As Anakin Skywalker’s infamously cringeworthy line from “Attack of the Clones” about sand goes, it’s also “coarse, rough and irritating,” but the metaphor to “The Rise of Skywalker” probably falls apart somewhere in there.
Coming in at just under two-and-a-half hours, the ninth (and supposedly final) film in the series is the franchise’s second-longest outing. The ridiculously high number of moving pieces in the movie makes the lengthy running time obvious to anyone trying to follow along. The plot has enough new exposition to fill up another Star Wars dictionary (which Disney will most certainly publish), but the worst part of the film’s expository overflow problem is the ham-fisted method used to deliver important (even certain lineage-based) information to the audience.
“We need to go to a PLANET to get a TOOL to take to a PLACE because otherwise this will all be for nothing” isn’t an exact quote, but it sounds like something Poe Dameron could have said at any point. If a massive Star Wars fan like myself couldn’t easily follow it, I doubt the average moviegoer will enjoy deciphering it very much. A subtler and easier-to-follow method would have been to just split screen the film and information from the screenplay as a continuous crawl throughout the movie’s runtime.
But the action must be good, right? Wrong. With the exception of a handful of lightsaber fights featuring an interesting take on a recently introduced force power, the battles in this movie fall as flat as Emperor Palpatine appeared to at the end of “Return of the Jedi.” There isn’t a single ounce of emotional weight tied to the outcome of any battle and I found myself not caring if Rey or Kylo lost an arm, a leg or a head. The space battles suffer from much of the same problem, but have the added bonus of not being the slightest bit interesting. Wow, X-wings and TIE fighters flying fast! Never seen that before!
Unless you’re a faceless, nameless stormtrooper, there isn’t any danger anywhere in this movie. There isn’t a single second where you are going to feel genuinely scared for the life of a character that you love. In fact, if you’re anything like the audience I watched this film with, you’ll laugh out loud at the supposedly heartfelt and somber climax.
The only things I seemed to enjoy were the things that felt familiar. Carrie Fisher gets a surprising amount of screen time considering her untimely passing nearly three years ago (archive footage from “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” was used to write her into the film). For the first time since the sequel trilogy began four years ago, “The Rise of Skywalker” actually makes decent use of droids (C3PO, in particular), but that and a handful of humorous lines sprinkled throughout the film are the only genuine compliments I can give the writing. Of course, it was also fun to see Billy Dee Williams back as Lando and no one does evil as well as Ian McDiarmid, but those things just are not enough to hang a movie on when everything else feels so forced.
New (and old) characters are introduced and used in service of the plot for five minutes, but given very little meaningful purpose to be there. I wasn’t actually looking at my watch, but if Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) have a combined screen time of more than 15 minutes total, I’d be shocked. Neither character feels important and only purposed to give Disney more posters and action figures to sell.
As someone who was not a big fan of her character in “The Last Jedi,” I should also point out that Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is criminally underused and it isn’t anything to cheer about. Sadly, it further diminishes her character’s contribution to this trilogy as a whole and is even more evidence that there was never a plan from the beginning of the Disney era. The line that Disney keeps feeding to Star Wars fans is that “The Rise of Skywalker” serves as the conclusion to all three trilogies, but this film can’t even properly serve the characters it just introduced two years ago.
Brandon’s Verdict: For me, “The Last Jedi” struggled with story, but “The Rise of Skywalker” struggles with storytelling. I didn’t hate every single thing about it, but it’s not a very well-made film. It just feels like we’re going through the motions of a sci-fi movie to get to the end as soon as possible. Well, here we are. Let’s go watch “The Mandalorian” instead.
My New Star Wars Ranking:
1. Baby Yoda (I’m joking, but you really should watch “The Mandalorian")
2. “Empire Strikes Back”
3. “A New Hope”
4. “The Force Awakens”
5. “Return of the Jedi”
6. “Rogue One”
8. “The Last Jedi”
9. “The Rise of Skywalker”
10. “Revenge of the Sith”
11. “Attack of the Clones”
12. “The Phantom Menace”