Oh boy, is this a mess. A mess on screen that reaches back in time and makes a mess of previous two movies and then it reaches deep inside me and makes a mess in both my head and my heart. Seriously, what Disney didn’t achieve with 23 Marvel blockbusters they managed to do with a single Star Wars movie, that is, make me fed up with blockbusters altogether. I don’t think I’ll go see “Black Widow” or any other MCU movie soon, I KNOW none of the abominable “live action” remakes of their animated movies will ever make me go to cinema and now I don’t even think I’ll be happy to see another Star Wars.
I don’t even have it in my heart to torrent the Mandalorian. Congratulations, Disney, now fuck off.
On the surface “The Rise of Skywalker” is a competent space adventure, much like Star Wars was always supposed to be, which the crazed fans of the universe seem to forget every time it goes “too silly” for them (but funnily enough, they get even more agitated when Star Wars does too clever for them; see the reactions to the revolutionary Episode VIII). The band is back together for another ride through the galaxy (still considerably shrunk down to claustrophobic size by the 2015’s Purge of Expanded Universe), this time they’re kept together for the majority of the movie, the stakes are properly raised with the Order being even more Final, the Resistance being even smaller and the Republic being even more nonexistent, and the images and sounds are properly pretty and polished. Basically, Star Wars got to the point of the first Guardians of the Galaxy, of which I said in 2014 (note, that was before we got “The Force Awakens”) that it was what Star Wars was always supposed to be.
Too bad it’s so shallow. And its shallowness cuts so deep into the ground that it burrows beneath both of the previous Episodes and ultimately undermines all of Star Wars. Or rather, Disney’s Star Wars. Yes, it’s a more coherent picture than “The Last Jedi”, but this comes with a terrible price. Previous episode had its ups and downs and was uneven, but that was because it went in directions not only no other cinematic Star Wars went before, but also in directions no one could predict a big budget cinematic blockbuster entry in one of the largest franchise and signed by the Mouse Empire could go. The areas where it failed were because they went really high, and in comparison, the areas The Last Jedi shone the brightest were also the most revolutionary and unexpected.
The Rise of Skywalker keeps the level throughout, but sadly, it’s the lowest common denominator of a Star Wars franchise entry. It’s a fun space adventure for people who would never expect Star Wars to be anything but. And if that’s what you’re looking for, if your tolerance for space magical dynasty nonsense is high, if your hook for suspending your disbelief is strong enough or you just don’t care about the galaxy of Star Wars and just want some spacey shooty-shooty laser-swordy pew pew bang, go ahead. You’re gonna love this.
For the rest of you, there’s gonna be spoilers from now on, because fuck Disney.
The strong hook for disbelief is going to be needed from right the first moments of the iconic opening crawl, which not only expects you to throw away everything you thought you knew about Star Wars and what happened in the galaxy, but also does it in the most unimaginative tell-don’t-show way. Basically, Emperor Palpatine is alive and well, and he also has an enormous fleet of star destroyers out of nowhere, each and every one of them carrying a Death Star weapon to destroy planets. And this is not even the worst part. The worst is that if you loved The Last Jedi as I did, if you appreciated its message, if you applauded it for the audacity of getting rid of the old and trying something new, The Rise of Skywalker will kick you right in the balls in the very first scene of Kylo Ren re-forging his mask.
This is the biggest problem of The Rise of Skywalker right there, right from the start, and it just keeps reinforcing it time and time again for the rest of the movie. Here’s Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams and the whole Disney Corporation coming to say “hey, crazed fans, we heard you hate anything new and original and defying expectations, so here, we give you this. Let’s just all pretend The Last Jedi never happened, and we’re cool, okay? You won.” Kylo Ren re-forging his (as Snoke said) “ridiculous mask” was the first step of undoing every ground-breaking decision of Rian Johnson. Then we learn that Palpatine is up and about, and he can clone as many Snokes – you know, the Big Bad of the whole trilogy, who was unexpectedly and wonderfully cut in the middle – as he wants. But he won’t because why would he, if he can send Kylo for a hunt through the galaxy to find his grand-daughter? Oh, by the way, Rey is not a nobody after all, and neither were her parents. She’s the grand-daughter of Palpatine. Fuck right off, Disney.
The Holy Trilogy is and always will remain the Holy Trilogy telling the story of a new spark of hope raising in the galaxy ruled by the iron hand of the Empire, ultimately leading to its downfall in the hands of Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion. The Prequel Trilogy is a trio of bad but (mostly) visually appealing movies penned by a mediocre writer and directed by a terrible director, but at least they told a story of a rise and fall of a promising young knight to the Republic who was turned dark and helped that same Republic to fall and give birth to the Empire. The Sequel Trilogy is… barely a trilogy at all. The first movie was okay, the second was great, the third is meh, but somehow the sum of all three is even less than that.
The first movie was almost a scene-for-scene remake of the very first Star Wars. But it shrank the known universe considerably by getting rid of all the at times excellent (but, admittedly, at other times rubbish) content that was made in the years between, and also raised a ton of questions about the galaxy, not addressing any of them. Despite my fondness for The Force Awakens I have to admit to one shameful thought I had when first watching it on the night premiere those 4 years ago. When Admiral Hux was making his speech to the soldiers right before the Super Mega Death Star Planet fired for the first time, I literally, honest to all the gods, had the thought “this is all a joke. They look like children playing action figures in the backyard, and any moment now the mum will come and call them in for dinner.” I quickly buried the thought and all that was left was the deep shame of my Star Wars fan side that I even dare to think something like that.
Then the second movie was more than just retelling of episodes 5 and 6 I was afraid it was going to end up being. Yes, it had elements of them (the defense of a Rebel base on a white-powder-covered planet in front of a big gate, the young force adept training with an old grumpy one, the fight in a throne room of an Emperor figure) but ultimately Rian Johnson through his audacity and imagination has brought the trilogy to the point where I truly had no idea what will happen next.
But then I learned it’s back to JJ Abrams for the final (bwahahaha) episode and my expectations immediately drop. I know we won’t get anything new or interesting, just more of the same shit. But at least – I hoped in my naivete – it’s gonna be entertaining and fun shit, just as Star Wars is supposed to be, and I still don’t know what exactly will happen.
And you know what happens? NOTHING. Or at least, NOTHING NEW. Kylo Ren’s mask is back, making me feel like an idiot for believing Star Wars can ever change. Palpatine is back, making me feel like an idiot for believing anything I see on the screen. Leia is back, making me feel uneasy with how Carrie Fisher is being treated posthumously (although this bit gets redeemed later in the movie by the way of her ultimate demise). The idea of everyone in the Galaxy being related to everyone is back, making you literally groan. Rose and Maz Kanata are back just so they can sit in the jungle for the whole movie as an apology to the racist crazed fans. At some point I’m so numb that I don’t even notice that Lando Calrissian, Tusken Raiders and Ewoks are back as well.
None of it makes sense. None of it adds up. None of it makes for a coherent story. It’s just pretty pictures of lasers in space. If you expect nothing more from Star Wars, if you only want to see what’s familiar again and again, and again and again, until the end of time, you’ll have a good time.
I now know not to expect anything unexpected from Star Wars.
Fuck you, Disney.
Thankfully, if you look carefully, you can still catch something good in cinemas besides the blockbusters. Like the marvellous murder mystery, “Knives Out”, with Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, written and directed by – oh, would you look at that – Rian Johnson.
Rian Johnson. You’re my only hope.
You can read this and other reviews on my Letterboxd profile.