Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Review: 'The Rise of Skywalker' Is A Satisfying, If Flawed, Finale (Spoiler Free)

By: Dominic Jones

When the final scene of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker irised-out and the words "Directed by JJ Abrams" appeared on the screen at the world premiere on Monday night, I couldn't help but stand and applaud. Billed as the end of the Skywalker Saga (even though Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy acknowledged before hand that, some day, there will probably be more), the film does everything needed to be a fun, emotional, and satisfying end to the story that began 42 years ago.

But it's also flawed.  It's not perfect (though it's hard to argue that any film truly is). The beginning of the film is messy, as Abrams and co-writer Chris Terio rush to establish the film's principle villain. It's understandable--Palpatine's return wasn't something that really seemed to be in the cards until the film's first teaser trailer ended with his iconic laugh. But the early scenes have the feeling of trying to catch the audience up by telling--rather  than showing--what has happened. As a result, the film's opening act feels choppy as Abrams and Terio move the pieces they need into place to get the story going.

Once the film gets going, however, it's an excellent ride. And much of The Rise of Skywalker's success derives from the strength of its characters and its stars. Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), in particular, turn in thrilling performances that build on their previous work and lead to an exciting end. The duo's shared scenes continue to be the most compelling aspect of the sequel trilogy, and are taken to even greater heights in this film. Which is not to say the other characters don't deliver in meaningful ways too. Fellow returning stars John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Isaac (Poe) are also stellar, each with big moments that give their characters fitting conclusions.

Newcomers Keri Russel, Richard E. Grant, and Naomi Ackie all fit right in in the film.  Zorii Bliss, Allegiant General Pryde, and Jannah all feel like true Star Wars characters, each having a meaningful impact on the story. Sadly, however, Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico has a significantly reduced role. Whether this is a result of reaction to The Last Jedi, or a product of Abrams’ simply not knowing what to do with a character he didn't create is unknown. But whatever the reason, it was a disappointment for me as Rose was one of my favourite characters in the previous film.

Speaking of The Last Jedi, much will be made in the coming days about the degree to which The Rise of Skywalker is a response to, or even a course correction following the previous Skywalker Saga film. All I'll say about it now is the film is at its best when it is building on The Last Jedi's strengths, and some of its weakest moments (one reveal in particular) come when it feels like Abrams and Co. are trying to force something that Rian Johnson seemingly ruled out. But overall, the two films (along with The Force Awakens) work very well together. The characterizations feel consistent across the films, even if the plot connections aren't as strong.

The Rise of Skywalker also does an excellent job of providing answers to things fans have been wondering about since day one of the sequel trilogy (even if I'm not thrilled with some of those answers). It also succeeds at taking smaller moments in the previous films and turning them into something more meaningful when all taken together. In the end, if answers are what you're looking for, you will find them here--but I can't guarantee you'll love them.

As for the film's role as the conclusion to the nine film saga, it's pretty fitting. Could more have been done? Yes, definitely--but nevertheless the film still manages to pay off the entire saga's themes and messages, while also making direct call backs to all eras of the saga (and even to a few of the animated series).

All in all, The Rise of Skywalker delivers in a lot of meaningful ways.  It's exhilarating, funny (without overshadowing the plot--something I can't say about the prior two films), and satisfying. It builds off the strengths of its predecessor, while still taking the story in new and unexpected directions, even if the reveals sometimes miss the mark and the film has a few moments that feel rushed. Thankfully, however, the good outweighs the bad and I left the theater with a giant grin on my face.

The sequel trilogy was a wild ride, both in-universe and out. Are the movies perfect? No. But for me Star Wars is about so much more than simply the films. It's the experience of sharing your passions with others and the connections that are made through mutual love of the galaxy far, far away. I hope you enjoy the movie but, love it or hate it, what I'm really looking forward to is talking about it with you.

You can follow me on Twitter: @DominicJ25

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


Joel Davis said...

PizzatheHutt said...

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