I thought I would hate The Rise of Skywalker. As news of the movie’s troubled production and scathing reviews slowly made their way online, I got the impression that this would be a giant, stupid ball of fan service with convoluted plot. But you know what…that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Despite being a ‘turn-your-brain-off’ action flick, I actually enjoyed much of this movie. Counter to my expectations, I found enough new mythology, solid action, and consistent characterization to win me over. It may be rife with flaws and lacking an original story, but it’s serviceable as a solid piece of blaring, fun action.
I was most concerned in the theater during the first 15 minutes. This movie was cut at an insanely fast pace, clearly a result of the well-documented re-shoots. The pace lets up a bit, but doesn’t change the impression that JJ Abrams took painstaking efforts to expand his vision for this full trilogy in just one movie. A compressed narrative is undoubtedly this movie’s greatest flaw, but within that plot is a decent amount of character development and a clear sign of reverence for the Star Wars franchise, something that this movie is getting an undue amount of flak for. The plot is not remotely clever, and falls too much into a ‘search for the McGuffin’ realm, but still has a good amount of heart. The most engaging aspect of this movie is the dynamic between Kylo Ren and Rey. Both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley give solid performances. Their arcs build decently upon the previous films, with their shared dichotomy between darkness and light amplified tenfold. Without going too much into spoiler territory, this dynamic, combined with the Emperor’s return, provides a fair bit of cool fan-service that builds upon the Star Wars mythos without being overly obnoxious to most causal movie-goers.
The aesthetic aspects and production design of this film are fantastic. There are definitely one too many action sequences, but each one is unique and picturesque enough to prevent the movie from becoming boring (with the exception of an over-bloated final space battle). The lightsaber fighting is some of the best in the franchise. In summation, these sequences are borderline exhausting, but taken in pieces, this film is a work of art. I understand why this could be unnerving to many audiences, but even though I tend to be hyper critical of big budget action films, I strangely enough found the end result to not be over-saturated to an unwatchable point.
This movie is not as clever as it could have been. It does not cleanly build upon The Last Jedi in a seamless manner, or deal with the death of Carrie Fisher as well as it could have, but it is undoubtedly serviceable. As a Star Wars fan, I was satisfied with the mythology-building aspects, and found the main story to be shamelessly mindless fun. I understand why many people dislike this movie. I, however, am at a point where I realize that there is no going back to the powerful story that was The Original Trilogy, and have accepted that some of these movies will be relegated to the ‘theme park movies’ that Martin Scorsese discussed. The Rise of Skywalker is absolutely fine, but certainly accomplishes its #1 objective of providing a clear end to the Skywalker story. It does so by reminding us that this trilogy has truly been an epilogue: the real story definitively ended nearly 40 years ago. 6.9/10
Anticipate a spoiler review, where I will cover this movie’s many controversial plot elements in depth.Follow @ReelMasterShots