Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
In the epic conclusion of the highly anticipated Sequel Trilogy, the Resistance once again faces off against the First Order in the decades long battle between the Dark Side and the Light.
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first released in December of 2015, director J.J. Abrams led audiences into the next generation of Jedi with a film widely regarded to have replicated the look, feel, and comfort of the original films. Following a beautifully artistic tonal shift from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, Abrams is back at the helm and attempts to close out the trilogy with the same level of nostalgia that it started with.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is just one small part of the larger media trend that banks hard on the emotional familiarity of its story. While new iterations of old stories do little to create innovative (or, indeed, sometimes interesting) stories, they are very good at one thing: sentimental payoff. What was once cheap fan service has evolved, become critical to plot, and is now the standard of storytelling, as proven by Skywalker and its near constant acknowledgement of its predecessors. There is a desperate need for new and exciting stories in Hollywood, yes, but that’s not why people watch Star Wars. It’s a separate conversation, entirely.
We don’t line up by the thousands to see what’s going to happen to characters we’ve never heard of on planets that we’ve never seen (for that, we rely on The Mandalorian). We line up to see what happens to those characters we already love—for better or for worse.
When looked at through the lens of current movie making norms, Skywalker quickly becomes an obviously spectacular movie. The quality of writing, acting, and special effects stands proudly alongside the two movies that precede it, the entire trilogy acting as a prime example of how movies as a medium have developed and grown throughout the franchise’s 40 year history. The only great blunder of these films was the absolute lack of cohesiveness between them, in a show of clumsy collaboration between both directors, but Skywalker does its best to remedy the disparities and close the series on a satisfying note.
For the most part, the movie delivers and it does so in true Star Wars fashion: by using characters and their varying motivations to drive a greater plot. At its heart, Skywalker calls back to the Original Trilogy and focuses all of its energy on the people who are a part of the Rebellion, rather than the war they fight. By humanizing individual characters, the movie is able to once again discuss themes of unity, loyalty, and choice in a way that feels relevant to current audiences, both longtime fans or new.
For those who have been around since its beginning, familiar faces will feel like old friends. For those who were awakened with the Force, the fan favorite characters live up to the growth laid out for them in The Last Jedi—Finn as a devout Rebel, Poe as a level headed leader, and Rey as possibly the most powerful Jedi we’ve yet seen. There’s something for everyone, but as a result, no one will love everything.
This is where the movie falls flat. With no singular direction throughout the trilogy, creators left a collection of loose ends scattered about the first two movies in an attempt to provide something with which the next guy could conceivably weave a complete web. This is most clear in regard to Rey’s family lineage and why, in the past two years, fans have been able to connect her to every existing character in the galaxy—it was designed that way. The Sequel Trilogy is an exercise in rampant and disorganized foreshadowing that begs for someone to make something meaningful out of it. Instead, Skywalker was left with a knotted mess of yarn and too many strings to be pulled. Even with a run time of 2:35:00, there just weren’t enough minutes to tie up everything that was left behind and it leaves the story feeling hollow.
But. This is precisely what the Expanded Universe is for. In the same way that they did with Boba Fett and Darth Maul, we can hope that future creators will pick up those loose strings and weave a rich tapestry.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a safe movie. There were no substantial risks taken. There was no great innovation. The result is a movie that returned to its roots, pulling from the same formula that it found success in nearly forty years ago. For some, this will be a nostalgic return to a beloved story. For others, it will be a new look into beloved characters. In the end, it feels like Star Wars—adventurous, heartwarming, home.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Simple but Satisfying
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Acting - 7/107/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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