Film Review: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker
Release date: 19 December 2019
Director: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher
Runtime: 142 minutes
Watched in: 2D
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Rise of the Skywalker is the final film in the new sequel trilogy and also, apparently, the final film in the Skywalker saga. But we all know how it goes when they say it will be the last one, so we’ll see if it really is the last one. There has, once again, been a mixed response from fans.
As a film, just looking at it on its own, it was very good. The film is very action packed and exciting, with a lot going on. The pacing was very fast. In some respects, there was too much packed in. Usually I think films are too slow and drawn out, but in this case the pace needed slowing down in just a few places. Some of the scenes were rushed. Some scenes needed space to breathe. If they had been given that space, allowing the viewer just a second longer to absorb what had just happened, it would have improved the pacing of the film. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad it wasn’t slow and boring, but it felt like the film was rushing from scene to scene to try and get through everything the filmmakers wanted.
I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but in this case I don’t think I can talk about this film properly without giving anything away. So, to conclude the spoiler free section of this review, it was a fun, action packed ride which I absolutely enjoyed. I’m really glad I saw it in the cinema as it looked great on the big screen. If you don’t want to see any spoilers, I’d stop reading this review now (and go and see the film!).
I like that neither Kylo Ren or Rey are completely black or white. Kylo Ren obviously has his own internal conflict, but in this film we see that in Rey too. The moment when she thinks she has killed Chewie could have been a turning point for her, the beginning of her turning to the dark side. But, it turns out Chewie was on a different transporter and is very much alive. Rey is conflicted by her past, by waiting for her parents and trying to hold onto the flicker of hope that they’ll come back for her. Ultimately she doesn’t succumb to Palpatine and stays ‘good’.
Kylo Ren undergoes a transformation back to Ben Solo in this film. While many people weren’t happy about his death, I was happy with the end of his arc. Rey and Leia help him return to the light. He helps Rey defeat Palpatine and then saves her life. Although he’s now returned to the light, he still did a lot of bad things and murdered who knows how many people. I’m not sure a lovely happy ending for him would have really been right, even if he did turn away from the dark side in the end. I liked that his arc reflects Anakin Skywalker’s.
While The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker are good films and I enjoyed each in different respects, there wasn’t a strong arc across the trilogy. There was no foreshadowing for the events of this film. The revelation of Palpatine being the puppet master over all the events would have had more impact if it had been revealed (or at least hinted at) in the first or second films, rather than in the opening crawl of the third, which just took away all the potential suspense that could have come from that.
Perhaps the issue is that they tried to switch up the directors. J. J. Abrams directed The Force Awakens, while Rian Johnson picked up the reins for The Last Jedi. Following the mixed reviews for The Last Jedi, J. J. Abrams was brought back in for the final film to steer the ship home. The outcome may have been better if they’d had three different directors, or if J. J. Abrams had directed all three. Or if, perhaps, they’d actually all spoken to each other? It seemed like they hadn’t planned out all three films before they started. Which is sloppy storytelling.
If they’d had a clear vision of how they wanted the story to end – confronting Palpatine on Exegol – then why don’t the first two films lead towards that in any way? Some of the new elements introduced in The Rise of Skywalker had no foundations built in the previous films. A good twist needs to have some kind of foundation, set up or foreshadowing for it to be a good twist. This was such a missed opportunity. Even the prequel films have a coherent arc across the trilogy, with the focus being on Anakin’s journey as a Jedi and eventual turn to the dark side.
I just can’t fathom the decision to reveal that Palpatine is back through the opening crawl. That’s another missed opportunity, and one that just seems odd. Perhaps Rian Johnson took J. J. Abrams’ initial vision off track and this is his attempt to bring it back on course for what he wanted to happen in the final film. Whatever is the case, it’s just odd to have such a major plot point occur off screen.
As the internet in general demonstrates, we can debate these films endlessly, so I’m going to conclude this review here. To sum up – The Rise of Skywalker is great, but the sequel trilogy could have been better plotted with a stronger overarching arc, which in turn would have made each of the individual three films much better by making the main arc more coherent.