There are not many films in our history which had gathered an enormous, varied and hardcore fan-base like Star Wars do. The film that we are watching today, ladies and gentlemen, dubbed The Rise of Skywalker, is the final chapter for a story that started in 1999, with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. What’s even more menacing, is the fact that, disregarding the story’s timeline, the earliest reported film of Star Wars actually dates back to 1977. Yes, Star Wars went into first gear with Episode IV – A New Hope, the iconic film which had garnered so much love from our aunts. Or uncles. Or even grandparents, depending on the age group that you fall into.
If, someone happened to be in his/her 30’s when A New Hope was released in 1977, what are the chances that he/she is here to witness the final chapter of that very first movie? If you happen to be that someone and are reading this, then, my utmost respect to you, sir/madam.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. Even for the most memorable of actors and actresses who brought us A New Hope. Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa) left us three years ago. Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) did the same earlier this year. And the list continues with Sir Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2).
It just reminds me how lucky I am, to be able to watch the original trilogy (though not during their release dates or in cinemas) during my childhood, and is still able to enjoy Episode IX today. Besides, it a pretty strong wake-up call on how dynamic and far-reaching the Star Wars fan-base truly is. Given the enormous weight of the previous eight films that Episode IX has to carry as it runs towards the horizon, I am not surprised at all that the film has been garnering mixed reviews from fans and critics. But does it deserve that somewhat negative publicity casted upon it?
Warning! This is a spoiler-laden review of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. I’ll repeat. It’s a spoiler-choked review for Star Wars: Episode “9”. The last chapter of the Skywalker Saga. The end of a trilogy within a trilogy. I hope it’s clear enough.
Let’s start with the intro, shall we? Staying true to the spirit of Star Wars, the audience are greeted with a wall of prologue texts, seemingly crawling up and disappearing into the galaxy. But wait, what? “A threat of REVENGE in the sinister voice of the late EMPEROR PALPATINE”? So now they are compressing the return of the most haunting villain of the whole Star Wars universe into texts?
That seems like a big chunk of missing scenes to me. Of course, I expect a villain of no less evil and grandeur than the wrinkly emperor himself, especially for the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga. But the way The Rise of Skywalker and to some extent, The Last Jedi brought back the emperor from his long hiatus, posed some continuity issues. This rings true for audience who missed the chance to catch the trailer. Or anyone who had watched the teaser trailer on silent mode, and thus, the sinister laugh of Palpatine during the last few blacked-out frames of the trailer went unnoticed. How I know, I hear you asking?
One moment, Rey and the Resistance were battling against Snoke and Kylo Ren, and the moment next, they need to face Palpatine. Never mind the impeccable performance by Andy Serkis which had made Supreme Leader Snoke such a terrifying name to mention. It’s belittling the character in one way or another, because once a character has been downgraded to a clone, the intrinsic value of him/her goes down the drain. Hey, perhaps one day we might see another copy of Snoke marrying a Tattoine girl and start a family like Carl?
Fortunately, once I had come into good terms with the fact that the ultimate villain was Palpatine, at the same time reassuring myself that I was not watching Return of The Jedi (1983) by mistake, the rest of the journey was a roller coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs, gushing through air that smells a lot like Star Wars, with a whiff of Disney(land), which I will go over into it later.
The Rise of Skywalker is such an unknown ride yet a familiar experience, which I suspect was contributed by J.J. Abrams vision to keep most essence of a Star Wars flick intact. The side-sweeping scene transitions, the afore-mentioned opening text crawl, the retro spacecraft gauge clusters, and a thousand of distinctly shaped aliens that speak perfect English are all nods to the previous Star Wars films leading up to this one. A Star Wars film might be able to live on without Han Solo, but it is certainly not complete without Storm Troopers and their ever disastrous aim, so the mockery continues in this one, too. And it seems that ever since Daisy Ridley had been cast as Rey, too many aspiring ladies had enrolled themselves to become Storm Troopers for the First Order.
Speaking of female Storm Troopers, it is an inevitable fact that Carrie Fisher was, and still is, the most influential female face of the entire Skywalker Saga, and her passing in 2016 has put the fans under tremendous sorrow. I knew her character was going to leave the plot in this film, but I was more concerned with the ‘how’. Considering how they incorporated Leia Organa’s scenes in The Rise of Skywalker with unused footages from previous two films, rather than outright CGI, I think that the end product is an astonishing success.
The plot perfectly exploited the warmth from the mother-daughter like bond between Leia and Rey which had been building up since the beginning of the film. In addition, it couldn’t be more peerless when they dropped that very moment that Leia reunites with the Force into the middle of an epic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren. It shows how significant Leia is to the franchise, that even the mightiest of battles between the Light and the Dark has to halt to give way to her tribute. And suffice to say, the ensuing appearance of Han Solo dealt another blow to me. I did not expect to see the tribute scenes to Leia and Han to be so closely knitted together, and I have to admit that they are quite emotionally taxing. But I’m glad they did, and it’s not for no apparent reason. I wouldn’t expect Kylo Ren to redeem himself for any reason other than them.
It was a delight to see the tributes unfolding against beautiful backdrops, great CGI and rather fast-paced scenes. The story was constantly on the move, transitioning from planet to planet without being bogged down by stagnancy. I couldn’t help but to find some backdrops to be creative and astounding. Remnants of the Death Star surrounded by tidal waves? Anytime, please!
It’s no secret that The Rise of Skywalker had access to some of the deepest pockets in the film industry, and was even estimated to chomp up a budget figure between 250-300 million to make. Inherently, this luxury carries over into the film. Really, I was hard-pressed to find anything that would have felt cheap, that sometimes, I even found the lighting to be fairly complicated to produce. Remember the scene when Rey looked up into the sky, shocked to see the Resistance’s spacecrafts getting electrocuted by Palpatine’s Force lightning? It was a close up shot towards Rey’s face, with nothing else in frame, and yet you can feel each side of her face light up with varying colors of light, mimicking what she was seeing. Simply majestic.
As much as I admired the flawless CGI that The Rise of Skywalker had been churning out since frame number one, the final battle between the Resistance and First Order was, unfortunately, a little less punchy than what I had expected. There was a subtle and invisible disconnect that cut through the beautifully crafted battle scenes, amidst the deafening drone from TIE Fighters and the familiar zaps from energy blasts. There’s no denying that what’s taking place underneath the Resistance ships and Star Destroyers was the real deal-breaker here, but without a solid motivation, all the commotion in the skies manifested into a subplot that easily got overpowered by Rey and Palpatine’s face-off.
Don’t get me wrong, I still find the third act to be enjoyable, and still think that there’s no better way to end the saga than having ‘machine-vs-machine’, and ‘man-vs-man’ face-offs happening simultaneously. And until the middle of the third act, I was still scratching my head, trying to scour for any scenes which could had possibly prompted mixed reviews for the film. That was until Palpatine paralyzed the entire Resistance spacecrafts with his mega-Force lightning, dishing out a dope act that could easily render Thor jealous. The plot was trying to sell the idea that Palpatine was so powerful, that it had unconsciously slipped into the superhero territory, which sometimes, can be even brushed off as ‘not cinema’ by veteran viewers.
And if you are a superhero film junkie like me, the moment of Palpatine’s defeat would surely come as something ultra familiar to you. Let’s recall the final words between the two:
“Palptaine: I am all the Sith!”
“Rey: And I am all the Jedi!”
Sounds familiar? Yes, I hear you. “I am Iron Man.” Rather than furious, I was getting giggly about that scene, because I think it’s perfectly fine for two scenes from different films to invoke an eerily similar feeling, if both films have production dates that aren’t that far apart. It’s more like a situation where ladies come across an outfit clash, and I don’t think the coincidence is done on purpose as it appeared to be. And hence, I mentioned Disney(land) because that had let me caught a whiff of Disney’s other projects, and one thing is for sure: it won’t go down well with the critics.
At its core, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker can be seen striving to offer an up-to-date film, while carefully crafting its retcons, and sensitively nurture tributes towards iconic characters of Episode IV – VI, especially the revered Leia Organa. Though for such a high profile and long awaited closing chapter, I could certainly ask for a lot more, nevertheless, I wasn’t disappointed with the film. In the end, The Rise of Skywalker delivered everything that it had promised, ranging from intense light-saber duels to busy spacecraft battles, with a lot of CGI firepower to back them up, summing all together with a final conflict of appropriate scale: Bringing the war back to the Siths’ homeland.–The Film Addict