Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Movie Review - Not the finish that the Skywalker saga deserved
The latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise finishes with a flourish, but rings hollow
The Japanese have a beautiful art form called kintsugi where broken pieces of pottery, instead of being thrown away, are fused with gold (and other precious metals) and displayed with pride. It underlines that broken is indeed beautiful and all scars should be displayed with pride. When Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) rebuilds his broken mask in The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and last instalment in the Skywalker saga in Star Wars, the fused pieces have a red lining around it. The scars are evident. This singular scene is particularly beautiful because it not only talks about a critical choice by Ren, where-in he readopts the mask he discarded in The Last Jedi, because he is no more secure about his identity and his place in this world after learning a hard truth. But this scene is also meta, in that, JJ Abrams tries to piece back the franchise and the beloved saga together after the previous film divided the entire fanbase into two distinct camps of love and hate.
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
Director: JJ Abrams
However, any director who can provide such a commentary within a single scene is also clever enough to understand that the audience will see through this. This is probably why Rey, when she meets Ren with his mask on, claims she can see through it, see through him. Is it Abrams apologising to us (and possibly, Rian Johnson)?
With The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams had to heal those wounds of The Last Jedi for a significant portion of the toxic Star Wars fanbase, he had to bring closure to his trilogy, but more importantly, to the entire Skywalker saga that started way back in 1977 with A New Hope. But even JJ, who is known for his tremendous fan-pleasing sensibilities, can't get this film to understand its own pacing. Take the rollercoaster of a first half-hour, where characters and storylines are thrown at you so thick and fast that you are gasping for breath, and the last thirty minutes where every single thing you have seen from the entire Skywalker saga is referenced and a grand culmination is happening. The film doesn't stop for a moment. Yet, it is the middle portions, where there is no burden on the filmmaker to wrap it all up, that shine and make you feel all the emotions this sci-fi space opera has the power to.
There is laughter. The ever-dependable C3PO, voiced for one final time by Anthony Daniels, gets it so perfect every single time. Yet, it is he who, in one of the most powerful scenes, will make you tear up. It also makes you tear up in joy when you see Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) come for one final hurrah. But where The Rise of Skywalker succeeds in bidding goodbye to many of these legends, it fails in establishing the new blood who are supposed to carry the will of the franchise. The swashbuckling motormouth of a hotshot pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and the rebel stormtrooper turned Resistance leader, Finn (John Boyega), whose specific stories were so beautifully fleshed out in the first two films are not even plot devices in the final saga. Where Rian Johnson made Rey (Daisy Ridley) a symbol of hope by saying she has no parents and that anyone can be a Jedi, Abrams goes the other way in destroying that.
It would be funny if it wasn't sad because the best portions of the film, story-wise, are the ones which Johnson delivered brilliantly in The Last Jedi. The deep lore of the Star Wars universe, the Force powers that we haven't yet witnessed, and the utterly unique conversation window of Ren and Rey are all here. Abrams brings his terrific eye for grand visuals at multiple points — be it a legendary Sith planet or the quintessential space fight or the astounding lightsaber battle over a fabled ship. It is a spectacle made for the big screen and at a time when the streaming services are getting bigger and bigger, this film will be a welcome relief for theatrical chains.
The third instalment in a trilogy has been a challenge to even the greatest of filmmakers. Ask Francis Ford Coppola. Given the pressure that JJ Abrams was under, one could give him a pass for him trying his best to amalgamate and cater to every section of the audience. Yet, given his pedigree, The Rise of Skywalker is undoubtedly his Death Star — a great object of awe for everyone who sees it, something that will bring a lot of tears, and have a soft core that, when destroyed, will lead to a complete collapse. In telling a story of rebellion and hope, The Rise of Skywalker ends up being the product it vows to destroy.