Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (MOVIE REVIEW) by Joseph M.

Star Wars - TRoS PosterAn average conclusion to an epic nine-movie saga

The last hope of an ancient order must stop the re-emergence of a defeated adversary while uncovering revelations from her past and place in a galaxy at war.

The conclusion to an epic space opera that spans nine-movies and has impacted countless generations over the decades. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follows Rey, Finn, and Poe, as they fight to find the location of the long thought dead Emperor before he can enact a plan to take over the galaxy. Along their journey, they will come across allies old and new, battle consequences of the past, and uncover the knowledge that could rock the foundation of the Jedi Order itself.

Star Wars, never will you find a more conflicted hive of polarized fans and exhausted critics alike. Returning as director after Colin Trevorrow left for creative reasons, the seminal J.J. Abrams endeavors to complete the trilogy he began with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Rise of Skywalker, the third movie in a nine-part saga destined to complete the journey that started in 1977 with George Lucas and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. For the most part,  the movie does the job, the music is outstanding, handcrafted by the legendary John Williams with each scene invoking and underlining emotions of sadness, loss, and hope. While the visuals are brought into existence by ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) and immerse the audience in the galaxy of Star Wars, so far so good. But beyond that, the movie can’t seem to shake the shackles of its previous installment, The Last Jedi, opting to spend time, undoing, or rewriting events while burying any resemblance of character chemistry and story progression in the attempt. It’s an unfortunate choice, as the character’s performances are the best as they ever been in the trilogy, even the cinematography is tactfully done that it’s reminiscent of the classic trilogy.

The movie begins quickly with the iconic crawl reduced to setting up the stakes of the film rather than the state of the galaxy since the last movie. The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) is back from his long trip to the Death Star II’s reactor core in Return of the Jedi and wants revenge. The legendary Carrie Fisher returns as Leia through archival footage training the “the last hope,” Rey (Daisy Ridley). While the previously thought main antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), using a Sith Wayfinder, tracks down the Emperor and under a promise of a new empire in the form of a secret armada of star destroyers that will annihilate his enemies as long as he finds and kills Rey. All this set up is quick and concise but places the movie already on a rocky foundation, and it’s only been six minutes and forty seconds before the film “begins” properly.

After the big reveal of the aptly named “Final Order” and Kylo’s resubscription to the dark side of the Force, the movie cuts to the best duo in any Star Wars movie (fight me for it), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac). Together with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), the trio meets a spy on an ice-encrusted space station in the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon. Eventually, the First Order tracks them, and a chase ensues.  Poe uses “lightspeed skipping” which is the Star Wars equivalent of running through as many different doors as possible in hopes that whoever is chasing will miss a door or run headlong into one, which some of the First Order does and instead of a door, it’s a giant worm in space. The quick succession of different visuals coupled with the Star Wars flare of unique locales create an exciting, be it delayed, start to the movie.

After escaping the First Order, the movie moves to Rey amid her force training with Leia. After a flashback to her childhood and a quick peruse through Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) notes, Rey finds a possible location to a Sith Wayfinder that would lead to the Emperor. Together with Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, and the two droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and BB-8, the gang is off to the planet of Pasaana. The movie picks up at this point with the level of character chemistry between Rey, Finn, and Poe, not only alluding to a close friendship but a bond that is akin to family. In some ways, their dynamic eases the rocky and rushed first act, but not by much at this point.

Arriving on Pasaana, the gang are met with what I can assume is the Star Wars family-friendly equivalent of burning man. As the group split up to find clues on why Luke was here and possibly the Wayfinder, Rey is ambushed by the Force bond made famous in The Last Jedi by Kylo, who then discovers their location. However, with some tactical fan service in the form of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), they escape but not after an epic dessert chase reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road. The group eventually, and accidentally, find the remains of Ochi, a Jedi hunter, a dagger that cannot be interpreted by the master of a billion languages, C-3PO, and Ochi’s ship, which eerily looks like the ship that left Rey in The Force Awakens. The movie adopts this bullet point-esque style of narrative at this point: with one location leading into another, then that will lead to another, so on. While it creates for a structured and concise movie, the motivations that drive the protagonists to one location to another become repetitive and ultimately take away from the overall narrative and dare I say moves Star Wars into the realm of every other science fiction movie.

Eventually, Kylo catches up to Rey, and the two have a tug-of-war with a transport that Rey blows up with some Force lighting, very much to her surprise, as Chewbacca was last seen to have been on the transport. The group eventually recover and head to Kijimi, where a droid smith reveals the coordinates on C-3PO’s memory banks and the expense of his memory. Naturally, there is a confrontation with Rey and Kylo, who reveals her parentage before she can escape with the previously thought dead but actually captured Chewbacca.

Beneath it’s rough and tumbles exterior, The Rise of Skywalker hides a story about forgiveness and redemption. The movie is littered with divergent storylines that are unfortunately only touched upon, such as Poe’s life as a spice runner with Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), Finn’s renewed interest in the Force, and even Rey’s plans for the future. In complete contrast, the movie revolutionizes its use of continuity editing, most notably the fight Rey and Kylo have on Kijimi. With each scene edited to combine two locations into one. Even the lighting is overhauled with Rey’s big revelation to reflect both her inner struggle and her outer struggle, and that is not mentioning the excellent performances from Daisy Ridley and, most notably, Adam Driver when faced with a figure from his past. The movie pulls all the stops in becoming not only creatively different but technically at the cost of a unique narrative.

The Rise of Skywalker is a victim of its planning and expectations. Like other trilogy toppers, the movie buckles under the weight of closing off the trilogy and creating something new and subversive but instead opts to reorient the audience to something old and familiar. It ultimately bogs down the movie, closing the epic conclusion of a nine-movie saga to something very much entertaining yet average.

Release Date: December 20th, 2019

Director: J.J. Abrams

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios

Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Audience: Adolescents

Rating: PG – 13

Runtime: 2h 22min

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Bio Photo I Ernesto Camacho IVJoseph Mason | Writing Contributor
B.A. | TV, Film, & Media | Cal State Univ – Los Angeles The human being formally known as Ernesto Camacho IV is a student from California State University Los Angeles with love for the simple things in life: 90s pop culture fandoms, character/world-building, and pondering the intricacies of the galaxy. During the start of his academic tenure before transferring, Joseph wrote and hosted for the campus news program developing and crafting concise news/event scripts as quickly as humanly possible in various formats and mediums. During his off time, Joseph produced and co-hosted podcasts focusing on a variety of topics, from entertainment industry news to video games and even nature of fandoms themselves. When he is not pouring endless hours into the latest video game, he is writing or planning his next writing project. Passionate, collaborative, and somewhat eccentric, Joseph Mason dreams of being part of the entertainment industry in a creative capacity, be it through editing, writing, or physical productions, in the meantime, he strives to be the best human he can be. Instagram: @xenpixel || View My Articles

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