Well, this is it, the end of an era. Forty-two years of galaxy-spanning adventures, of trade disputes, of lightsabre battles, of Wookies and of Jar Jar bloody Binks, we arrive at the end.
This is what has been built up to since the Disney buyout, sure Force Awakens brought it back, but this is the finale to close the book once and for all (allegedly) we’ve had ups and downs, nine main series films and it all comes down to this. The stakes could not be higher for all involved.
This film also sees the return of JJ Abrams to the directors chair after sitting out the Last Jedi, hoping that the Force Awakens lightening can strike twice, after all, Abrams is a steady pair of hands and Force Awakens was great (I still say Last Jedi is better, feel free to fight me in a pub car park if you disagree) so it makes perfect sense.
So, put on your Darth Vader pyjamas, grab your replica lightsaber, and let’s look at Rise of Skywalker…
I’ve taken the liberty of omitting a story synopsis, as there is very little I could give away before venturing into spoiler territory.
Well, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt what the worse thing about Star Wars is: the ‘fans’.
Barely half an hour had passed before Twitter was awash with snotty, unpleasable fanboys complaining about how JJ Abrams had ‘ruined’ Star Wars, in the same way taking a babies dummy would ‘ruin’ its day.
Seriously guys, it’s really not that important, it’s a fairy tale story about space wizards, the constant stream of negativity is frankly embarrassing.
Are they justified in their hatred? No, of course not, sure there are faults with RoS, which I’ll get to, but it’s not bad, in fact, it’s fairly good.
Granted, it is a bit of a mess for most of the run-time, it tries to find its feet for a quite a while, and it does miss the target a bit; but eventually it all comes together in an epic, explosive, nostalgia-fest of a final act, which serves as a suitably massive full stop on the saga as a whole.
So, what could be better then? Well for one, it feels like it’s trying to paper over cracks from the Last Jedi. It is quite apparent that they are films made by different creators with different visions, and that is evident when comparing the two films visual styles, as well as in a few narrative points.
There’s a few moments that almost seem like complete ret-cons of TLJ, and no matter your view on that film, its bold choices really set it apart, and ignoring them or rewriting them seems messy, and sends out the wrong message that if enough people complain loudly, we’ll change our vision, whether those dissenting voices have the slightest clue what they’re talking about or not.
It makes the characters arcs a bit repetitive if anything, several character beats that we thought were wrapped up last time are dragged up again, most incongruously with Poe Dameron, who seems to get more unlikable with each film.
Adam Driver shines once again as Kylo Ren however, one of Star Wars’ most complex characters is still struggling with the same problems he faced at the start of the trilogy, but it doesn’t feel like he’s in the same place. He’s developed with each passing film, portraying a shade of grey in a world that is usually so black and white.
I have other quibbles too; some of the digital effects are a bit ropey, but these are balanced by some genuinely breathtaking scenery within the same film. They’re most noticeable when de-ageing characters, however briefly it is used, they look too plastic-y and unlifelike.
Of course, one of the biggest problems was one that no one had the power to fix; that of the absent Carrie Fisher. Whilst I applaud the sheer effort that must have gone into putting the beloved actress into this film, it is noticeable that she isn’t actually there, and it creates a jarring uncanny valley effect, I suspect that body doubles are used whenever her face isn’t on show, and it is easy to see if you’re looking. There’s nothing that can be done about this, of course, and I re-emphasise that the effort and care taken to put her in should be applauded.
What did I like then? Well, as much as I have spent so long pointing out its flaws, it’s only because I care. Unlike so many who seem to WANT the film to be bad, I want it to be great, and I’m willing to make concessions to enjoy what it is offered, and I did enjoy Rise of Skywalker, a fair amount in fact.
I like the relationship between the newer crew, specifically with Rey and Finn. Rey is a particular favourite of mine in fact, she never seems to truly understand her own power, and she’s just starting to come into her own here. Her chemistry with Kylo is also fairly unique and how that has progressed from the start to where it ends is very well realised.
I was satisfied with all the revelations that were inevitably thrown at us. Depending on your own acceptance levels of these kind of things you might think differently, and that’s fine; but despite doubling back on certain things on rewriting certain things, it eventually makes sense within the confides of the story, all building towards that final crescendo.
As I touched on earlier, it is the final act where the film really comes together. Several stories come to a head in an explosive finale which will take you on a roller-coaster ride through several emotions, and will make the Star Wars fan inside you explode with excitement.
I could get more into the minutiae of the film, but I fear that I may lose peoples attention if the review ends up longer than the film, bear in mind that there are several things I liked and disliked about the film that I just can’t mention without making this feel like a novel; but rest assured, this still feels very much like the Star Wars you know and love.
It is closer at heart to Force Awakens than Last Jedi, but since the same filmmaker made TFA made this, maybe that was to be expected, and if you have the patience to wait through the messier parts of the narrative, you’ll be rewarded with a fittingly epic and satisfying conclusion to the long-running franchise. Ignore the trolls, it still captures the Star Wars magic, so allow yourself to be lost in that galaxy once more.