When it comes to mega blockbusters, kneejerk reactions are all too common. It’s either the best thing you ever watched or the biggest piece of s*** left in your mother’s basin. Of course, Star Wars isn’t immune to any of this nonsense; if anything, the hyperbole around the franchise is even worse. Director J. J. Abrams is one of the gutsiest people in the world to return and helm Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, because the fandom is more toxic than a week-old sandwich from the Engen garage.
But here’s the thing: The toxic fandom finally won. The Rise of Skywalker feels like it was written for those Twitter trolls who make Star Wars one of the most unbearable topics you’ll ever encounter online. The movie is packed with far too many nods and winks to the original trilogy, while undoing everything that director Rian Johnson did in The Last Jedi. In fact, that’s the biggest problem here: it tries to cram at least two movies’ worth of plot into one feature film.
After The Last Jedi fallout, it was evident that the closing chapter of the saga had to be different. Unfortunately, all these “course corrections” are nothing more than a kick to Johnson’s nuts and a reminder that Hollywood has absolutely no loyalty to creatives. Most fans complain about movies being made by committee, but that’s exactly what they demand as well; in essence, they’ve become the douchey execs who want to tell directors and writers what to do.
That being said, The Rise of Skywalker makes you realise something even more concerning: There was never a plan to begin with, and too many people winged it and painted themselves into a corner. No one knew how this trilogy was meant to pan out.
Undoubtedly, Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio were given a mandate by Lucasfilm to write a movie that would appease the larger fanbase. The thing is, the fan service is what actually damages the proceedings, relegating the story to the backseat. It’s stuffed with unnecessary characters, such as Billy Dee Williams’ Lando who could’ve been cut out altogether. While characters such as Lupito Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, who had more significant roles in the previous films, are nothing more than wallpaper here.
More importantly, The Rise of Skywalker focuses too much on the supporting characters of this saga rather than make it all about the central pieces: Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Their relationship experienced depth and development in The Last Jedi; yet, here, they come across as omnipotent beings lingering around in the background and only popping into life for the big scenes. Ren, in particular, is badly written until the third act of the film.
On the plus side, The Rise of Skywalker is visually spectacular. If anything, it’s one of the most action-packed Star Wars films, as every second is utilised to kick-start the next heart-in-your-throat moment with John Williams’ iconic (but regurgitated) soundtrack blaring in the background. There are no quiet moments here, with a fast-paced race or intense battle scene just around the corner.
Without delving too much into spoiler territory, the twists and resolutions for the two main characters are satisfying enough for the average fan (however, that might not suffice for Star Wars fans). Perhaps it would’ve been more powerful if this “new” story’s build-up had taken place over three films rather than one, but it closed off the Skywalker Saga in a conclusive manner. Although, I foresee a lot of people getting upset about the closing shot in the movie.
At the end of the day, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is…fine. It isn’t ground-breaking, nor is it a total letdown. It’s an entertaining time at the movies, and that should be enough for the average viewer.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Unfortunately, Star Wars finds itself in a precarious situation: It's constantly weighed down by its legacy and it struggles to meet the fan expectation. Judging by this movie, it looks like caving in to their demands isn't the answer either.