Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley

Author

A bit fast-paced, with wall-to-wall dialogue and dizzying scene changes, almost like there’s a rush to wrap up the story and franchise as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. Maybe it had to be like this. Maybe there was just too much for Abrams to do, too much ground to cover, too many loose ends to tie up, in this final film.

What I think this film needed, which may not have been possible without making an already long film even longer, were moments of contemplation and reflection. In any drama, it’s in these moments that we catch our breath, reassess the story and the characters, and make our emotional connections to them. Here, the only emotion is felt in the end, when we do indeed have these moments of contemplation and reflection. That’s no coincidence. Just think there should have been more of that.

Great to see all the familiar characters one last time. Driver’s such a strong presence, isn’t he? Remarkable job getting Fisher back with some real footage. Her shoehorned inclusion into the story is not perfect, but it’s honorable, and the effects they used to make it happen are really good. Surprised to see Harrison again, glad he returned one last time. Good to see Billy Dee, but he’s so inconsequential that it felt a little forced.

Indeed, some reviews are saying that this film indulged in fan service:

It does so by relishing in the familiarity of that lauded past. Emperor Palpatine’s back! Our heroes are running around in the Tantive IV again! Kylo Ren’s literally reforged his Vader-esque mask to don once more! Here’s Lando! Here’s Luke lifting the X-Wing he could not lift in Empire Strikes Back! Here’s Leia, flashing back to her youthful days and learning to become the Jedi people were hand-wringing about since The Last Jedi dared to acknowledge she could use the Force! Here are so many spaceships you know—so many! Here’s Tatooine! Here’s some Ewoks!

But isn’t this what Abrams had to do? This is the only way to end a franchise, especially a long-running, family-friendly, generation-spanning, merchandise-heavy one like Star Wars. You must play to the familiarity, enjoying and paying homage to all that came before it. You can’t just take a left turn and go somewhere deep and dark and twisted with the characters and story. Can you imagine the outrage if these familiar characters and themes didn’t return? The outrage would be ten times worse.

Action is beautifully shot. Effects, near as I can tell, are seamless. This is the first time we see that small objects can be “teleported” with the force, an important plot point. My only criticisms are that some of Rey’s swordplay was not exceptional and Driver’s face was awkwardly obscured during the emotional turn in his final moments.

All in all, I think Abrams did a great job tying up everything from where many would say Rian Johnson took things astray. Abrams brought it home with respect and homage to the franchise and an ending that just feels right. Beautiful final shot with dual suns.

The Star Wars franchise is all about family, isn’t it? It’s important to trace your roots, but if you can’t find them, or if you don’t like what you find, then create a new family of your own by surrounding yourself with people who love you.

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