Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Written by msbreviews on December 23, 2019

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If you don’t know by now, I’m a massive Star Wars fan. I love the original trilogy, but the prequels… not so much. However, Disney’s sequel trilogy has delivered two of my favorite movies of the whole franchise, so its conclusion was obviously one of my most anticipated moments of the year. If that wasn’t enough to leave everyone excited, add the fact that it also means the end of the Skywalker Saga, and the pressure suddenly becomes 10x heavier. I went in with moderately high expectations, with not even a glimpse of any trailer or TV spot, just like I did with Avengers: Endgame. The latter surpassed my expectations and delivered a near-perfect conclusion to the Infinity Saga…

The Rise of Skywalker is a tremendous letdown. I won’t sugarcoat it. If someone told me at the beginning of the year that J.J. Abrams wouldn’t be able to offer a satisfying end to the nine-episode story, I would laugh like crazy. It disappointed me so much that I don’t even want to extend this review more than the usual. I know that a lot of people hated The Last Jedi, but for better or worse, that film exists. Rian Johnson’s decisions were made. Some people received them well, some didn’t. But all of us got to watch and experience his narrative.

There’s something called artistic integrity, which J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio completely forgot about. The lack of respect for the saga’s previous installment is baffling. The structure-less screenplay is so unbelievably convoluted that it reaches a point where evident logical issues come into play. Major plot points occur due to some genuinely hard-to-believe events, and even the characters seem to have no path whatsoever. It’s entertainment for the sake of entertainment.

Of course, there are a lot of visually jaw-dropping action sequences. The cinematography (Dan Mindel) is some of the best I’ve seen in the franchise and in this year. John Williams’ score is emotionally compelling, and it definitely elevates a lot of important moments, being a big source for the chills down my body. And yes, there are a bunch of epic scenes. However, throughout the whole runtime, the frustration was always there. Major threads and character backstories were answered in The Last Jedi, but The Rise of Skywalker feels more like another sequel to The Force Awakens than to Rian Johnson’s flick.

If there’s one undeniable aspect about this trilogy that this last movie proves is that there was no plan. No roadmap. No overall structure. Whether you love or hate each or every installment, this is indisputable. Disney screwed up this time. Creative freedom is essential to filmmakers, but the production team behind a franchise needs to have a well-organized structure. The simple fact that J.J. Abrams directed the first film, left and returned to do the third one, is already weird and uncommon by itself.

Besides the lack of artistic integrity, there’s this feeling of constant disappointment throughout the movie. On several occasions, The Rise of Skywalker is so close to delivering a perfect sequence. A chill-inducing moment. An incredibly emotional scene. Almost every time, it fails at the last second, at the last line of dialogue, or at the last action movement. Some moments are still captivating, and they don’t lose that much impact. Nevertheless, some are totally destroyed by the most ridiculous, cringe-worthy choices I’ve witnessed in the saga.

The first act is devoid of any thought. Characters go to places to get something they need to another place so that in that place, they find something else that leads them into another place… It’s frenetic, out-of-control pacing. The desperation to set up so many different side stories in time is so prominent that it’s visible from another galaxy. From the second act on, things get a bit more clear, and in the third act, all the threads blend decently. It’s in the last 30 minutes that the resemblances to Avengers: Endgame come into play. The only difference is that it doesn’t have 1/10 of the emotional impact due to the questionable decisions I mentioned above.

Only one character got his arc complete without detours or significant changes: Kylo Ren. J.J. set him up, Rian Johnson continued his journey, and J.J. closed his arc pretty well. Every other character either got their arcs complete with major changes throughout, or they didn’t come close to finish their own story. There’s one exception, though, and that’s Carrie Fischer’s Leia. It would be extremely disrespectful and unfair for someone to criticize the filmmakers about her. They inserted her reasonably well in the scenes (please, if someone complains about visual effects, just get lost), and they did the absolute best they could under the known circumstances. I might be extremely disappointed, but I do have to send the team my congrats for closing her arc in the most dignified way possible.

As for everyone else… well, the cast has been outstanding from the very beginning. Adam Driver, I have no words for him. He’s so perfect as Kylo Ren that I even defend his character as a villain more layered and emotionally complex than Darth Vader. I love Daisy Ridley as Rey, and she does a phenomenal job in this last film, even when her dialogue doesn’t entirely suit her. John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and everyone else (who I won’t mention due to possible spoilers) are all brilliant, and I have to congratulate them on making every single movie a bit better.

I don’t know what more should I write. I have very mixed feelings about it. I love a lot of the epic moments, the film looks absolutely stunning, and the action sequences are genuinely jaw-dropping. However, I strongly disagree with some decisions made by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, especially the ones that make The Last Jedi feel like it didn’t exist. This lack of artistic integrity plus the constant disappointments regarding each big moment’s climax ruins one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Despite the brilliant performances from the cast, only Kylo Ren got his arc complete without significant changes. The Force Awakens set up some mysterious questions. The Last Jedi answered them. The Rise of Skywalker… also answered them. It’s one of my biggest letdowns ever, but I’ll still save the Skywalker Saga close to my heart. Next time, just build a roadmap, Disney…

Rating: C