It has all built up to this moment: the decades of fandom, the colossal hype, the loyalty to what is arguably the biggest movie franchise of all time, Star Wars, culminates in The Rise of Skywalker. Also known as Episode IX, it’s the last segment — allegedly ever — of the movie series.
Sure, there are/will be one-offs and offshoots aplenty (The Mandalorian, anyone?) taking place in the Star Wars universe, but this set of trilogies is the core, the centre where millions of devoted fans started and stumbled along on their Jedi journey.
The movie itself, as its predecessors The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi did before it, tends to follow the same formulas we know so well.
What do you mean by that?
This final trilogy hasn’t been particularly adventurous. TFA, and TLJ after it, both follow along with the tried-and-true plots of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and now, even Return of the Jedi. There are echoes and reminders of Star Wars‘ past everywhere, which work both as nods for die-hard fans and nostalgic Easter eggs meant to delight. Unfortunately, because of that, this movie ends up as a messy jumble of Star Wars references, stuck stubbornly in the same old rut.
ROS is scattered. Without spoiling, the plot centres — as much as it can centre — around Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who you’ll remember from the original trilogy. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) still have the will-they-won’t-they back-and-forth, here tinged with romantic undertones (kinda?). Everyone is searching for something, and if I had to choose a theme it’s this: Who am I and where am I going?
It’s more of what we’ve already seen, then?
Yes, sadly. Most characters are blessed with impenetrable plot armour, meaning the audience doesn’t have to fear for anybody’s life all that much. As I’ve written in my previous reviews, the most galling aspect for fans of the franchise is the way the Force itself has mutated over the years. What used to be a feeling is now a knowing. People blessed with the power can now communicate verbally in each other’s minds, transfer items to each other and even heal mortal wounds.
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The Force’s beauty was in its mystery, when Luke and Leia would close their eyes and feel each other’s presence across light years. Now it’s like a grab-bag of random powers, adjusted to fit the script and situation.
What about all of our favourite characters?
Again, without spoiling, you’ll catch at least a glimpse of all your favourites. After all the fuss over Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) following TLJ, she’s barely a blip on the radar here, pushed to the sidelines for a plot-adjacent task. Worse still is the relegation of Finn (John Boyega), whose purpose is to run alongside our heroes and not really contribute much to anything other than encourage them. More is done with Poe (Oscar Isaac), but his performance feels empty outside of your generic paint-by-numbers lead rebel.
There are droids — some new, some old — some ghosts, and a bunch of creatures from the Star Wars universe for that cuteness factor.
Does it wrap up nicely at the end, at least?
After the movie was over, the majority of the critics in the audience sat there, almost dumbfounded. On one hand, it feels satisfying to reach the conclusion of this story following decades of dedication. On the other, the ending isn’t what you expect. It actually takes some mental gymnastics to get where the movie wants to take you. That’s all I’ll say.
So what’s the bottom line?
As the final movie of the (alleged) last Star Wars trilogy, it feels good to see the end of the story. As more offshoots happen on both TV and the big screen, it’s probably for the best that this franchise is reaching its end in 2019. Hopefully with the new decade comes a new approach to Star Wars: one that isn’t so feverishly obsessed with pleasing a fan base, and instead doing what it does best — taking audiences to exciting new worlds while making us feel all warm and fuzzy. Or in other words, give us a new hope.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.