and/or Jedi to possess other people. In fact, that’s a big part of the story here—Emperor Palpatine (Iam McDiarmid) is back somehow and living on a secret Sith planet because of course he is. Why create a new enemy or simply keep Kylo Ren as the bad guy when we have the opportunity to go back and once again pick the bones of the Orig Trilig? All of this just feels like fan service, and not here for any useful narrative purpose, but instead to direct the fans’ response to what is happening in a very specific and directed way.
I’m just going to say that I’m putting a lot of the blame on J.J. Abrams. John Boyega suggests that Abrams should be absolved of a lot of guilt, but it’s his name on the film at the end, like it or not. The Force Awakens was also helmed by Abrams and it was almost a direct reboot of Episode IV: A New Hope. Rian Johnson came in for The Last Jedi, and while there were people who didn’t like where he took the franchise, it was at least an attempt to do something new. Evidently, scared by the fans who didn’t like Episode VIII despite it clearly being the best of the third trilogy, Disney decided to go full-on in “giving the fans what they want.” In trying to please everyone, they’ve ended up with a film that is loud and bombastic and colorful, but that feels empty.
This could have been so much better. It should have been so much better.
It’s depressing, but it’s also true that The Rise of Skywalker is flashy and showy and bombastic, and ultimately disappointing. Like it or not, people are still talking about the MCU. They’re still talking about the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. But Game of Thrones, which took up so much time and space in the general public’s mind for years ended so badly that no one talks about it anymore. I fear The Rise of Skywalker might lead Star Wars down that same path.
Why to watch Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker: It ends the epic.
Why not to watch: It could have been so much better.