Star Wars has been going downhill ever since George Lucas began inserting mediocre CGI into his original trilogy so they’d match his inferior, digitally-created prequel trilogy. In my opinion, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of The Jedi are massively overrated but I’ll also admit that these ’70s and ’80s Star Wars films had something about them; the pioneering effects, the jolly and endearing Jim Henson puppets, and memorable characters such as the iconic duo of C-3PO and R2-D2. Unfortunately, ever since the late-’90s, when Lucas began making his three lacklustre, forever-1080p prequels, anyone who isn’t an ardent fan (including myself) has lost interest.
Disney started making back-to-back Star Wars movies three years after their 2012 acquisition of George Lucas’ Lucasfilm, and their films are obviously intent on profit-making rather than storytelling. With a couple of so-called “anthology” films also produced by this mega-corporation, even the most insignificant parts of the Star Wars lore has been (and is being) fashioned into hollow “entertainment”. The way that Disney is churning out Star Wars movies, you half-expect there to be a side-quel about who got the salvage and haulage contracts on the destroyed Death Stars, and another about how Jabba The Hutt put on weight. Disney+ is obviously going for quantity rather than quality in order to entice subscribers with their “extensive” catalogue. With nine films in total (not including the anthology films, the various animated features, and spin-off series) most of us are now feeling Star Wars fatigue.
For two decades, this franchise has quite obviously been in a decline and yet fans keep having multiple nerd-gasms every time a sequel or prequel is released. The way in which this series of films is going (in a repetitive and completely mediocre way) it could potentially go on forever with the progeny of certain characters following in their forefather’s footsteps… I want to be like great-great-great-great-grandpa Luke and defeat Darth Vader’s great-great-great-great grandson!
This is basically where the franchise is heading. Even the latest Star Wars film subtitled The Rise Of Skywalker is about the two offspring of Han Solo and SPOILER ALERT Emperor Palpatine. Aside from this relation-revelation (A New… ahem… Hope) the storyline here (like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi before it) revisits the original trilogy with multiple plot-points feeling like recycled elements from the first three scripts. I understand that most sequels are retreads of the original but in this case it’s so noticeable that it makes you sigh and yawn as you recall the last time you saw that particular scene… there goes so and so with a contrived name to a nonsense-sounding place… I’ve never seen that before 🙄. Ooh look: they need to patch-up the Millennium Falcon, the Resistance in their X-wings are outnumbered, someone’s pissing about in either sand, snow, forest, or space corridors… almost everything about these movies are now time-worn cliches. It was the often-mistaken Star Trek that originated most of these visual concepts, and parodies of Trek such as Galaxy Quest outlined and defined these cliches. Anything coming after Gene Roddenberry’s creation (and his copies) is therefore in the realms of pastiche or plagiarism. I mean seriously, doesn’t the sentence “Supreme Leader Kylo Ren obtains a Sith Wayfinder device and travels to the planet Exogol” sound like a piss-take?
Deciding to kill-off characters played by living actors whilst keeping a character alive despite the actor being deceased, there’s been some odd choices in these Disney Star Wars films. Thankfully, the reconstruction of Princess Leia isn’t as bad as Livia from The Sopranos.* The effects therefore, are the one aspect of this sequel trilogy that works and the use of puppets and miniatures in order to stylistically match the original trilogy is commendable.
*Update: the scenes which feature Carrie Fisher are actually unused shots from The Force Awakens
Overall, this film isn’t the worst in the sequel trilogy, and it definitely isn’t the worst in the entire series but The Rise Of Skywalker is nevertheless forgettable. This is basically the Jumanji: The Next Level of the Disney Star Wars series: the “meh” of all the sequels.
The acting is average but fine for the tone of this type of movie. That being said, Adam Driver seems to be unnecessarily tortured, giving a performance that looks out of place for a PG-13 Disney sci-fi flick (I suppose once he started overacting in The Force Awakens, he might as well continue with it). On the other end of the scale, Domhnall Gleeson for some reason, seems to be performing his character from Peter Rabbit albeit in a black uniform.
Plot-wise, there’s a few problems in this latest (and hopefully final) installment. Firstly, didn’t Vader chuck Palpatine down the space-tubey thingamabob in Return Of The Jedi? (it’s quite clear by that sentence I’m not a fanboy). I know this is a “space opera”, but in soap-opera style, Palpatine is back from the dead thanks to “Dark Science” (Days Of Our Lives anyone?). There’s also a few other things that niggled me. For instance: why does Kylo Ren need a helmet? Grandpa Vader needed it because his body and head were burnt and disfigured but Kylo has one scar across his misshapen face. If Tony Montana didn’t need a mask, Ben Solo definitely doesn’t need one. Also, what’s the point in the Jesus-cross-shaped lightsaber? For poking out the eyes of midget Cyclops twins? And why are there so many abandoned kids scattered across the galaxy who don’t know the identity of their parents? Can the Skywalkers, Vaders, and Palpatines not keep their penis in their plastic pants or raise their own kin? Plus, why are there American and English accents a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? And when it turns out certain characters are related, why don’t their accents match i.e. a British child with a British parent? Ah, who cares at this point?
During the finale, Palpatine for some unknown reason, outlines his plan to Rey like some sort of James Bond villain… “kill me so all the Sith spirits can reside in you!” – err, no thanks ol’ Palpy! If you consider the predictable plot and the hackneyed yet mundane dialogue, it becomes quite clear that the writing is the main problem; it’s almost like a greatest hits compilation melded with a spoof.
Another obvious problem with not only The Rise Of Skywalker but with the entire franchise, is the unbelievable plot which as I’ve already said, is not only nonsensical but also irritatingly perpetual. With Dark lords and trainee Jedis continually being created, where’s the peril? Even though the idea of unending war could be a comment on real-life wars (it isn’t because this franchise is anything but deep) the idea that the Resistance will beat the Empire only for the Empire to come back but then be defeated… again and again… is utterly monotonous and tedious. And while I’m at it, I may as well mention the feeling of repetitive inferiority: Richard E. Grant is no Peter Cushing and Adam Driver is no James Earl Jones. Kylo Ren as a character is nowhere near as menacing as Darth Vader (especially his voice which is more Bane than Jedi or Sith). And whilst on the topic of Kylo Ren, his botch-job on his helmet is very strange given the technology that surrounds him – it’s like your grandad fixed a cracked vase with red superglue – could he not just un-break it with his Jedi psychokinesis?
J.J. Abrams, who directs like he’s Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott’s butt-baby, does a decent enough job here, although “Spielberg Lite” isn’t a distinctive look for a sci-fi movie. Put another way: (Spielberg÷2) + (Scott÷2) + lens flares isn’t an equation that results in a classic film. Coupled with the repetitious plot, this is not a science fiction film that will be remembered, especially considering Disney will most likely make 30 more Star Wars movies in your lifetime.
The Rise Of Familiarity.