You know, what? I’m going to throw a bone to J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” but it’s a very small, hand-sized bone. While this film is very flawed and hokey, it is also the first time this decade that I’ve thought the new additions to the Star Wars brand actually felt like they matched the tone of the original classics. The comic relief actually lands and the characters don’t take themselves too seriously, yet their goals are still of vast importance to them. Plus, the cast clearly enjoyed working off each other.
Still, the less you know or care about Star Wars, the more likely you are to enjoy the final installment of the trilogy. This is one of the most inconsistent franchises out there, and Abrams appears to have chosen to film this new movie almost as a one-off, so you don’t need to remember the events in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.”
While “The Rise of Skywalker” hits all the cues for a decent blockbuster, the plot is very dull. Though subverting expectations has become a joke in the fandom since “The Last Jedi,” this new feature just phones it in with tone deaf fan service and rushed character arcs.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is still training to be a Jedi while discovering her family background and trying to figure out Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) end goal. Kylo is, of course, still villainous, and motivated by his own fascination with Rey. Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) are still leading the war against the Resistance and have some new and old friends to help, including Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), Jannah (Naomi Ackie), and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). On the other end, the Resistance is still being led by Kylo, Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and new bad guy General Pryde (Richard E. Grant).
That’s a lot of “stills.” Each character is still doing what they did before, and while there are certainly new plot lines to this current addition, they STILL don’t feel right somehow, the same way they haven’t felt right in any of the more recent additions.
The worst part is that it’s been four decades since the original trilogy was released, and we’ve now reached the point where the sequels have critically sunk as low as the laughable prequels. It’s sad that with all the potential, all the quality world-building that took place from 1977 to 1983, that no one — whether it’s George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, or J.J. Abrams — knows how to play off of.
And because no one knows what to do with them, the narratives for the new additions are, overall, both redundant and claustrophobic. On the upside, we do finally get to see the new main trio collaborating and working as a team in “Rise,” but the whole series has been so underwhelming that it’s hard to appreciate their chemistry, even after all this time.
Maybe it’s time to finally admit that there has only really ever been two legitimately good Star Wars movies – those being “A New Hope” (1977) and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), naturally. These two films essentially birthed life into the modern big budget studio picture structure we now know, only for its own franchise to be dealt a bad hand from poor decision-making.
To me, this revamped cultural phenomenon doesn’t end on a high note, or a low note, but on a fully resounding meh.