Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

by | Dec 22, 2019 | 0 comments

A Film that Plays it Disappointingly Safe, Leading to an Anti-Climactic and Sloppy End for the Saga

Star Wars has been a critical franchise in film history. The first film Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) kickstarted a trend of sci-fi films, which would prove to enter the cultural zeitgeist. The result was franchises like Superman, Batman, Back to the Future, Terminator, and Alien could get funding and viewers. With each successive Star Wars film, the expectations rose as the lore and world expanded and fans became religious towards its content. This has reached peaks of fan hysteria, which were shaken by the bold and unconventional Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). That film seemed to take a sledge-hammer to the expectations and requirements that a Star Wars film should have, and it was not met with much fan enthusiasm. The result was a pivot back to writer/director J.J. Abrams, to finish this latest trilogy that he had started with his fan-friendly Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is the supposed last film in the Skywalker saga, which has expanded over nine films in over 40 years. This film follows the events of Last Jedi, with the Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) putting a resistance against the stumbling First Order, led by the moody Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The last jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley), continues to hone her skills in secret, hoping to be able to put them to use for Leia’s cause. Both sides are attracted to a seeming call from a past figure that was presumed dead, and they will both race to find its source.

Abrams had a monumental task with The Rise of Skywalker, more so than in The Force Awakens. In the 2015 film Abrams could indulge in fan service while following a familiar formula of emulating A New Hope, in an almost remake fashion. However, Abrams doesn’t have that freedom or comfort here; Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi seemed to have wrecked any conventional plans that a trilogy plot could have had, especially by killing off the supposed main villain Snoke. This forces Abrams to dig about and fix the more displeasing conclusions of the previous film, while also tugging along at an individual film’s plot. The result is a sloppy and unconvincing stringing together of characters and plotlines that become rushed and shallow. Seeming crucial questions and problems are solved with characters having “a feeling,” and such conclusions are never questioned again. It seemed lazy from Abrams, who wanted to rush through a checklist of sequences and exposition that he needed to drop, and employed such trivial tools.

Rise of Skywalker is not a bad film necessarily, but it doesn’t do enough to stand out either. Abrams seems to indulge too much in his Spielberg emulations, with a cheery tone and characters who always have a witty line to drop. This style might have worked for those suffering from nostalgia in Force Awakens, but it seems a bit antiquated in Rise of Skywalker, where viewers are expecting something more mature and along the lines of today’s blockbusters. As such the majority of the dialogue seems incredibly generic and unoriginal, whilst the plot itself seems to play it safe with its twist and dramatic moments being rather unimaginative. The supposed big decisions that Abrams takes on characters’ fates leave many viewers feeling indifferent or maybe even outright disappointed. The entire aura surrounding the plotting seemed one of fear, of perhaps suffering a similar backlash that such narrative risks in Last Jedi received.

The cast is also unnecessarily enlarged; no doubt as a tactic to sell new versions of toys. For the film itself, however, it served no purpose; saga characters were brought back with no seeming logic and end up having not much, if any, impact on the plot. This crowding shortened the time that viewers had with the core characters and allowed for the majority of their wrap-ups to seem downright mediocre. That’s not a fault of the cast, who give this film an incredible amount of energy and passion, but their dedication seemed to contrast unappealingly with the blandness of the rest of the film. Only Kylo Ren, in large part thanks Adam Driver’s performance, has an intriguing arc throughout this new trilogy; his and Rey’s are the story that viewers always want to get back to, and which we are frustratingly always hindered to by endless scenes of ship repairs and rebels needing to destroy an enemy antenna (gee, we haven’t seen that before…).

In the end, The Rise of Skywalker is a rather predictable and forgettable blockbuster. It seems more concerned with ticking off boxes of cameos and franchise winks rather than delivering a bold new story. The action and visuals are entertaining enough, but that would have been the minimum expectation of any blockbuster. Abrams had a hard enough job bringing about a satisfying conclusion, but with the rich Star Wars lore and possibility, one expected something more impactful. This finale will not anger viewers as much as The Last Jedi, but it does prove to be a rather anti-climactic end to one of the most defining sagas in cinema. Instead of ending with a bang, Star Wars seems to have faded off into the background like its own dead Jedi do.

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 52% 52%

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What is the most disappointing finale ever? Let me know in the comments section.

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