There will never be anything quite like Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, or at the very least, there will never be anything quite like it’s build-up. Upon seeing the first official trailer I was stunned by the finality, I felt like a journey which spanned my entire life and beyond was indeed coming to an end and no matter what it was happening in this film.
I was endeared to it ever since, continuously excited from the day I saw the trailer all the way up to when I sat down to watch. The dramatic nostalgia-filled months before had me almost certain that no matter what I saw, I would at least like it, and now, finally, I can share my thoughts.
The Rise of Skywalker is an utter mess, that while boasting some spectacular moments, has the worst narrative structure of all 9 films.
The Rise of Skywalker joins us once again with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her crew of resistance friends. But with Supreme leader Snoke cut in half towards the end of the last film a new chief bad guy is required, so we welcome once again, the man who is technically the only Star Wars villain now, Emperor Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Deranged and damaged from his famous fall he now spreads across the galaxy a message of vengeance, something that captures the ears of the only two people capable of stopping him, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey herself.
Tied together by an unknown bond, the two begin hunting Palpatine playing cat and mouse across the stars with each other along the way. All the while the resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) sits on its last legs championing only Rey as their final hope.
I want to begin with saying that my labelling the experience an “utter mess” doesn’t even mean I hate the film. When The Rise of Skywalker gets things right it’s awe-inspiring and powerful just like the best of the franchise. However, when it gets things wrong, which is more often than not, it becomes a confusing, unnecessary, fan service filled, hoax of a film, formed solely in the dysfunctional Disney system that hampered its production.
The decision to change director’s mid trilogy only to change back is maligned by many, and rightly so, you can’t expect two different directors to have the same artistic vision for something so massive. J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson are terrific filmmakers but asking them to see the Galaxy Far Far Away in one identical way is impossible.
Still, it would seem their ability to work together is non-existent as there can only be one major take away from watching Episode IX. Once it’s finished, almost nothing about The Last Jedi matters, and to watch the trilogy and comprehend it, one would only really need to watch The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, with The Last Jedi being demoted to that of a tie in film.
This frustrating realisation comes upon noticing the three very distinctly different films that exist within Episode IX. The first is a film designed to ensure everything built up as significant in Episode VIII is affirmed as unimportant for this film, with some examples of this being heinously blatant. The second film in this trilogy unto itself is that of what Abrams replaces TLJ with, the travelling, the object hunting, the tiny pieces of mid-movie character development, a lot of which feels unnecessary, as if only dreamt up to keep certain characters busy.
The final film is everything that feels final about The Rise of Skywalker, this is by far the best movie of the three, and the other two films almost totally destroy it. And what is the bane of each part? Fanservice. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll bite to fanservice and enjoy it just as much as anyone, but when done so poorly, and so obviously simply because it could be done, what is there to love? So many reveals and moments in The Rise of Skywalker feel as if J.J. himself is appearing on screen and winking at the audience, it’s tacky and uninventive.
In attempting to fit an entire trilogies worth of narrative into one film, Abrams only managed to make a something unrecognisable when compared to much of the other 8 instalments. He runs almost the entire first half of this entry at a blistering pace, which is his simplistic answer to TLJ leaving almost no overarching structure to work with, and when watching it’s almost impossible not to scrutinize.
The sensory overload that is the first half of The Rise of Skywalker is purely a sequence of very convenient plot points designed not to get us from point A to point B but to get us from point A to point Z. So much happens I could hardly keep track of what was important, which upon reinspection wasn’t that much. Indeed, once the film is done apologising for TLJ, the narrative begins to waste time until its able to start wrapping things up.
Finally, here’s where the good begins. Rey and Kylo are everything great about this film. The chemistry between them remains as unique as ever and just as intense as Johnson developed it. Their relationship and connection are the only clear-cut things that matter about TLJ, and I’m very thankful for that. Watching them battle has never been better than in this film, and the hallmark scene of them combating one another is a wonderfully choreographed visual spectacle.
The trilogy is about these two characters, and the rest merely happen to be there, and that’s fine. I only wish they had committed to doing this from the beginning rather than it just turning out this way. Regardless Episode IX is their show, and when they are allowed to be the centre of attention, they shine far brighter than anyone else (except maybe the needlessly bright lightning strikes peppered throughout).
In looking to atone for the supposed “Sins” of Episode VIII The Rise of Skywalker has only managed to forget to make itself feel important, and as a result, ends the Skywalker Saga with a film of wondrous moments that becomes hollow when viewed as part of something larger.
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