Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is surrounded by divisive widely conflicting reviews from fans and critics alike. When it comes to Star Wars other’s opinions are completely inconsequential to me. I’ve always found the greatest aspect of Star Wars is for everyone to love it in your own unique way. It is built on nostalgia and personal connections, not on the greatness of its cinematic exploits. “The Rise of Skywalker” comes in as the best of the new trilogy for me, and not because it was the most together movie. That accolade probably goes to “The Force Awakens”. In fact, “The Rise of Skywalker” was a bit of a narrative mess, but even so, it worked for me.

“Your journey nears its end.”

the rise of skywalkerGoing back to “The Force Awakens” we are given a lot of fan service, a lot of callbacks to “A New Hope” and what is a thoughtful transition from the OT to a new story. Because of that, it’s just not as interesting to revisit even though it is a good movie. Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” made for a lot of angry fans, and while I enjoyed it the least of this trilogy, I respected where the series moved here. We were traversing new ground and closing doors. Unfortunately, Johnson threw away the key on some of those doors, making it more difficult to move forward in this final bit. When I look at both movies I see Abram’s movie as the light side of the force and Johnson working with the dark side. Abram’s had to blend those worlds together in the third and when it works it’s magnificent. When it doesn’t….it’s rough.

When we start “The Rise of Skywalker” a lot is going on. Kylo Ren is the Supreme Leader of Evil, Palpatine is back, Rey and the rebels are trying to find a way to stop The First Order. (Please let me note here how much I hated The Final Order) Rey, Finn, and Poe go on a mission in search of the hidden Sith home-world and this ensues a goose chase that serves as a plot device to get everyone to the climax for what ends up being a satisfying finale. Rey’s and Ren’s connection continues throughout the story, we discover Rey’s heritage, and of course the fate of the galaxy.

“Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your destiny.”

the rise of skywalkerThe first act is a mess. I can see Abram’s was trying to fit as much in as he could, throwing every character we’ve met along the way for a moment of nostalgia. It doesn’t happen organically and because of that, there’s no sincerity or emotional connection. There was the introduction of some new and fun characters, and the lingering of ones that were complete distractions, specifically 3P0. He’s always been a beat of comic relief, but he was not funny, just awkward. There’s also the death of an important character that still has me shaking my head.

When we finally catch some momentum it’s a great ride. The second half, even when lacking logic is great. The action sequences are exciting, there’s a scene with an old Death Star that was one of the highlights for me, some great moments with the Falcon, a few run in’s with old character’s, and special effects and sound that can really only be fully appreciated in the theatre. If you’re complaining about the focus on special effects, space battles, gunfights, and all that superficial nonsense, then you’re missing the point of Star Wars. This is all a huge part of Star Wars.

“People keep telling me they know me. No one does.”

the rise of skywalkerWhat I LOVE about the prequels and these sequels is the exploring of new worlds and creatures. There’s a moment Rey just basks in what she’s looking at and it’s probably one of my favorite moments in the movie. It gave us a moment to actually sit back and appreciate these amazing fantasy worlds realized before us. Star Wars is a visual construct and its creatures, planets, and cultures are one of the wonderful things it has to offer and it’s magnificent in “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Part of my problem with the entire series is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and the character of Ren himself. Driver is a great actor, but he doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for me since the start. Ren is no Vader and isn’t supposed to be, but too often he’s been a punchline. Instead of feeling his enticement of the Darkside, he acts like a whining petulant child. I still can’t understand this after Luke and Anakin, but here he is. That being said, the arc of his character in “The Rise of Skywalker” works and the payoff, in the end, is rather beautiful.

“No one’s ever really gone.”

“The Rise of Skywalker” is by no means perfect, but it was a worthy conclusion to our Saga. It’s a satisfying, heartfelt ending. There’s a lot of chaos and original thinking banded with the nostalgia of the past. Keeping this as spoiler-free as possible I can’t really note specifically my favorite parts, but I suspect they are the same for most of us. What I needed and got was that it felt like Star Wars.  May the force be with you, always.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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