It’s the movie we’ve been waiting for… and the release is finally here!
I attended the media screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker yesterday (December 17, 2019), and I waited about 5 hours after I left the theater to start writing this review. My initial reaction was that I was entertained, but I felt something was missing. My reaction five hours later is that I’m even more let down… and even a little angry.
I have a LOT to say, and I’m going to do my best to say it without major spoilers. But that being said, there will be some minor spoilers below. Beware.
Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams are at the helms of this production, and the premise is simple. The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga. Take a look at the trailer below.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review: What I Didn’t Like
I’m going to need a few days to process where I stand on everything. But let me start off by saying, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the recent Star Wars films, with the exception of Solo: A Star Wars Story -- which while fun was not fulfilling for me. I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I loved Rogue One (though J.J. Abrams doesn’t get any credit for that one).
So naturally, all this being said, I went into this movie with high expectations. I was ready for surprises that would blow my mind ( Rey’s heritage couldn’t be predicted by the internet could it?), I was ready for scenes with Leia that would make me cry, and I was beyond excited to see the beautiful and surely epic ending to this saga.
Yet here we are… I will say that Leia’s scenes did make me tear up -- two especially.
The Major Problems
One of my major issues with the film is the pacing and balance between moments. So many scenes get rushed and thus don’t carry the appropriate emotional impact that they should. There are also other moments that set up some pretty big reveals that never play out.
For example, early in the film, when our favorite crew first encounters danger, Finn (John Boyega) exclaims to Rey (Daisy Ridley) that there’s something he needs to tell her. Moments later, once they reach safety, Rey brings it up again. And then later in the film, Poe brings it up yet again. The film ends without Finn ever telling Rey what he needed to tell her.
What did Finn need to tell Rey? We can speculate it’s the declaration of love that we’ve been waiting for -- and Finn makes it very clear by his actions throughout the film that he loves Rey. But then they introduce another female that almost feels like they’re setting her up to be a potential love interest for Finn down the line. Maybe in order to make what happens at the end of the film with Rey more “okay.” I won’t say what happens, but I will say there’s a “moment” that wasn’t needed and didn’t feel authentic to me.
That’s one major problem I had. Don’t set a storyline up if you’re not going to play it out. What’s the point?
My other major issue with the film is that there’s no epic moment. Near the end of the movie, there’s an opportunity for a moment to engulf us in nostalgia and hope. It’s there -- it’s in the film -- but the chills you expect to take over your body never come. Why couldn’t we have slowed down and given proper homage to these characters and this story?
In other things that bugged me, I continue to struggle with Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. His take on the role feels so emo to me, and I can’t shake it. I know Driver is a great actor (I’ve actually voted for him for Best Actor of the year with Marriage Story), but he’s never worked for me in this role. It honestly may be more of a Kylo Ren has never really worked for me -- but that’s a whole other article.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review: What I Did I Like
So what did I like? BB-8 continues to roll away with my heart. Can we just get BB-8 and Baby Yoda their own series already? (Like, seriously Disney+) I’ve always loved Oscar Isaac in the role of Poe, and that hasn’t changed. I also rather enjoyed his interactions with newcomer Keri Russell who plays a character (and former love interest) from Poe’s past.
Carrie Fisher’s scenes were perfect, though haunting to watch. I was quite happy with how they were handled. Honestly, the entire cast delivers strong performances -- Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams.
Overall: My Thoughts
Overall, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t full of surprises. In fact, there was only one moment (an appearance) in the film that surprised me. The rest of the movie was pretty much what I expected… minus the feeling of epic, bittersweet closure.
As with most things that J.J. Abrams does that involves more than one movie/one season of TV series, I was left wanting more, feeling underwhelmed, and honestly -- feeling let down by someone that I know was capable of doing more. It doesn’t help that characters from previous shows of his that I’ve felt this way about were present… Keri Russell (Felicity -- did you know Abrams was the creator of this show about a girl that goes to college (that’s completely based in reality)… and that there’s time travel in the fourth season?), Greg Grunberg (Felicity, Lost, Alias, etc..), Dominic Monaghan (Lost)… It was just reminders of the other stories I loved that Abrams has let me down on when it came time to deliver the final moments.
But, I digress. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t a bad film. Overall, it’s alright. But the problem is it should have been a great film. This is the ending of the Skywalker saga, and these characters -- and the fans -- deserved more.
I welcome spoilers in the comment section of this review -- so don’t scroll down any further if you want to stay major spoiler-free.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review
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