Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Let's get this out of the way up top: I like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I really do. It's full of energy, it never lets the gas up. The performances, especially the leads, are all top shelf. Carrie Fisher, through the use of archival footage and such, is on a giant screen one last time and that is a good thing. The emotional journeys are moving and fulfilling. The twists and turns and surprises are all built on foundations of what came before. John Williams' score is toe-curlingly good.The movie is eye-candy and ear-candy of the highest order.
But it is also the most pandering movie of the year. Maybe of the decade. Endgame, you can see yourself out the door, Skywalker will take your seat at the table. It creaks under the weight of all of the fan service. The heroes land on a planet looking for whatsit, there is a festival going on, someone mentions the festival occurs every 42 years. You can do the math since 1977. There are cameos and Easter eggs and callbacks being dropped every few minutes. Some of these are clunky, some of them are not. Some cause eyeballs to roll all the way back, some cause a smile or a tear. Some might call it nostalgia gone crazy, some might call it trying to play it safe.
And anyone expecting more of the franchise breaking weirdness, and giddiness of Last Jedi, well, I'm sorry. This ain't that film. I don't hide my love for Last Jedi, not at all. I love every overstuffed moment, every unexpected narrative turn. and every Kurosawa influenced frame of that billion plus dollar grossing bit of oddness. To see some aspects of Last Jedi treated with what appears to be disrespect kind of hurts. So, yeah, Rise of Skywalker is fulfilling the promise of Force Awakens. It's a Star Wars movie that is trying not to upset anyone. It's not trying to reinvent the franchise, it's trying to bring it to an end.
So, does it stick the landing? You're asking this already? Geez.
But, yes, it sticks the landing. It sure does. I'll confess - there may have been a tear or two when I heard John Williams' Finale start to play and the credits started to roll. This is it, the saga is over. This story, with all of its repeating motifs and themes, is finally over. I wonder if wee me, sitting in that theatre a lifetime ago, would understand that one day he would be writing a bunch of words about the last piece of this story that essentially come down to "movie good". I think wee me might be very confused by this. There was no Episode 4, no A New Hope, when wee me saw Star Wars. It was just that, Star Wars. I think I might be old.
What's it about? Well, there is a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and they've come together for the annual Jellicle Ball and for some reason Dame Judi Dench is a cat but has human hands. Nice try. Writing about nothing has become a bit of a superpower in this spoiler adverse age we currently live in. I've had lots of practice, what with the Marvel movies and the other Star Wars properties and other comic book movies and look, I'm doing it right now. Nice try, indeed.
At its worst moments, Rise of Skywalker feels like a film made with notes from Reddit. It's clunky and you can almost feel the expectations and desperation to please coming off of the screen. At its best, it feels like a natural conclusion to a story that has been told over decades. Remove the fan service, you will still have a heck of a genre movie here. And the cast elevates everything, from the odd plotting to the undercooked dialogue. Will it break the genre wall at the Oscars? Nope. Is Rise of Skywalker what it is intended to be? Is it a piece of crowd pleasing, popcorn entertainment where some things blow up real good? Yep. Don't over think it, it's a Star Wars movie. No-one can hear you giggle in space.
is it worth seeing in a theatre? Yes, you crazy person. A million times yes. This thing looks amazing. It's big and it is beautiful. There are so many moments that I can't talk about here, but trust me, Rise of Skywalker is a feast. Now, get back to work.