Directed By J.J Abrams
Starring – Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega
The Plot – The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action
– Alluring presentation. Still the strong-suit in Abrams’ grand scale documentation, which brings forth enhanced emphasis in setting the stage for this to be the dramatic final installment. The colorful textures used to illustrate the diversity in worlds and respective cultures not only brought a true beauty to the Star Wars Universe that has been blossoming like a rare flower over the previous three installments, but also alludes to the long-distance feel that our protagonists travel on, during their ambitious quest. Aside from this, the swinging cinematography from Dan Mindel brings forth more of the velocity that has made the rebooted “Star Trek” series stand-out, and here it only helps drive the intensity of these ship warfare sequences to illustrate the ultimate price that both sides are risking. If nothing else, “Rise of Skywalker” is a beautiful film that might not equal the stunning photography of Rian Johnson in “The Last Jedi”, but does capture the wide range of geographical pulse that is at stake in this important final chapter.
– Special effects. Disney has once again immersed us believably in a combination of seamless de-aging and computer generated species to breathe life into the fantastical aspects of this cherished property. On the former, the subtlety of familiar faces turn back the clock once more on immortality, and bring us full circle with the time period we were first introduced to them, giving us a satisfying reminder of this series more than 42 year decorated history. On the latter, the movements and lighting articulation of the generated characters and landscapes gives the film a big budget visual volume without sacrificing the luster of practicality from the initial chapters that brought these creatures to life before our very eyes. Aside from the distinguishing uniqueness in character designs, it’s important to note the satisfying compromise of big and small body frames that better help flesh out their personalities, which in turn makes them inevitible toy constructs in a toy store near you.
– Twists. Unfortunately, not every question and subplot is answered and addressed fruitfully within the narrative, but the deposit of two pivotal twists to the character dynamics established life into a sagging story, and better fleshed the characters out against characterization that was previously disappointing before this film. One of the twists better evens the playing field when playing opposite to Kylo Ren’s jaded disposition between good and evil, and certainly wasn’t what I was thinking to a series question that has spanned three films now. The other one is more for short-term effect, and wasn’t really elaborated on in a way that made it important for anything other than a convenient plot device. Even still, I can’t hate on Abrams for throwing a monkey wrench in the narrative when it needed it the most, and choosing to capitalize on long-spanning questions when their impact could be felt the loudest.
– Family cast. I call it this because everyone involved, big and small, have grown together throughout these three films, and “Rise of Skywalker” is the culmination of such character arcs reaching their potential, especially with Ridley, Driver, and Oscar Isaac. For those first two names, it’s been interesting seeing each of them give into their ulterior sides, especially Driver, who easily dominates the movie with a psychological confliction that bears the weight of past decisions weighing heavily on his current day choices. Ridley still commands the toughness that most little girls never get to see on the big screen, but it’s Daisy’s longing in Rey that better illustrates the growth and maturity that the character has taken on. As such, she stands as a beacon or Rey of hope (See what I did there?) for her people, willing to risk everything within herself to get the resistance finally to the finish line that they have been so painfully close to. Isaac’s Poe is still my favorite character, combining tinseltown bravado and charm that stand as the film’s comic muscle. Seeing these three interact together for the first time in the series cemented the family dynamic that so much of this series has outlined for the audience, but also gave us no shortage of interaction between them that elaborated at the annoyances of time spent together.
– The man, the legend. No I’m not talking about Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, but musical composer John Williams, who has scored every film in the franchise, on his way to once more enamoring us with a thunderous intensity that elevates each scene. As to where Rey, Poe, or even Princess Leia take breaks throughout the film, Williams constant impression over the film remains prominent, and takes us through all of the highs and lows of emotional resonance that spun like a roller-coaster over the screenplay. The orchestral accompaniment certainly help booster the echoing enchantment of familiarity within these tones, but Williams’ finest work comes through in the climatic third act, when darkness blankets us in claustrophobia, and Williams score marches us to a coliseum with 808 drums and horns, to audibly set the stage in a way that echoes finality. John rivets us consistently by harvesting emotional pulse where scenes often fall short because of limited direction, and prove why he is one of the all-time greats in manufacturing so many iconic themes that will live in infamy.
– Fan service. As to where “The Last Jedi” is a movie that is critically a success, and a failure for fans, I feel the opposite will be said about “Rise of Skywalker”, mainly because of the unlimited fan service of Easter Eggs and character pop-ups to warm fans of the previous cherished films. This is normally a problem for me in movies that haven’t earned it, but considering Star Wars is arguably the most legendary movie franchise of all time, with a variety of generations embracing its characters and stories, it would be a huge disservice not lure them all in with one taste or another. Nothing ever felt obvious or over-the-top for me in dominating the focus of the scenes they accommodate, and these subtle reminders are bricks that are being stacked in a world that has taken place over eleven total films. If you’re going to insert fan service, put it in the final film of the franchise that ties everything together. Abrams appreciation for the entire series is prominent in the many quirks he deposits along the way, and if this kind of pandering doesn’t get to you, I think it will appeal in a way that it won’t as equal to critics.
– Shifting pacing. This is easily the biggest problem in this film, which makes it feel like two different movies converged into one painful Frankenstein experiment. For the first act of the film, we are treated to the same Abrams swift pacing that usually works wonders for keeping the story moving, but here limits the growth and potential of key developments, that fly by with little to no resonating value. It often feels like a DVD Fast-Forward feature that is on Fast-Forward 1, where you can still see and hear what is going on, but the dialogue is flying by in a way that makes it uncomfortable for audiences to absorb anything in. As for the other two acts, everything dramatically slows down in a way that not only alienates the initial 45 minutes that we are first brought into, but offers such very little movement and creativity for the rest of the film that could’ve otherwise needed a push right up until the final battle is made. It’s an overall sloppy method of storytelling that takes its time with unnecessary matters, and then brutally destroys the nuance of developing what’s pivotal to character dynamics in a way that works hand-in-hand with its 130 minute run time.
– Contradictions. “Rise of Skywalker” might be the most difficult sequel to accept to its predecessor, mainly because of the themes established in “The Last Jedi”, which are anything but the case here. One of the things that I enjoyed about “The Last Jedi”, where most were disappointed on, was the destroying of all things past that allowed the new characters and plots to develop without the ensuing fan service, which often feels desperate. That’s all thrown out the window, however, as this movie’s whole structure is about embracing the past. How can a series of characters and mentalities behind the lens change so abruptly from one director to another? It not only makes subplots within this film that weren’t hinted at in “The Last Jedi” pop-up unceremoniously, but also never capitalizes on the desperation of the Jedi, that I thought was set up wonderfully at the end of the previous film. Our first introduction into their world makes it look like they have lost nothing, and this in turn diminishes the uncertainty that many of them face in going against what feels like insurmountable odds.
– Meaningless deaths. This is big on Abrams direction, because there are two pivotal deaths in the film that conjure up about as much emotion and lasting power to the group as a daisy in a garden of a thousand daisies. One of these is downright insulting, considering it happens virtually off-screen, and isn’t explained with half of the depth that it requires, based on how important this character should be to everything around them. This is Abrams’ job to let us the audience absorb some of the grief that is being felt in the group, and the overall helplessness that should be present from losing such pivotal pieces. Instead, they are forgotten about by next scene, and for one of them a huge plot hole remains with what was previously established. Without spoiling anything, I will say that one character has life-altering power in helping those with ailments, and that power wasn’t used here for no reason what so ever.
– Disappointing fight sequences. I’m leaving the final conflict out as a whole, because that’s a list of problems in its own. What I am referring to are the seven (Yes, that’s right) different lightsaber battles throughout the film, and none of them coming anywhere close to the impressive fight choreography that was “The Last Jedi” red room scene. Essentially, they lack impact because they are not only shot up close, but also with a series of choppy editing that makes it difficult to properly register what is taking place. Aside from this, the balance of struggle between sides is entirely one-sided, leaving so much vulnerability and uneasiness left on the sidelines of scenes that could use extra emphasis to keep its audience invested. For a final movie, there’s nothing in physical conflict that is anywhere near acceptable for final resolution, leaving us disappointed for a confrontation that is over four decades in the making.
My Grade: 6/10 or C