It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Star Wars has been a part of our culture since the summer of 1977 and ever since, fanboys (and girls) have not been able to get along. The first two movies (technically episodes 4 and 5) were huge hits, but then the Ewoks took over in Return of the Jedi in the third movie (technically the 6th) and people were divided about whether or not “cute” belonged in a Star Wars movie. But the film was still a huge hit.
The 4th movie in the series (technically the first) didn’t come out until 16 years later and promised to tell us how Darth Vader became a bad guy. Reactions were mixed except when it came to the new “lovable” character, Jar-Jar Binks. Everyone hated him. (Personally, I think that the obnoxious character seems like recreation of Roger Rabbit.)
Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith followed in 2002 and 2005 and both received harsh criticism from “fans” who thought George Lucas was ruining “their” movies. In 2012, Lucas announced that he wouldn’t make any more Star Wars movies.
Another gap of ten years followed the 6th movie (technically the third) and the 7th (which was actually the 7th!) Directed by J.J. Abrams, The Force Awakens became the first Star Wars movie under the Disney label. Determined to bring the magic back to the franchise, the new trilogy brought back the iconic characters of Han Solo and Princess Leia (but in much smaller roles) while introducing new orphan Rey, ex-stormtrooper Finn and X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron. While the masses seemed to like it, hardcore fans all had their theories on how it could have been made better. Despite the success of the Episode VII, reviews were once again mixed with The Last Jedi which was directed by Rian Johnson.
Now we come to the Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and the end of the original Star Wars saga – or so they say. The series’ finale has everything you would want for a spectacular ending including a number of cameos of characters we haven’t seen in a while (Jar-Jar is nowhere to be seen), lots of action and a satisfying ending. However, the final product isn’t as spectacular as it should be. It’s really good, but I doubt anyone will think of it as a perfect film. That’s because everyone has a different opinion on what would make it a perfect film. We still pine for the simple space westerns of the original film series while still wanting something fresh and new. Trying to make everyone happy is a lot to live up to for a filmmaker. Sometimes we just need to say goodbye to the old (Star Wars) and embrace the new (The Mandalorian). Until then, we still have one more story to cover.
J.J. Abrams’ hands were all over Skywalker serving as a screenwriter and director. He even voices a new droid called D-O. The end result is an uneven movie that is good, but is missing a little bit of the heart. Even at this last point of storytelling, Abrams tries to add in a few new characters and subplots with varying degrees of effectiveness. These new storylines didn’t add a lot to the story and their character development was lacking. Meanwhile, other characters that we have come to know, like Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), got pushed to the background. Rose doesn’t have a lot to do in this movie and it’s a shame.
The Rise of Skywalker takes place one year after the events of the previous film. It is revealed that Emperor Palpatine is actually alive, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is still raging in his hope to destroy Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Rey continues her Jedi training with General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Meanwhile, Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) get some insight on what Kylo Ren is really up to from a First Order mole.
Keri Russell plays Zorii Bliss and is almost unrecognizable since she never takes her helmet off completely. She apparently is also an old flame of Poe as well. Then, there is Jannah (Naomi Ackie) who confides to Finn about her secret former life. While both characters are intriguing, neither character was necessary for this story. It would have been nice to have met them a few films ago. Maybe they’ll have their own movies one day.
The movie also welcomes back Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in a extended cameo role but also doesn’t really add a lot to the story. Still, it was nice to see him again. On the plus side, 3CPO and R2D2 get a lot more screen time than they did in the last two movies.
The Rise of Skywalker is beautiful to look at and moves at a quick pace. With that said, I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen this movie before. So many of the Star Wars movies seem to follow a similar script. There’s always a tortured hero, a tortured villain and at least one character willing to sacrifice themselves for others. There isn’t much that is really original this time around. The end result is like a guy on a first date trying too hard to impress rather than just being himself. The movie’s surprises don’t really seem very surprising at all. Still, Abrams manages to throw in some twists and turns to the story.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I did find this latest installment to be very entertaining. What is missing from this Star Wars movie is the playful banter between the characters that we’ve come to know and appreciate and that feeling of sheer delight that we once felt when we walked into that dark movie theater so many years ago.
It is worth mentioning that this movie does feature a few scary moments that might be too intense for smaller kids so I recommend that mom and dad see the movie first before bringing the kids along.
All’s well that ends well though since this Star Wars features something all of the rest do not – a definite ending and a happy one at that. Overall, it’s a job well done.
Main Image: Lucas Film/Disney
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.