The Skywalker Saga reaches its end with Episode IX. The Rise of Skywalker is now out and I had the joy of going to see it this morning. After a couple of hours thinking about it, I felt it was time to give my initial thoughts.
While I will be looking to avoid spoilers, there may be some references to what we have seen in promotional material, such as the trailers and TV spots, so if you have been avoiding everything and want to go in completely blind, you have been warned!
So, I’m not going to beat around the bush. When I came out of the cinema to messages from a few friends asking what I thought, I really struggled to give an answer. I can’t remember having come out of a Star Wars movie so undecided. This is definitely one that I will need to watch again to really take everything in and get a clearer idea of how I feel.
First off, this movie feels like it’s travelling at lightspeed. It very much feels like JJ Abrams has tried to cram one and a half movies into 2 hours and 22 minutes. With so much to take in and few moments to take a breath and catch up, it wouldn’t surprise me if I have missed something crucial at some point during the viewing. But why does it feel like more than one movie in here? Well, there’s not really much to make this feel like a sequel to The Last Jedi, barring the broad strokes that couldn’t really be undone.
Now obviously what didn’t help the story was the passing of Carrie Fisher as everything we hear suggests that this was meant to be Leia’s movie, in the same way that The Force Awakens was Han’s and The Last Jedi Luke’s. I was nervous as to how Leia would be used in this movie and while I think it was done well, it was pretty clear how they were trying to work the scenes around what footage they had with the way that the scenes including her were shot. I don’t want this to sound overly critical, though, as it would have felt odd for the story to not include Leia at all, so this was always going to be hard to get right. I will say though, that it was tastefully done and what they managed to put out for us did not throw me out of the movie.
As with all the new movies, the movie was visually brilliant, while the music certainly stood out for me more in this movie than the rest of the sequel trilogy, though admittedly the music of the Sequel Trilogy has not impacted me in the same way as that of the previous trilogies, so it may be in part due to hearing some more familiar themes again. The humour was good on the whole and while I have rarely considered myself a fan of Threepio, I really appreciate his larger role in this movie and thought he was used very well as a way to move the story forward while also actually being one of the main sources of humour. I was however a little disappointed that Artoo did not have a bigger part as he has been used sparingly through the trilogy – though admittedly I didn’t feel that BB-8 or D-O were really being used at his expense this time. I can’t fault the performances of anyone in this movie – Adam Driver was the clear star with another wonderful performance – but I think that the pace of the movie and the limited screen time harmed the new characters like Naomi Ackie’s Jannah and Keri Russell’s Zorii Bliss, as well as some of the supporting characters from previous movies like Billie Lourd’s Connix and Domhnall Gleeson’s Hux.
This movie has some wonderful moments that I absolutely loved, but there was also plenty that left me scratching my head. I won’t go into them really here as they are generally plot- or character-related so would involve spoilers. Suffice to say that the movie gave me plenty of new questions right from the opening crawl, while I came away feeling like not all of them were answered – including a couple of key ones. There were also a few moments that we saw in the trailers that really hyped me up for this movie but left me underwhelmed when seeing what they represented in the movie itself, Similarly, there were also some moments that have left me wondering about the wider canon implications – some things didn’t seem to add up with what we already had been told about characters. While there was certainly some nods to the fans of the wider Star Wars universe, it also felt like the story was being made without going into the deeper lore. Maybe this is one for the more casual fan, rather than a canon junkie like me.
Right now, I find myself in a position where I would actually rank this my least favourite of all the Disney-era movies. It is not a bad film, but it also doesn’t feel like the grand end to the Sequel Trilogy, let alone the entire Skywalker Saga. It may be that a second viewing completely changes my view and sees it climb up the list. Regardless of my view, I definitely think that this is one that you need to watch and make up your own mind on!
Let me know what you thought about the movie, but please keep it spoiler-free in the comments for the sake of others! I will be posting a more in-depth review with spoilers in a couple of weeks (hopefully after I’ve seen the movie again), so in the meantime, if you want to discuss spoilers you can DM me on Twitter or Instagram @pstetheridge
Thanks for reading.
May the Force be with you…