TL;DR – This is a film that feels both incredibly safe but yet also incredibly weird and that dissidence is really odd and is enhanced on a second viewing.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
I have been thinking a lot about Star Wars in the weeks since I first watched The Rise of Skywalker. Was I too harsh with it? Did I let one story beat distract me from the rest of the film? Do I want to see a buddy cop film starring John Boyega and Oscar Isaac? Okay, that last one was an easy answer, of course, I do. However, for the first two, I was truly left wondering, well that is until yesterday when I went with some friends as saw the same film twice in cinemas (not something I have done in quite a while). Which means it is time to explore if a second viewing of Star Wars helps or hurts it and what I found is that it focuses you into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So to set the scene, at the end of The Last Jedi everything is in flux. The Resistance has survived annihilation but has been stretched to almost breaking point as The First Order storms across The New Republic. However, all is not dandy for The First Order as well, as their leader was assassinated by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and their main battle cruiser was destroyed. However, just at the cusp of this, a dark voice from the past pierces into the vale. For it appears that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has come back from the dead and is gunning for Rey (Daisy Ridley). Now in this review, we will be going FULL SPOILER discussing some really important plot points. If you want to read our spoiler-free review you can find it here.
The Good comes from you not needed to follow the plot as closely so you can spend more time in on the world that they have built. I cannot stress this enough, but the production design in this film is absolutely astounding. Everything feels lived in, filled to the brim with little features that make you feel like this is a real place. I think it helps that there is more of a focus on practical sets which gives you more texture to work with. I also shows that Dan Mindel really knows how to light a scene and not just in the areas where lightning crackles all over the place. As well as showing off the sets and costumes, it also allows you to hear John William’s score more nuisance with little hints of many different leitmotifs popping into the frame at different times, also didn’t spot his cameo first time around. You also get to see all the work that went into making those scenes where Rey and Kylo/Ben interact across space appear as well as it does in the film. Everything supporting the story, including the acting, is really strong, and you get to see more of that the second time through. Also, I am now here for all your Babu Frik (Shirley Henderson) related content.
The Bad comes from all those jarring moments that feel foisted upon the film, some through design and others through external factors. The chief of those outside factors is the loss of Carrie Fisher one of the emotional cores of Star Wars. To keep her story going they reused footage shot from the last film, so while that meant that Carrie Fisher and General Leia got to be in this film it was not without its problems. It really feels like they had not a lot of footage to work with and they tried to work a story around it and it just does not come together all that well. This has a flow-on effect to that entire side of the story To add to this, Emperor Palpatine appearing out of nowhere feels forced in all the worst ways. The opening title crawl has been used to gloss over a lot of sins in the Star Wars universe but they pushed it too a breaking point here. This is even before we get to his plan to have Rey kill him, which make no sense in the context of his actions with Luke (Mark Hamill) in The Return of the Jedi. Indeed, watching it through again that entire third act just feels like a re-tread of Jedi by way of Endgame. There are also those moments through the story that feel really rushed like when Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) was apparently killed off in what might have been the big wow moment of the film, but it is about a minute before the film goes out of its way to quickly let you know that nothing happened. There are a lot of story beats like this, which either get brushed aside or never fully developed as the plot races ahead.
This leads us to The Ugly, and yes this does revolve around that one plot point. I came away from The Last Jedi with a very mixed feeling. Some of it worked really well but a lot of it was a mess. However, the one genius moment from the entire film is that Rey’s parents were nobodies. This was a masterstroke because it was the answer that you were least expecting, but then it also makes sense. It also helped fix a big problem within the greater Star Wars canon/now not canon Legends that had become fixated on bloodlines. Last Jedi going out of their way to say that you don’t have to be related to Obi-Wan etc. to be a powerful Jedi and anyone could have Jedi powers is a really powerful moment and frankly an important one of a series that needs buy-in from people to keep it as popular as it is. So going back on that point not only meant that Kylo Ren had to do some linguistic gymnastics to backtrack on his very explicit and definitive utterances from Last Jedi (not the only time that happens in the film). This is a problem and then we find out that she is really a Palpatine and somehow this lands with even a louder thud the second time through. From talking to a lot of my friends who have seen the film, a lot of how the film works or does not work comes from this scene.
In the end, did watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for a second time change my opinion on the film? No, not really. What it did do oddly enough is heighten certain parts of it. Where the film worked the first time around it now soars, and where it stumbles it now falls. What is the future of the franchise, well the film is still going to make over a billion dollars, so it’s going to be fine. However, I think after all the production problems on Solo, Rogue One, the cancelled projects, and here, maybe it is time to have a little breather so you can take a moment to work out how you want things to go forward better in the future and how to support that in the pre-during-and postproduction.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Directed by – J. J. Abrams
Story by – Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, J. J. Abrams & Chris Terrio
Screenplay by – J. J. Abrams & Chris Terrio
Based on – Star Wars by George Lucas
Music by – John Williams
Cinematography by – Dan Mindel
Edited by – Maryann Brandon & Stefan Grube
Production/Distribution Companies – Lucasfilm, Bad Robot Productions & Disney
Starring – Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid & Billy Dee Williams with Dominic Monaghan, Billie Lourd, Jimmy Vee, Greg Grunberg, Shirley Henderson, Amanda Lawrence, Vinette Robinson, Jodie Comer, Billy Howle & Nick Kellington and Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Andy Serkis, James Earl Jones, Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness, Ashley Eckstein, Freddie Prinze Jr., Olivia d’Abo, Jennifer Hale, Angelique Perrin, Samuel L. Jackson, Liam Neeson, Frank Oz, Hayden Christensen & Harrison Ford
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13