Truth and Movies

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

JJ Abrams

Starring

Adam Driver Daisy Ridley John Boyega

Anticipation.

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi set the bar pretty high.

Enjoyment.

A let down. Not a big let down, but a let down all the same.

In Retrospect.

That galaxy far, far away is feeling tediously familiar already.

The Star Wars saga comes to a close with a story that’s big on cameos and references, but short on excitement and surprises.

The malign influence of space nerds with keyboards and a cartoon Wookiee avatar to hide behind are present in JJ Abrams’ purportedly climactic instalment of the space opera we know as Star Wars. This influence – let’s, for the sake of brevity, call it “the dark side” – has resulted in a film which insidiously kowtows to the devotions of the Star Wars hardcore, and in doing so, mistakes cheap sentiment for hard-won nostalgia. The Rise of Skywalker is a cracked mirror for fans to hold to themselves and ask the question: is this what we wanted? Really?

Rian Johnson’s eighth episode, The Last Jedi, courted the ire of a group of wretchedly ugly men who earnestly believed this fictional galaxy was built for their personal satisfaction. The knives were out. The film cleaved to franchise lore as a necessity, but Johnson clearly took great pains to create original, memorable images and to make music with his camera – he wanted to do something new and exciting with this clanking old shell of a saga, and more power to him. This new film hits the reset button with the force of planet-destroying laser weaponry, opting for fuzzy critters, cheer-a-long cameos, sidelining Rose (boo!) and a plot so hackneyed you just want to bury it deep in the sands of Tatooine and hope no one ever finds it again.

All the old gang are hastily re-introduced (Daisy Ridley’s Rey, Oscar Isaac’s Poe, John Boyega’s Finn) and as quick as a flash we’re finding a doohickey to take us to a planet to meet an eccentric alien, then we’re finding another sacred object that needs to be looked at by another special person which means we can get to the place where the thing is happening, etc, etc.

There are barely any exposition shots in the film – it’s perhaps the first Star Wars title to mute the sense of an exotic and diverse galaxy, which ends up badly hobbling the big finale. Everyone and everything is functional and, save for a few very fruity lines readings from old reliable C-3PO, so too is much of the dialogue, which leans very heavily on musty aphorisms and so, so many calls to look inside inside yourself.

The actors do their darnedest with the thin material, and it’s their investment in this beloved world that just about keeps things ticking. The tragic thing about this film is that, while watching it, you know that the end is nigh, simply because there is nowhere else for these characters to go. Their questions have all long since been answered, and their virtue is now fully certified. Even when the film attempts to deal with the notion of conflicting emotions and a person being emotionally dragged in opposing directions, it does so in a manner which always emphasises the right way of thinking. Which is a really boring way of going about things.

What Abrams has succeeded in doing with this slightly sorry film is to make something very safe and very diplomatic. And when has diplomatic ever translated to fun? It’s a soft middle ground where the pimply basement boys get to feel as if their egos are being stoked and they’re watching a work which slavishly replicates the distinctive grammar of George Lucas’s template-setting original. Meanwhile, the more casual fan can at least say they witnessed this thing come to a close.

There are few scatterings of pleasure here and there, such as some nice retro production design touches or an outlandish costume, but in the end, it’s slim pickings. The Rise of Skywalker is not a bad film so much as a disappointing one, a would-be operatic genre flame-out which is way too quick to beg, borrow and steal, and often from the very worst sources.

Published 18 Dec 2019

Tags: Adam Driver Daisy Ridley John Boyega Lupita Nyong’o Mark Hamill Oscar Isaac Star Wars

Anticipation.

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi set the bar pretty high.

Enjoyment.

A let down. Not a big let down, but a let down all the same.

In Retrospect.

That galaxy far, far away is feeling tediously familiar already.

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