To begin, I’m a casual Star Wars fan. I enjoy them enough to say that I have fun just going along for the ride with the characters. I can’t say that I know all the minor characters and can name all the different ships and the droids. I don’t watch the cartoons or read the Extended Universe books. I will say though that The Mandalorian is doing a nice job at being a fun Western story that just happens to take place in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars is just a thing to me that exists that I have no ownership to and that doesn’t owe it to me to give me what I want. But in this day and age, the internet has allowed people to complain about many things, including movies. We can’t even go through watching sci-fi action movies made for the family without causing controversy these days. The Last Jedi wasn’t amazing to me, but it was a movie that made some interesting choices. I liked what it was doing with the universe and director Rian Johnson gave the franchise a chance to go in a new direction. But, no one can be happy with what they have and Disney decided to bring back J.J. Abrams to direct the last movie of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Let’s see if this movie was willing to continue on the path that TLJ laid out or they were going to backtrack and attempt to correct what never needed correcting. Spoiler alert: they end up doing the latter.
I remember hearing years ago on a podcast about how a movie in its first few minutes teaches you to watch it, which is something that often comes to mind these days when I see a movie. TROS must’ve not gotten that memo because right after the usual scroll, the movie decides to move at breakneck speed and just throw into a lightsaber duel and the introduction of Emperor Palpatine. I was so overwhelmed by what was going on that I was unable to configure my senses so they could take all this information. It turns out that Kylo Ren is now acting under the returning Emperor Palpatine to find a device that will help them take over the galaxy. The idea in TLJ that Kylo Ren was going to be this crazy person who was going to become his own man to take over the universe was a good one. Instead, he was a puppet the whole time. Okay, fine. It’s the last of the Skywalker Saga and I guess we have to bring back Palpatine, I guess. It’s just a lot for me to process. If this was the plan from the beginning then it would feel less like whiplash. It doesn’t matter because it’s more about showing off cool action scenes being cool and moving as fast as possible. Something that kept me on board with the messiness of the story on screen is that Adam Driver excellently makes his Kylo Ren a capable villain. TLJ did pretty good at developing Kylo in this regard but this movie practically makes him a company stooge that’s just out to kill. But I was still with his character because like the best actors, Driver makes things compelling. Even when the material doesn’t always give Kylo depth he needs, Driver finds a way to make him multi-layered. He sells all his moments well and I wanted to see where things went with him.
By the end, things change for the character in a way that I didn’t agree with, but, okay, fine. How things resolve is understandable if the ideas of The Force Awakens about things being cyclical is something to think about. Yet, it feels fragmented because the last movie negated this idea, but, okay, fine. Richard T. Grant is enjoyable as another member of The First Order that’s also willing to do what it takes to defeat the Resistance. He’s a “shoot first, ask questions later” guy as seen in one of the movie’s best moments. He seems to be one of the few people that leans into the schlockiest moments of the movie and is having a fun time in the role. Every time he’s onscreen, he makes his time memorable. Palpatine himself was okay even if his addition felt rushed as it felt like something to add just because it’s the last chapter of this part of the Star Wars universe. Just because it’s the last shouldn’t be the best excuse. It should be a natural part of the story if you want me to care. Palpatine is there just to say evil things and that’s about it. Did you see the original and hear him specify his evil plans? It’s the same thing here. Still, Ian McDiarmid earned his paycheck and managed to do a serviceable job.
Rey is also attempting to help fight the First Order as she deals with her Force training. After the events of TLJ, she struggles to commit to what being a Jedi is while being tempted to go to the dark side. There are also things about her past that threaten to sway her further to the side of evil. Remember when TLJ said that her parents are nobodies, not anymore. She has to have her past explained because you guys were asking for that, right? Daisy Ridley’s fine but the stuff with Rey are some of the silliest developments. It doesn’t even really do much for the movie until the movie needs it to happen. I think the filmmakers thought it looked cool, so whatever. Plot conveniences are a special power to have. Still, she did her job and made the best of her time onscreen. I just felt like she was kind of earning her paycheck and doing the job rather than putting work in like she did in TFA and TLJ. Yet, many of her moments with Kylo are some of her stronger moments in the trilogy. I didn’t buy how things got resolved between them, but she and Driver almost made me buy it.
Finn is also here and meets some random black girl who helps the Resistance because apparently, people didn’t want him with the Asian girl or the white girl. I liked the fact that Finn found common ground with someone in a similar predicament. Like a lot of the new characters, this felt just added in with little development other than they wanted to add more to the story without really going all the way with it. It’s fine though because she was a decent character and it added interesting things to the movie. I like Finn as a character and it was nice that he was more involved in the plot. It didn’t just end in nothing like in TLJ. John Boyega is charming in the role and it’s nice to see him get more chances for his character to shine. He has great chemistry with both Ridley and Oscar Issac as Poe. I just wish those three got more to do in the last movie as TFA showed promise in this regard. I’m glad that there was more of that chemistry here. I admire that the filmmakers were trying to capture that Luke, Leia, and Han Original Trilogy magic. The moments where they’re just going to places felt more like classic Star Wars to me. It feels like the best of what makes the series good. Still, I wasn’t attached to these people as friends, but rather people that just happened to be stuck together because the movie is forced into that situation due to how inconsistent these movies were from a story perspective. Poe is there to be the cool fighter pilot he was in The Force Awakens and I enjoyed that. He also has a relationship with Keri Russell that was an interesting yet way too slight relationship that barely got explored. I liked that he was a badass again and wasn’t just pushed to the side. He and Finn work well together so when that happened here, it was more than welcome.
I mean, it’s not great. You can tell that behind the scenes, people had good ideas. It’s just that they forced all these ideas into one movie and the final product suffers as a result. I can’t say it was bad though. Look, if I just looked at this as just plain entertainment, then I would say that it’s good because it gives you what you want in that regard and more. The action moves fast, perhaps too fast. But there’s so much going on that it can at least keep your attention. When this is on TNT and I wake up at 3 in the afternoon, this will be an ideal movie to watch during a weekend marathon. If you want to see things blow up and fly around, this is a good time, especially since I saw this in gorgeous IMAX 3D. It looks as good as a big blockbuster should. Money was clearly spent on making sure they had these big action scenes. It feels epic in the best way possible. But it eventually becomes a big computer blur when some of the action goes on longer than it needs to. J.J Abrams is still fantastic at shooting action and keeping up the pace as he has been in the past. He also knows how to get good performances out of the actors as they did a convincing job in their roles. There are plenty of scenes where things work better individually if you watch it on a scene-to-scene basis, thanks to the direction. But being that it’s all in one movie, it’s too much for all your senses to take at times. Being that this is the last part of this massive franchise, it would’ve been nice for it to have moments where Abrams allowed the story to breathe. Even with the existing characters, it becomes a lot to take as the movie goes in directions that feel more superficial than natural. It doesn’t help that they tried to cater to people upset about The Last Jedi as it undoes a lot of the interesting choices Rian Johnson made. This is a hit and miss movie and maybe not the best way to end the Skywalker saga. However, there are enough satisfying moments for fans to make this a decent finale to the trilogy.
I am giving Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!