Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining farewell to George Lucas’s epic saga that has plenty of nostalgia but fails to provide meaning.
In a galaxy far, far away, life is not always easy, and I’m not just talking about epic battles between good and evil. Though the final chapter of George Lucas’s saga begins right where its prequel left off, with the Resistance and The First Order very much at war and Rey (Daisy Ridley) still trying to understand the ways of the Force, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker also introduces new elements that drive the narrative away from the direction established by Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi.
Part of what made fans have such strong opinions (whether positive or negative) on Episode VIII is that it genuinely managed to subvert expectations on what a Star Wars movie should be like. In The Last Jedi, we learned that Jedis can make mistakes, that being rebellious isn’t always the answer, and that not every Star Wars character needs to be related to a Skywalker in order to be gifted in the Force. As a matter of fact, Rey’s parents were “nobodies”, and yet the Force is still very much “strong in this one”, as Master Yoda would put it.
Johnson also enabled ordinary characters, such as Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), to play an extraordinary role in the rebellion, and used Rey’s unexplicable connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to bring further meaning to the existence of the Force. Though The Last Jedi left more than one question unanswered and plenty of room for developing certain themes that are only hinted at in the film, The Rise of Skywalker strays from Johnson’s direction and takes a different path entirely.
If The Last Jedi left us wondering about a child using the Force to move a broom, The Rise of Skywalker wants us to stick to the main storyline and directs our attention back to Rey’s origins. In fact, let’s forget about the last few movies entirely: Emperor Snoke (Andy Serkis) was as much of a “nobody” as Rey is, and we now have a new villain. Or, rather, a very old one: J.J.Abrams resurrects Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who is back with a new, evil plan. Only, his plan is not new and not evil at all, and his Night of the Living Dead look is not threatening at all. In fact, Palpatine’s unconvincing scheming is only the first of a series of developments that are not only messy and confusing, but also full of plot holes.
With the kind of attachment fans have to the first three chapters of the Star Wars saga, a high degree of nostalgia is to be expected in its latest releases, and The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t disappoint. Seeing Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) on the Millennium Falcon will always remind us of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and we’ll never get tired of listening to C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)’s unsolicited opinions and watching Leia (Carrie Fisher) gracefully lead the rebels. The Rise of Skywalker provides plenty of nostalgic moments, quotable lines and familiar appearances that remind us of specific moments in Star Wars history.
It also leaves enough room for John Boyega and Oscar Isaac to shine as Finn and Poe Dameron, who are, without a doubt, the real heroes of this film. There are hilarious lines, meme-worthy scenes, insightful pearls of wisdom, chess games and a few truly unexpected twists that give much needed screen time to characters we seldom get to see. Yet, the narrative is so messy that it leaves little room for any real growth.
It’s hard to take The Rise of Skywalker seriously, and that is simply because some of its narrative developments don’t seem to make much sense. In a film that is developed around nostalgia and that seems to borrow props from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dialogues and scenes (and Basilisk!) from Harry Potter, supporting characters from Pirates of the Caribbean and sentimental moments from The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, there isn’t much room for originality. A lot happens in a short amount of time: plans are conceived, characters learn unconvenient truths about each other and their relatives (in the best Star Wars tradition) and choices are made.
Yet, the absence of context makes it hard for the audience to understand some of these developments, which are given names but never really explained. In a film where everything happens too quickly and too easily, there isn’t any conflict to face, just like there is no real momentum or build-up. Though the movie does provide a few emotional scenes towards the end, it doesn’t leave us much room to let its harshest choices really sink in. It also makes it really hard to understand its confusing ending, and that is a real shame.
Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker is not an unenjoyable movie altogether. You’ll find yourself laughing at its most absurd moments and genuinely having fun during its battle scenes. You’ll be mesmerized by Adam Driver’s performance and you’ll find yourself rooting for Finn, Poe, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2D2 at different times and for different reasons. You’ll enjoy watching Lando (Billy Dee Williams) in action once more, you’ll get teary at the most unexpected times and you’ll channel your inner BB-8 (Brian Herring) more than once. You’ll also be frustrated by the film’s lack of clarity, and, at the end of it all, you’ll find yourself struggling to remember its most confusing moments.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now showing in cinemas worldwide.