STAR WARS: EPISODE IX
One of my friends put it best, “The Rise Of Skywalker” satisfies the left brain’s logical and reasoning side but leaves the right brain’s creative and emotional center a little disappointed. This plot driven movie has a lot of action and ties a lot of things together but it lacks character development and emotional stakes. Let’s see why.
NO TIME TO BREATHE
A sense of panic permeated throughout the movie almost to the point where whenever a slower scene started to emerge it would be cut short by the arrival of imminent danger. I found myself at the edge of my seat for most of the film. Not because I was riveted, but because the story boomeranged back into action pretty frequently.
The new generation of core characters (Rey, Finn and Poe) did not have much dialogue between them, rather they mostly resorted to barking orders at one another and screaming in the face of potential peril. I began to question when there was going to be a quiet moment for some interpersonal scenes, or characterization. But most of the film felt like an anxiety fueled dream where you are constantly being chased and you have to keep running away.
There was also a near soap opera level number of twists and non-deaths. Constant back and forths where we are uncertain whether a character dies or not and who survives. The biggest example of this was the death (or not) of Chewie. This moment felt like it was especially tugging at our heart strings but almost in an artificial and hurried way because shortly after we found out he was actually alive, which doesn’t give us as an audience any time to mourn. In fact, it was mostly the scenes where the dead characters from original trilogy appeared that had an emotional lean.
RELYING ON OLD CHARACTERS
The only real emotional scenes were when Leia, Han and Luke showed up. I would rather they have constructed a story where we cared as much about Rey, Finn and Poe but such was not the case. Any difficult decision (eg Rey giving up or Kylo Ren doubting his evilness) felt like it was furthered along with the help of an old character (Luke and Han respectively) and that didn’t allow the new characters to develop their own emotional stakes as much nor for us to care.
Relying on the power of the old crop as iconic characters made it impossible for the new characters to blossom and therefore felt like it was impeding on the story. As nice as it was to see the older characters it somehow felt inappropriate, almost like they were shoehorned into a story that wasn’t about them which made their appearances seem cheap.
JJ Abrams is particularly adept at relying on nostalgia and playing it up in his movies (as seen in Star Trek, Star Wars Ep. VII, and more) but bringing back Emperor Palpatine felt a bit too far fetched. “The dead speak!” was met with an eye-rolling degree of incredulity. Even in the Rey/Kylo Ren communication sequences, it was through the mask of an old character: Darth Vader.
KYLO REN/ BEN SOLO
My left brain was pleased with the Kylo Ren storyline inasmuch as it mirrored Darth Vader’s arc. Starts off bad, gets redeemed at the end, in other words: familiar.
But my emotional side had a hard time mapping over the Darth Vader storyline to this one because we have seen Kylo Ren be a lot more sinister than Darth Vader. We’ve seen him kill his father and we’ve seen more of his origin story. We see him do inexcusable things and grow in his hatred.
Darth Vader meanwhile, as evil as he was, came into the story as a prototypical villain from whom we’d expect these kind of evil inclinations and only acted in a way that made sense within the realm of his character. Villains will kill. Kylo Ren, however, was introduced in a much more ambivalent fashion, going back and forth between each side of the force, struggling between good and bad and consciously choosing time and again the dark side.
And lastly, I didn’t see the use of the kiss at the end between him and Rey for the 10 seconds while they were both still alive. It felt like a haphazard attempt to round out the Kylo Ren/ Ben Solo arc by cementing him as a “good” and redeemed character.
There was a romance that felt more called for, among the omitted storylines which bothered me, namely..
THINGS THAT WERE MISSING
A Finn and Poe romance! If The Rise of Skywalker was all about pleasing the fanbase why didn’t they work this in? According to Oscar Isaac, he was onboard but the Disney execs were not. Throughout the trilogy it seemed as though there were hints and moments where there was tension and chemistry between the two and thus them getting together felt like a logical conclusion. And there was a big online push for them to end up together. But The Rise of Skywalker decided to keep their relationship platonic and give them each a sort-of girlfriend. If there has to be a romance, they should have made it this one or not at all — the kiss between Rey and Ben was confusing and rushed.
Another thing: where in the hell is Rose Tico?
Rose was such a big part of the “Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi” I was convinced she would be a big part of this one, too. She was a scrappy, fresh and interesting character and I wanted to see more of her. Alas, her screen time was less than two minutes (1m16s to be exact: according to this website) out of 2 hours and 20 minutes full time.
Another thing that bothered me/ was omitted was that Finn never gets around to revealing to Rey what he was going to tell her when he thought they were all going to die. Not a big issue, but a little frustrating.
At some key moments, most notably the final celebration sequence after the victory, the music was used more as a crutch than to enhance an already good scene. It was indicating the audience on how to feel rather than it organically swelling up.
Another issue I had was Rey going back to Tatooine, burying the lightsabers and proclaiming herself as a Skywalker. As a message, I didn’t mind, because the thematic logic behind it is that one can choose their own identity and forge their individual destiny. But in regards to the story, if felt more like a winky reference to the old movies without considering the implications. Tatooine was a place where a lot of tragedies befell the Skywalkers: Anakin was ripped away from his mom, Luke’s family was murdered… and so burying their lightsabers on that planet doesn’t beget the sort of respect Rey may have intended by doing that and instead seems like a plot device to reference the old movies one more time before the end credits.
For something positive, the visuals were stunning. Each world had its own very specific design and the color palette was clearly defined and felt specific to each planet or setting.
So concludes this new trilogy. Not a terrible movie but much too reliant on speed and action. The inattention to emotional development and characterization made for a movie which unfolded more like a puzzle of logic where all the storylines come together rather than a down to earth and powerful story. – ⭐⭐