Movie Review: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

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PG-13 |

Director: J.J. Abrams

by Jason Koenigsberg

The Star Wars Saga comes to an end with J.J. Abrams back at the helm after taking a break from The Last Jedi (2017). He basically remade the first Star Wars movie four years ago with The Force Awakens, which was just Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) repackaged with modern special effects and more diversity in its cast. Now the third film in this new “final” trilogy feels like a remake of the first final film in the trilogy The Return of the Jedi (1983). To summarize Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in one word it would be gutless. This movie would have been more aptly titled ‘Return of the J.J.’ since he refurbished everything about Return of the Jedi into a safe, Disney-fied two and a half hours. Rise of the Skywalker does not take any risks nor does it have a single original thought. Every time it did something that surprised me, it took five steps back, as if the movie was saying “sorry, we didn’t mean to do that”, or “Just kidding! We’re not gonna let anything really bad happen”. The fans dictated how this trilogy would end after their outrage from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. The result is painfully safe and saccharin. If you are a fanboy that wants nothing more than happy familiar Star Wars cliches then The Rise of Skywalker is for you. If you were expecting a little bit of a surprise, or a unique voice, and not a remake of Return of the Jedi then you are going to walk out disappointed. 

It opens up like all other Star Wars movies do, in space and right away the scroll mentions that Emperor Palpatine has mysteriously returned. It shows some space ships moving towards a red planet, one of which is piloted by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He lands on the planet and talks to Palpatine in the first scene. One potentially big surprise ruined right away. The next two and a half hours are all callbacks and references to the original trilogy, especially the 1977 original and The Return of the Jedi. To list them would be spoilers and it would take a very long time. The Rise of Skywalker felt overproduced, a lot of action happens and it moves really fast that by the second hour everything seems rote and expected. The scenes with the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia were awkward to say the least with obvious body doubles. Perhaps The Rise of Skywalker would have worked better had she not passed away in real life. 

Likely the biggest problem with this new and allegedly final movie is that Star Wars does not feel special anymore. Audiences have been given a new Star Wars movie every year in the past five years. Since 2015 not a single calendar year has gone by without a Star Wars film. Star Wars used to be special when audiences had to wait every three years, or sometimes even more, like a decade for a new space adventure with the LucasFilm logo in front of it. That is probably why critics and audiences were more favorable to The Force Awakens and even the much lambasted Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). People had to wait ten and sixteen years respectively for a new movie in their favorite space fantasy universe from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. There are no surprises left for audiences, or the filmmakers want to double back and just give audiences a serviceable entry that they think they will be happy with. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is often hailed as the best Star Wars movie and that could be due to the fact that it messed with expectations and did not give audiences a traditional happy ending. People complained that the follow up Return of the Jedi chickened out not killing characters in order to make people happy and sell more toys. Well history repeats itself only this time it felt even more redundant. There are numerous times in The Rise of Skywalker where certain characters could or should have died and it would have made a huge dramatic impact, but the creators went the gutless route and took it back. Even George Lucas’ prequel trilogy was at least the directors vision and did not care about what focus groups wanted to see. This movie felt like it was going through the motions and had a check list of what audiences expected from a third film in a Star Wars trilogy. The Rise of Skywalker is a sad state of affairs for blockbuster movies and a limp note for the Star Wars saga to end. 

Skip this and check out any of the other Star Wars movies. Below is the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back, a bold and unique vision from the beloved space saga.

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