When I was a kid and saw Return of the Jedi at the cinema back in 1983, I dreamed of the Star Wars sequels. George Lucas never made them but he authorized the continuation of his saga with the Expanded Universe books so when Heir to the Empire was released in 1991 that became my beloved sequel trilogy.
Fast forward to 2019 with The Rise of Skywalker, a movie promoted as the epic conclusion of the Star Wars saga. But is it? It’s a movie not based on Lucas’ treatments of Episode 7, 8 and 9, but uses Disneys own ideas. (Imagine Warner making a sequel to Lord of the Rings and calling it the epic conclusion of the Middle Earth saga, 60 years in the making?) It’s things like this that have split the fanbase. Not everyone accepts Disneys trilogy as canon, so whether you will like this movie not only depends on the quality but also (as Obi-Wan would say) your “point of view”.
I followed Yoda’s advice and “cleared my mind” when I entered the theater in Amsterdam on December 17 to watch the press screening of Star Wars Episode IX.
The story: signals are picked up in the galaxy that Emperor Palpatine is still alive. Kylo Ren is of course looking for him while the Resistance is busy gathering more information. In the meantime, Rey is training to become an (even better) Jedi.
Ren finds Palpatine (at the start of the film) and we learn that he did not die in Return of the Jedi (how he escaped a certain death is not explained), was the brains behind Snoke and has an immense fleet to end the Resistance once and for all. Rey, Leia and the others want to prevent this and set off to find the location of the Sith planet Exogol (where Palpatine is). A quest that leads them to many locations and planets and where they find new and old companions.
Where The Force Awakens can be seen as a sort of A New Hope reboot, the same can be said about The Rise of Skywalker imitating Return of the Jedi. Abrams copies and throws not one or two nostalgia cards on the table but a complete deck. Billy Dee Williams returns (triumphantly!) as Lando, we see various classic ships, Wedge Antilles literally returns no less than 1 second and we also visit the second Death Star. Add to that a podrace / speederbike-like chase, and some scenes that could have been in the celebration scenes of Return of the Jedi and you have an idea of what I mean.
Maybe all of this could be forgiven but unfortunately director Abrams makes one huge mistake: the movie completely detracts from the prequels and original trilogy by bringing back a Palpatine hanging on life support (again: without explanation). This means Anakin was not The Chosen One. His redemption was for nothing. The Death Star was destroyed for nothing. After all, he has survived everything and can now be defeated for a second time.
The absolute disrespect for what George Lucas has created will make this a particularly nasty experience for fans who care about the lore. In addition, so many questions remain unanswered: how did Maz Kanata get the lightsaber from Anakin? How is it possible that this saber (which was destroyed in The Last Jedi) is suddenly whole again? How did Palpatine survive? Just a couple of the things even JJ and his mystery box cannot answer.
Add to this a cringy ending and a silly ‘twist’ about Rey’s parents and it’s clear this is not the Star Wars many had hoped to see.
The fact the movie has great visuals, Adam Driver again gives a solid performance (in my opinion the best actor of the trilogy), Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron finally has some scenes to shine, and the effects and creature departments have done their work really well can’t save it.
If you aren’t a fan of the direction Disney took with The Force Awakens or didn’t like The Last Jedi then I don’t think you’ll embrace this one. It doesn’t “fix” the choices that were made (which to be honest I think it would have been impossible to achieve). Since it as said only makes things worse so I wonder who can accept the choices made.
Several months ago Mark Hamill tweeted this image. The reunion so many fans wanted but never got.
Although I agree with Mr. Hamill I think this image with the same hashtag below wouldn’t have been bad either.
When two guys (and The Maker) with a budget of around $ 100 million (about a tenth of the entire sequel trilogy budget) can produce a 5+hour show that doesn’t divide the fanbase, respects the lore and introduces a character that was an instant hit (and will undoubtedly boost merchandise sales (looking at you baby Yoda)) I can only hope Lucasfilm is taking notes.