Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Is A Fast, Emotional & Messy Conclusion To The Star Wars Saga

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the latest and supposedly final Star Wars film dealing with the Skywalkers is now out. As with recent Star Wars films it is already a divisive film among fans and critics alike, who either praise it or deride it for too many reasons. Trying to do an objective review is very difficult for a film like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and that is because of the film franchise’s unique way of permeating throughout time. It is all too easy to offer an opinion on the latest Star Wars film, but come back a year or five later and anyone’s opinion will change.

Look at the prequel films. For the longest time they were so loathed by many fans that George Lucas swore off doing anymore films and could have been a reason why he just up and sold the property and Lucasfilm to Disney. Let them take the heat for the films and boy, are they doing so now. The derision tossed at the Disney-era films is so severe that the prequels are now viewed on a more favorable light by many. The one merit pointed out with the prequels is that at least they had a cohesive vision: the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi. This cohesiveness and vision are obviously missing with the sequel trilogy, which is a handicap the last film in the sequel trilogy had to face.

As many know, director J.J. Abrams created the template for a new trilogy with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. It was expected that the director of the next film, Rian Johnson, would take the themes and plot threads and continue them. Instead, Rian Johnson went off on his own tangent and did a deconstruction of the Star Wars films with Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the reaction was disastrous, divisive, and controversial.

Seeing the hatred Star Wars: The Last Jedi received, Lucasfilm tapped J.J. Abrams to come back and do a course correction. Did it work? Honestly, that is hard to say. On a personal level, to myself, the film was awe inspiring and emotional. It moves with a fast-paced momentum that reeks of desperateness that works! Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a satisfying return to the Star Wars that we all loved that is a heartfelt tribute.

But objectively, there are faults with the film and they come from Abrams and Lucasfilm’s thankless task of trying to undo the damage The Last Jedi did. The first half of the film is spent fixing and retconning characters and developments from The Last Jedi and at the same time it has to tell its own story. This resulted in a film that is constantly moving without a moment to breathe. Plot A occurs and it immediately leads to Plot B, then Plot C happens. The characters jump from planet to planet at a dizzying pace in a frantic scavenger hunt. Along the way, multitude characters, new and old, pop in and out to service the plot. While all this is going on Abrams also has the unenviable task of working in footage of the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa into the film in a way that works. Thankfully he succeeded, and with the overall job of cramming in all the plot points and resolving any threads. It was not easy and quite messy, but somehow it worked.

Thankfully, by the time the second half of the film commences, it is allowed to slow down and proceed at a smoother pace. By this time the emotions do get to you with all the fan services. There are many of those, which include call backs to all past eight films and while they could turn off some viewers, Star Wars fans will be delighted. But in this case, the callbacks are warranted. This is the final film in the trilogy and it was supposed to conclude the expansive story that began with Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. One element from Episode One that is revisited is the evil machinations of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Some spoilers will start.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is A Polarizing, Mixed Bag In The Star Wars Saga

This review for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming later than usual because I wanted to think about the film I saw on opening weekend before plunging ahead with words about its merits…and faults.

The first part of this review will be spoiler free and talk about the latest Star Wars film in general terms. The second half will discuss in more details my impressions, which will go into spoiler territory.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continues the saga of the universal struggle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. It takes place shortly after the last film where fledgling Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), finds the long-lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a distant planet called Ahch-To. She wants to be trained and enlist Skywalker’s help in the struggle against the First Order, the despotic government that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.

Meanwhile the ragtag group she belongs to, the Resistance, is in dire straits and on the run from the First Order. Its leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are determined to wipe out the pesky Resistance once and for all and destroy Skywalker, who is the film’s titular character. This largely sums up the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi without giving anything away.

The eighth film in the main Star Wars trilogies is a mixed bag. There are so many powerful moments and unpredictable developments. These will resonate not only with fans, but with the overall saga. Admittedly, this film borrows elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but only superficially. Certain expected narrative beats never occur and the film left me guessing as to what would happen next. The unpredictable nature of the latest Star Wars film will leave viewers unsure about the fate of characters, which creates genuine tension. We genuinely wonder if certain characters will survive by the end of the film. The film also takes time to examine the Force, the mystical energy wielded by the Jedi and the bad guys. Unlike those stupid midichlorians, the Force in this film rightfully returns to its metaphysical roots as the film explores its nuances. For the eighth film in a franchise to be this unpredictable and out of the box is a testament to the skills of writer and director Rian Johnson.

Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in logic and gaping plot holes that cannot be waved away with a Jedi mind trick. As skilled as he is, Johnson failed to think through the plot. Too often, we keep asking “why did so and so do that? Why don’t they just do this and be done?” This is a problem Johnson displayed with his acclaimed (and overrated IMO) film Looper, where cool concepts were undone by flaws in narrative logic. Honestly, this makes me wonder about the quality of the new trilogy he will oversee.

Just as crippling is the film’s pace. It starts with a blast, but meanders in the middle and feels uneven, though the final 45 minutes are terrifically nail biting. Certain characters fly off on meaningless quests in scenes that could have used another pass in the editing room. Other characters are given well-rounded and satisfying arcs that allow them to grow and change. Others should have not appeared at all.

No matter where one stands with it, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. It is unlike previous Star Wars films, which will disappoint many fans. On the other hand, story and character wise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi strikes bold new directions that anyone would have to admit bring new and much-needed wrinkles to the Star Wars saga.

Alright, this is the final warning for anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and does not want to be spoiled.

 

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