By Louie Bell, Deputy Film & TV Editor
Spoiler free review
J.J. Abrams brings the Star Wars sequel trilogy to a close with a nonsensical trip down memory lane that serves up a heap of fan service without really making much sense - but my inner 10-year-old had a great time.
A long long time ago, in a production studio far far away, a bunch of Disney Executives sat around a table and planned out their brand spanking new Star Wars trilogy. What emerged over three mega-budget films was that they had done pretty much what Disney wanted: make a bunch of cash and do some shameless fan service while you’re at it.
A brief history: The Force Awakens (2015) was good fun, bringing in loveable new characters in a new-ish spin on what was basically a reworking of Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), whilst The Last Jedi (2017) is the best of the new bunch for beginning to tread that perilous ground of doing something original.
If, like me, you were hoping that The Rise of Skywalker (2019) would take Rian Johnson’s fantastic work and hit the ground running, you’d be half right. The final addition to the saga certainly hits - or crashes to the ground - with an astonishing speed. However, in several sneaky moves it sweeps away the progress made in the second film, almost to the extent that The Force Awakens could move pretty seamlessly into The Rise of Skywalker.
The first ninety minutes barely takes a moment’s breath, skipping from characters, scenes and planets at lightspeed, moving the plot on at a pace that is just exhausting and makes getting up for a quick wee a horribly dangerous move. There’s just no need for most of it, the film seems to be permanently in final-ten-minutes mode: we-need-this-to-go-there-to-get-this-to-meet-him-to-get-this-to-save-her-to-do-that.
It’s in the respite from this onslaught of exposition and transition that the film is at its finest, embodying the heart of the sequel trilogy - the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey. Aside from the fact that Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are the best things about the new films, their mysterious connection keeps us asking questions till the very end.
The rest of the characters are thrown about so much that the impact of huge moments is dampened by the needless meandering of the plot, and perhaps some of the biggest questions are either left unanswered or softly explained away in line upon line of creaky dialogue. The plot makes such little sense it’s actually quite laughable, seeming more to be driven by the need to include loads of old fan favourites than actual narrative coherence.
Kylo Ren and Rey's mysterious connection keeps us asking questions till the very end
And yet. And yet! Around the halfway mark, I began to feel the film’s problems slowly diffuse from my cold critical heart and the magic of being around these fantastic characters once more transformed me back into my 10-year-old self who was swept away by the sheer scale of the final battle between good and evil, the joy of seeing old favourites back on the big screen and the beauty of the John Williams score.
The new Star Wars movie was AMAZING, it exceeded my expectations, loved how it wrapped up the whole saga #TheRiseOfSkywalker— emma✨ (@whatsbanging) December 24, 2019
This film is to Star Wars what Mamma Mia! (2008) is to ABBA, you can forget about the lousy plot and the achingly bad dialogue, switch your brain off and enjoy the procession of all your favourite and totally indestructible greatest hits.
The film looks good too; J.J. Abrams brings his trademark directorial flare of extravagant space battles to great effect, the enormity of the battle sequences is quite something to behold. But whilst the dogfights and explosions rage overhead, the real battle is occuring in the hearts of our main characters - the conflict between the desire for power and the fear of their destiny.
Towards the end the film sparks smiles, gasps, laughter and perhaps some sniffles, as decade-spanning plotlines are wrapped up and we see them on screen for the final time. Yes, there will inevitably be more Star Wars films, but none with this blend of characters.
Does it make sense? No! Does it do anything different? Of course not! But behind all the incessant money-grabbing Disney bollocks is a film with a true heart, charming characters, the odd funny line and enough wholesome fan service to fill a thousand cheesy fanfictions.
Yes, there will inevitably be more Star Wars films, but none with this blend of characters.
Far from George Lucas’ original masterpieces, The Rise of Skywalker is a farewell to Star Wars as we know it, and still leaves the iconic series on a platform far above any other cinematic adventure. It’s not what we ever really needed, but to spend another few hours in that galaxy far far away, in a story that began a long long time ago? I’m glad we got it.
Featured: IMDb / Lucasfilm Ltd
Where do you think The Rise of Skywalker ranks amongst the trilogy of Star Wars trilogies?