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.

 

Nothing But Star Wars

The last trailer for Episode IX is here, the new game’s been previewed by some people, and the first 30 minutes of The Mandalorian have been shown off to some other lucky people. Basically, over the last week Disney has decided to kick the Star Wars marketing machine into overdrive. Between now and December 20th, we will have a new tv show, a new game, and the final movie in the Star Wars Saga. 

First things first though, that trailer. I don’t know if everyone will love it, because it doesn’t fix some people’s problems with The Last Jedi, but I thought the trailer delivered a load of interesting nuggets and some beautiful visuals. Star Wars allows the film makers to put some incredible shots on film, and this trailer is full of them. JJ Abrams has embraced that, and his long-time cinematographer Dan Mindel have really pushed the boat out and gone for some shots to wow you.

The shots can be beautiful without having any substance though, but this trailer, possibly because I am a massive freaking nerd, is full of things I want to know more about. Is that an old-style star destroyer rising out of the sea? Is that Endor at the start? Was that desert Tatooine? Is that throne on the Sith home world Dathomir? Does Kyle hold a Blue lightsaber at one point? Are Mars Delights Ever going to come back?

And of course, is that Big Papa Palpatine chilling on a throne laughing at Rey. Technically, we didn’t see him die. We just saw him thrown down a big old’ hole, and then we saw the Death Star where that hole was exploding into shrapnel.

I am a huge Star Wars fan, and honestly, I love all the movies because they’re Star Wars. Watching it from a critical standpoint is tough because I am so biased, but if I have to say one thing, it’s that this movie seems to have a lot of ground to cover. I do not mind that, because I will see this film at least 3 times before I decide what it all means, but I have a feeling it might be a bit hectic for those uneducated in the Star Wars lore. It’s out on December 20th and I will be buying 2 midnight screening tickets today, so I guess the trailer did its job.

Onto Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the game being developed by Apex Legends creators Respawn. I was a little worried we was getting a shiny new version of the Force Unleashed games from years ago, but it appears my fears have been extinguished. The game is apparently closer to a Souls style game, with some elements of other games like God of War and Uncharted mixed in there. That is some exquisite company, and if, as I have heard from some previews, it’s taking elements of those games and even if it doesn’t do them all quite as well as them, it does them very well.

It’s slower, more deliberate take on lightsaber combat is intentional, as this is a Jedi character, they’re supposed to be defensive and pick their times to strike intelligently. It may be a little odd for those who want to sprint in with their laser sword and batter everyone in sight, but that tactic won’t work. You need to decide how best to approach each combat situation and that sounds really intriguing to me. I have never been into the Souls style games, but you can wrap Star Wars around just about anything and you’ll have me intrigued.

The game isn’t too far off, and I am going media blackout now as the story does seem like it could be an interesting one. The different planets and the customisation options have me very excited to make this character fit into my own style, and by the end of this I will have him wielding a Red lightsaber if all goes to my plan. *insert Palpatine laugh here*

Finally, The Mandalorian had the first half an hour-ish shown off to a select few, and by all the responses I saw on twitter, its exactly what people wanted. It feels like the Original trilogy, and it has some characters and reveals that will get fans excited. I don’t know what they are, I assume Jabba the Hut will appear as well as favourites like IG-88 who we already know about, but beyond that I have no idea.

All I want personally from the Mandalorian is for it to feel like Star Wars, and to be consistent with the look of the films. The TV show budget would normally be a concern, but as this is going directly to Disney + I have a feeling they will have spared no expense when it comes to the production design of the series. They will know the pressure is on, it always is with a fan base as rabid as the Star Wars one.

All in all, Star Wars fans have a lot to be excited about, and I am looking forward to all this delicious content coming in the final months of this year. We’ve already had Endgame this year, and I can’t help but feel there will be comparisons between the end of that franchise and the end of this one. As much as I love Marvel, and honestly their films are better in general, there is nothing quite like Star Wars.

‘Til Tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

From Skywalkers to Disney Remakes

Been a while! I’ve not been very active on here for a while due to learning how to write a script for a film that nobody will ever see. Anyway, from now on, every weekday there will be a new post. I am not sure what most of them will be about, but I will make it up as I go. Probably just my ramblings about pop culture and whatever is in my head that morning. 

This week Taylor Swift released a new album, and through osmosis on twitter it has slowly worked its way into my Spotify playlist and to my shock I enjoyed listening to it. My music taste is quite eclectic, my 50 song playlist has a mix of Elton John, Bring Me the Horizon and Johnny Cash, but Swifts new albums “Lover” has managed to bury its way into my head and despite the cheesy lyrics I keep finding myself humming parts of the songs.

Pop music aside, I spent quite a long time over the last few days staring at the latest Star Wars footage and wondering why this crazy franchise means so much to me. I didn’t make any progress on that beyond me being a sad case. Now, Spoilers if you don’t want to know anything about episode 9 come back tomorrow! 

The latest footage comes at the end of a weird “trailer” that shows clips from all 8 episodes we’ve had in the last 40 years. With the year Disney has had so far, with Lion King, 3 Marvel films, and Aladdin just off the top of my head, they are already looking at one of the most successful years any Studio has ever had, so to still have an ace up their sleeve in the finale of the Star Wars Saga must make some very rich people very happy at the prospect of getting even richer.

As for the actual trailer itself, it leans heavy on the Skywalkers, which is understandable considering the next film is titled “The Rise of Skywalker”. What’s intriguing to my nerdy brain is that there is nobody with that name in the film, so the meaning of “Skywalker” could well be something different. I have managed to sell myself on the idea of “Skywalker” being the new name for people using the force. No more light or dark side, ruling over the galaxy, no good versus evil, but just a group of people who can use these special powers that all have their own lives and agendas.

That theory was all set-in place in my head right up until that last shot of the trailer where we see Rey with the that sweet sweet double sided lightsaber. It’s one incredibly striking image, and a cool looking weapon design, but quite what it means I am not sure. There are a million theories around, as there always is with Star Wars trailers, but I am now entering the time when I want to stop paying attention. I want to go into this film with no idea of what is going to happen, and this taster was just a little bit too much info for me. So, it’s black out for now, I am going to try and avoid spoilers like the plague as in December I will be seeing a Star Wars Saga film for potentially the last time.

I mean it’s definitely not the last “Episode” film, these things make way too much money and in 10 years’ time they will be rocking up to Daisy Ridley & Co’s doors with a lorry full of cash to get them to get back into the costumes and bring another trilogy. This will be an end of sorts for Star Wars though, with the next few years looking like it will be stories from the universe, but not necessarily connected to the Skywalker story.

All that about Star Wars and cinematic things, but I haven’t been to the cinema for the longest stretch in the last 5 years. It’s been weeks since I saw Lion King and Toy Story 4. I should probably go into a little of my thoughts on those.

Well, first up, the Lion King fell flat with me, and yet I still loved watching it. Lion King suffers from a distinct lack of originality in the film except for one joke made by the films shining stars, Timon and Pumbaa. Perhaps its unwise to hope for something original in a remake of a film I have seen perhaps hundreds of times, but with Disney’s Jungle Book there was just enough different stuff to make me feel like it was a new, worthwhile experience.

Lion King is essentially the exact same film that was released in the nineties but with 4k visuals and less emotions portrayed on the animals faces for the sake of realism. It’s not a bad film, and if you somehow made it this far in life without seeing the original Lion King, it will be a brilliant experience. Unfortunately, most of the world has seen the original film countless times, and a lot of people have seen an excellently put together stage play so this remake felt unremarkable for me.

Onto Toy Story 4, and I find myself repeating some of the same ideas I had about the Lion King. Again, it’s a very well made, perfectly executed movie that felt like it wasn’t really needed, but for different reasons. This is not a remake of the original Toy Story, far from it, and it relies heavily on your knowledge of the previous 3 films to tug on the heartstrings. To give credit where credit is due, there are some nice, cute moments along with sad, gut wrenching ones that do give the film a level of emotional impact that Lion King just didn’t have for me.

The issue I had with Toy Story is while we get plenty of Woody, Bo Peep and the new endearing character Sporky, we get barely any of the old group of toys. The new characters introduced are funny, and I liked all of them, but I wanted them to be introduced to the entire cast I grew up loving, rather than just Woody.

Perhaps these two films were aimed too close at things I loved as a child. The Lion King and Toy Story are films I remember watching hundreds of times on repeat in between repeats of Return of the Jedi. Is that a sad vision into my childhood? Maybe. But it led me to becoming obsessed with films. The other film I remember watching a lot were the original Pink Panther movies, and of course every preteens favourite, Kill Bill. I always wanted to be able to do that Five Point Palm Exploding Heart thing, and dress entirely in Yellow Leather.

So, in summary, my childhood heroes were Luke Skywalker, Woody, and Uma Thurman. Until Tomorrow!

ChAzJS