SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker

While this review will not contain outright spoilers [CLICK HERE for my spoiler-filled thoughts], I will be discussing the movie in broad, general ways, and that might be too much for someone who hasn’t seen it and who wants to go in totally blind. If you’ve seen the trailers and a few commercials for the movie then there won’t be anything said here that will be new.

With that said…

I want to be fair. Really, I want to be more than fair; I want to be magnanimous. Star Wars is such an important part of my childhood and experiencing them as a father of a Star Wars fan has been so wonderful these past several years. I want to like this movie, just as I wanted to like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi on their respective opening nights (I love them both).

I did not like this movie.

To be fair, JJ Abrams had a very difficult task in front of him. He had three things to accomplish all within the same film:

  1. He had to make a good movie.
  2. He had to make a good third-part of a trilogy.
  3. He had to make a good final installment of a nine-part saga.

With that three-pronged task ahead of him, the director famous for “starting” many great projects (Alias, Lost, Star Trek 09, The Force Awakens) now had to finish one.

Sadly, I think he wilted under the enormity of the pressure.

It’s very clear while watching the movie that, of the three tasks previously mentioned, JJ mostly concerned himself with the latter two, and especially focused on the middle one. The movie tries very hard to tie up the loose ends (as he sees them) of this Sequel Trilogy. Along the way it gives plenty of nods to the whole saga.

Where the ball is dropped is in making the actual movie itself any good.

There’s simply no way to sugarcoat it: The Rise of Skywalker is a bad movie. It fails the reason most movies fail and because of the same problems most failed movies have: Bad editing, bad plotting, too much going on with nothing of any weight happening, etc.

Obviously, I have some serious issues with the story (what little “story” there actually was) but I’ll save those for the spoiler-filled comments. In the meantime here are some spoiler-free thoughts:

It’s a mess.

It’s the worst edited Star Wars movie by a country mile. Every scene has a wildly different tone from the one before it. It’s like the movie had two different editors, each tasked with cutting together half the movie, one who wanted there to be tension and angst while the other wanted a light-hearted romp. Then they threw both of their halves into a blender and released this.

There are like fifty things going on but only three of them matter and those three should have been what the movie was about. Instead, it’s not about anything.

The movie is not about anything.

What in the world is this movie supposed to be about? Everything the characters do is motivated by something they discovered three seconds before. The “plot” of the movie is basically this:

  1. We have to do X to stop Y: Let’s go!
  2. Action scene on the way to X.
  3. We did X…it says here we now have to do X2 to stop Y2: Let’s go!
  4. Action scene on the way to X2.
  5. We did X2…and now it seems we have to do X3 to stop Y3: Let’s go!

For two hours it’s like this.

After about thirty minutes I thought to myself: “Hmm. Is JJ trying to audition to direct an Indiana Jones movie? Is that what he’s going for?” I soon decided no, he’s not trying for the “thrill ride, every ten minutes is an action scene” route. He’s going for the “we don’t have a plot or anything to say so let’s just go loud and crazy for two hours and hope no one notices.”

The climax of the film is good as an idea and some of the moments are good but writers JJ Abrams/Chris Tierro had no idea how to get to that climax in any way that made any sense.

I don’t want to harp too much on the way it tried to bridge the disparity between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. I’m maybe the only person on planet earth that loved both of those movies. I know they’re not the same movie; they had different goals and different approaches but they did their jobs really well, in my opinion. I love the way JJ weaved nostalgia into the story of a new trio of heroes in TFA. I love the way Rian Johnson gave Finn, Poe, Kylo, and Luke strong and discernible character arcs that moved them from point A to point B to point C in a logical fashion.

So there are two wildly different movies from two directors with very different ways of making their movies, and I loved them both.

And then there’s this mess of a movie.

Again, I’ll get into the characters and where they all end up in the spoiler-filled review, but just to summarize: There was no commitment by JJ Abrams (as co-writer or director) to give anyone anything close to a character arc. People do things but it feels more like box-checking to service the needs of the thin plot, as opposed to a character slowly evolving over the course of a story.

The prequels had bad dialogue and too much reverse engineering. That being said, no one would ever (nor should they) argue against the “plot” of those three movies. There’s a story there and George told it, albeit poorly thanks to being a bad actor’s-director and a poor dialogue-writer.

The Rise of Skywalker, however, is just mired in terrible plotting. It’s a movie with nothing to say, with too much “going and doing” without any story or plot to ground it. The characters are largely wasted. The editing is horrendous. Not only does it fail as a sequel to The Last Jedi, but it also fails as the end of the whole Trilogy and as the end to the whole Skywalker saga.

It makes me sad.

5/10 – The Rise of Skywalker is a frustrating, poorly-written, edited, and executed movie. It’s an ignominious end to an important saga in film.

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