For someone who loves just even being inside the world of ‘Star Wars’, this reviewer was predisposed from the beginning to enjoying JJ Abrams’ ‘Rise of Skywalker’. And while there are many things to be enjoyed about the final film of the allegedly final trilogy in the Skywalker saga, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that something isn’t sitting right. And it’s most probably because it’s trying so hard to “fix” the perceived missteps of Rian Johnson’s divisive ‘The Last Jedi’, a movie that was narratively a lot more braver and original than what we watched this week.
Plot points, characters and themes introduced and carefully explored in ‘The Last Jedi’ have been hastily ditched to follow unnecessary new threads that further convolute the story. One of the most popular and biggest criticisms of ‘The Last Jedi’ was that the film took unnecessary detours, like the infamous Canto Bight scene including Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). Well, take that and crank it up to 11 and throw some steroids in there just for fun, and you get ‘Rise of Skywalker’.
The final episode of the space opera begins right in the middle of some hair-raising action as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) butchers through what looks like an entire village to get his hands on a special tracker that will lead him right to the Star Wars world’s You Know Who, Palpatine, who is in fact alive and well, to put it politely. In the rebel camp, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is going hard at her Jedi training, so she can be ready to take on Kylo and the First Order.
One of the more touching and fitting moments in the early scenes of the movie is watching the dynamic between Rey and General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher); there’s a mother-daughter bond safely tucked behind a tutor-mentor role that feels authentic here.
Despite Snoke being cut into two pieces, Kylo has managed to keep his force communication channel open with Rey, and like in ‘The Last Jedi’, the chemistry between these two actors is still crackling. The frenemies are chasing each other across planets and systems, and while the jaw-dropping visuals are, well, jaw-dropping, you wish Abrams would have let you stop and smell the roses. There is so much action packed into the roughly two-and-a-half-hour movie, you feel exhausted only half way in.
Another pair that is fun to follow is Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn. It looks like the makers listened to the internet and dug deeper into the bubbling bromance. There’s also a newfound confidence and swagger in the Poe-Rey-Finn dynamic ever since their narrow win at the Battle of Crait in the last movie, and watching the trio’s friendship blossom and deepen is rewarding.
But guess who wasn’t invited to the party? Rose Tico, the mechanic-turned-resistance-fighter who took up considerable screen time in the last movie and also kicked butt while at it, was completely and quite rudely left out of any scene that moved the plot forward. Her role in this movie could have been played by an anonymous extra and no one would have blinked. Rose deserved better, and, sadly, so do ‘Star Wars’ fans.
But, and this one’s a big but, ‘Rise of Skywalker’ is also decidedly one of the scariest things to be made in the Star Wars universe. It’s gloriously eerie and Abrams was definitely not afraid to lean into it; so much so that I often found myself covering my eyes, completely forgetting I’m watching a Disney movie.
Does the film answer some of the burning questions you’ve had since ‘The Force Awakens’ came out in 2015? Yes. Will you like said answers? Most likely, no. Any scene that does not involve Rey, Kylo, Poe and Finn can be chalked down to fan service and hasty/lazy rewrites. As good as some of the callbacks and cameos are going to feel, you’re going to forget that good feeling the minute you leave the theatre because these moments have no grounding in terms of a serviceable script.
This may be too early to say but I’d like to tenuously predict that the finale will probably be as widely panned as the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale, and it hurts to say this but the only thing that could have saved this movie would have been a cameo by Baby Yoda himself.
Don’t miss it!
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ releases in the UAE on December 18. Watch the trailer below: