When it comes to “Star Wars,” being a fan comes first and a film critic comes second. I was four years old when I saw the original, and I’ve been a huge devotee of all things in the galaxy for forty plus years. This isn’t a review written by a disgruntled fan, as I have grown to love Rey, Poe, and BB-8 almost as much as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and R2-D2. But when a movie is so careless with its beloved characters both past and present, it’s something that can’t be ignored.
The Skywalker saga comes to its disappointing end in this (supposedly) final chapter. The recycled story is basic and mostly predictable, as the surviving Resistance rallies together to face the First Order for one final battle. So much is shoved into this movie that it feels like a pressure cooker that’s being forced to tell a too-rushed story. It becomes frustrating early on.
I realize “Star Wars” is a touchy subject and fans will always be debating the films until the end of time, but “The Rise of Skywalker” is one of the more mediocre entries in the series. From the reveal of Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) origins to the head-scratching actions of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to the disappointing conclusions for Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe’s (Oscar Isaac) stories, this thing stinks to high heaven. Almost everyone does things that are totally out of character, events happen that make absolutely no sense within the Lucas-created universe, it seems like more questions are raised than are answered, and new rules of what the Jedi can and can’t do seem to be made up on the fly because they make for convenient story arcs.
I’m not usually a literal filmgoer but this movie is so poorly plotted that its myriad problems are too abundant to ignore. Since this is a spoiler-free review I can’t divulge them here, but those who’ve seen the film will be able to name at least half of the dozen or so massive problems within seconds.
Particularly shameful is the inexcusable way Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who was a major character in “The Last Jedi,” is discarded like trash and relegated to a very minor background role in this film. Perhaps a defense could be constructed that she didn’t quite fit into this part of the journey, but I say hogwash. This is absolutely a decision that feels like it was done to appease angry internet fanboys who screamed and howled about Tran and her character behind the anonymity of their keyboards. Kowtowing to bullies is a colossal setback to the very themes that root the “Star Wars” franchise.
Further aggravating to life-long fans is the sparse emotional connection that stems from the film’s many fakeouts. There are zero consequences to the movie’s most shocking moments. It’s a crappy thing to do because it assures a near-complete loss of trust from your audience. For every gasp-inducing jolt and hold-for-tears touching moment, a sense of betrayal almost always follows.
Even worse is the quality of the filmmaking. This movie is so poorly shot it’s shocking, and director J.J. Abrams, who did a terrific job with “The Force Awakens,” is again in the driver’s seat. Only this time instead of keeping an unflappable composure behind the wheel, he’s swerving in and out of traffic at such a high speed that he spins out of control and careens off the nearest cliff.
“Rise of the Skywalker” is broadly entertaining, but it’s not a good movie. It’s the year’s biggest letdown.