Taking on the finale of a trilogy of trilogies is not an easy task, and my heart goes out to whoever is brave enough to try. Here, J.J. Abrams is the one to step up to bat and complete the beloved Skywalker Saga. Uniting critics and fans in the fantastic Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which began this sequel trilogy, Abrams now attempts to end it, and clumsily tie up loose ends along the way.
One year on from the events of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, the Resistance has grown but are still hugely outnumbered. Our lovable rebels, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) have become great leaders, whilst Rey (Daisy Ridley) trains under Leia’s (the late Carrie Fisher sensitively brought back with unused footage) careful guidance. The first act offers some heartfelt character moments and laughs between friends, there is hope in the air amongst the Resistance – a hope that is quickly put to bed when a spy within the First Order delivers a terrifying message.
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) tightens his grip on the First Order, and urged on by a new mentor, continues his obsessive search for Rey in a bid to wipe out the Jedi for good. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey is further explored in Rise of Skywalker, their deepening connection becoming more prevalent through Driver and Ridley’s all-or-nothing performances. However, their relationship takes centre stage whilst almost every other character goes under-written and under-served. The kindhearted Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) has all but five minutes of screen-time, and new additions in the form of General Pride (Richard E. Grant), Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) might as well not be here. To include so many new faces in a finale seems ambitious, and it certainly didn’t work, but I suppose, what is the point in going into this without ambition?
Abrams invites us to countless new worlds in Rise of Skywalker, the colourful festival of desert planet Pasaana is a true highlight, and Kijimi feels real and lived in. It was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that the film would be beautiful. Star Wars never fails to wow audiences visually, with colour abound and spectacular characters and VFX design (shout-out to Babu Frik, the real MVP). But, unfortunately, it’s not enough to distract fans from the glaring flaws in the storytelling and mythos.
Rise of Skywalker is almost too much. It’s too many characters, too much pandering and all too fast. The first forty minutes, if a bit calmer, could be an entire film on its own. The film throws a million plots at the audience and simply hopes something sticks. It feels almost over-written, everything comes a little too quickly and a little too easily. For all its MacGuffin’s though, I will admit that the return of the Sith is particularly exciting. The Lazarus-type procedure feels like a common thread tying the story of Rey and the Resistance to distant memories of the Clone Wars.
There is a lot wrong with this film – such as the heinous side-lining of Rose Tico and a pace so fast you might get whiplash – but its spirit outweighs it all. Unsurprisingly, it is clear everyone who made this film loves Star Wars, and while the plot may be inconsistent and thematically unparalleled to The Last Jedi, Rise of Skywalker stands on its own as a thrilling eruption of jam-packed action and discovery.
Star Wars is about making your own path and finding your family, and Abrams stays true to that in some beautiful ways. The Resistance thrives in the face of adversity, and it always will, even if in a so-so film. In spite of all it’s flaws, I loved watching Rise of Skywalker. I love the universe of this ongoing story so any film is a chance to go there again, and for that I am thankful. While this final installment falls short in comparison to its predecessors, it was never going to be perfect, but I’m happy I got to see light win one last time in the Skywalker Saga.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas now
by Millicent Thomas
Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian studying Film & Publishing in Bath. She has written freelance for Little White Lies, Much Ado About Cinema, Reel Honey, and more. Her favourite films include Logan, Columbus, and Spy-Kids. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Letterboxd at @millicentonfilm