20th Dec2019

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Review #2

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Richard E. Grant, Joonas Suotamo | Directed by J.J. Abrams

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For me this is the most personal film I’ve ever had to review, its one the most personal film I’ve probably ever had to watch, and I imagine there are millions of people around the world with the same feelings as me. It pains me then to say that this movie is by no means great and there are sections of the movie that aren’t very good at all, however as with any Star Wars film there is a certain magic that I can’t help be swept away in, no matter how much the critic in me is telling me I’m watching a poorly crafted film.

To understand my feelings with Star Wars it takes me all the way back to 1977 when my mum would have been only eleven and sat down in the theatre to watch the very first Star Wars film. She returned again in 1980 and again in 1983 to witness what she believed was the end of the trilogy, and the Skywalker story forever. So in 1994 when I finally care along, it’s no surprise my mum thought of the perfect films to sit me in front of the tv with and wear out our VHS. On any given day if my mum wanted to shut me up all she had to do was sit me in front of a television screen and press play on any of the original three Star Wars movies, and that was it, I was lost in the adventure. So naturally in 1999 when The Phantom Menace was released I was taken to the cinema to have a new Star Wars experience. I loved it. I was after all only five years old, so all I really remember is coming out of the theatre and engaging in a lightsaber duel with my cousins. Then again in 2002 I was taken to see Attack of the clones, and then three years later I went with all my friends to the cinema, the first time id ever been without my parents. I sat there, an eleven year old boy and I was complete lost, completely encapsulated, and never looked back. It’s within these experiences as a child that did something to me, it created a bubble, a shield if you like, and every time I sit down and see anything with those familiar faces, that famous score, those lightsabers, I’m taken back into that bubble. I’m eleven years old, or five or seven or any of the hundreds of times I sat down to watch Luke Skywalker face off against the might of the dark side. That bubble shielded me from any criticism the films could have, don’t get me wrong I know there are bad films, there are some really bad films in this franchise, but when I sit down to watch one, even the bad ones that bubble takes me to another world, one where I am completely invested in everything that is told to me. So when I sat down to eat h the final film in this saga that bubble wrapped its self around me again and for two hours I felt like a kid again.

The final chapter, or episode follows on from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which had fans so split down the middle they almost started fighting one another in the streets. I for one loved The Last Jedi, as filming goes it may even be the best one, The Rise of Skywalker however, is very far from the best one. This is a hard film to talk about, I understand a lot of people want to go into this completely blind so I won’t talk about the plot because there are so many spoilers involved even something small can be considered a spoiler. What I will say about the plot is this – in the first two acts, there isn’t really one, in fact it feels like the plot was made up page at a time, almost like J.J. Abrahams had no idea what the plot of this film was going to be and just kept throwing McGuffin after McGuffin in so he could get our characters to the final act, where he throws everything but the kitchen sink In. The first two acts are brought down by these McGuffins and constant exposition, so much that you feel like this film is its own film all together and not the final film in a trilogy or the final film of a nine film saga, not until the final act at least. Theres also decisions made that will likely again split fans down the middle, I’ve never been one for fan theories and I never like to have my own ideas where a filmmaker should take a story, but it feels so much like this film was just trying to please those who hated The Last Jedi. It gets caught up in explaining, instead of getting on with its own story, it’s focused on the past and not following on from the events of The Last Jedi. It brings the film down as it never really finds its place as a Star Wars sequel, it doesn’t build on the themes or expanded the characters of the last film, which I’ve always believed is the soul purpose for a sequel.

It is however a very touching tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, her and the returning cast are stand outs and are hard not to like. Its the plot these characters are involved in thats hard to take. The characters feel real and fleshed out but they don’t feel like they’ve come straight out of the events of The Last Jedi and end up feeling like they never learnt anything from that film. As with all Star Wars films, the special effects are spellbinding and breathtaking to behold, a special note should go out to Neal Scanlan, Matt denton and anyone else that worked on the incredible droids and puppets, all of which are non-CGI. Their work makes the world of Star Wars feel so much more alive and lived in. Combined with all this is John Williams score, that as always transports you to a galaxy far far away. However even all this positivity can’t save the film from its sloppy first two acts.

It breaks my heart to have to write that and it’s hard to look back on what I had seen, and even as I was sat there in my bubble, I could feel the bubble slowly fading away. There was however enough fun Star Wars action, lore, and character moments that the bubble did remain in tact. Once the third act hits, it hits hard. The fast paced action sequence after action sequence get us to the final battle in such epic fashion that you easily forget everything you’ve seen before it. There are of course a lot of decisions that fans won’t be happy with, however all the decisions that are made in the final act where elected well and in the moment they all feel deserved and nothing feels forced (no pun intended). Its this final act that saves the film and closes the saga in a beautifully way. Its an ending and final shot that every Star Wars fan can be happy with.

In the end this is a story we’ve had to treasure for over forty years. One that we have debated, theorised and celebrated, now that it is finally over my bubble is still very much intact, and although J.J. Abrahams is in love with all things nostalgic, so am I. For some it may be too much and for others they’ll love every second of it. Although the filmmaking and storytelling isn’t the strongest in the franchise, the action sequences, fun characters, score and ending are enough for me to watch it again and again. So take your friends, family and celebrate a story that has lasted a generation.

*** 3/5

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas now.

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