Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is a thrilling rollercoaster ride that will impact on the emotions of the fans without really giving them the ending they want.
Ok, here we go.
After 42 years, eight-episode films, two standalone movies, several animated shows, a cringe-worthy holiday special and a fantastic new live-action TV show, we finally come to the ninth and final instalment in the Skywalker saga, ‘The Rise Of Skywalker‘. As I stated before in my pre-review article, I saw the film for the first time at a press screening in London on Tuesday night and didn’t quite know what to make of it. I said it would take a few viewings to get my head around the film as a whole and it has. It will divide the fanbase again but not to the level of ‘The Last Jedi‘. It does have some problems with it as a whole which the hardcore fans will take issue with. It is, however, like ‘Revenge Of The Sith‘ before it, the best of the new trilogy of films. Will it be proclaimed as the best Star Wars film of them all? Not a chance, you’ll never be able to top ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ in that department. Will it be in the top five Star Wars films of all time? Debatable. It is though, a thrilling rollercoaster ride that will impact on the emotions of the fans without really giving them the ending they want. It gives us an ending but as it’s been said before, ‘This won’t go the way you think’.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker | Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Pictures
We open as always with the familiar logo and the blast of the fanfare that has encompassed the saga ever since it blasted onto screens back in 1977. John Williams gives the opening the energy and pomp that it deserves and what we have come to expect. After the familiar crawl, we are thrust straight into the action as Kylo Ren is on the hunt for the source of The Emperor’s transmission, only found by using a Sith Wayfinder, a kind of map embedded in a Holocron. This is a nice touch and a nod to the stories seen in the animated series, ‘Star Wars: Rebels‘. Ren tracks the signal to the planet Exogol, a world not listed on any conventional star chart. Landing his ship and hunting through the temple he finds, Ren is confronted with an astonishing truth. It is here we hear *SPOILER ALERT* the voices of both Snoke AND Vader. This has been revealed before in a clip released before the film was released but is still a joy to be heard. And now we meet and see The Emperor once more. My problem with Palpatine’s return is quite simple. We are never told HOW he survived his fate in ‘Return Of The Jedi‘. We can form our own conclusions with what we hear from him during the film’s events but it is never clear. Palpatine gives Kylo Ren a new mission as Supreme Leader and offscreen, reveals everything about Rey, something we will find out for ourselves later in the film.
Next, we are with Poe, Finn, Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millenium Falcon as they speed through hyperspace in their mission to acquire data transmitted by a First Order spy. This goes sideways and we are treated to a thrilling chase sequence between the Falcon and pursuing TIE Fighters. All this is punctuated by Williams’ score. We now move on to find Rey in the middle of her Jedi training, attempting to commune with the spirits of the Jedi from the past and failing. Rey then decides to run the assault course she is required to do as part of her training, chased by a remote droid in a nice throwback to Luke’s first training aboard the Falcon in ‘A New Hope‘. However, Rey is distracted by the feeling of Kylo Ren and fails the course miserably. The Falcon returns and the data contents are revealed, giving the Resistance a countdown before their final destruction is commenced.
To go any further into details about the film and its story will tread heavily into spoiler territory and is something I refuse to do. The film DEMANDS to be seen on the big screen and the audience deserves to go into it CLEAN. If you are planning to see the film, I suggest staying as far away from the internet and in particular, social media sites as, sadly, there are many people out there determined to spoil the joy and surprises that the film contains. The shocks and surprises (and there are quite a few of each) deserve to be discovered during the film’s 142-minute runtime.
Okay, lets us get the negatives out of the way first. The story really feels like it has been thrown together. Some of the threads and seeds that were sown in ‘The Force Awakens‘ and ‘The Last Jedi‘ are completely overlooked and abandoned. It’s kind of a slapdash approach in respect to the film’s writing and one that, on first viewing, I had a problem with. The problem does diminish somewhat on a second viewing but the problems still remain. It is common knowledge that the script was almost completely rewritten after Colin Trevorrow’s departure from the film but Chris Terrio and J J Abrams’ screenplay has some major flaws within its pages and this is reflected during the course of the film.
Again, many characters are sidelined and this is not exclusive to the classic characters. Many of the new or newer characters have barely enough screentime to shine or be given enough to do. Kelly Marie Tran’s character of Rose for example. In the previous film, she was shown as a tough, determined young woman. Here, she is relegated to minor player status, a slap in the face to the young actress after all the turmoil she faced from the internet trolls after the last film. Her role in the film is so limited that if she didn’t appear at all, we wouldn’t really notice. And that is completely unfair to Ms Tran. Likewise Keri Russell, a newcomer to the franchise as ‘Zorri Bliss‘. Her role and appearance are similar to Zam Wesell from ‘Attack Of The Clones‘. Her screen time is around the same too. R2-D2 again is pushed into the shadows as is Chewbacca himself. It is always going to be hard to juggle enough screentime for all the characters that the franchise contains but some are almost ignored completely.
It pains me to say that John Williams’ score for the film, a staple and something that we all hold dear is considerably lacking this final time around. Of course, we get the blasts of the classic themes as the film deserves but they are few and far between. Classic motifs such as The Imperial March get a brief look in during proceedings but a fair part of the score contains the Emperor’s theme, which is haunting as it should be. However, surrounding these welcome and expected themes, we have a score that hardly suits the film. The new music is disappointing in general. It was reported that Williams wrote 135 minutes worth of new music for the film. I can report that, apart from around three minutes during the course of the film and part of the end credits montage that brings a huge smile to the viewers face, the rest of the score is a letdown. It is a score that lets the film down and that is one of the biggest shames the film could have offered us.
Now for the positives, which I am relieved to say are many. Not all can be reported here for reasons that will become clear during the film but when you see them, you will know what I mean. The late Carrie Fisher shines in her limited role in the film, giving us a sad thought of what might have been if our beloved Princess was still with us in the real world. Her appearance is tactful and handled with huge sensitivity and Abrams must be given huge credit for how he handles such a delicate matter. Mark Hamill, in what is really only a cameo role but thankfully has dialogue and longer screentime than ‘The Force Awakens‘, is a delight as the now Force ghost Luke Skywalker. His appearance gained a massive cheer at both screenings I attended and is completely deserved. The acting is once again pretty top-notch and shows what a great future Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have in front of them post-Star Wars. Adam Driver this time around plays Ren less whiny than we have seen him before and is a welcome addition this time. The special effects, though I did notice one that was a bit under-par, is once again a marvel to behold, The Falcon chase near the start of the film is a standout. The locations are beautifully presented to us in all their colourful glory and the production design is once again, without reproach. But apart from things I cannot and WILL not mention, the main thrill came when we finally see the great Billy Dee Williams return to the screen once again as Lando Calrissian. Finally, the fourth and final part of the wheel comes back into play, after the returns of Luke, Leia and Han in the previous movies. A really large cheer was reserved pacifically for the first screen appearance of Lando in the film and is totally deserved. Williams slips on the persona of Lando as easily as one of Lando’s cloaks slips on. It is effortless.
Some of the surprises the film contains that I won’t reveal top everything. The viewer will need to keep their eyes and ears out for everything throughout the events of the film from the start right up to the end credits. The thrill and excitement and knowing smiles will flow naturally from the audience when these surprises happen.
Is the film the perfect ending to the Skywalker saga? No, It’s not. There are certain elements and plotlines that are lacking to make the film the completely satisfying ending to a journey that started 42 years ago. However, what we are given is good old fashioned entertainment, a throwback to sitting in a movie screen many years ago and marvelling at a new kind of science fiction movie, the likes of which somehow wormed its way into the hearts and minds of audiences the world over. Did I shed a tear or two at the end? I’m not ashamed to say, yes I did. It wasn’t for what I saw on the screen (though the final shot helped) but for the finality of something that I grabbed as a seven-year-old child, Something that has been with me for the years since until now, as an adult, I viewed the final act, the curtain call, the swan song of something that has been with me almost all of my life.
In 1983, we all thought it was over. In 2005, we felt the same way again.
Now, in 2019, we can say goodbye to what is, in essence, the greatest family saga of all time, once and for all. The Star Wars saga as we know it is over. We will never see the likes of it again, most certainly not in my lifetime. As I exited the theatre as the final strains of the end credits music faded, I looked back at the screen one final time and wished a fond farewell to an old friend. Was it a perfect goodbye? No. But make no bones about it, this IS the final goodbye. The saga may be over but the legend will live forever.
‘The Force will be with you, always’
Maybe not. But the legend of ‘Star Wars‘ always will be.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and is playing in cinemas NOW!
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Indiana Jones and Horror movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!