Review: The Rise of Skywalker

12 Jan

So late to the game, and I don’t care much.

I remember driving around the University of Manitoba when it was announced on the radio that Disney had acquired the rights to Star Wars for a Billion Dollars, and were interested in making more movies. I had already graduated by this time from the University of Winnipeg, and I can’t remember why I was there, and now checking the timeline, I was working in EMS.

So the Force Awakens came out. Everyone generally liked it, even if we thought it was A New Hope redone. Then came The Last Jedi, which was extremely divisive – I reviewed it, but I’ll be really honest, I’m in the camp who doesn’t care for it but only watched it once in theatre (and as per my review, I missed parts shuttling kids to the bathroom).

Rise of Skywalker seems like a retcon of The Last Jedi as much as possible, and once again people are divided – those who liked The Last Jedi despise it, some people see RoS as both an apology and return to form.

I think the problem is that the focus wasn’t on story and, the vision was inconsistent throughout. The writers in this series didn’t have a cohesive plan and, the vision and tone was all over the place.

It’s okay for Abrams or Johnson or whoever to get ahold of the franchise and make it their own in their own way, but they can’t take what’s established and throw it to the wind, and pretend we’re not smart if we don’t agree its’ subversive or whatever. I rather enjoy the Riddick movies, and the first one was a low budget sci-fi horror survival movie. Everything else has been Conan in Space, but you don’t care because a survival story with Conan in the background as opposed to the foreground works. Breakout characters happen and, movies are their own thing but with tv shows it can take a few episodes for it to get ‘good’.

An example of this that works is The Mandelorian – a tv show I haven’t seen but generally, everyone seems to like it. Rogue One, which answers the plot hole I didn’t think was a big deal in A New Hope, felt like a war movie as opposed to a Star Wars movie. Lots of people said Solo got it right. And, I haven’t really seen Rebels or The Clone Wars, but I’ve heard people who are fans who say that the tv shows have gotten things right.

I think, ultimately the franchise is fine, but this sequel trilogy needed consistency from the get go. I haven’t talked about it on its own much, but here goes. The plot isn’t set up properly and feels like a last ditch attempt to solve loose ends so the franchise can go in a different direction with other projects. Palpatine is back – the original or a clone, who knows – and has secretly been building an armada with planet-killing weapons. Kylo Ren finds him and is charged with killing Rey, and then they’ll take the galaxy by force.

You know, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, who effectively won in the previous movies as the resistance was crushed to what could escape on the Millenium Falcon.

Ren doesn’t want to kill Rey but turn her to the dark side. Their interactions were some of the best parts of the movies, and, spoilers, as well as Rey confronted with the idea that she could go to the dark side and having to confront herself. Ultimately this ends with Kylo’s redemption and returning to Ben Solo and him and Rey defeating Palpatine and the armada once and for all. Other characters are along for the ride as well, but it’s basically those characters with hints of interesting people along the way – Finn meets other Stormtrooper deserters and is shown to be Force Sensitive – but they really don’t do much with him over the course of this franchise, and I thought he was the most interesting character after TFA. Overall, I’d say the most interesting character was Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, but his redemption was more thematic as opposed to earned on his part.

The Knights of Ren finally made an appearance, yay.

So all in all, I think it’s not a terrible franchise, but the usual Disney writing flaws are front and center and it doesn’t matter how beautifully shot it is, these films are going to be seen as a cash grab as opposed to the original trilogy. Disney can get away with them in their animated features because we can ultimately say, “Well, we plop kids in front of them, who cares if Ice isn’t really an element (Frozen 2, which I haven’t seen)…” I think it’s a disservice to children and adult fans alike. Yes, most animated features are based on fairy tales, but Star Wars is based on myth, and if you can’t see the difference between the two you need to take a step back and let in writers who do. Get your writing concise and on theme. And try not to pretend you’re edgy by making a drastic change in tone. You’re making the source material, not the parody.

I’m being wholly negative. One thing I did really like was the scenes on the sea of Endor. I thought finding the talisman was silly, but I have to admit those scenes were shot excellently and felt real to me. There’s something about me and water scenes, I don’t know what it is.

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