“Slip to the darkside and cross that line.” – Eddie and the Cruisers
In my past evaluations of the Star Wars films, I was very generous in doling out high praise. I was so enthralled with the imagination on display and wrenching moments that it took a long time, if ever, for me to see the flaws. With The Rise of Skywalker, however, the blinders have come off.
The “final” entry to the main saga (pfft, like we haven’t heard that one before), Rise comes to us as the franchise may have just reached oversaturation. “Less is more” is perhaps a lesson this film could have used.
The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) lives! We’re finally clued in that he’s been shaping things from behind the scenes this whole time, but now wants his presence known. He meets with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and officially gives him the order to kill Rey (Daisy Ridley). Meanwhile, the Rebels under command of Leia (Carrie Fisher) make their plans to strike but first need to locate the Sith homeworld where the Emperor is hiding out. So Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and BB-8 set out to find the big bad to end things once and for all.
Even setting aside how its predecessor was received, this has been a very troubled production and lead-up. In addition to one of the primary actors dying before shooting even began, it’s been noted for the departure (firing?) of original director Colin Trevorrow and rumors circulating about behind the scenes disagreements. So yes, what we’re left with is a mess that does not come together in any cohesive or meaningful manner. While walking back some of The Last Jedi could please that film’s enemies, what was used to do that, in one way or another, is unlikely to be to their satisfaction.
Chris Terrio has got to be one of the worst screenwriters working in major film today. This in no way feels like the natural progression of events that The Force Awakens was building towards. And no, that middle film cannot possibly be a scapegoat here, as this one tries its best to pretend it never existed. While that non-JJ Abrams entry has been fodder for hours upon hours of video analyses taking the writing to task, Rise has plenty more issues which should at least double those numbers.
Yet in spite of all these detractions, I did derive some enjoyment from it. At the very least, it delivers on a purely visceral level. Space battles, lightsaber fights, chases, stealthy moments, exploring new(ish) environments…the basic elements one expects from this series are here. As terrible as the writing is, the main event reveal knocked me right on my hindquarters. Plus, it’s nice to see Billy Dee Williams finally reprise Lando in the flesh.
The Rise of Skywalker can be a fun time, but that’s really all it is. If you’re hoping for an all-time sci-fi great, this is not the film you’re looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.