By Alan Yudman
Look, if you are making a Star Wars movie you will never ever please everyone. But, STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER tries so hard to please fans who hated THE LAST JEDI, it sometimes forgets it is its own thing and not a piece of fan fiction. Because to be sure, there are a lot of this movie that seems to have come from a Star Wars Reddit group.
The issue here is in this final trilogy two different directors got to tell the story. J.J. Abrams was responsible for THE FORCE AWAKENS (TFA) and THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (TROS). Rian Johnson was given THE LAST JEDI (TLJ). THE FORCE AWAKENS did a great job reintroducing us to this universe and brought back Han, Leia and Chewbacca (with just a hint of Luke). It felt new and old at the same time and set up some interesting character arcs. Johnson decided to really explore the development of Rey, Kylo Ren, Fin and Poe. It worked to make it a story with deeper meaning, you know, a real step forward. But that angered fans and Abrams was given the final film in this 9 movie saga.
Abrams tosses out a lot of what Johnson brought to the table. Johnson’s TLJ set up the inevitable confrontation between Rey and Kylo for control of the Force and the universe. Abrams tosses that aside and brings back a character everyone believed long dead, Emperor Palpatine. Kylo also told Rey her parents were nobodies in TLJ. Well, maybe not according to this re-writing of history. Kelly Marie Tran’s “Rose Tico” is nearly written out of TROS. The character was a badass in TLJ. She’s nearly invisible here, apparently addressing all the undeserved hate the actor got after the last movie. Then there is the inclusion of Carrie Fisher’s “General Leia”. Fisher died before filming began for TROS. So how to write her out? You don’t. Abrams used archive footage of the actress left on the cutting room floor after TFA. So to include that, he and co-writer Chris Terrio had to write around her dialogue. The result is Leia appears in scenes but never feels a part of them. Abrams seems to try to address that lack of human connection by having her hug Rey. I’m not sure it works at all. There are a few other eye rolling fan service moments that I won’t spoil here. Hey, if I had to be surprised by them why should I deny you the pleasure.
All this would seem to lead you to believe I hate this movie. I don’t. It is fun and thrilling in moments. It is satisfying to see the arc of this story come to an end, even if that end feels more like merely a stoppage of time rather than a conclusion to a story.
Star Wars isn’t going away. THE MANDALORIAN on Disney + is an absolute thrill. There are rumors of other projects in the works though Disney and Lucasfilm haven’t shared any details. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER ends a nonology that has been a part of my life for more than 40 years. It is a fun movie, but could have been so much more.