Star Wars Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Well, what is there to say, at this point?

Disney…you almost completely fucked up Star Wars!

And I do stress ALMOST, as I do very much like Rogue One (2016) and The Mandalorian (2019), and I think they are both easily worthy of the Star Wars name. The same cannot be said about the rest of Disney’s contribution to the film franchise ( I hear some of the animated series’ are held in high regard…just haven’t caught up to them yet). Steering clear of that pointless Solo misfire, the Mouse House’s continuation of George Lucas’ ‘Skywalker Saga’ has been a horribly mismanaged mess (looking at YOU, Kathleen Kennedy!). It started off reasonably well (I guess), despite The Force Awakens (2015) being just an overly cautious retelling of the beloved original A New Hope (1977), just with a new coat of 21st Century paint slapped on it. Then came The Last Jedi (2017)…and it can burn in the pit of Hell, hopefully taking jackass writer / director Rian Johnson with it!

I loathe that misguided piece of shit.

I was legitimately insulted when I walked out of the theatre, after sitting through that garbage, and I was pretty sure that I was rapidly nearing the end of my 40 year long love affair with Star Wars, if this was how it’s new caretakers, Disney, were going to treat it. Plus, certain dumbass elements now had to be accepted into SW lore and could not be erased, no how much us fans wanted them to be.

So, my enthusiasm for The Rise of Skywalker was scraping the bottom of the barrel when it finally arrived here in our town, back before all this horrid Covid-19 bullshit. So much so, that when I had the choice of seeing this or checking out Bad Boys for Life, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence easily won. Since I already had Disney+ (mostly just for The Mandalorian), I figured I’d just wait and see it from the comfort of self-isolation, which I did just the other night.

(shakes head sadly)

It really is JUST AS BAD as The Last Jedi…just for different reasons. Even after sweet-talking JJ Abrams into coming back to the Director’s Chair to try to get the final flick back on track in a way that repairs the good will of the fans after they were raped by The Last Jedi, it was a lost cause. I can’t help but to think of the Sam Mendes situation, where he steps in to helm the kickass Skyfall (2012), but then gets reluctantly persuaded into coming back to take on the hastily and clumsily written Spectre (2015), and his lack of enthusiasm shows in the lacklustre final product.

Definitely a similar feeling here.

So, the day after I watched it, I parked myself in our sun-room with a tasty beverage and a notepad, and pondered – what are my lasting impressions of the final film in a classic and long-lived franchise that is absolutely ingrained in modern day pop culture?

Yep, full on SPOILERS ahead. Ye be warned!

In no particular order, here’s what sprang to mind…

 

Right off the bat…the fucking Emperor. How creative. Yep, that’s heavy sarcasm you detect on ‘How creative.’ This is just cheap and lazy writing, that really NEEDS to rely on nostalgia to fake its way to relevancy. And there’s no surprise to it…at all. They mention him in the opening lines of the opening scrawl! Hell, the scrawl itself seems amateurish, now that I think about it but yeah…they unleash what MAYBE could’ve been a decent ‘reveal’ or twist immediately. The fucking Emperor Sheev Palpatine, most certainly vanquished at the end of The Return of the Jedi (1983), SOMEHOW (they never do explain how the hell he survived EXPLODING AFTER BEING THROWN INTO THE BOWELS OF THE DOOMED DEATH STAR 2!), he’s back, and he’s broadcasting threatening messages into space! From the bottom of my heart…fuck you, Disney.

Right from early on, editing and pace are choppy and jarring. The majority of the Star Wars flicks have really user-friendly pacing that draws you into the world onscreen right from the beginning and gets you effortlessly caught up in the story. Not here. It’s just a bunch of random, highly convenient shit happening with seemingly no connective tissue from scene to scene. I was actually agitated by it within 10 minutes…and that didn’t bode well.

New Force powers bullshit. Why add, with no real explanation, how it is that Force-using characters can now teleport material items back and forth across the reaches of space and ‘Rey’ can heel grievously wounded folks (and giant sand worms) with her Jesus hands. There are so many other cool Jedi abilities that could’ve been employed, based upon things we’ve already seen in previous flicks. Nope! They just invented plot-serving bullshit and plodded ahead with it, like a drunken oaf.

The ‘Leia’ stuff wasn’t as bad as expected. Acceptable, if abrupt, send-off for the character. Considering that all they apparently had was deleted scenes and outtakes from The Force Awakens to work with, they did a serviceable job at maintaining the illusion of the dearly departed, dearly missed Carrie Fisher and they managed to bid her farewell in a decently touching way. Amazingly, I was cool with all that.

The ‘Chewie dies!’ scene was a cheap move and a wasted opportunity for a genuine surprise later in the flick…not in the next fucking scene! Again, clumsy editing. Or shitty script. Or both. The sentence does pretty much sum up that sentiment. They ‘Marion Ravenwood’ the Wookie with a stupid fake-out death and it’s lame.

Holy shit! That ridiculous, cartoonishly sized armada of planet-killing (again!) Star Destroyers, that’ve just been chilling in the ice, fully manned, till Palpatine wiggles his fingers and unleashes them. Yeah, it’s dumb. It’s ridiculous. And part of my brain shut off at that point…and this within the first ten minutes!

The Kylo / Rey ‘chemistry’ can go fuck itself. It feels SO forced and inorganic. Right there. That.

How much did they dump on your doorstep, Harrison?! Not even a haircut. Hilarious. Considering that Harrison Ford has made no secret about his original desire to have his cherished ‘Han Solo’ character killed off early in the franchise, I find it highly suspicious that he came back for this illogical cameo. Disney probably bought him a 747 for his collection…filled with cash.

Luke’s minimal screen-time is hokey. It tries to fix what The Last Jedi fucked up. I stress ‘tries’. It sucks because the character of ‘Luke’, who has arguably carried most of the classic Star Wars’ most important  narrative, got right screwed by Disney and refreshingly enough, Mark Hamill had been rather vocal about his displeasure with how the character was seriously short-changed in this new trilogy. But here, he turns up as a Force ghost at a supposedly pivotal moment that heavy-handedly labors to undo what Rian Johnson did to the character in 2017.

I get the nostalgic love for Lando Calrissian but that doesn’t justify shoving a pudgy, much older Billy Dee Williams into some ‘Lando’ish garb and having him spout some ‘Star Wars’-like dialogue after just conveniently appearing out of the blue. This is just another example of the desperate nostalgia baiting that Disney is preying will cover up the glaring deficiencies in the so-called script, and it’s really obvious. They’re just throwing everything at us and hoping something sticks in a way us fans respond positively to. Though, I’m sure Williams is happy to get a bit of that Disney money tipped his way, after years out of the spotlight.

Keri Russell. Why? Like a friggin Power Ranger and just as useless. I have no issue with Keri Russell. I think she’s gorgeous and has a modicum of talent as an actress but why she’s in this sorry excuse for a SW movie, I don’t know. Except I suspect I do…she has history with JJ, going back to her days on Felicity (98-02) and Mission Impossible 3 (2006) and probably sweet-talked her way into the role just to say that she was in a Star Wars flick. Which is fine except that her character ‘Zorii’ is useless and looks like a damn Power Ranger.

Hux. Stupid ‘reveal’ and dispatch of a signature ‘mustache twirling villain’. So, First Order ‘General Hux’ (Domhnall Gleeson) is actually a saboteur intent on aiding the Resistance in order to defeat ‘Kylo Ren’, huh? After being a rabid supporter and facilitator of its violent destruction over the course of the two previous flicks? Who’s unceremoniously gunned down by a fellow officer, almost as an after thought? Again, so much wasted potential and more evidence of lazy who-gives-a-shit writing.

The use of Threepio for cheap nostalgia ‘feels’, the whole ‘memory wipe sacrifice, only to be easily undone when no longer relevant’ thing. More piss-poor use of a classic character. ‘C-3PO’ is ‘reset’ so that he can read the Sith runes found on the Goonie-knife that is used to locate something in some place but the big issue is that his long-established personality will be erased in order to do so, which it is. Until R2 just does a thing with a thing and voila!…’Threepio’ is back.

Again…fuck you, Disney.

Impressive planet explosion, possibly a miniature…but WTF?!! AGAIN?!! Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent visuals scattered throughout and this is one of them. But c’mon! You guys couldn’t come up with ANYTHING else?! You had to just rehash the same shit we’ve already seen 4 goddamn times before this?! Wow…more of that lazy writing at work.

I hate the whole Palpatine element as it negates the triumphant satisfaction of The Return of the Jedi. Disrespectful and creatively bankrupt. That pretty much says it all. I remember having seen Jedi when I was a kid and being absolutely elated by Vader’s sacrifice when he saved Luke and ‘killed’ the Emperor. The crescendo that those first three movies built to paid off wonderfully and left me feeling happy that finally good had triumphed over evil, and all was right with the universe. Then, decades later…this bullshit.

Aside from maybe the desert skiff chase, no action scenes really stand out, even a mere day later. One of the things that Star Wars is known for are its many inventive and cool action set-pieces (the Trench Run, the Battle of Hoth, the Sarlaac Pit fight, the Speeder Bike chase etc), but this pathetic turd has nothing except for maybe the somewhat generic chase on yet another desert planet, and even it boasts some questionable effects (some of the compositing and light matching stands right out), which is surprising given the bloated budget.

The ‘Stormtrooper Jedi Mind Trick’ scene WAS funny. I LoL’d, I will admit. There’s a bit where ‘Rey’ (Daisy Ridley), ‘Finn’ (John Boyega) and ‘Poe’ (Oscar Isaac) are sneaking through the bowels of a Star Destroyer and they run headlong into a pair of Stormtroopers, whom ‘Rey’ mind-tricks into letting them pass, with some hilarious results. It’s only 4 lines of dialogue, but I’ve watched it 6 times now and laughed every time.

The stupid Goonies rip-off Sith dagger! What an idiotic MacGuffin! And they just happen upon it…underground! Yep, this element I find utterly moronic. The entire ‘mechanism’ of how this thing works is so completely reliant on convenience to work that it boggles my mind that they were brave enough, or dense enough, to include it. Say it with me, kids…LAZY.

The ex-stormtrooper chick had a hilariously bad costume. Like cheesy cosplay. This small detail I actually found distracting. There’s a subplot about a group of former stormtroopers who, like ‘Finn’, fled the First Order (now THAT could’ve been a cool idea, if executed correctly) and we focus on one, named ‘Jannah’ (Naomi Ackie). First off, her entire look sucks. It didn’t feel like any imagination had been put into it. This impression wasn’t helped by the fact that some pieces of the costume legitimately look like Styrofoam, like something carved from gas station coffee cups. Seriously, it looks Grade 4 art class level. There is some cheap work on display in this flick, that can’t be denied.

Horses in space, I shit you not. The ridiculousness continues. A herd of equine aliens gallop across the outer surface of a Star Destroyer in flight, with goofy Resistance fighters astride, lasers ablazin’! Yes…on the fucking exterior. (mouth drops open in stunned awe) I get that it’s Star Wars, easily more Fantasy than SCIENCE Fiction, but c’mon!

Emperor + Rey are ridiculously overpowered, all light show, no real stakes. Actually boring. In typical Big Budget genre fashion, this flick degenerates into an illogical light show, all flash and bang but devoid of any real substance or sense of tension. *Yawns* The same feeling also applies to pretty much every instance involving a lightsaber as well.

It’s just as bad as The Last Jedi, just for different reasons. Already mentioned, but damn! How the hell does Disney manage to stumble so egregiously, twice! Yes, I get that dumbass Rian Johnson painted them into a hole with his “subversive” take on Star Wars with the HIGHLY flawed 8th film, but a little more thought and effort could’ve both reeled back in the soured fans AND given the saga a fitting end, that didn’t feel like a clunky race-to-the-finish totally lacking in character and ‘soul’. The Last Jedi sucked because of how it treated key characters and how it tossed aside the intriguing story threads that JJ Abrams had laid out in The Force Awakens, while The Rise of Skywalker is just badly concocted, both in ‘story’ and execution. It reeks of desperation, and the need to cover up the fact that they never had a coherent story arc spanning the new trilogy to begin with, which I find baffling, given the $4 BILLION dollar purchase of Lucasfilm. You’d think they’d want to get it right, from the get-go, but clearly the bean-counters at Disney were salivating for some of that sweet sweet Star Wars money, and fast tracked production without a logical and respectful through-line encapsulating their planned 3-title wrap-up of George Lucas’ first 6 movies, 3 of which being legitimate classics. You’d also think that someone like Kathleen Kennedy, who’d been in Lucas’ orbit going back to the early 80’s, would’ve had more regard for, and grasp on, what Star Wars is, and has become over time.

More misplaced Abrams humor. As with The Force Awakens, there were times when I found JJ’s brand of ‘wit’ feeling out of place and forced. There’s always been a scattering of funny, situational moments in the original trilogy, and even the flawed Prequels, but somehow, this stood out to me. *shrugs*

First Order always just conveniently turns up. This happens several times. The heroes have just barely secured the last End-of-Level prize and the pesky First Order attack ships just happen to arrive on the scene, prompting yet another blah action scene to ensue. Hell, there was a sequence like this that screamed of Deleted material, where ‘Rey’ and Co. are escaping from the ‘not Tatooine, not Jakku’ desert planet when an out-of-the-blue TIE fighter attack is imminent, while characters are caught out in the open, and CUT…they’re safely away. What the hell, Film Editor?! Did you think we wouldn’t notice?!

Nostalgia bait in the worst way. That kinda sums this whole ‘movie’ up.

And thus wraps up my scribbles.

In a nutshell, The Rise of Skywalker is a clumsy, ill-advised finale that manages to continue the overall insult to Star Wars and its legions of multi-generational fans by Disney. While it’s easy to heap a ton of the blame on director JJ Abrams, in no way do I envy the man and what he had to try to accomplish, especially where having to fix the damage caused by The Last Jedi is concerned. It really is a ‘damned if you do, damned it you don’t’ scenario that, right from the beginning, there was going to be no winning from, especially when you consider the feverish, near fanatical dedication to the franchise by the hardcore fans. There are tons of smaller details that I could easily shit upon in this sorry excuse for a movie, but most of those topics have already been covered ad nauseum by other reviewers and I don’t need to delve that deeply into that crap. Suffice to say, Disney’s greed and impatience has been fully revealed in how they chose to awkwardly tackle their contribution to the ‘Skywalker Saga’. Once upon a time, I would’ve vowed to own every last one of the Star Wars films on Blu ray, but now, after what Disney shat in our general directions, I can’t see myself EVER adding copies of either The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker (or Solo, for that matter) to my collection. Truth is, I can’t see myself ever seeking them out to even watch in their entirety’s again, as they’re simply not worthy of my time. I’ve had enough of Star Wars…and I say that having once been The Biggest Star Wars Fan in the World! Hopefully Disney will actually listen to critiques such as this, and opt to tap the brakes on impatiently fast-tracking and assembly-lining any further additions to the SW cinematic universe. They need to take a few years off, go back to the drawing board with writers who understand and give a shit about the elements that made Star Wars successfully resonate through the years the way it has, while also looking ahead to what it could be, and then put together something fresh but respectful that works inside the established ‘universe’ in ways that draws us back in, not through hype but through quality. To succeed, this is the course I strongly feel that Disney will have to embrace.

But, considering what they have managed to deliver up to this point (with a couple aforementioned exceptions)…fuck you, Disney. You’ve let us down, and you’ll need to step it up moving forward to prove your worth as caretakers of the cherished Star Wars legacy, something you have certainly NOT accomplished to date.

 

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