DECEMBER 27, 2019
It’s finally over.
The nine-film “Star Wars” saga, probably the most remarkable series in film history, has come to a final conclusion with “The Rise of Skywalker.” After its spectacular introduction with the 1977 “Star Wars,” (or Episode 4 or “A New Hope” or whatever the hell they’re calling it) that hit like a thunderclap on the film scene, however, it’s about time to put this poor thing out of its misery.
After the first three films, including “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” there were three forgettable prequels (Episodes 1-3), then the “Jedi” storyline was picked up in 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” followed by 2017’s “The Last Jedi” and now “The Rise of Skywalker.” The J.J. Abrams-directed “The Force Awakens” was a good return to the main “Star Wars” storyline that re-steered the franchise back to what made it effective in the first place. It was conventional, however, which its sequel, Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi,” was not. That film took a tremendous number of chances with the “Star Wars” legacy, with Daisy Ridley’s Rey becoming a truly independent woman.
I liked what Johnson did with “The Last Jedi” a lot, but “Star Wars” fanboys absolutely hated it with lots of “How dare you?” kind of tweets. (If you don’t have to go there, avoid Film Twitter if you can. It gets absolutely toxic at times.) Unfortunately, instead of appreciating Johnson for taking a few risks with “The Last Jedi,” producer Kathleen Kennedy yanked the franchise back and returned it to J.J. Abrams, who undid all of the interesting storylines of “The Last Jedi” and catered to the fanboys with the utterly predictable and unfortunately boring “The Rise of Skywalker.”
In the new film, Abrams has resurrected the long-ago deceased Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who apparently has been pulling the strings behind all we have seen for the past 35 years, including enlisting Han Solo’s son Ben (Adam Driver) into becoming Kylo Ren and luring him to the dark side. It makes no sense, but OK. Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) reunite to fight Kylo, who joins forces with the First Order, the dictatorship introduced in “The Force Awakens” that’s trying to overthrow the New Republic and retake control of the galaxy.
There’s a lot of character interaction here, with Finn having a thing for Rey, and Poe (maybe) having a thing for Finn, but it’s “Star Wars,” so no one gets really sexual here. And no one is ever quite dead. Palpatine is back, and Luke (Mark Hamill) appears to inspire Rey, and Han Solo is back to try to convince Kylo Ren to abandon the dark side and embrace his former identity as Ben Solo.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with “The Rise of Skywalker,” but on the whole, it’s just meh. For a series that shook up critics and the film industry in 1977, to end a nine-film series on a blah note is disappointing, to say the least. Abrams at least doesn’t disrespect the franchise, but I just wish that he created a finale that was worthy of what George Lucas imagined in 1977. Unfortunately, “The Rise of Skywalker” ain’t it.