Produced by Kathleen Kennedy,
J.J Abrams, Michelle Rejwan
Screenplay by Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams
Story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow
and J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio
Based on characters created by George Lucas
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill,
Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega,
Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie,
Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant,
Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell,
Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran,
with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams
The anticipation you feel as a Star Wars fan whenever that iconic logo appears on screen and you hear the first notes of John Williams’s score is one of the greatest fandom thrills imaginable.
A new Star Wars movie!
But never, until Rise of Skywalker, have I had that thrill fade while I was still watching the film.
The centerpiece of Episode IX is whether Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will succeed in turning Rey (Daisy Ridley) to the Dark Side. At first, the scenes between them carry the most weight as it’s the only time the movie seems to draw a breath and focus. But he pops up in her visions (and she in his) so often that it becomes kind of a running joke.
Even though we’re eagerly awaiting their inevitable showdown, I found myself not really caring who won or lost in the end. Or whether one or both died. It’s the most emo showdown in movie history and all it got from me was a big shrug.
As someone who grew up loving the original trilogy and who has also embraced the new films, it pains me to tell you how much I disliked ROS, easily the worst film of the franchise so far. (Yes, worse than Solo.)
It’s as if J.J. Abrams rewatched the ending of Return of the Jedi and thought, “Yes, this, but much, much cheesier.”
How cheesy does it get?
The preview audience I saw it with actually laughed at one incredibly dramatic turn near the film’s end. That’s … not good. (The last time I remember a preview audience reacting like that was when someone yelled out “WHAT?” when the rock angels appeared in Noah.)
Of course, if you loathed The Last Jedi, you might just love ROS, which seems intent on pointedly reversing TLJ at every turn. If you resented Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) being featured so prominently, good news, haters, she’s barely in ROS! She’s in the movie about as much as new cast member Dominic Monaghan, which is to say, hardly at all.
And if you were disappointed that Rey’s parents were nobodies, well …
Abrams is intent on cramming in as many chase scenes and fights as possible, but one of the early chase sequences was so rote and overfamiliar, I actually tuned out completely. I had to say to myself: “Oh hey, you’re watching a movie, remember?” Almost everything in this feels like a retread of an earlier, better moment in a previous Star Wars film.
Yes, ROS has is share of poignant moments, many involving the late Carrie Fisher, who appears as General Leia for the last time. And new robot D-0 is indeed cute, charming and collectible.
There’s also a lot to like about the new human characters: Horse-riding rebel Jannah (Naomi Ackie), with whom Finn (John Boyega) seems to share a much closer bond than he ever did with Rose; Keri Russell in a brief role as a badass ex of Poe (Oscar Isaac)’s; and Richard E. Grant is in fine form as a Final Order officer who issues orders like “terminate them,” with appropriately elegant scorn.
I thought The Force Awakens and TLJ maintained a good balance between beloved original characters and introducing new characters we genuinely cared about, but the use of the original characters here seems to be trading on our built-in nostalgia. And, truthfully, any new characters seem positioned to headline their own spinoff now that this trilogy has ended.
And it’s hard not to think of which parts of the movie will be (or already are) rides at Disneyland. Sorry, do I sound cynical?
I really enjoyed the first two films in this trilogy and these characters, and I’m sad to see it end on such an unsatisfactory note.
Tellingly, after the movie, the conversation between my friend and I quickly turned to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Atomic Blonde, and Mad Max: Fury Road, all recent films we love and can rewatch any time.
The Rise of Skywalker won’t be one of them.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars