Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

In the final chapter of the fondly named “Sequel trilogy” of the Star Wars saga, The Resistance, and the First Order come to a head in a fight for the galaxy. 

The Disney Star Wars films have been on a sliding scale of quality, some very well made, and entertaining films; ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘Rogue One’, to some questionable films; ‘Solo’, to some that were awful; ‘The Last Jedi’. If we are using this scale then ‘Rise of Skywalker’ sits slightly above ‘Solo’ in the quality pecking order. However due to this being the supposed end of the main saga of films, it still feels like a disappointing end to a film series that has been beloved for decades.

The editing of this film is ridiculous, it feels like a child is recounting the film to you, instead of a professionally told story with a multi-million dollar budget. “This happened, then this happened, then back to that, then what this person said” all happens at such a breakneck speed and seemingly in random chunks. Scenes are cut up and interspersed with other scenes that are tonally different. When an emotional scene happens, instead of being allowed to absorb the emotions coming from the fantastic cast, the film suddenly jumps to a comic relief scene with a farting alien, or wise-cracking robot. This isn’t to say that wise-cracking robots or kooky aliens shouldn’t be in a Star Wars film, because they one hundred percent should be, however the editing never let the tone settle and the film feels extremely disjointed because of that.

That is the major flaw of this film, it doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be. It is trying to tell so many different stories and wrap them all up neatly, as a final film in a series tends to do, except this film is following ‘The Last Jedi’, which famously changed a lot of major things that J.J. Abrams has had to retcon or remold to fit in the story he has written out. By having to retcon a lot of creative decisions made in the previous film in the series, while also having to provide a satisfying conclusion to the series definitely makes the film feel stilted and awkward. 

Despite this being the last in the saga, a lot of ‘Rise of the Skywalker’ run time was spent on introducing new characters, each with their own individual, if brief, story. Most of the introduced characters are superfluous to the plot and again just add to a bloated run time. Some of the added characters give depth and backstory to characters we have already been introduced to but as this is the supposed end of the saga, with no plans for spin-offs or continuations, it just feels like a colossal waste of screen time to introduce so many new characters that in the end, don’t matter at al.

Somehow, even with the speed progression of every scene, and an erratic editing style, where no scene seemed to outstay its welcome, the film still feels bloated and slow. As previously mentioned there was so much story J.J. Abrams had to squeeze in to a 140 minutes in order to give a somewhat satisfying conclusion for the fans of this 40+ year film saga, but even still, scenes could have been trimmed and cut to trim down the bloated story.

Since Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars brand, every film has been visually gorgeous, and ‘Rise of the Skywalker’ is no exception. While the film might meander around the mid-tier ratings in Star Wars fans lists, this film provides some unforgettable spectacle fight, and space scenes that are jaw dropping. The grand scale sets and production value is bursting off the screen and just adds such a huge boost of legitimacy to the film. The brilliant combination of puppets combined with CGI with a lot of aliens and props make everything feel more authentic. 

The acting was very good, as it has been throughout the series, solid performances from everyone, however a special mention has to go to Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. Their characters are the heart and soul of this new trilogy and they delivered in this final film excellently. Their chemistry is palpable and natural that just makes their fight scenes together so electric. 

There are so many big spectacle action moments in the film that they start to blur together, while they all look pretty due to the cinematography and CGI, the way they are shot is very basic. It seems that J.J. Abrams didn’t take any big risks in how he shot any scenes, he let the action do the talking but coming from ‘The Last Jedi’, where arguable the strongest part of that film is that Rian Johnson, the director, took a lot of risks with shots, and made every scene look gorgeous, to cutting back to this film where it’s very much standard camera angles and movement. It just makes the film feel generic in a way that a film of this magnitude shouldn’t feel. 

And so it is, Disney’s Star Wars trilogy ends in a very mediocre rumble, that while not bad or offensive, lacks a strong narrative to be memorable, but it’s a visual feast filled with strong performances. Abrams did well to recover from the story nose-dive that the series was set on after ‘The Last Jedi’, but that’s all can be said he did for the series, land it acceptably with minimum casualties, no heroic landing with cool flips. 

6/10

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