2019 seems to be the year that epic sagas reach the end of the road. Marvel spectacularly rounded up 11 years of storytelling with their Infinity Saga and Games Of Thrones wobbled past the finishing line to the chagrin of many; but this ending could be the big blowout to end them all. It’s obviously got a huge standard to live up to, as not only does it have with 8 chapters, 2 spinoffs and a Disney+ TV series to make good on (no mentions of Carvan Of Courage here, please…) but it has to follow The Last Jedi, surely one of the most contentious movies made over the last 20 years. In fact, whatever you thought about Rian Johnson’s part in the saga is probably going to colour you expectation for this one; if you hated it, Rise Of Skywalker is last minute damage control, a movie that’s going to have to amass a turnaround the size of the Death Star to pull you back into the fold; if you appreciated it’s many intriguing twists then it’s got a bold new status quo to live up to. It seems that even before it comes out, this film is already going to be vastly different things to different people… an impossible task – even for J.J. Abrams?
A broadcast has gone out that has chilled the galaxy to the bone. It seems that the assumed long death Emperor is in fact alive and well and is threatening to decimate all in his path with a huge fleet of galaxy spanking armada in the name of revenge. Racing to uncover his location is the Resistance; Poe, Finn, Chewbacca and Rey who is now under the tutelage of General Leia but they must do this while avoiding the rage of new Supreme Leader Kylo Renn who still has an unhealthy obsession with Rey and now has a whole army under him to indulge in his frequent emo-tantrums. Can the the Emperor’s plot be halted, can Rey finally defeat her opposite number in Kylo and can either of them resist their opposing calls to the dark and light sides of the force?
I guess most importantly of all, is J.J. Abrams up to the task? An old hand at following up on other people’s original property (Mission: Impossible 3 & Episode 7), he’s never been too hot at sequelizing his own movies with Star Trek: Into Darkness being the glaring offender.
Well, I’m sorry to tell you all this but The Rise Of Skywalker is not only the worst of the sequel trilogy but also easily Abrams’ worst film to date. Compared to The Force Awakens’ jaunty jog and The Last Jedi’s meditative marathon, The Rise Of Skywalker is chaotic sprint to to the finish line, utterly and solely dedicated in heaping on an over abundance of plot that sacrifices character and risk in favour of frantically tying up loose ends quicker than the multiple limbed General Grievous indulging in a spot of speed knitting. Much like everything Star Wars, it’s a feeling deep within your gut that’s telling you if something works or isn’t quite right; reach out with your feelings and I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s definitely not a “yay” but it’s not a “meh” or a “grrrr” either – in fact, if anything, I’d have to say more of a “hmmmm”…
The story, while more of a “grabbing items that lead to other items that lead to the main thing” style of plotting that’s more in line with the kind of scavenger hunts that peppered the Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels, ricochets across the galaxy, duty bound to bring this whole thing to an end and while it contains a fair share of chases, blaster battles, lightsabers and dog fights, one thing that’s noticeably absent is a sense of fun. How on earth to do make Star Wars not fun? Even Rogue One was fun and everybody DIED in that!
I mean, say what you will about Solo (and many of you have) but at least it has the presence of mind to try and make you invest in it’s characters, TROS blows through introductions of characters old and new, making everything from the reintroduction of Lando to the introduction of Kerri Russell’s masked love interest Zorii Bliss seem like an afterthought. The Emperor’s much ballyhooed return, while managing to tie all three trilogies together, is diminished by being revealed in the opening crawl and eve established characters, who have actual arcs that need to be serviced are cast adrift by the midway point (Chewie, C-3P0 and even John Boyega’s Finn are rendered to mere chess pieces by the end). Only Oscar Isaacs’ Poe (given an Indiana Jones-style upgrade) and the central relationship of Ridley’s Rey and Driver’s Kylo manage to grasp the limelight and hold onto for dear life as various planets and plot points whizz past like an asteroid field.
And yet, despite the rather careless story telling there is still some of the old magic here; Snoke’s origins offhandedly and cheekily explained away in a casual pan of the camera, a flashback of Luke and Leia training and Rey and Kylo clashing on the wave battered Death Star wreckage drawing parallels with Anakin and Obi-Wan’s lava soaked showdown all prove that not everything here is about obsessively dotting the i’s and lining the t’s and, if nothing else, it IS a definite ending.
Bearing in mind that only a Sith deals in absolutes and that even after many years of release, Return Of The Jedi was dismissed for many similar reasons as the ones I’ve listed here; time may yet be a great healer to The Rise Of Skywalker and as the years pass it may grow to even be loved, but in the right here and right now, it’s nowhere near the duel of the fates we all hoped for.
So that’s it. The Skywalker Saga is done.
You can go about your business.