Let’s see how it all ends.
The Rise of Skywalker seems to be one of those films that people are wanting to hate on. I see more negativity surrounding this entry in the long-running series than almost any other (I think The Phantom Menace is still considered the worst). I enjoyed The Last Jedi as I watched it, but I haven’t had any desire to go back and see it again. The final entry left me feeling a bit more conflicted than the previous entries, but I don’t think the film is a failure.
While there are numerous issues within the film, the good mostly outweighs the bad. What we have here is an exercise in competency. Everything is done almost robotically well. The pacing is break-neck, the sounds sound good, the special effects are great, and the movie pulls at the appropriate emotion at the appropriate points. However, there is a certain uniformity to this entry that is hard to shake off. Humorous characters are introduced to only serve as mild humor during otherwise intense moments. The new big bad is revealed only to be overcome.
While the film looks good, there is a lack of narrative stakes present as we follow Rey as she hunts down the now not dead Palpatine and has Kylo dogging her every step of the way. We also have the whole First Order versus the Resistance story, and these two narratives don’t always mesh together. I would rather see a whole movie about the Jedi and another about the war. The overstuffing of plots is something this series has struggled with for some time, but here, in what should have been the final send-off, it feels rushed.
The movie also seems to want to send off a better series than it was…
We get information about a sort of Sith collective that has been moving in the shadows for, well forever. This eternal conflict tries to give the narrative a massive element, but having it put in here renders a lot of the previous films moot and seems undeserved. Likewise, the bond between Rey and Luke, Kylo, and Leia all seem underdeveloped. The emotional payoff the film wants to give us wasn’t earned. Don’t get me wrong, I like the characters in this new trilogy, but with a second entry that moves slow and a third that goes too fast we are missing a lot of development.
The decision (probably by committee) to remove any risks from this narrative also remove any stakes. Despite the universe threatening Sith, nothing bad really seems to happen. We go from one fetch quest to the next towards a predictable conclusion. They decided to be safe here, and I think that is a mistake.
Granted, the film is still enjoyable. The above was meant to be my praise, but I think I am grappling too much with the inherent imbalance in this series. I like that the Jedi seem less powerful here; the lightsaber fights are more like sword fights, and not coked-up ninja monkey bullshit from the prequels. However, these are meant to exist in the same universe. Did everyone somehow get worse? The incongruencies within a narrative that spans so long is inherently unavoidable, but mix in a fan base who seems to want to hate the new stuff and you have the current dilemma Disney is in.
It is odd for me to take the position of a Disney apologist, particularly with my rant last month railing against the company, but 2019 has been a strange year all around. The movie is fine. Turn off nostalgia and the need for perfection and we have a fun science-fantasy film. It won’t eclipse the originals (and those are far from without fault) and nothing ever will. This is an appropriate send-off to a series that will never be free from over-the-top criticism (people are honestly pissed we didn’t see Rey training more…) and to a certain extent they should just make the movies they want to. Here, Disney wants to appease the detractors while still being part of the universe, and I think the overall people-pleasing is something that does hurt this film.
My biggest complaints about the narrative is that we have too much introduced and then shoved aside to race towards the end. The Knights of Ren, who I imagined being a bunch of badasses with lightsabers are instead masked and nameless goons. The Sith Collective is glossed over, and the new Imperial death fleet seems an afterthought. This needed to be more than one movie. There are ideas here that are burned through too quickly to fully appreciate. We are given an odd image near the end that indicates there may be more to come, but who knows.
I think some folks just wanted to hate this movie, and I get that, honestly. However, watching and discussing a movie in such terms doesn’t really examine the movie as much as it examines one’s taste. I don’t think this new trilogy is bad, but it certainly wasn’t going to appease everyone. Nothing could. Even when Lucas made the prequels those were all universally hated as they released. To a certain extent, I think this is just the new norm in franchises, which just makes me more tired of them than I was before.
Toxic fandoms can just fuck off. Your childhood can’t be ruined by a new movie unless you are still a child.
Another thing that is mind-boggling to me is how a movie can clear $600 million (at the time of this writing) and still be at risk of losing money. This isn’t so much a comment on Star Wars, but this trend is going to become unsustainable.
Anyway, go see the movie. It is an enjoyable, but uneven entry in a troubled series. It isn’t worth the hype or the hate at the end of the day.