Mission Statement: The Rise of Skywalker is a poorly made film. Considering the level of resources involved and the level of polish present in previous Disney Star Wars’, this is a significant comedown in terms of filmmaking and craft and one of the worst in the mainline series.
A product of the design by committee process without the intelligence or integrity present in last summer’s Avenger’s Endgame; if the reduced pricetag and the CEO’s own words are any indication, it seems Disney was more interested in topping its own Box-Office with a ‘newer’ cinematic brand as a show of strength rather than provide a proper ending to a more culturally entrenched and arguably meaningful series.
This story is a mess and the most patchy Star Wars yet. The series has retconned before but never on this scale which is the biggest existential threat the story faces. “Wait, when did that happen?” you might find yourself asking. Weren’t all those ancient Jedi scrolls introduced in the last film destroyed? What is this “Sith Wayfinder”? How many of them are there, and how do they work? The Rise of Skywalker is where all the elements previously working in Disney’s favour blow up in their faces, as the first director they hired in 2012 is forced to confront answers to important questions he never intended to solve. It is obvious none of this was planned from the beginning, and like a kid who threw his class presentation together overnight, nobody is fooled. As film critic Jeremy Jahns put it, this is a scavenger hunt film, an overly plotted point to point film with thin connective tissue. Despite being announced seven years and four films ago, Disney did not start serious prep work on this film until they rehired Abrams in September 2017 when its original poorly chosen and inexperienced director wasn’t cutting it with the people who originally selected him (in this case Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, her boss Alan Horn, and his boss Bob Iger). [With the exception of creator George Lucas, every previous series director has had at least three films under their belt.] Abrams admitted to the New York Times he’s not good at endings, which presented an enticing challenge to saving Disney’s butt on a faster schedule than before. If they had delayed the film five months the film might have been significantly better and made significantly more money, but it also would have made for an awkward December quarterly earnings call. It is easy to tell where the film’s priorities are at.
At least the performances are good. Adam Driver, one of the finest actors of his generation has given Kylo Ren/ Ben Solo the complexity Star Wars fans deserve, and the square off between him and Daisly Ridley’s Rey via Force Communication is a sequel trilogy highpoint. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is better than ever, though the relationship between him and a new character played by Keri Russell feels undercooked. Richard E. Grant is effective in a very small role, but for every successful maneuver there is a misstep such as the distracting casting of hey that guy! Dominic Monaghan that erases Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) or a very British ex-storm trooper (Naomi Ackie) camping out on planet Endor.
I wasn’t a fan of The Last Jedi, and when I rewatched it I discovered the sequel trilogy, despite costing a billion, worthlessly lacks subtext. However, at least Episodes VII and VIII feel like a full meals compared to the half baked recipe of this film, which overwhelmingly contributes to the naysayer’s opinion of these official episodes feeling like tacked on fan-fiction. It is exactly the dollars and cents concern George Lucas had when he received his own billion dollar keep-away cheque. The only difference is upon the realization of it the fans are the only ones leaving empty handed.