Greetings folks. Your holly jolly editor Julien here. It’s Christmas Eve in Trinidad and Tobago (where I live and breathe) so Merry Christmas Eve to all our readers.
For an early Christmas present we have a collab review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is the ninth main film in the more than four decade-old franchise and the final entry in the “Skywalker saga.” So with a Star Destroyer-sized SPOILER ALERT here are four mini(-ish) reviews:
#1 Sharazz Ali – Guest Writer
Rise of Skywalker is an apologetic and immensely flawed conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy that still manages to produce enjoyable enough moments that makes it worth the price of admission.
In its attempts to create consensus among its audiences, it created the opposite effect, making a more polarising experience. I can see hardcore Star Wars fans finding major issues with its treatment of certain canonical elements, whilst casual Star Wars fans will just be enthralled by the fast pace and non-stop action sequences.
For me, however, it was clear from the get-go that this movie felt shoe-horned, from the treatment of Palpatine, along with the entire plot (pshhtt what plot) never really falling into place as a real conclusion to either this trilogy or the Skywalker saga.
All in all, if you hated The Last Jedi, this is your apology and if you loved The Last Jedi, then this is an up yours. Thankfully, I hated The Last Jedi, and while I appreciate the apology, it could have been done a lot better. Hopefully, my second viewing will be better than the first.
#2 Sommerleigh Pollonais – Senior Writer
After watching The Rise of Skywalker, the question that kept popping up in my noggin’ was “Does the formula of a trilogy help or hinder the Star Wars franchise?”
On one hand RoS gave me a lot of what I wanted. Story arcs were completed, the pacing was fast and the plotlines were cohesive and easy to understand. We flew through Rey, Poe, Finn, Leia and Luke’s journeys (just to name a few) at light speed. There were some beautiful action sequences that are tattooed on my brain (most of these involved KyRen), new planets were added to this ever increasing galaxy and cool-looking characters, both on the Empire and Republic side, were thrown into the mix. The justification for bringing back Emperor Palpatine made sense and I felt like all the actors involved, whether their roles were big or small, brought their A-game.
J.J. Abrams threw a lot at us with this conclusion but therein lies the main problem. There just wasn’t enough time for these stories to reach their conclusions organically. Everything felt a bit too rushed, making it really hard to feel the full emotional weight of what was happening. Maybe if Star Wars took a page from the MCU and tacked on an additional hour so we could have spent that much needed time with Kylo and Rey, the two characters who had the most to lose or gain during their trials (not to mention I am also a shipper of these two). More time means more angst when specific events unfolded. New characters and locations had no time to leave any impact on you other than “that looked cool”. There just wasn’t enough time people! Sigh.
All said and done, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to please every Star Wars fan as this franchise is a lot of things to a lot of people. As for myself, as rushed and bloated as The Rise of Skywalker sometimes feels, I honestly enjoyed this movie, flaws and all. And as far as this humble fan is concerned, it sits high up on the list of stories told, in this franchise.
#3 Matthew Bailey – Guest Writer
To begin this review, I want to make one point clear: I really, REALLY enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Sure, there were a few narrative missteps and creative decisions made by Rian Johnson (Looper, Knives Out) that could’ve been re-considered, but after the highly-entertaining yet nostalgia-reliant The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi felt like a breath of fresh air. Here was a writer/director challenging the perceptions of what makes a Star Wars story, elevating it to something interesting, intriguing and, most importantly, different.
However, after fans were split by The Last Jedi (some, like myself, considered it one of the best Star Wars movies of the Disney/Lucasfilm era while others wanted it removed – literally – from the franchise), J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek) was brought back to the director’s chair to helm Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The long-awaited final chapter of the “Skywalker Trilogy” promised to bring closure to both the new characters introduced in The Force Awakens, mainly the protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley), antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), supporting characters Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), along with some of the franchise’s older characters, including Leia Organa (the late, great Carrie Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), among others. But what worried me was the inclusion of the presumed-dead Palpatine /Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) who was defeated by his former disciple and former space baddie Darth Vader during the events of Return of the Jedi.
So how did J.J. Abrams’ triumphant return to the Star Wars franchise turn out? I’ll put it like this: Had there been a guide or blueprint for the creative team behind the Skywalker Trilogy to follow, The Rise of Skywalker would’ve been an immensely satisfying film. Instead, what I got from it was immense disappointment. This was an unnecessarily-rushed, sloppily-constructed, and yes, nostalgia-(over)reliant conclusion to what could’ve been a modernly sensible progression of the Star Wars mythos. Events occur literally at breakneck speed, with little to no time to emotionally process what’s going on. Characters like Finn and Poe are given little character development and little to do in general, brand-new characters like the former Stormtrooper Jannah (Naomi Ackie) are introduced and almost forgotten, and old characters like Lando (poor Billy Dee), C-3PO and Leia are placed in situations that’ll either make you roll your eyes, smack your forehead or scratch your head as you wonder why such iconic characters weren’t handled better.
But to me, the main problem of The Rise of Skywalker boils down to the handling of Rey and Kylo Ren’s character arcs. In a painfully-apparent attempt to “correct the mistakes” of The Last Jedi, their character motivations were drastically changed to align with the threat of Darth Sidious in the story. In the process, however, the Skywalker Trilogy’s most compelling characters were whittled down to bland, uninteresting versions of themselves, with sudden motivations to defeat a bland, uninteresting version of a compelling villain in the form of Darth Sidious.
In the end, while The Rise of Skywalker isn’t one of the worst movies ever made or THE worst Star Wars movie ever made (that honour goes to the Star Wars Holiday Special. Some may say Attack of the Clones, but that movie was just laughably bad), it is a shockingly sub-standard Star Wars movie. It focused more on pleasing die-hard fans of The Force Awakens and scrubbing the bad taste The Last Jedi left in (some of) their mouths, instead of giving us a satisfying, coherent story. But hey, at least we got The Mandalorian this year, so I guess there is some hope with regards to quality in the Star Wars universe.
Rating: A strong 2 out of 5 stars (“I want my money back”).
#4 Julien Neaves – Editor
You know how a lot of people were pissed off with The Last Jedi? I think J.J. Abrams was one of those people. Because if the last film was director Rian Johnson giving a middle finger to fans, The Rise of Skywalker is J.J. flipping the bird to Johnson. So while Johnson endeavoured to subvert expectations and crap on plot threads J.J. established in The Force Awakens, J.J. gives the fans what they want (or what he thinks they want) and tries to salvage his mutilated plot threads. So instead of Rey being nobody she is now Palpatine’s granddaughter. Instead of Luke casually tossing away his lightsaber he catches it. And instead of wasting time on bland characters (cough cough Rose cough cough) we focus on the main cast.
Now with The Last Jedi there were things I loved (Kylo’s arc) and things I hated (all of Canto Bight). But with The Rise of Skywalker there was nothing I had really strong feelings about it. I mean, there were things I liked: C-3PO was at his funniest since The Empire Strikes Back, we had some great gun play (which was sorely lacking in the previous two movies), Rey and Kylo had some awesome set pieces, and Leia’s death was handled well.
But new characters like Jannah and Zorii added little, returning characters like Lando and Palpatine felt like glorified cameos, there were too many random new Force abilities, the Knights of Ren looked good but we’re undeveloped, Finn and Poe had unsatisfying arcs, and Rey, despite all the build-up, just fails to bring the franchise home. And other than the Han cameo NOTHING in this movie surprised me. NOTHING.
So while I may get some hate for this I think The Last Jedi is the slightly superior film because J.J. (again!) just played it too safe with Fan Service: The Movie. And so Rogue One and The Mandalorian series remain the two greatest live-action Star Wars offerings since Disney took over. At least we can all take comfort in that.
Rating: 3/5 unnecessary cute droids that we included because…merchandising!
A big thank you to first-time guest reviewer Sharazz Ali. We really appreciate it. Here’s where you can find the other folks and members of the Trini Critics League:
* Julien Neaves, Redmangoreviews Editor, can also be found at Movieville on Facebook
And if you liked this collab review how about a share? If you do, the Force will be strong with you. I guarantee! For the review of The Last Jedi you can click here.