This review will be spoiler-free.
“The end of the Skywalker saga.” – That’s how this film was advertised to us, and anyone with an ounce of common sense would know that the true ending of the Skywalker saga came in 1983. Regardless of whether you love or hate the Sequel Trilogy, let’s not pretend that they were ever part of the plan and anything less than a money-making exercise… “Plan”, that’s the keyword here, because now that we have all three films together and we can see the end result, it’s painfully obvious that the powerful people at Lucasfilm and Disney didn’t have a clue what they wanted when it came to this trilogy, and the overall result is extremely damaging. I’m gutted that I’m typing this right now, but The Rise of Skywalker is my least favourite film in the franchise.
It’s very difficult to objectively critique this film without giving away copious amounts of spoilers, so all I will say is this, from a storytelling/scriptwriting perspective, The Rise of Skywalker is a complete mess. It becomes apparent from the very outset that JJ Abrams went in to this film continuing with his original ideas from The Force Awakens, now, this would make sense to a lot of people, including myself, but the underlying issue here is that essentially what you are given is two films in one, something akin to what I imagine we would have got had JJ done Episode 8 as well. Now, that’s all well and good, but you’ve got a limited amount of time to achieve these goals and by the time the film catches up and finishes it’s various amount of story changes and retcons to put everything in place, you’re pretty much at the third and final act. There’s one thing I can say with confidence here, if you, like myself, really enjoyed what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this film a lot less than others. But, on the flip side, if you didn’t like the last installment then you’re probably going to enjoy it a lot more than I did. You can’t please everyone, but this film very much seemed to pander to the criticisms and complaints of the last film. Sometimes, it worked, sometimes, it just felt downright insulting and incited change for the sake of change.
Now, I’ll happily admit that the journey in which our heroes take to get to where they need to be is pretty entertaining, but the second you take a step back and just think about how they have gotten there you realise just how abysmal the writing was. The script is full of MacGuffins and plot conveniences that just make no sense whatsoever, but you’re just expected to accept them, there are events in this film that directly contradict canon that has been established in this Disney era! There is so much exposition and blanks left to be filled by this story it is ridiculous, the film starts off at a point which feels like it should be a second act. Certain events that are clearly intended to be big payoffs feel cheap, unearned and forced to the point that I was genuinely cringing. (I’ve seen the film twice already, and I can confirm I felt exactly the same upon second viewing.)
But, my biggest gripe with this film is the third act. Up until this point, I almost could have forgiven the large number of flaws the film had because it was at least entertaining and watchable, but the third act is so ridiculous that it stinks of bad fan-fiction, moments that were clearly meant to be epic and serious were borderline hilarious, that just isn’t right! It seriously felt like the writers just trawled Reddit and decided to use that as the basis of their story. To me, it felt like a bad parody and I was so deflated that this is the way that the Skywalker saga ended, this was supposedly meant to be the ending of all 9 saga films, but it didn’t feel like that at all and apart from one or two nostalgic moments, it does very little to actually back up that claim. (The way Palpatine is utilized honestly made me sick, they did him dirty and I really wish they had never bothered bringing him back, it completely ruins him and for me now, Return of the Jedi has been heavily tainted.)
I could go on and on with how much I dislike this film. But let’s highlight some of the positives, because it wasn’t all bad. It is entertaining in spells and some of the fight scenes are great to watch. It’s visually very impressive again. The dynamic between Rey, Finn and Poe was great and it did make me wish we had seen more of them together in this trilogy, something I will gladly admit The Last Jedi could have done better. Carrie Fisher is used well, it’s obvious she’s not really in those scenes which makes the whole situation more heartbreaking, but the team did the very best they could with what they had available and should be commended for making it work. It’s probably got the best use of C-3PO since the Original Trilogy and as usual, the score is brilliant and John Williams will be missed.
Sadly, that’s about all the good I can say about this film. I’m seeing a lot of people are enjoying it a lot, and I am really happy for them. But, this just didn’t work for me at any level and it’s probably the biggest disappointment of the year for me personally. It’s a convoluted, horribly rushed mess that starts off like a video-game treasure hunt and ends like a bad fan-fiction, it’s just too much to handle a lot of the time. The actors did the best with the material that they were given but it just wasn’t enough to save this for me.
But, I would like it on record that I don’t put the blame solely on JJ Abrams and team, it is abundantly clear that the failure of this disjointed trilogy (because regardless of what you think of the films individually, I’m sure we can all agree as a trilogy this doesn’t work whatsoever.) as a whole lies with Disney and Lucasfilm and they have a lot to answer for. Star Wars needs a change of focus and a new direction desperately, something which could be imminent if the rumours are true. I will likely be doing a more in-depth blog on this at a later time.
I’m gutted for now, but I’ll get over it. You’re never going to please everyone and if you’re happy with this film, then power to you. It wasn’t for me, and as I said earlier, it’s my least favorite film in the franchise and one that I genuinely have no intention to watch again. But I’ll move on, there’s plenty of Star Wars to come and I’m hopeful that lessons will be learned from this trilogy, and the franchise will improve as a result.
I give Star Wars Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker a 4/10.