Monday, December 23, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 2019 - ★★★★½

This movie has divided a large fan base like no other. People who loved Last Jedi are clamoring that director JJ Abrams has once again copied the story and themes from a previous film in the series and that there's a lack of creativity in this movie. Others who weren't as enamored with Jedi are loving this film for what it is, a solid send off to this saga of nine films.

Let's be clear... I liked Last Jedi. I didn't LOVE it. The visual choices that Rian Johnson made in that film were perfect and it may be the best LOOKING Star Wars movie ever. I did not like the choices made for Luke Skywalker with the whole lightsaber over-the-shoulder toss and his exaggerated reluctance to teach the force to Rey. Going into the screening of Skywalker I wished that episode 9 contained a hybrid of the visuals from 8 and the nostalgia from 7 and I pretty much got my wish there. Rise of Skywalker looks great and is jam packed with great references to the past including a lot of big-stakes resolution at the end. This movie does borrow a lot from Return of the Jedi just like Force Awakens borrowed from A New Hope. It didn't annoy me in Force Awakens though and it didn't annoy me with this film either. I just felt that there were enough throwbacks to the past (I loved the return to the throne room from the Return of the Jedi Death Star) that gave the film an emotional connection to my lifetime of watching all these films. Was there a lot of original plot ideas here? NO. But I don't think I needed that with this film. This movie simply needs to wrap up everything in this Skywalker thread and I think it did so rather nicely.

This film is a showcase for the acting talents of Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Issac, all perfectly cast characters that pay off in this final film. You really buy the chemistry between all of them and there are multiple jokes throughout that really work. Ridley especially has a lot to carry on her shoulders with the narrative here and she pulls it off brilliantly.

It's a shame that we have episodes 7-9 with two "battling" directors at the helm. Overall I think the sequel trilogy sits head and shoulders above the prequels but definitely behind episodes 4-6. JJ Abrams did an admirable job and I was entertained and mostly satisfied with Rise of Skywalker, a film I want to see again and I feel is getting a bad rap from most critics.