Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker Review (NON-SPOILER)

“This will begin to make things right”

That was the first line of this new sequel trilogy, and The Force Awakens gave a lot of people a lot of hope for a new trilogy. Following that we had Rogue One, showing that it doesn’t have to be a saga film. Then came The Last Jedi, and Solo, and they both divided and then jaded the fan base respectively. The Rise of Skywalker had a lot on its shoulders, could JJ Abrams possibly land this trilogy and end the entire 9 film saga on a high? 

The Last Jedi, for all its divisiveness, posed several interesting and exciting questions about how the universe of Star Wars would look. As I sat down at midnight, it hit me. This was it, the final Star Wars saga film. The end to a story I have spent most of my life watching repeatedly.

Well TROS immediately hits you with a surprise. Right in the opening crawl, you’re given a lot of information. I expected some of these key points to be shown to me, not written at the start, but as you watch the film you realise there just wasn’t time for that. At least not with everything they decided to do with this film. You’re told exactly what the different groups of people are doing at this time, and the film launches off from there. It’s a fast start, and this is where reviewing this film starts to get difficult without spoilers.

The plot boils down to a series of fetch quests, the ones in video games you do that are fun and exciting because you’re playing the game and enjoying the game play. The plot doesn’t really have room to be much more complex than that, and bar from a robot related speed bump, it largely just propels the characters on both sides towards each other with great speed. The reason it doesn’t have much room to breathe is because The Rise of Skywalker is not a sequel to The Last Jedi, but an apology.

This film does so much to retcon the previous movies events, and it is not subtle about it. Clearly Disney and JJ Abrams did not like the backlash TLJ received, and they set out with this film to right those perceived wrongs. Perceived wrongs that I personally do not think were wrongs, but bold choices and challenges we haven’t seen storytelling wise in these films before. I will go deeper on this next week in a spoiler review after I have seen the film again but suffice to say if you’re a big fan of The Last Jedi then this film might be borderline offensive to you.

Whilst being an apology for TLJ, this film also attempts to cram in a quick version of the Episode 8 JJ would have made if he was in charge, crammed into the opening half hour of the film. So far, that is two challenges for this movie to overcome aside from its own plot. Those two challenges only add to the immense weight on this films shoulders to carry a 9 film, beloved franchise to a satisfying end. TROS certainly does put an end cap on the saga films, and I thought it was quite a satisfying end to the franchise, the problems I have are the issues this film causes the rest of the 8 films to date. Barring the Force Awakens, this film has kind of made 1 through 6 redundant, and it’s cut out 8 entirely. More on that in spoilers next week.

If the Force Awakens leaned on nostalgia to get fans back on board, The Rise of Skywalker takes that nostalgia and beats the ever-loving fuck out of you with it. That sounds like a problem, but honestly, I am all about it. I love this franchise, and so I loved all the references and the winks and nudges, the name drops, the cameos, all of it put a smile on my face as a Star Wars fan. As a film, it comes off cheesy in large parts, but that is undoubtedly the idea. Fan service has a stigma attached to it, but this film simply had to do it. This franchise has so many memorable moments, touching base on a bunch of them is just an easy win that would be stupid for JJ Abrams to miss out on.

In terms of new characters, we get a few that I thought added a lot to the film. A personal favourite being Zori Bliss, a Daft Punk looking woman who has a shady history with Poe. Their chemistry was great on screen, which leads me to Poe himself. I don’t know if any character in history has ever had so much sexual chemistry with everything in a movie before. Oscar Isaac just has this way of making everything he interacts with seem like he might have sex with it. Objects and People alike.

John Boyega continues to be a little bit underused in this film, but what he does have I thought was entertaining. As for Daisy Ridley, this is her best performance so far. She has developed a lot as an actress and it shows here, and she does so opposite the excellent Adam Driver. Their dynamic drives this film, and it’s by far my favourite part of this sequel trilogy.

As with both the previous films, TROS is an excellent executed film from a production standpoint. Everything looks fantastic, the special effects, the set design, it’s all done to the level of polish we have come to expect from these films. It has made The Mandalorian look a little shoddy, but that’s a budget thing and more a problem for the Mandalorian show than this film.

The other huge positive in this film, and arguably the one consistently brilliant thing throughout the entire saga, is the score. John Williams is a huge part of why Star Wars is so special, and this film uses his music brilliantly and the little changes he has made to certain themes all add to the drama and weight of everything happening. He is an unrivalled legend in his field and this film is another example of why.

As you can probably tell, this film has hit a weird place for me. I can tell it’s a well-produced movie, but I cannot shake the feeling that this film, and this entire trilogy, has been badly handled. The lack of a consistent vision and plan for this trilogy has undermined its potential and its special moments.

The Rise of Skywalker will go down as one of the lower ranked Star Wars movies, mostly for spoiler reasons. I will go into more detail next week but for now, I am left underwhelmed by a film that tried to take on an impossible amount.

Good: The duels, the acting, the music, the cinematography.

Bad: The editing, the frantic pace, the messy plot, and the dismantling of what came before.

5/10 – This one hurt.

 

Three Star Wars: The Last Jedi Predictions

As i had a lot of fun with the Avengers predictions I did a few posts ago, I thought id do a similar thing for the next instalment in my favourite movie franchise, Star Wars. The Last Jedi comes out this week, I’m seeing it Wednesday at Midnight, and I have heard a million and one theories on Rey’s lineage, Luke’s Beard, Snoke’s identity and what Porgs are. Here are my top 3 that I either think are quite likely, or I just like the idea of. SPOILER WARNING – I MIGHT GET SOME OF THIS RIGHT. 

1 – Rey’s surname. 

The identity of Rey’s parentage was a mystery right from the first trailer for Episode 7 way back at the end of 2014. At first everyone seemed to assume that she was Luke’s daughter, and many people took her reaction to touching his lightsabre to be confirmation of that. I think there is a clue in that passage from The Force Awakens that suggests someone else from Star Wars history may be a relative of her. The first voice Rey hears when she touches the lightsabre is none other than Obi-Wan Kenobi. Why would Obi-Wan be speaking to this random girl? Because he is her Grandfather.

Obi Wan’s actions between Episode 3 and 4 are largely unknown. All we know for sure is he changes his name from Obi-Wan to Ben at some point, and he has a second face off with Darth Maul which we saw in the animated show Star Wars Rebels. What if, at some time between these two episodes, whilst watching over Luke, he had a relationship and a daughter. This child then went on to have a daughter of her own, Rey, who was then hidden after Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy was destroyed by Kylo Ren. Whats more, the rumours of an Obi-Wan movie to be announced for 2020, could we see the reveal of Rey’s Jedi Master Grandfather pave the way to us seeing how Obi-Wan met and fell for Rey’s grandmother.

2 – Luke shows his power. 

Luke Skywalker was my hero growing up. I watched Return of the Jedi on repeat and wanted nothing more than a Green Lightsaber. In fact a green lightsaber is still pretty high on my list. Through the original trilogy Luke goes from Farmboy to Jedi Knight, and once the Emperor is dead, he is free to focus and become the most powerful jedi in history, just like we was all told he could be.

I want to see Rey struggling to hold off a few enemies, perhaps the Knights of Ren (Kylo Ren’s buddies we saw in flashbacks), and her to seemingly be beaten by them. Then we can hear that iconic sound of a Lightsaber igniting, and see Luke Skywalker deal with them without breaking a sweat. I have been waiting all my life to see Luke Skywalker in a movie in a cinema, and after being given just a glimpse at the end of the Last Jedi, I think Rian Johnson knows he has to deliver something really special with Luke to satisfy that desire the world has had since 1983.

3 – Snoke’s Identity.

Who is Snoke, and where did he come from? Two very valid questions fans have been asking since Andy Serkis was cast, and after the Force Awakens gave nothing away, the speculation went into overdrive. Is he a disfigured Mace Windu? Jar Jar Binks having matured over the years? The stormtrooper who hit his head on the doorframe in A New Hope? Seriously, those are all real theories on youtube. There are only two real options in my head that make much sense. Snoke is simply Snoke, a new character we have no connection with, older than anyone we’ve ever seen and the Last Jedi or Episode 9 will have to explain where he was for the previous 6 films.

Alternatively, and a theory I would absolutely love to be true, he is a character referenced only by name in Episode 3, Darth Plagueis (I pronounce it Play-Gus because its easier). In Episode 3, Emporer Palpatine tells a story to Anakin about how Darth Plagueis was Palpatine’s master, and that he was the only person, Jedi or Sith, to learn the trick to cheat death. He then goes on to reveal that Plagueis was finally killed by Palpatine himself. Given that he could supposedly cheat death, what if he had somehow tricked Palpatine into thinking he was dead, when in reality he was just severely wounded, explaining the scar on his face, and was in hiding during the previous 6 films recovering his strength and now that Palpatine is gone, he has stepped back into the fold as a force.

So there’s the top I think are quite likely. There’s tonnes more, but honestly I have stayed out of the trailers so much to avoid spoilers I haven’t got much more idea what might happen. Just a couple of days left before The Last Jedi is out, and I can find out how far off the mark I was with all of the above.