So I’ve been a little late getting around to this, but I have finally gotten around to watching The Rise of Skywalker for the second time. It’s taken me so long because I’ve been feeling a bit let-down by the whole hype thing for this movie, which has been marketed unto death as the epic conclusion to the nine-film Skywalker Saga, etc.
I mean, it’s really not. It’s the conclusion to the Disney trilogy of films that happened to use returning characters from the original Star Wars trilogy in bit-parts, and that is that. I’ll try to get this out of the way at the start – the central character for this new trilogy has been Rey, I think we can all agree. While Finn and Poe have had their generous share of the limelight as well, Rey has been front and centre all the way through. It’s been her great mystery that has driven a lot of the hype around the trilogy, and in this conclusion, it is definitely Rey that proves to be the charge that keeps this film moving.
But Rey has no familial connection to the Skywalkers. She adopts the name seconds before the closing credits, but she has no bearing on the six-movie family saga that came before it. She’s the daughter of a clone of Palpatine, and that’s as far as it goes. This trilogy has only been the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga insofar as it kills off every last member of that family, but the main character of the movie is not related to them at all.
Let’s move on!
The Rise of Skywalker had a hell of a lot of ground to cover, after the debacle that was The Last Jedi. As a result, it does tend to feel like at least one-and-a-half movies, possibly even two movies, in one. There were a number of points along the way where I feel this is shown up – when Poe and Zorii are talking on Kijimi, the plot broadens out a bit and we’re close to learning more about Poe’s backstory. The film needed more of those moments, so when we get them, their absence is felt elsewhere. Does the similar moment between Finn and Jannah on Kef Bir have the same sort of gravity? No, because the plot needs to keep moving. I do feel that we should have learnt more from this – hell, we should have learnt a lot more anyway, but the first hour or so is just one long chase across the galaxy on the hunt for “the thing”.
I always find myself wanting to know more about the background stuff after seeing a Star Wars movie, because they’re so good at giving us that richness of texture. Kijimi is a classic example of this, and I would love to find out more, but we don’t have the time before the planet is destroyed. It definitely feels rushed, and that’s one of the major downfalls of the film.
Upon a second viewing of The Last Jedi, I was a bit nonplussed by the fact that movie was supposed to be a Star Wars film. This time, however, I’m in no doubt about the fact this is a Star Wars film, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that, whatever else I may say about him, JJ Abrams knows his stuff. The Force Awakens was very similar in this respect – it felt real, which is something of a hallmark of Star Wars as a space opera. There are a lot of sweeping vistas in the movie, such as that festival on Pasaana, above, which feel so real, especially when you get down into the thick of things.
Much like with George Lucas’ movies, there is a definite sense of the story moving along in fairly obvious chunks – set pieces, I guess. The fact that it does so because of the “search for x” thing does make it perhaps more formulaic than I’d like, as those chunks are sometimes a little smaller than, say, the Hoth sequence in Empire Strikes Back.
Now, I know that a lot of people liked the fact that Palpatine was behind everything, and returned to crown the final episode, but I found myself inwardly groaning when it turned out to be the case. I suppose I just hoped for a little more originality. The whole point of Palpatine’s death in Return of the Jedi was to conclude Vader/Anakin’s redemption. The fact that he’s back kinda cheapens that, for me, and feels a bit like a soft option – of course, Palpatine is the big bad of the original six films, a Sith mastermind and all the rest of it. How could you top that? Especially when Snoke has been dealt with in such a weird, stupid manner.
However, Palpatine is back, so we have to deal with it. In that respect, I find myself again wanting to know more about Exegol. The Lost World of the Sith, or somesuch – it needs more explanation, for me. It all comes out of nowhere, the whole Final Empire thing, and I wish we’d had a better idea of what had been going on since The Force Awakens. Stuff like the Aftermath trilogy has set up the idea of there being an Imperial remnant hiding in the Unknown Regions and stealing children for indoctrination etc, but it feels like there was too much of a need for secrecy and mystery when the trilogy began, and then the story seemed to go nowhere in the last movie.
So here we are, with a film that feels a bit light on the detail, and a little bit rushed. Part of that is the fault of the previous film, as I’ve been saying for most of this blog it seems, and I feel that part of it is down to there being no clear trajectory for this trilogy from the start. Sure, it’s arguable how much of a trajectory the original trilogy had, though the Prequels benefited so much from having that clear end point in sight. Here, though… it’s all been a bit of a muddle until we get to the third film, when there is so much that needs to be wrapped up and we have to rush through to hit all of the points.
It does wrap up the sequel trilogy fairly neatly, as we chuck Palpatine in to be a kind of deus ex machina for most of the mystery. It could have been great, but instead… yeah…