Oh boy, let’s try to get through this without turning it into a mess like with The Last Jedi, okay?
There’s a point right at the cusp of the second act of The Rise of Skywalker where, without spoiling anything, something exceptionally gruesome but rather interesting happens. For a few minutes you’ll be sitting there thinking “wow, I can’t believe the filmmakers are actually going to try to take a risk this time to do something special in this formulaic franchise”.
But, notice we said “a few minutes”, because very shortly after it’s revealed that this was a misdirection and nothing important actually happened a few scenes ago. Whew. We can get back to the world of predictability and hammy trope. And that, unfortunately, is the best way to explain what you’re in for when you sit down to watch Episode IX.
The Force Awakens was a rather bland return to formula filled to the brim with JJ Abrams’ mystery boxes, The Last Jedi was a mess of nonsensical ideas which had to scramble to deal with those mystery boxes, and now The Rise of Skywalker is a return to formula filled to the brim with nonsensical ideas that has to scramble to deal with the close of the trilogy in the most generic, Mickey Mouse way possible.
Oh dammit, this is going to be a mess just like the last time.
At the core of the problems here is the script, which we can’t dig too deep into because of spoilers, so let’s get vague.
If you were sick of universe-threatening, planet-destroying MacGuffins, prepare to call an ambulance because there’s a comical amount of them in the movie to kick things off.
Once they have been introduced, much like most Star Wars movies, the heroes then go on a grand adventure to retrieve additional MacGuffins to stop them, and are continually pursued by the bad guys.
It’s a bit laughable how Star Wars has the entire galaxy to play with, but the characters keep running into each other so much that the world of the movie feels tiny and cramped, like two people who don’t get along keep walking into each other at a social event.
There is an in-universe explanation for this (multiple, actually) but for most of the run time here characters and plot lines are just spinning wheels until someone can fire up a laser sword and there can be some space explosions after intense, laughable dialogue.
Despite having an endless amount of quotable lines, Star Wars has never been known for great dialogue, but The Rise of Skywalker is approaching prequel levels of grating speech. Every character, even ones which you may have come to love, just spew out tripe at every turn.
The story, actions and dialogue of every character is just so formulaic and boring. No one has anything important or interesting to say for the entire movie.
This malaise appears to have spread to the performances too. We’re not saying that anyone here put on a bad show, because they didn’t, it’s just that they have an extremely weak script to work off of.
This is maybe most apparent in Kylo Ren, our favourite new character from this sequel trilogy. Adam Driver tries his absolute best to make it work in this movie, but it all comes across as shallow and uninteresting. You can argue that the story of Kylo Ren and the other main characters has been telegraphed since The Force Awakens, but we didn’t expect this final stretch of the story to be so thin and narrow.
Our favourite performance from the bunch, surprisingly, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. Some of his backstory is explained here and he’s actually doing something this movie instead of leading a pointless mutiny over bad management like he did in the last movie, but it’s just not enough this late in the game.
On the character front another glaring issue is the new (and some of the returning) cast. it’s not unfair to say that dozens of characters, even those with prominent speaking roles, could have been replaced with a piece of paper or a recording full of exposition.
These characters feel like plot contrivances instead of real people and aliens. Cutting these characters also would have given the main characters more time to shine in their last hurrah.
Oh well, the cool designs of the new characters is probably good fodder to sell merchandise.
The shinning stars here are, unsurprisingly, the visuals and sound.
We weren’t being sarcastic when we said that the designs here are cool, and there’s a lot to drink in here in the visual department. Some sets are a real feat that we’re sure will litter wallpaper websites for years, and you can feel yourself hoping that certain scenes were longer just so you could look at them for a few more minutes.
The music is good, but to a lesser degree. There’s only so many times you can hear a remix of the Imperial March and other Star Wars classics before you just want to shake one of the filmmakers shouting “I get it!”.
When the credits roll on this film you’re just left wanting. The Rise of Skywalker is just an extremely safe and very cheesy Star Wars paint by numbers. You can’t get excited by the characters, what they’re doing or what they’re saying, so you kind of just tune out and look at the pretty colours.
As a conclusion to the sequel trilogy it does a fine enough job, but the previous two films created a pool of quicksand rather than a solid foundation for it to work off of.
Most have already made their mind up when it comes to paying to see this movie, so all we can say is we hope Disney uses all that money to create something special when we eventually get more movies in the future.