It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Disney could do no wrong when it acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012. The House of Mouse had led Marvel Studios to dominate the box office and was on a roll with animated hits both out of Pixar and its own in-house animation studies; logic would dictate that Star Wars would be a no-brainer for the company to absorb and breathe fresh life into. Nobody would have predicted that eight years and three films later (five if you count the spin-offs) we would be watching something as mind-numbingly dumb and painfully anti-climactic as The Rise of Skywalker.
I’ll try not to dwell too much on Disney’s past missteps. I already listed the myriad of issues plaguing the franchise in my positive review of The Mandalorian‘s first episode. But it’s hard to ignore just how massively mishandled Star Wars has been under Disney’s care, particularly the new trilogy. This trilogy should have been the crown jewel of the series; instead, a Disney Plus spin-off is the only thing keeping the franchise relevant.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has blamed the lackluster reception of the newer Star Wars films on audience fatigue caused by releasing too many movies too closely together. While watching Rise of Skywalker, it becomes increasingly obvious that it’s not the quantity of Star Wars that’s the problem. It’s the quality.
Almost every problem with Rise of Skywalker can be traced back to bad decisions that were made with The Force Awakens and compounded by The Last Jedi. To its credit, Rise of Skywalker does try to salvage things as best it can. And, for once, the new trilogy seems to finally attempt to pay proper respect to Star Wars’ roots, but unfortunately it all comes too little too late.
This feels like it should have been split into two movies. Rise of Skywalker comes across as the true sequel to The Force Awakens, virtually rendering The Last Jedi even more disposable than it already was, but by virtue of being the de facto final chapter it feels both rushed and yet overlong for trying to stuff too much into one film. A lot of convenient plot devices are forced to fit into the narrative no matter how inorganic and out of left field they are, all just because this trilogy wasn’t properly executed or outlined from the start.
The main characters don’t even seem to want to be here. They spend half of the time bickering over each other and shaking their heads in annoyed dismay. The screenwriters have had three films to build these characters into a cohesive well-managed team, but it feels like they barely know each other let alone like each other. No matter though, you don’t really need a team anyway when you have Rey who is simply gifted at everything. Everyone else is just along for the ride.
Let’s be clear about one thing though. The cast is fine. Daisy Ridley makes for a fine Jedi warrior. John Boyega’s acting chops are not in dispute. Adam Driver elevates the material he’s given to a respectable level. And so on and so forth. But all of these performers are done a disservice by the script.
Think about how cool Daisy Ridley’s Rey would have been if she wasn’t so overpowered as to render many of her scenes boring and superfluous. Imagine what John Boyega could have done with Finn’s character. Finn is an ex-Stormtrooper for crying out loud – the potential is endless with that backstory, but it’s been wasted for three movies straight now. Arguably, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren might actually be the only character that’s been allowed to have an actual story arc, but even his talents are overshadowed by the sheer stupidity of the plot.
Poor George Lucas was ridiculed for the midi-chlorians concept introduced in the prequels, but that’s nothing compared to the absolute drivel on display here. Lucas at least had the good sense to make the prequels a totally different beast tonally than the original trilogy, while preserving key characters. He wasn’t trying to tread the same old territory again. In contrast, this newer trilogy has done the complete opposite. It has tried to recreate the originals with totally new and bland characters that pushed the original cast into nothing more than supporting roles, and the end result speaks for itself. By trying to please everyone, Lucasfilm has pleased no one.
Still, I don’t want to sound too sour. Rise of Skywalker does have some great special effects. And the score is amazing. Of course, it’s John Williams so we should expect no less. There’s also one scene in particular I won’t spoil that could have saved the film and perhaps even the trilogy had there been more scenes like it throughout.
Moreover, as cheesy as most of the humor is in the film, there was at least one line from C-3PO that made me chuckle. And as dumb as the plot may be, there are still some ideas here that could have worked if given the proper execution. Those decent ideas can make you feel even more frustrated when you think about what could have been. The whole trilogy just feels like one giant, wasted opportunity at this point.
The most I can say for Rise of Skywalker is that if you haven’t been enjoying the newer Star Wars movies so far, you probably won’t like it. And if you have been enjoying them so far, you still might not like it.