Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Ian McDiarmid, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams
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…while it has some fun moments, solid performances and striking imagery, it’s simply too procedural and soulless to be anything more than adequate.
The Star Wars sequel trilogy, comprising The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and Rise of Skywalker (2019) has been a weird, disjointed game of push me, pull you. The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, arrived on a frothy wave of nostalgia that was almost enough to make you ignore the fact that the story was essentially a soft reboot of A New Hope (1977), complete with a ‘what if Death Star but more?’ central conflict and an antagonist, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who was a Sith stan, essentially lobbing about in Darth Vader cosplay!
Rian Johnson’s divisive The Last Jedi followed, and remains one of the most beautifully shot blockbusters in recent memory. It’s also saddled with a spectacularly cack-handed script that includes highlights such as: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – a bloke who was once willing to lay down his own life to save his dad – attempting to murder his best mate’s kid in his sleep, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) fanging around the cold vacuum of space like Mary Poppins after a fat line of bathtub goey and the longest, dullest second act “chase” between two incredibly slow ships that defies even the low standard of logic and pacing set by previous Star Wars entries.
Which brings us to The Rise of Skywalker, a film that was handed back to J.J. Abrams after originally slated director Colin Treverrow got shitcanned for reasons that will no doubt become clear at some point in the future. And the result is… messy but okay? See, this is where the push me, pull you thing comes in. J.J. Abrams had his own plan, which Rian Johnson subverted and then J.J. had to come back and retcon a bunch of things to make his story fit, and the end result is a lumbering Frankenstein’s monster of a story that feels so micromanaged and inconsistent it’s almost avant garde.
The story revolves around our returning heroes, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and a mostly-CGI Leia on their quest to find several McGuffins that are littered about in various expensive-looking locations. They’re doing this to help combat the return of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Oh yeah, Palpatine’s back. This is revealed in a blunt, tension-free fashion in the opening minutes and never explained to any degree of satisfaction. In fact, that describes the film as a whole, full of action and call-backs and stuff occurring, but very little downtime to reflect on anything. That said, if you can channel your inner twelve-year-old there is enjoyment to be had. The design of Star Wars is, as usual, peerless. Iconic ships, soldiers, monsters and locations fill the screen with cheerful frequency, doing their best to mask the deep deficiencies of the script.
And by the way, despite sticking the boot into The Last Jedi (deservedly so, in all honesty), we’re genuinely not here to slag off Rian Johnson or even J.J. Abrams. No, the biggest problem with this Star Wars sequel trilogy is that they seem to be making it up as they go along; reactive writing is rarely good writing, which these movies illustrate all too clearly. The plan for this trilogy should have started with a killer premise, followed by three rock solid treatments, followed by three finished, polished and ready-to-shoot screenplays that were then adhered to. Writing is the cheapest part of the process and yet for some reason the powers that be spent the least amount of time on it. Well, this is what you hath wrought. A thin, inconsistent, occasionally baffling trilogy that captured nary but a fraction of the soul of the original films.
Star Wars is a hugely important cultural touchstone to many, but in all honesty this sequel trilogy is a bit of a mess. The Rise of Skywalker is just the latest example of the same, and while it has some fun moments, solid performances and striking imagery, it’s simply too procedural and soulless to be anything more than adequate. Kids, the actual intended audience for this, will likely have a decent time, but for the rest of us, maybe it’s time to accept that Star Wars’ time in the sun is over. At least until they hire some writers and belt out a decent script.