This is a tricky film to talk about. I am a Star Wars fan, but not to the extent that I’m a fan of something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I have found things to like in all of the Star Wars films, even Attack of the Clones, and I did enjoy The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. That’s what makes this one so hard for me to talk about. I won’t deny that I had a lot of fun with the film and I enjoyed the characters but there are some pretty big problems with the film that reek of studio interference.
Following the events of The Last Jedi, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, has been able to rebuild and is continuing its assault on The First Order, led by Kylo Ren. After receiving information from a mole in the First Order, the Resistance finds out that Emperor Palpatine, assumed to be dead following the events of Return of the Jedi, is still alive with Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron going on a mission to find the location of Palpatine and stop him before he launches a fleet of specialised Star Destroyers, each one having the capabilities of a Death Star. Now there were a fair few elements of the film I liked. For starters, even though it does negate plot points from The Last Jedi, I do respect the idea the film has regarding Rey’s parents and how parentage doesn’t define who you are. Granted, I think The Last Jedi did this theme better, but this is just a different way of handling this theme and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad decision in and of itself. I also don’t particularly mind the return of Palpatine. Yes it is nostalgia baiting but there are interesting elements about the relationship between the Jedi and Sith through this and some good character moments for Rey. I also think the film did a decent job of carrying over the idea of the importance of the symbols of rebellion, in this case the symbol of the Millenium Falcon. However, as I mentioned, there are points of the film which feel like a studio executive saw the loudest responses to The Last Jedi and ordered that this film address those concerns. As such, this feels much safer and doesn’t have the same level of thematic depth as The Last Jedi. This is still a decent enough film, along the lines of Revenge of the Sith or Solo but there isn’t the added power that something like Empire Strikes Back or Last Jedi has.
The performances meanwhile are pretty solid. Daisy Ridley as Rey is good fun, showing her fear of turning to the dark side and her lingering feelings about her family well whilst Adam Driver as Kylo Ren continues to show the conflicted side of the character well, even if the resolution is a bit rushed. Oscar Isaac as Poe is a lot of fun, with some elements of his backstory coming into play and he continues to have great chemistry with John Boyega as Finn, who shows his concern for Rey well and there are interesting moments which go into his Stormtrooper past, even if these could have been expanded on a bit more. There’s good work from Keri Russell and Naomi Ackie, Richard E Grant acts exactly like you’d expect he would and is a joy to watch, whilst he needed more screentime for plot developments with his character, Domhnall Gleeson is still entertaining and Mark Hamill has some fun in his appearance. It does feel like the initial plans for this film would have had Leia in a more prominent role, but the death of Carrie Fisher did impact it. The re-use of previous footage is well done but the tragic loss of Fisher is a spectre throughout the film. The worst treated cast member though is Kellie Marie Tran. After being one of the highlights of The Last Jedi her role here is as minimal as could possibly be and it does feel like an insult to the character to sideline her this way.
The technical elements of the film though are very impressive. The production design for each of the worlds in the film is excellent, with the festival shown on the planet Pasaana being a particular highlight. I also found the Sith world of Exegol to be impressively foreboding, even though the use of lightning effects does create issues for those suffering from photo sensitive epilepsy. The action scenes meanwhile I found to be well directed and there is a visceral thrill to be had in all of them, with the CG effects for the space battle scenes being as good as they have ever been for a Star Wars film.
Overall, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a bit of a frustrating film. I did enjoy it and I don’t think it’s a bad film, but there are so many elements where this needed another pass at the script after Colin Trevorrow was fired. Whilst I was worried about the film as JJ Abrams isn’t known for ending things well, this does feel like a conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, it’s not the best way it could have ended, but we still got a fun enough film out of it.
My Rating: 3.5/5