Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
It’s impossible to please everyone, especially considering how divisive this new trilogy of Star Wars films have been. People criticized The Force Awakens for playing it too safe, hitting the same beats as the original trilogy. And then people criticized The Last Jedi for veering too far away, changing beloved characters and doing something unconventional. So with this final installment, there’s virtually no way to give people both. Some folks will want a surprising and innovative climax, while others want a fan-pleasing culmination. Which will it be?
In an unexpected turn, the villainous Emperor Palpatine has returned, last seen as he was ‘killed’ in Return of the Jedi. Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks to find him and stop him, while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks to kill him and remain at the top of the food chain. Finding him is tricky, though, so the majority of our film is trying to track down the way to Palpatine. We also have heroes Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega). In her final appearance, using only old unused footage, is Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa.
As an independent film, a lot works here.
The highlight performance is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the conflicted villain. His arc has been the most interesting, as he walks a fine line of being nearly irredeemable. Here, we get everything we want from him, including several incredible lightsaber fights, including one epic duel with Rey (Daisy Ridley) on the top of the crashed Death Star, amid a wild ocean. Some folks might have qualms with how his story resolves but I found it fitting and appropriate.
Most people go into Star Wars wanting adventure. This is a swashbuckling action film, with plenty of chase sequences and twists and turns. This is not an Oscar-caliber character drama, so if you set your expectations right, you’re going to have a great time. There’s new aliens to meet, some epic action setpieces, and plenty of laughs. I think people might be setting the bar too high, but this movie is right on track with what Star Wars has always been.
As a fan, there are plenty of crowd-pleasing moments, especially in the post-climax. These moments can feel a little artificial, but some of you will appreciate the nods, going back all the way to the original films.
What doesn’t work?
Some people hold this franchise too close and feel this sort of ownership over it. But it’s not ours. This is a journey that we’re watching, but some folks might feel like the decisions made here aren’t the decisions they would have made. So you might balk a bit when certain things happen. It’s the same response people had to Game of Thrones. “That’s not what I wanted to happen.” We don’t own these franchises, we’re just lucky enough to watch them unfold. So some of you might have a hard time with the choices made here.
I also said that this movie works as an independent film, but it doesn’t work as well when placed as the finale in a trilogy. Some choices here contradict or veer away from choices made in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. So as a trilogy, this can feel unbalanced and a bit confusing.
As a film, I also had a few qualms. I think the pacing is off, this movie drags in the middle. For being a high-octane adventure, there is quite a bit of the film in which not much really happens. It also throws us into major exposition, including the reveal of Palpatine being alive, in the first few minutes, so the beginning can feel jarring as you try to adjust.
This is not a perfect film but it’s also not the absolute trainwreck that some people are claiming. It’s an adventure movie, with cute aliens and cool fight scenes, and it happens to make some bold choices (which it’s allowed to). We may not agree with those choices. I think some of you will love this movie, it’s definitely bright and entertaining, but I had problems with the film’s pacing and it’s a little jarring how it fits with the prior films. For me, the pros far outweighed the cons, and I had a great time here.