I’ll admit, when it comes to the Star Wars franchise, I am a relatively late bloomer. While I have come to appreciate the first six episodes more over the last few years, I can’t say that I became a fan of the franchise until 2015 with the release of Force Awakens. And I use to term ‘fan’ loosely as many (not all) of the die-hard fans seem to be a little too rigid, unyielding and hate-filled for my liking; overly concerned with what is or isn’t canon and loathed to accept anyone who may be brave enough to take the franchise into a new and exciting new direction.
In order to make a proper event of it, Mark and I headed to a triple bill showing of the modern trilogy which culminated in the midnight release of The Rise of Skywalker. Given my enjoyment of Force Awakens and my love (yes, love) of The Last Jedi, I was quietly excited to see how they would wrap up both the new trilogy and the entire Skywalker saga as a whole, especially with director JJ Abrams back on board.
Be warned, there may be some minor spoilers ahead so read on with a little caution.
The story starts with its trademark rolling script detailing the events following on from Last Jedi, as it turns out Supreme Leader Snoke wasn’t an evil mastermind after all but was merely a puppet for a someone far more frightening to the Resistance; Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Adam Driver) and his ‘Knights of Ren’ have been desperately searching the galaxy in order to find and eliminate this threat to his power, whereas Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been continuing her Jedi training under a new tutor: General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Whilst on a mission with Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and co. Rey clashes once more with Kylo and sets herself on a path that not only sees her discovering the truth about her heritage but holds the fate of the galaxy balancing on the knife edge that divides the light and dark sides of the force.
Whilst the main players in the new trilogy may be Rey and Ben Solo, ultimately its purpose is the culmination of a story that began over forty years ago. Where Force Awakens was a culmination of Hans Solo’s journey, and Last Jedi was Luke’s, Rise of Skywalker was supposed to be Leia’s swansong, however due to Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016 and the decision to only use pre-recorded stock footage, Leia’s story was, understandably, watered down for this final instalment.
There were also some nice little letters of love to some of the long-serving fan favourites including a too-beefy-to-be-a-cameo cameo from Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), force ghost Luke (Mark Hamill) and a poignant farewell from protocol droid, C3PO (Anthony Daniels).
As well as saying our fond farewells to the favourites, we were also introduced to a number of new additions that, for me, added nothing to the story except to test the waters for possible inclusion in whatever the Disney galaxy has planned next.
Keri Russell’s masked renegade, Zorii Bliss, added an unnecessary romantic element that may, or may not, have only been included to detract from the popular desire for a Finn-Poe relationship. I was also not a fan of the Naomi Ackie’s character, Jannah, as I felt it diluted the impact of Finn’s story arc and also provided an incredibly uncomfortable interaction with Lando at the end. There was, of course, also the obligatory new droid, D-O, which was cute and served his purpose but was not particularly memorable.
The many scattered mentions of Kylo’s ‘Knights of Ren’ throughout the first two movies did a great job of piquing my interest, but their inclusion within RoS was minimal and anti-climactic, although credit where credit is due, there was a good, but short, fight towards the end of the film. I was expecting much more from these warriors, that were trained in the ways of the Jedi but instead we got glorified storm-troopers.
Throughout this trilogy, I have been a big fan of General Hux but the way they ended his storyline but lazy, disappointing and an insult to the talents of Domhnall Gleeson. Similarly, the fairly limited amount of screen time for Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) has caused a bit of an outrage with fans, and whilst the justification may seem reasonable, it still feels like something of a cop out.
As it has been throughout this trilogy, the keystone of the story is the tumultuous love/hate, light/dark relationship between Rey and Kylo/Ben. Whilst I do feel that cinema as a whole are a little over zealous and gratuitous when it comes to including romantic relationships, I actually enjoyed the way they handled this one, probably because it has developed over the course of three films as opposed to one.
Daisy Ridley was as good as ever as our ass-kicking heroine, but it has got to be said that Adam Driver absolutely stole the show with his performance. Having previously demonstrated the turmoil inside of him in the manner of a petulant teen, Ben Solo has finally realised who he wants to be, and as a result offers a mature and strong resolution to his story. It has to be said that Ben’s story arc has been the most intriguing across the three films and as a result I have developed something akin to a crush on him!
Despite their being a lot of strong points with RoS, overall I was left feeling disappointed and dissatisfied. This is a saga that has spanned generations and deserved something epic to close it out. I don’t know whether my viewing experience suffered because I watched it immediately after Force Awakens and Last Jedi but, for me, the story was far too obvious and predictable, too safe and overly Disney-fied.
While I may have found it in my heart to forgive Abrams’ retreat into safety, especially considering the backlash that Rian Johnson faced, what really pushed me over the edge is the blatant rip-off of a scene from Avengers: Endgame and the complete overwrite or erasure of the ‘unfavourable’ aspects of The Last Jedi. In my opinion, that was just shameless and spineless fan service, and as a result the film suffered overall.