Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Non-Spoiler Review

The long wait is finally over. Two years after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the final installment in the Skywalker saga has arrived, much to everyone’s delight (or for a very small portion, dismay). In a year where it seems every big pop culture pillar is pitching  in a bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, game seven pressure situation, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker seems to be facing an even bigger obstacle than that: Star Wars fans.

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron's (Oscar Isaac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle with Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order commences.

After the middle chapter in the trilogy changed the status quo for the whole franchise, a small subsection of the internet decided that it was the worst thing in the world, and unfortunately, Disney appears to have listened. J.J. Abrams returns to the director’s chair to make a direct sequel to his Episode VII, completely disregarding the themes and messaging of Episode VIII almost entirely. Some things obviously couldn’t be retconned or forgotten, but if Abrams and crew could change something, they did.

This approach forces Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to become two movies in one. It has to establish a new narrative, introduce multiple new Macguffins, and generally change the past to try and make the current film work. Calling the script by Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams a mess would be an understatement. There are still some smart choices in there of course, but they’re buried under the really baffling and rash decisions that make up most of it.

Baffling. The word that feels like the best way to describe this film as a whole. The highs are incredibly high. For one, the cast has never been better. The trio of Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac get more time together and their chemistry and friendship is perfect. And we all already know how brilliant Adam Driver is, but his final turn as Kylo Ren only supports that. There are some really fun and exhilarating action scenes, particularly the finale in its multi-layered, visual goodness. Plus Babu Frik, the pint-sized, mechanic alien, raises this film at least half a point.

But when the lows come, they’re pretty low. None of it is worth talking about currently, most of them would involve spoiling plot points that shouldn’t be spoiled, but they’re there, and they’ll be the subject of conversations on Star Wars for a while, for better or worse. Regardless of the potential flaws, the film moves so quick it’s hard to dwell on anything, and before you know it, the credits are rolling and the Skywalker saga is over.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is not a bad film, despite what many seem to be spouting as loudly and as much as they can. There are some major flaws, but for the most part, the good outweighs the bad. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, it’s a satisfying ending, a last chapter in the story of Skywalker before the world opens up to tell new stories about the galaxy far, far away.

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