I’m happy. pic.twitter.com/wgiAEzeFiX
— Jason Ward (@MakingStarWars) December 18, 2019
Strangely, there are times when I can’t believe the Star Wars prequel trilogy even exists. I never took it for granted that Star Wars could just end. Something was always better than nothing. Star Wars has ended on me before. Then we got more and I was grateful. Then we got more but without George Lucas and it was a risk to get involved or to even care. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker closed out The Skywalker Saga and it all seems like a really rad fever dream.
Did this trilogy need to exist? Should it have been made? Having kids myself, I can say that the answer is yes. My kids experienced the sequel trilogy as it happened. It is their Star Wars. I claim ownership too. But I would never take the experience of the wait, enthusiasm, potential, and thrill I saw in their eyes as this saga unfolded. Of all the new films, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been my favorite. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker reconfigures a moment from that film for Luke and one moment from The Force Awakens that makes me see those moments in a new light. I don’t feel that The Rise of Skywalker disparaged or glorified The Last Jedi and perhaps people are seeing what they want to in that respect.
The film is very fun but very clunky. The movie feels like Star Wars: The Force Awakens but without A New Hope’s structure to fall back on. Every scene or scenario is fantastic, how they fit together is maybe less so. The structure and shape is peculiar but the character work is stellar. I think fans of character work are going to love it and those who want a really clean film are going to be annoyed by the mess.
For much of the film, Poe and Finn are along for Rey’s ride. See-Threepio steals the movie with some of the character’s best moments in the saga.There’s a moment with Chewbacca reacting emotionally that will punch you in the gut. D-O (voiced by J.J. Abrams) came off better than expected by was still largely unnecessary to the film save for one plot point. Lando was fun but perhaps handled with a bit too much whimsical reverence. Rey’s character is a successful hero that ultimately worked out as the hero. Kylo Ren’s arc was really strong and satisfying.
The Leia material in terms of plot is fantastic. However, the chemistry between Leia and everyone in the scenes she’s in felt off. Abrams was in between a rock and a hard place. The Leia story beats are good. The execution is as good as it can be using CGI to make the performance happen without recasting. They did a good job and it was handled well. But it isn’t flawless by any stretch. There are moments that felt like a prank call using a soundboard to force a conversation. But what else could they have done? I think it was admirable and done pretty well.
One minor character’s death felt very flat to me. But was then followed up by my favorite moment in the film when the fleet arrives (seen in the trailer). The music that plays is John Williams’ classic Star Wars theme but very closely to how it appeared on the original soundtrack and I loved every moment of that part of the movie.
The Palpatine explanations and implications work if you let them. If you demand too much you may not be satisfied. I enjoyed the moments with him. The final version of his plan was satisfactory and his eventual confrontation with Rey was really well done.
The Knights of Ren were pretty much wasted. They had some cool shots but ultimately it amounted to nothing that interesting. I’m glad they’re in the film but I also did not find myself caring too much about them. When one bad guy from The First Order helped the good guys, the audience in my screening cheered but not so much for anything The Knights of Ren did.
The film does not feel like an ending to me but a new beginning. One of the main character’s fate is left rather open with a lot of new potential. Others are tied up but very loosely. It even felt like the film side stepped committing too much to the fate of certain characters for future opportunities in storytelling. I do not for a second feel that this is the end of these characters in Star Wars universe on screen. It does end the Skywalker story if traced from The Phantom Menace to The Rise of Skywalker. But another original trilogy character is almost promised more adventures that I’m not sure they’ll be able to deliver on in live action.
I loved the movie. I think it will deliver for general audiences. I think it will underdeliver to certain fan groups that attempted to make an identity out of certain hopes and wants. Star Wars fans will enjoy the character work and I think most will feel the sequel trilogy was worth it. I do. I loved the movie. It was messy but delightful. It felt like it was passionately brought into existence and I was never bored and I left the theater very happy for the experience as a fan.