• James Hewlett

The Rise of Skywalker - Spoiler Free Review

Writing about this movie is hard. Trying to review it without recapping and going through it scene by scene is even harder.

I’m sure I’ll have more well rounded thoughts on it after subsequent viewings, the second of which is most likely happening tomorrow, but for now I’m going to do my best. This review will be spoiler free unless you see ample warning, so feel free to keep reading.

I don’t really need to say it at this point, unless is this your first time reading any of my stuff you should have a good idea of just how big of a Star Wars fan I am.

I can’t remember a time before Star Wars, it shaped me growing up, stuck with me throughout my youth and into adulthood. It has been the one constant in my life.

The Rise of Skywalker is the final chapter in a nine episode saga and the last movie in a trilogy. It has a lot to do in order to be able to stand on its own, cap off a three film arc and wrap up a story that started forty two years ago.

Because of all of this weight it seems almost impossible for director J.J. Abrams to be able to pull it off. In my opinion though he doesn’t just manage it, he completely nails it.

Right from the opening crawl we’re off to the races, the film starts out at an extraordinarily fast pace and never seems to let up. This will leave many people jarred and feeling like the film is a chaotic mess but for me it helped convey the sense of urgency our heroes are facing. The S is about to hit the fan at any moment and the rag tag Resistance is doing everything they can to try and thwart the evil that is baring down on the galaxy.

Talking about our heroes, we pick up with Rey, Finn, Poe and the rest of the survivors of The Last Jedi roughly a year later. Their numbers have grown some but they’re still vastly outnumbered.

The main characters are a lot more familiar with each other now but that doesn’t mean they all get on great. The back and forth between this trilogies leads is snappy and harkens back to the relationship between Han, Luke and Liea in the original trilogy.

It’s nice to see this represented in this film as it is one aspect that’s been missing up to this point due to the nature of the story.

The relationship between hero and villain is also expanded on in this final chapter and pays off on plot developments from the previous two movies.

I mentioned the action in The Rise of Skywalker and how it doesn’t let up from the start, this could be exhausting in some films, but each set piece felt unique in this one and I kept my excitement up throughout.

Each location visited is visually unique too and helps cement the sense of place in a movie that does move around a lot.

I still maintain that The Last Jedi is the best looking Star Wars movie but there was no moment in this one that I was put off by any of the visuals.

The creature effects were all phenomenal as always and I was really pleased to learn that the vast majority of them were practical as opposed to visual effect. When done well you definitely get more a sense of life from a well performed puppet.

I’ve been heaping praise on this movie for a while now and it is fair to say that I do really love it, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention some of the flaws. The Rise of Skywalker is not a perfect movie and has already proven to be just as divisive as The Last Jedi was a couple of years ago.

I enjoyed the previous movie a lot, as I did this one, but there were some moments here that made this trilogy feel disjointed.

JJ laid a groundwork with The Force Awakens and stepped away thinking he was done. Rian Johnson entered with The Last Jedi and played with the hand he was dealt and built on those foundations. He didn’t build the structure many people were expecting and it didn’t jive with a lot of people, but it was solid. He leaves thinking that the final movie is going to be taken on by Colin Trevorrow before he was let go during preproduction. The reigns are then given back to Abrams as the powers at be at Lucasfilm felt they needed to put it in the hands of as sure a thing as could be.

The problem is that we lost Carrie Fisher untimely and it’s apparent that she was intended to have a larger role in this film. There is also the matter of time, JJ was bought in late and the release was unwavering. This meant that there wasn’t a long process to really go back through the previous movies and create a script that flowed naturally. Instead the option it feels like they went with was to pick up the threads JJ had envisioned when he was working on The Force Awakens and in the process either ignoring or somewhat altering the decisions made by Johnson.

Some of the time those moments are subtle and fine, but once or twice it comes off as pandering to those who loudly complained about the previous film. I wasn’t a fan of those moments.

The other thing that could have, in my opinion, done with a little more polish was the humour. I’ve enjoyed the corny laughs in the Star Wars movies from the start but it felt like the only natural humour in this film came between Finn and Poe who have such an incredible on screen chemistry it would be hard to not enjoy any scenes they share together. C-3PO had a couple of moments that I laughed at too and it was a pleasant surprise to see the faithful droid actually have something to do in a film for the first time since Return of the Jedi in ‘83.

Other moments of comedy didn’t land for me and felt far too forced.

But really those criticisms are minor. I adored this film. I had a complete and visceral reaction many times throughout and experienced just about every emotion you can imagine.

If you think about the original trilogy, the usual consensus you’ll find is that A New Hope is the most well rounded. Empire Strikes Back is the “best.” But Return of the Jedi is my favourite.

This sequel trilogy might follow that same pattern. It’ll take some time for me to be able to stick a flag in that thought one way or the other, but that’s my gut reaction right now.

I read somewhere earlier today someone saying something like;

“Everyone seems to be doing their rankings of the Skywalker Saga so I’ll jump on the band wagon, my list goes like this:

Star Wars Movies.

All other movies.”

I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.

There is a lot of really great articles and reviews out there now and are bound to be tons more to come in the coming days. I urge you to form your own personal opinion first before seeking them out and then if and when you do, read and listen to things from both sides. It’s a good thing to have a discourse about the things we’re passionate about but piling on one way or the other is just gross and regurgitating other peoples thoughts as your own argument for the basis of your opinion is just lazy. Be cool. Respect others feelings, and may the force be with you, always.

#starwars #movies #reviews #entertainment


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