JJ Abrams brings us to the end of the “Skywalker Saga” in an emotionally satisfying way.
Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, and Billy Dee Williams.
PSA: I have to be honest, it’s been an absolute age since I saw this film and I was very disorientated the whole time I was watching, so my review is going to be significantly less polished and far more conversational than usual. Which is probably no bad thing, so embrace it. I am also not even going to give this film a score, in somewhat of a trial to appreciate every film on its own merit instead of comparing them (I will inevitably draw some sort of comparison in most of my reviews, aren’t I? Whoops), so instead I will focus upon “What Went Well” and “Even Better If”. Because I am a teacher, dammit – and positivity is my lifeblood.
What Went Well
It was impressive the extent to which the late Carrie Fisher was involved in the film, considering that (bar a couple of shots) nothing extra was filmed for her character in this instalment. Firstly, it goes to show how far graphic technology has come, because there is no way that they would have pulled that off seamlessly in the past. If you didn’t know that Carrie hadn’t been present to film it, then you wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss. It is also remarkable how much sense the scenes with her in it made, even though they would have been written for a different film, which must have made those sections an absolute nightmare to write. Also, knowing that Leia had been trained in the force was a lovely touch.
Rey’s Struggle with the Dark
I loved Rey’s struggle throughout the film with her own power. Firstly, she is showing a spectacular connection and strength within the Force that we haven’t really seen before, and seeing her to continue to struggle with the darkness that she feels inside was compelling. The revelation as to who her family was only served to compound this, though there was rarely any doubt that Rey would fight on the side of the light. Her development from the girl who we met in the first film, who was lost and attempting to find her place in the universe to the assured and confident woman who we see in the final film is an obvious and powerful change. She has gone from one among millions to the saviour of the universe, which is a storyline trajectory that anybody can get behind. She is highly relatable and human, so it is great to go on this journey with her, and she has definitely been the most well-developed protagonist of any of the trilogies. The way that she uses her extreme light to defeat Palpatine is the perfect ending to the Dark Side.
The Fight Sequences
We’re on Episode IX now, not to mention the spin off’s, and – let’s face it – we have seen lots of lightsaber fights. Yet, somehow, this film manages to make them interesting again. They are wonderfully choreographed and engaging, in a variety of gorgeously realised locations. We have Rey and Kylo’s confrontation on the Death Star ruins, surrounded by crashing waves; Kylo attacking the Knights of Ren in the dark corners of Palpatine’s clandestine lab; Rey and Kylo’s battle in the clinical, stark white aesthetic of Kylo’s ship. I suppose this compliment comes on both sides, because the world was definitely as varied as we have come to expect from a Star Wars film, but it simply looked stunning.
The entire plotline of Rise of Skywalker was very simple to follow, and there weren’t many points where you felt that what you were watching was tangential or unnecessary. It was wholly unlike what some parts of The Last Jedi (which I loved, by the way) felt like. For example, the whole plotline of Rose and Finn going to the casino planet felt entirely unnecessary – even if it made narrative sense. Nothing seemed out of place here, though it did mean that there were no dramatic moments in which the entire film seemed to turn on its head – which might have been nice.
It was just a delight to see Rey, Finn and Poe together on screen. They are such a powerful team when they are placed together, and they have so much to do as a unit in this instalment, having spent two films rarely crossing paths altogether. It was definitely something that The Last Jedi lacked, with Rey spending most of her time with Luke, Poe eager to stage a mutiny (against Laura Dern!) and Finn doing…whatever he was doing on that casino planet. Trying to get Rey, I think? The banter and the interactions between the company is just delightful to watch.
Even Better If
I mean, sure, there was a huge negative backlash against her character (in some sections of the internet), but Rose is a great character. She has been sidelined here. Apparently, this is due to lots of the planned inclusion of Carrie being scrapped as they weren’t of a high enough quality, which makes sense, but it is telling that Rose was the character who they chose to remain behind and aid the rebels, when it could easily have been somebody different. I personally would have liked Billie Lourd’s character to have been beefed up, if nothing else but for sentimental reasons.
It seemed slightly bizarre to me having so many new people introduced – Zorii, for example, while delightful and Poe’s old partner and presumably romantic attachment, wasn’t entirely needed. Also, did she have to be female? Would it not have been more interesting to have her be male and suggest at this whole other side to Poe? This whole other side that is palpably obvious anyway? I digress. Furthermore, the revelation about other defected Storm Troopers for Finn was an interesting one, but it was a bit of a random addition at this point in the trilogy. It seems bizarre to me that in the culmination of a nine-film saga that larger story beats are being given to characters literally introduced within the same film – even though they were wonderful.
Poe and Finn
Let’s be real here, Poe and Finn are the only believable couple in play here. Their dynamic is wonderful, and we have all sensed the flirtation for the past few films. Would it have been that hard to have given them a little bit of a romantic entanglement? Especially considering the extreme lengths that the filmmakers seem to have put into Rey and Ben getting together.
Rey and Ben
I mean, it’s literally been a joke since The Force Awakens that their connection would result in romance. Why is it that men and women must fall in love in films? It’s ridiculous! Sure, Rey and Ben had a complicated relationship, but Rey has spent most of those films condemning Ben for his actions the entire time and telling him to go away. When at last she does call to his light side, she immediately falls for him and they kiss. Sure, he proved that he had a light heart and all of that, but that really doesn’t excuse the fact that he literally killed his father, does it? This really confuses me. Is this honestly the romance that Star Wars would rather give to us instead of Finn and Poe because, let me tell you, it is much healthier for children to see a stable gay relationship than that abusive straight one. Sorry, not sorry.
When it was first reported that Palpatine was going to be coming back, I think the collective response was pretty much “wait, what, why?”, but I guess if you’re going to have one big bad come back at the end, you can hardly have Vader, considering he has achieved his redemption. Having killed off Snoke in the previous film, the writers were probably quite stuck for who the big bad would be. So, sure, I accept the fact that Palpatine is the new evil within this film. I do, however, feel like the whole Rey is a Palpatine angle became slightly obvious as soon as he returned. It also left me feeling a little bit like “Oh, okay…cool…” when we found out who Rey was. It was a bit of an anticlimax I felt, and the film played out pretty much how I expected it to. Not to say that it wasn’t delightful, because it was, but I would have liked to have been more surprised or encounter something more unexpected or experimental. Then again, why break with a winning formula? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I got exactly what I expected from a Star Wars film – and this is a brilliant example – so I honestly shouldn’t complain. Perhaps I was just spoiled by Rogue One (which is, lowkey, the best Star Wars film. Sue me.)
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Rise of Skywalker. It was an emotionally fulfilling conclusion to an epic saga, which successfully wrapped up the tale of the Sith threat. It did nothing especially groundbreaking or revolutionary, but that does not make it any less of a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise.