Despite how you feel about either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, the culmination of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy feels final. With the whole world on tenterhooks, ready to dive into the story, can J.J. Abram steer the third film into a satisfying conclusion?
The Rise of Skywalker follows the tragic events of The Last Jedi. With the First Order storming the galaxy, there are rumours of a greater evil afoot. As Kylo Ren tries to pursue and destroy, Rey is elsewhere in the galaxy, training with General Leia in order to harness the powers of the Jedi. Yet as the thread between Rey and Kylo grow deep, the pair are consistently drawn together. Can good finally conquer evil? Can Rey harness the power of good for the betterment of the universe?
The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that tackles growth. Whether that be in score or through acting or story-telling, J.J. Abrams second entry in the franchise follows how we evolve into who we were meant to be, following a pre-destined path or wavering from it for the greater good. Whilst the imposing battle for the soul of the Universe looms, it is really about the steps our characters taken and that big theme is weaved in well enough.
The problem with The Rise of Skywalker is that it is disappointing. The script is lazy story-telling; falling back on a nostalgia trips in an utterly lacklustre way. The Rise of the Skywalker feels hollow in movie-making in spite of it’s over-arching theme. The risks that Rian Johnson boldly established in The Last Jedi are wasted here. It is disappointing to see the franchise fall back on old tricks in order to save face. This new film feels weak and pandering as though it passed through a million hands, all scribbling their own re-writes to appease the vocal majority. It’s sloppy and, overall, rather dull.
The script and movie are almost saved by earnest performances. The biggest highlight here is Adam Driver. With The Rise of Skywalker, The Report, and Marriage Story, the actor is certainly having one of the best years of his career. With Kylo Ren, Driver has developed an earnest villain who grapples with his place in the Dark Side and the influence of his parents, all the while trying to lure Rey. Driver has always been competent at portraying Kylo’s but here he excels, making believable strides as his inner turmoil comes to its resolution.
Daisy Ridley has surely developed as an actress and it shows as she confidently grapples with Rey’s story arc here, even if it does undoes great character work from The Last Jedi. Despite being a more assured performer, Ridley still feels uneven throughout the film, especially when put against Driver in their many scenes together.
Other players here are great but utterly wasted. Poe and Finn’s stories aren’t fleshed out. Instead, they have to bounce unwarranted backstory or attempted character development with other similar (and achingly underwritten) characters. Previously fresh characters from the series such as Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose are treated like throwaway characters. Plus the appearance of the old generation of actors, in whatever form, are fun additions if, albeit, ham-fisted in.
There are also new merchandise opportunities to keep the littlest ones thrilled though such as Babu Frik (my new favourite character) or robot D-O.
The Rise of Skywalker is an energetic piece that is a culmination of years of story-telling. In spite of the movie’s choices, which largely do not work, the set-pieces and action romps keeps you on your toes. And there are so many of them. There are moments of pure grandeur that will send goosebumps down your spine. Set this gorgeous animation to John Williams’ final and epic score, The Rise of Skywalker, in those respects, impressive in exhilarating and classic ways.
Yet this conclusion ultimately feels flat and monotonous – a disheartening final entry to the Star Wars and Skywalker Saga.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital.
It is also available on Disney+