Review: ‘Star Wars Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker’

Daisy Ridley | Adam Driver | Disney

Imagine digging a twenty foot hole, willingly jumping into it and trying to claw your way out with just your hands. You can’t really make any ground but lucky for you, random people start lowering tools to aid your climb, and with your newfound tools, you manage to ascend halfway before giving up. That’s kind of what watching Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is like, and how I imagine J.J Abrams feels about the hand he was given.

The epic saga finally ends with Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, directed by writer/director J.J Abrams and a writing credit from Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). Abrams commands the eye with great visual directing but it’s not enough to cover the directionless writing woes and pull this franchise out of the hole it dug itself into.

The film stars Daisy Ridley as Rey, the last hope for the resistance fighters in their quest to end The First Order after Emperor Palpatine mysteriously returns.

With cocaine-like erratic pacing, the 182 minute spectacle feels like four movies slammed into one — attempting to fill holes left in from the previous two installments. The scenes and beats don’t have room to breathe. Characters are introduced in one scene and resolved in the next. Its nonsensical plot full of MacGuffins hidden inside MacGuffins that can only be obtained through the location of other MacGuffins — that characters just happen into — and aimless story that contradicts and ignores previous installments, prevents the audience from being able to digest anything. By the time you understand what is happening and grasp the significance and emotion of some scenes, the plot has already moved on to the next plot point.

This mishaps are especially noticeable if you are a Star Wars fan. The Rise of Skywalker is completely void of the stuff that was so charming about the original trilogy. Simultaneously taking itself too seriously and being too scared to take any risks, puts the film in a rough middle ground where it can’t escape itself. It’s too predictable even for a family friendly action spectacle, and when it’s not predictable, it changes course undermining any attempted risk and commits an astronomical amount of logical fallacies. Just wait until you see the antagonist’s motivation and plan.

Daisy Ridley | Adam Driver | Disney

Star Wars, as a whole, seems to be creatively bankrupt. Combine that with Kathleen Kennedy’s directionless and aimless trilogy, you get a perfect example of how to completely mishandle one of the world’s biggest IPs. The themes and story of this trilogy are so contradictory and convoluted that the audience still won’t have an idea of what the trilogy is about (besides selling merchandise).

Star Wars has never felt so small. With galaxy wide space battles and stakes attempting to conclude nine movies worth of lore, the movie feels lifeless and small with reveals and story beats too hollow and void of any explanation to care.

However, it’s not all bad. Adam Driver is the shining beacon of hope in this colossal failure. With little dialogue, his superb physical acting carried as much of the dead weight as he could. Daisy Ridley continues to give a solid performance though at times appears as if she’s checked out — and after the way fans have treated her, you can’t blame her. Abrams is a talented visual director and can really command the eye during action sequences. And John Williams, as always, did an absolutely phenomenal job scoring the film. But none of these elevate the movie enough to be enjoyable for anyone expecting the slightest semblance of competence of writing.

If you’re more of a casual movie fan and want to take your kids to see some fun action sequences with some funny comic relief, you may actually like The Rise of Skywalker. People that aren’t super connected with the Star Wars franchise won’t be bothered by a lot of the contradictions from previous installments or the logical fallacies littered throughout the film. You won’t love it, but you won’t think you’ve wasted 182 minutes of your life.

Star Wars fans will have a lot of trouble with this movie and when the credits roll, they’ll be wondering how you could mismanage one of the world’s biggest IPs of all time in such a wasted manner. The epic saga concludes with one giant shrug, extinguishing the small flame of interest some fans had remaining. Perhaps the best thing about the movie is that the soulless and heartless franchise can be put to rest for years until executives at Disney have come up with a clear vision for their next installment(s).

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Cameron Craig

Cameron Craig

Writer and screenwriter based in the Boston area. I write film analysis, reviews and commentary and engage in leftist politics. Twitter@CameronCraig_93