Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (spoiler-free review)


Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Greg Grunberg, Shirley Henderson, Billie Lourd, Dominic Monaghan, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid

Words – Josh Senior

You won’t find any spoilers in this review…

We’re finally here, nine movies, the end of a cycle (well this current cycle, the wheels of endless sci-fi commercialisation roll ever on)… and with the Rise of Skywalker, the narrative that George Lucas first laid out inevitably draws to a close… sort of.

It’s been four years since the release of The Force Awakens and in that time Disney have squeaked out an entire trilogy of new films as well as side stories Rogue One, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Generally, up until now, the results have been pretty good, with 2017’s The Last Jedi being a personal favourite. But the fun stops here, The Millenium Falcon is out of juice.

The essential problem with Rise of Skywalker is politics, from boardroom level down.
Star Wars is the hottest commodity in the cinema industry, and with so many people having such a vested interest in how this final piece fits into the wider Star Wars landscape, we’ve got something oddly misshapen. A horse designed by committee will always be a camel, and where Disney could have gone out with a bang, they’ve produced a wet armpit fart of a movie.

Where previously Disney have let their filmmakers harness their skill and joy effectively, we’ve been given the best movies. JJ Abrams was allowed to give his simplistic yet polished take with The Force Awakens, and Rian Johnson was let off the leash with The Last Jedi, but director firings and creative clashes have marred Disney over the last four years leading to muted critical responses. Fear set in, and they bolted at the first sign of trouble. In the final hour reinstating JJ Abrams to wrap up the trilogy on a reduced timeline. He managed to finish the film, but that feels like the only goal, because given more time, surely he could have done better?

Rise of the Skywalker isn’t a film in the traditional sense. It isn’t someone telling a story for the love of telling that story. It lacks nuance, intrigue and most damning of all, spectacle. It is a film designed to answer problems, to tick boxes and try to tie the threads of many dangling narratives. It does none of these things. It doesn’t actually “end the saga” as its marketing campaign would suggest, leaving some strange side stories open for future developments (or simply just leaves characters hanging with nothing) and nor does it do justice to the previous two movies.

You’ve got to feel bad for poor Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issacs) doing the best they can with their strange on-screen bromance, only to be left looking on as other people get to do the really heroic stuff. Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) take their shot at the Shakesperian showdown, but are hampered by poor pacing and even worse dialogue. Bizarrely, the character given the most emotional range is Anthony Daniels’ C3-PO, who gets a genuine moment of pathos, but then has it all snatched away as all the drama is sucked into a bad pun. The only highlight throughout is being able to see Carrie Fisher on screen again.

There isn’t much of a narrative either, the film starts during a high speed chase, and continues like that for 141 minutes. Rey and co. have to go to one planet to pick up a MacGuffin which then leads to the next planet, and then each time they’re caught up by Kylo and his muted goons, The Knights of Ren – much teased over the last two movies, who literally do nothing in this one. Rey and Kylo clash lightsabers quite a bit, and then they reach their end goal, their big standoff with one Emperor Palpatine. There is no innovation, no time for pause or reflection, it feels like you’re slowly being pushed towards the cinema exit the whole time… “yeah that’s it, we finished it now, let’s all forget this happened, bye…”

From odd cameos, to bad jokes and space horses (sorry that’s kind of a spoiler), through many hokey alien costumes, poorly placed flashbacks and finally ending with a homage so predictable, Rise of Skywalker is quite simply a catastrophic failure.
Leaving aside the issues of fandom, and cult status, it’s just a poorly thought out film in every sense. A bad story that a great bunch of characters didn’t deserve.

Maybe we all just need a break from Star Wars for a bit?
And I REALLY LOVE Star Wars.