I don’t think it would be remiss of me to state that The Last Jedi was one of the most divisive blockbusters in recent memory. Sitting at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, it looks pretty good, but as we all know, that only tells half the story.
Sure, Rian Johnson’s space opera scored an overwhelmingly positive 91% from critics, but for audiences; aka Star Wars fans, it achieved just 43% based on over 200,000 ratings. On that scale, it is the lowest rated film in the series.
You see, Johnson had full control over the story and the direction of The Last Jedi after J.J Abrams introduced a new generation of sci-fi geeks to the Star Wars name with 2015’s huge hit, The Force Awakens, and many felt that not only did it deviate too much away from Star Wars lore, it made some poor choices too.
Fast forward to 2019, and the road to this year’s The Rise of Skywalker has been rocky. Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was originally signed on to the project after the global success of that film, but was unceremoniously dumped by Disney due to “creative differences”. He does however, still get a story credit in this film. After the negative response to The Last Jedi from fans, Abrams was brought back to round off the trilogy in typically operatic fashion. But has he succeeded?
The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Issac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences against a foe long thought dead.
Abrams is the perfect choice to helm a struggling franchise. His work on rebooting the Star Trek series proves that, and while The Force Awakens was little more than a glossy reimagining of A New Hope, it felt like a true Star Wars epic. The Rise of Skywalker, however, does not. Why? Well more on that later.
First off, let’s look at the good. This trilogy has pulled together an incredible cast of characters with Daisy Ridley being a true Star Wars heroine in every way and John Boyega is immensely likeable, as he always is and looks like he’s having a great time. The late great Carrie Fisher is brought back using subtle film manipulation and unused footage from the previous two films, and while it works for the most part, there’s still something not quite right about her scenes in the film. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ten is never fleshed out and his character all but feels redundant.
There are faces old and new and this is where the trouble first begins. Not since Marvel brought the Avengers to the screen have we seen a cast of characters this big, and the film just doesn’t know what to do with them half the time.
Much of the new cast, including a bizarre cameo choice in Dominic Monaghan as a Resistance pilot, gets lost in the fray and characters are seen popping up every now and then without explanation. There are just too many to truly care about what’s happening on screen. Moments that should have huge emotional resonance are glossed over in a heartbeat and the cast is swamped by a film that tries to do too much with too little time.
Sure it might look pretty and have a cracking cast of characters, but this is a soulless closer to what could have been a really great trilogy
Of course, if you’re here to see stunning aerial dogfights, you’ll be thrilled, but Star Wars has been about so much more than that. As painful as it is to say, that’s all you get here. Abrams sure knows how to choreograph and shoot films, and this is probably up there with The Last Jedi as the most visually arresting film in the saga with exceptional special effects all round, but that’s pretty much where the positives end.
The script is a hot mess as we hop from planet to planet, seeing the First Order always two steps behind Rey and the gang of Resistance fighters. It’s clear that the writers had no idea what to do after the end of The Last Jedi so that film is glossed over completely – apart from one reference to its climactic battle. Shoehorning Emperor Palpatine back in the film feels like a cheap trick to extract some nostalgia from disheartened fans, and his appearances in the film feel just that: cheap and rushed.
The majority of the questions that were asked at the very beginning of this new trilogy are not answered, while those that are prove to be a disappointing conclusion to characters that fans have invested in and grown to love for four years.
As the film plods to a predictable and unoriginal climax, you’re left wondering how a studio like Disney with the power of the Star Wars brand could have got it so wrong. When you look back at the Skywalker saga as a whole, each trilogy had a defining story that held everything together.
The prequel series, as lambasted as they are, focused on Anakin and his descent into the Dark Side, and the original trilogy kept the story tightly wound around Darth Vader and Luke’s relationship. Here, there is none of that. As the end credits role, you’re left with more and more questions and it’s likely that none of them will ever be answered.
Sure it might look pretty and have a cracking cast of characters, but this is a soulless closer to what could have been a really great trilogy. What’s worse however, is that it commits the cardinal sin of blockbuster film-making: it’s just a little bit boring.