Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Posted: December 30, 2019 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by J. J. Abrams. Starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

star-wars-rise-skywalker-kylo-rey-800x450

Time has passed since the First Order almost wiped out the Resistance, and the galaxy has been intrigued by a series of messages claiming to be from the supposedly deceased Emperor Palpatine. Enraged, the new Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren (Driver) strives to find the source of these messages, vowing to destroy Palpatine if he should have risen from the dead.

Meanwhile the Resistance are struggling to build a base from which to take the fight to the First Order. Rey (Ridley) is struggling with her Jedi training under General Leia (Fisher). Meanwhile Finn (Boyega) and Poe (Isaac) risk their lives to bring a message back to the resistance. Palpatine is back, and has a huge fleet of super star destroyers that would be capable to subjugating the galaxy. Leia despatches Rey, Poe and Finn to locate the mysterious planet Exegol, supposed birthplace of the Sith.

Can our heroes succeed or will Rey fall victim to the dark side and join forces with Kylo Ren?

nospoil

Ok so I’m going to avoid spoilers as far as able (Palapatine’s mentioned in the opening crawl so don’t get annoyed at that) There will be discussion of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but no spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker except where they’ve been public knowledge for ages (the return of another original trilogy character for example) Of course, if you’re paranoid why not see the film first, and then read this review!

Ok then, last chance to bug out…

riseskywalker.jpg

So the first thing to say about The Rise of Skywalker is that it’s a bit of a mess, in part this seems unavoidable (using snippets of Carrie Fisher is a great idea but is obviously limited, requiring some creative writing to fit her into the script) whereas some of it is a conscious choice to reset some story elements after The Last Jedi. Now whatever you think of TLJ (and I admire a lot of what Rian Johnson tried to do whilst still have structural and pacing issues with the film) it seems a curious choice to backpedal, especially given Disney presumably signed off on everything Johnson did? As a result Abrams has to spend a lot of time early on setting up the return of Palpatine, and again this leads to a shaky opening, but thankfully things calm down and what’s surprising is that a film with so many story issues, a film constantly pulling new plot points seemingly out of thin air, manages to be as coherent, and as enjoyable as it is, and whilst it doesn’t hit the emotional highs of The Force Awakens, I had to admit that I walked out happier than I had after TLJ. I just wish more care had been taken with the trilogy, because whilst enjoyable, and way better than the prequels, it still feels somewhat disjointed.

MV5BNzI4NmFkNjEtNmQwMC00ZTBhLTkwOGYtNjg1YTUyOWY3Y2U4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXZ3ZXNsZXk@._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_

Of course, one of the big narrative choices TLJ made was to split up the Poe/Finn bromance. Isaac and Boyega have tremendous chemistry, and while you can argue it was always going to happen in a middle film, it’s great that they’re back together and on an adventure, which is I think what most of us had wanted after TFA. Throwing Rey into the mix just adds to the enjoyment, and it’s interesting to note that, given they’re three of the four major new Star Wars characters, and all on the same side, this is really the first time they’ve been onscreen together for any length of time, which is another shame as the three work extremely well together .

As Rey, Ridley continues to excel, even as a Jedi warrior in training the character never quite shakes off her scavenger upbringing, and she retains the anger she’s been holding since Kylo Ren killed Han, or maybe the anger she’s been nursing since her parents abandoned her on Jakku. As well as Isaac and Boyega she also works well with Driver, just as well given they share many scenes, and the dynamic between the two is excellent.

Boyega thankfully gets more to do this time, and hints of cowardice or only being interested in Rey rather than the Resistance are thankfully somewhat muted, though you do wish they’d gone further with his former stormtrooper arc, especially given one of the new characters he meets. Still he proves yet again that he has charisma and comic timing in excess, and I really would love to see him do Bond one day.

EP9-201867_RW.jpg

After spending most of TLJ being an unlikable dick, Isaac thankfully is allowed to shine this time out and play the cocky flyboy/scoundrel that he does so well. You can argue he has an arc in TLJ, but it’s a clunky one, whereas here Poe seems more at ease, and we learn more about his background and how he wound up in the resistance.

Of course, for quite a lot of people Poe and Finn’s bromance bordered on romance, but I won’t give anything away on that score 😉

Of the big four this leaves Driver, who probably has the hardest job. Not only does he have to carry a lot of the plot, but for much of the time he doesn’t have the luxury of a Ridley/Boyega/Isaac to bounce off, and it says a lot about Driver as an actor that he makes Kylo Ren’s story here believable, and while many of the original casting choices were well made, in many respects Driver’s might be the shrewdest of all, and there’s a momentary Harrison Ford impression late on that’s practically worth the price of admission alone.

_106434824_starwars5

As mentioned Carrie returns, as does Mark Hamill as Luke in (obviously) Force ghost mode. There’s also a welcome return for Lando, and while Billy Dee Williams obviously can’t be running about with a blaster, he manages to remind us how cool the character is, and it’s glorious seeing him sitting in the Falcon with Chewie again. Oh and Anthony Daniels has a blast in his last outing as C-3PO, and I’m not sure everyone’s favourite protocol droid has been quite as funny (or quite as heroic) as he is here!

One of the big talking points is the side-lining of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose. A big part of TLJ she’s barely seen here (I think someone worked out she’d had less than two minutes of screen time). Some people are, understandably, seeing this as another poke in the eye for TLJ, especially given the (completely unwarranted) backlash the actress received over that film. Being honest I didn’t mind Rose, but by the same token it’s hard to see where she’d have fitted in here, other than to somewhat short circuit the chemistry between Finn/Rey/Poe. That doesn’t make what’s happened to her right by any stretch of the imagination, and surely she could have been given more to do than this, and I really hope the shit she took online wasn’t behind her side-lining.

There are some great set pieces here, especially a rain soaked lightsabre duel, a lot of humour, a lot of action and adventure of the kind one’s come to expect from a Star Wards film.  Yes it probably doesn’t surprise in the way The Last Jedi did, and it probably isn’t as taut and precision engineered the way The Force Awakens was, and sure it at times feels like a greatest hits of the franchise, but it’s still hugely enjoyable, at least on first viewing. It will be interesting to see what repeat viewings do to my opinion, will the plot holes and back of a fag packet plotting increasingly grate, or will it’s exuberance and top drawer cast being allowed to do what they do best continue to paper over the cracks?

Only time will tell, but at the moment I loved it!

15new-starwars-1-articleLarge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.