This is such a tricky film to review! It comes with a massive expectation from the fan base with every one of them having their idea of how the Skywalker saga should end. That, combined with the death of Carrie Fisher and the change of direction between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi meant that this final entry to the series was always going to fall short of what it could have been if J J Abrams had been allowed to direct all three movies.
So here we are with the returning cast of Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), Adam Driver (A Marriage Story), Carrie Fisher (Return of the Jedi) and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina).
It is extremely difficult to properly explain the positives and negatives of the movie without spoilers and so I will probably follow this up with a spoiler-filled thoughts blog at some point.
For the reasons stated above, this is a bit of a mess. The film rushes to update the audience so quickly as to what has happened since the Last Jedi. There is some really bad dialogue and it never lets you enjoy what you are seeing in the first third of the movie. The original plan was for Force Awakens to be Han’s Film, Last Jedi was Luke’s and this was to be Leia’s. The use of footage from the Force Awakens of Carrie Fisher only adds to the awkwardness of the dialogue. She is still a key (and totally necessary) part of the story and it is sad we will never see what this could have been with her throughout. Also, talk of ignoring the Last Jedi is a bit overhyped.
The pace starts to settle a bit by halfway through but the story is still very fragmented. There is some “fan service” although I thought this was less than has been suggested. A lot of it makes sense to the story but there are a few missteps. One in particular (which I didn’t see coming) really doesn’t work.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are the heart of the Rise of Skywalker and totally carry the film. Their connection is continued from the Last Jedi and works well. I was especially pleased with Rey’s journey, as I have always thought she was a great character. The issue of her parents is revealed and not everyone will approve but, given the story arcs of the Star Wars saga, I really liked it.
I actually disagree with many critics and fans who disliked the choices of the final outcome. From a narrative point of view, it made sense when you consider the destiny of family in the lore of the Force. Whether you can accept this film will largely be down to how you view the development of force powers over the new trilogy. I could due to the fact the first entry was titled “The Force Awakens”. The inclusion of the Emperor was necessary but I can’t decide how successfully implemented this was. Another viewing is definitely required.
However, there are still problems. The film looks incredible, but again the pacing often makes it hard to care. There are too many instances of characters turning up out of the blue to help the quest or McGuffins conveniently being found. A few moments do make you think “really???”. The end contains a moment that, again story-wise makes sense, isn’t earned. I hate to say it, but they really should have split this last film in two and taken more care.
It is definitely time for Star Wars to move on from Skywalker and this can only help to remove the crushing expectations on the franchise. Maybe for the next movies, we can all just relax.
So, if you can let go of your expectations (and not pine for the original trilogy feel), it is a beautiful, fun movie that provides a decent end to the saga. It’s just it could and should have been much better.
Rating – 7.5 – A troubled production and it shows. There is a good story in there if you can keep up and ignore a few missteps. A fitting end to Rey’s story but maybe not how you were expecting.