Sunday, December 22, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - reviewed.

I was not looking forward to seeing this movie. I thought about skipping it until it was released for renting, but I caved in and saw it in the theater.

I'm glad I did! Rise of Skywalker was a good movie. J.J. Abrams fixed a lot of what Rian Johnson messed up in The Last Jedi.

I mentioned my disappointment on The Last Jedi in my review two years ago. Now, I wouldn't have disliked that movie so much had it not taken such an odd turn from The Force Awakens. Also, I would've had a different reaction if there was some indication that some of the unanswered questions I and a lot of other fans had were going to actually be answered.

That wasn't the case. There was no hint that there's more to come. I remember walking out of the theater when the movie was over and everyone was just silent. No applause. Nobody talking about how good it was or discussing their favorite part. The excitement was drained out of all 100+ people in that theater.

I gave The Last Jedi a 3-star rating. Possibly too generous at the time. But, I think that's still probably about right.

Now, as the middle part of the trilogy (having seen all three movies ... and having just re-watched The Last Jedi), I would maybe add half a star to The Last Jedi, so 3 and a half stars.

While they had to have had some of these plans in place given that Carrie Fisher is deceased and she already filmed some of these scenes, I don't think they had a clear plan in place. Kathleen Kennedy is probably more to blame for that than Rian Johnson, but Rian Johnson's pompous 'I do no wrong' attitude he seems to exude doesn't gain him any points with me.

After watching the entire trilogy, I think they should've been titled:
- The Force Awakens (great title, good movie)
- The Rise of Skywalker -- instead of The Last Jedi (still not a great movie)
- The Last Jedi -- instead of The Rise of Skywalker.

Swapping the titles of the second and third movies in this trilogy helps explain the story a bit more in my opinion.

Anyway, questions are answered! I'll elaborate more in the spoiler section below.

First up, the NON-SPOILER notes:

Abrams did a good job in helping to wrap this story and saga up. It didn't have the epic feel that an Avengers: Endgame did (the culmination of a multi-movie journey). The Rise of Skywalker did put a bow on some things though.

True, some things are predictable. Some things are cheesy. There are a few new questions that weren't really answered. Overall, though, after the mess that The Last Jedi was, this movie was good.

It's kind of like the X-Men movies, where they didn't really have a solid direction. It was more of a 'This movie did well? Great! Let's make another.' Marvel still leads the way (over DC, over Transformers, over Star Wars/Disney, over Sony, over Fox) when it comes to mapping out a game plan and telling compelling stories that make sense. All the space chases, blasts and visual effects in the world can't save a story that isn't thought through.

C-3PO had a bigger role in this movie. Finally, he was given a purpose.  He seemed more like an after thought in the last couple of movies but I laughed at a lot of his lines here.

Leia's character was handled well considering Fisher wasn't around to do reshoots.  They had to use previously unreleased footage with her and they made it work quite well under the circumstances.

Chewbacca is still a great character.

Rose was fine in this movie. I liked the actress in the last one and I somewhat liked the character until she prevented Finn from saving the day. Thankfully, they didn't make that same mistake twice.

Lando returning was a welcome addition.  there were a couple of additional characters that fit well for the parts of the story they were involved with.  It was easy to establish a quick connection to them.  I'm not sure what all Disney+ has in store for them, but those characters could easily be used in that area.

BB-8 didn't get as much screen time and I was OK with that. They also introduced a new droid.  His appearance was fine as well, but some respect needs to be given to R2D2.  His inclusion felt lackluster.  The OG save-the-day droid needs some love!

Poe, Rey and Finn aren't a bad replacement trio for Han, Leia and Luke. Those are big shoes to fill, but now that this new trio finally had a chance to work together as a team, it was entertaining. I wish we'd have seen more of that in the previous couple of movies.

General Hux was better this time around. He wasn't the Hitler rip-off (something that made me feel uncomfortable anyway) that he was in the last two movies.

Darth Sidious is still one of the best villains out there --- I'd say even better than Vader. He delivers every time!

There were some great fight scenes in The Last Jedi --- namely the Kylo / Luke battle on the salt planet and the showdown in Snoke's throne room. The Rise of Skywalker doesn't disappoint either.

They have a fun chase on a desert planet with a few Storm Troopers.

 There's the scene you've probably seen on posters and in trailers --- where Kylo and Rey duel it out with their lightsabers on the wreckage of the Death Star while incredibly powerful waves crash upon them.

There's a fun warp speed / hyper speed scene with the Millennium Falcon.  Rey has a cool training sequence as well.

Lastly, one of my favorite scenes, involved our heroes atop horses that were galloping towards battle on a destroyer.

I won't explain anything else about that scene or when it happens in the movie. I'll just leave it at that.

The Force versus The Dark Side --- that's what the entire saga has really been about, told with the personal Skywalker stories, so it was fitting that it wrapped up this way.

A unique element that was brought to this movie was the ability to fight each other despite being in two different places.  The link Kylo and Rey had in The Last Jedi is increased.  They battle each other while being in two different places --- because of their connection I guess.  It's interesting.  I don't know that it follows what we've seen before (other than Luke doing this in The Last Jedi) but it's interesting and creative anyway.

My problem with the entire trilogy is that it's been very emo.  Kylo and Rey don't come off as endearing characters who are trying to overcome their personal struggle -- at least not always.  Instead of being a romantic link of some kind or balances to The Force, they come off as a little too into their emotions.

I laugh out loud to the people that claim Kylo is a better villain than Vader.  Kylo is much better than Anakin from Episodes I-III, but he doesn't even touch the fully-turned Dark Side Vader.

When you break it all down, though, Star Wars isn't one cohesive 9-movie unit.  It's bits and pieces of awesomeness that are sewn together through sometimes bad acting, sometimes bad writing, sometimes annoying characters and sometimes pointless missions.

The Rise of Skywalker finishes up what it can and leaves a satisfying conclusion to what's been a bumpy ride at times.  It's fun, there are some creative fight scenes and it's not as all over the place as The Last Jedi was.

You can't ask for much more given the road traveled to get here.

Oh -- and the final scene was very fitting.  Very well done.

If Star Wars continues on with some new stories (with these characters or others), please, for the love of God, get a writer's room and map it out!  Gone are the days of the disjointed X-Men movies or the contractual disputes that prevent Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill from continuing on in their roles as Batman / Superman.  Marvel is kicking your butt when it comes to foreshadowing and storytelling.

They'll continue to do so if you don't even give them some competition.

SPOILER section below (scroll down a little).

..... ok, here we go:

  • The Kylo / Han scene was nice.  There was some repetition in the dialogue, which I appreciated.  For a moment, I thought he was going to turn the lightsaber on the memory of his dead father.
  • The yellow lightsaber at the end was cool.  I'm not entirely sure where it came from.  But it's a new take on a lightsaber and that was fun.
  • Rey being Palpatine's granddaughter was fine.  It wasn't exactly what I'd have probably chosen if given free reign to craft a story but it's better than her parents being 'nobody.'
  • Is it bad that I'm kind of glad to be rid of Kylo?  He was too emotional and back-and-forth for me to really connect to.
  • There was a little too much life giving / Force giving in this movie.  Rey gives to the sand worm thing.  She gives to Kylo.  Kylo gives back to her.  Had seeds been planted in previous movies, that'd be one thing.  But 3 times in one movie?  I get that this wasn't mapped out very well to begin with, but it was a bit much.
  • The planet killing weapons attached directly to the destroyers were a cool progression.
  • The visuals for the way the planet exploded could've been much better
  • Darth Sidious' lair was really cool with all the lightning and electricity
  • The new group with the horses (with tusks on their gear) were really cool.  It was Native American-esque and was something we haven't really seen in a Star Wars movie before.
  • I liked the voices that gave Rey the strength to rise up, but it would've been cool to see some Force ghosts there --- Leia, Luke, Yoda, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, etc.  It probably would've taken away from the Luke / Leia Force Ghosts in the final scene, but I think they could've come up with a cool way to make those two scenes different.

Questions that are finally answered:

  • Who the Hell was Supreme Leader Snoke? That is answered. Darth Sidious created him. I'll accept that answer.
  • How did Darth Sidious return from the dead? He's a Sith Lord. Ok. I'll accept that, too.
  • Who are Rey's parents? No, they aren't 'nobody.' They were Palpatine's daughter/son and the in-law.
  • Who would Rey have ended up with (Finn or Kylo)?   -   based on the kiss, I guess Kylo, but I prefer to think it'd have been Finn
  • Where did Leia get her Jedi powers?   -   she was finally shown training and using a lightsaber, so that whole coming back to life in space scene from The Last Jedi is a little more acceptable (not not much)

New questions that this movie left unanswered:

  • Did Palpatine really want Rey dead?   -   I'm still not sure
  • What was Finn going to say to Rey?   -   Apparently he was going to reveal that he's 'Force sensitive,' but I'll pretend that silly statement wasn't going to happen and that he was going to tell her 'I love you.'
  • Where did all those Sith come from?  Why didn't they at least try to help Palpatine while he was doing battle?   -   I guess I'll just accept that they weren't fully 'risen' yet and that they were trying to come back from the dead too?

Not too bad, overall.  Not too bad, J.J.

Related Content:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi - reviewed.
Justice League - reviewed.
Aladdin - reviewed.
Avengers: Endgame - reviewed.
Captain Marvel - reviewed.

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