Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Release date: December 20, 2019 (USA)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Screenplay by: J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
Cast: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams.
As seen in trailers, the old news of Emperor Palpatine’s death had been greatly exaggerated. And with the First Order joining forces with Palpatine’s secret fleet to become the Last Order, what’s left of the Resistance is in a hurry to defeat them once and for all. Rey and her friends are in charge of finding where Palpatine is, while Kylo Ren is charged by Palpatine to bring Rey to him.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the last movie of the most recent trilogy and it’s also the last one in the “Skywalker saga”. It was also a movie with quite a few issues.
Starting with the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher, a pillar of the Star Wars franchise, and whose character, Leia Organa, was supposed to have a key role in The Rise of Skywalker, just like Han Solo did in The Force Awakens and Luke Skywalker did in The Last Jedi. In the end, unused footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens was used in the film.
Then there were the issues of the production itself, which was supposed to have a story treatment by writer/director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson. But by the time, Colin Trevorrow was working as director and co-writer of The Rise of Skywalker, Johnson stated he had no involvement whatsoever. And then Trevorrow left the production due to “creative differences” (rumor has it the scripts were terrible). The movie, announced for a May 24, 2019, was pushed to December 20, 2019, and J.J. Abrams was back as director and co-writer.
And was all this history needed before a review? Not really. It just added some spice to all the issues this movie has in comparison to the other two. Because yes, The Rise of Skywalker isn’t nearly as good as the previous ones.
Was it a bad movie? Not really.
All the technical aspects were on par for a movie of this caliber. The production was top notch, and it showed in the total spectacle of new scenarios, lightsabers fights and spaceship battles. All these were visually creative and introduced new elements, such as the “new evolution” in Kylo Ren and Rey’s force bond. Also, John William’s score, the last one for a Star Wars film, was on point, even if it was a bit by the numbers. Finally, the new characters were, for the most part, useful and fun.
In fact, one of the film’s biggest strengths was the acting of characters old and new. Sure, the script could be corny (which is normal for Star Wars) or quippy (which is really more Marvel than Star Wars), but the actors made it work with either expert scenery-chewing from bad guys, or great charisma and chemistry from the good guys.
We had Naomi Ackie’s Jannah, who had great rapport with John Boyega’s Finn, bonding over shared experiences. She not only was in on the action but had certain air of innocence under her tough exterior. Sadly, Keri Russell’s Zorii Bliss didn’t have as big a role, but she gave us some backstory for Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. And most importantly, introduced us to Babu Frik (voiced by Shirley Henderson), who was the breakout character in my opinion. He had great chemistry with C3PO (voiced once more by Anthony Daniels) in those few moments they had together. Talking about C3PO, he not only had great lines but also an actual character arc!
As for the bad guys, we had Richard E. Grant’s Allegiant General Pryde, who was there to fill the evil officer with English accent role, now that Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux had a different role to play considering his situation by the end of The Last Jedi. And then there was Ian McDiarmid, who was back to ham it up as Palpatine. Yes, he’s as intense as we remember him, even if his presence never totally fit in.
As for the legacy characters, I’m glad they managed to keep Leia (Carrie Fisher) in the film, thanks to not only to the scenes they managed to rescue from the footage they had, but also with the help of some camera work and body doubles, as well as digital tinkering in that one scene. Also, without trying to be too spoilery, both Luke (Mark Hamill) and Han (Harrison Ford) were there, and their presence was poignant. And hey, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian was there, and while he didn’t do much, he did advance the plot somewhat and had a relevant role to play at the end of things.
But at the core of it all we had Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, whose character’s relationship through all the movie gave us fantastic scenes with different types of conflicts: physical, emotional and mental. And while both were doing a good job, by the time all the pieces were in place and the resolution to their respective character arcs were coming to a close, it was Driver who shone through.
Yes, some elements of the script felt as if J.J. Abrams was juggling the ideas he set up in The Force Awakens with the way things ended at The Last Jedi (and Carrie Fisher passing), and it ended up like it had too many plot points for one narrative. And yes, that’s why the first half hour felt rushed, and the pacing was all over the place, with quest after quest, sprinkled with chase scenes and undeveloped ideas. But I had fun with the espectacle, and the emotional beats worked almost every time.
The Rise of Skywalker is an ok movie and, while I had hoped for a better end to the saga, I can definitely see myself watching it again and again, and be just as entertained as the first time.
And besides, if Disney Plus can give us more stuff like The Mandalorian, the Star Wars universe will live on.