Thursday, December 19, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


Star Wars fans are hard to please.  If you make a new Star Wars movie that is too much like any of the previous films, i.e. The Force Awakens, the fans complain that the movie just recycles old plots.  However, if a Star Wars film takes the franchise in new directions, i.e. The Last Jedi, fans complain that it messes with Star Wars canon and doesn't feel right.  When George Lucas made Star Wars movies, each film would visit new exotic locations, introduce new creatures, while presenting new ideas that quite frankly pissed off some of the fans.  I think that the Lucas-made Star Wars prequels were brilliant, but there was such a backlash to them that Lucas decided to get out of the Star Wars business altogether and sell the Lucasfilm company to Disney.  This is the problem with Star Wars movies: they are either repetitive, or they are original in ways that some of the hardcore fans can't accept.  To his credit, George Lucas was always original.  Not everyone liked his vision, but he always took each movie in a new direction.

When I saw the first Disney made Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, I felt uneasy afterward.  The movie is plenty entertaining, but I wrote that it felt like an imperfect imitation of a Star Wars film, like they almost got it right but not quite.  Had Lucas made the movie, it wouldn't have felt so familiar, but instead would have been different, and this would have displeased many people.  This is why The Last Jedi feels to me more like a real Star Wars film.  The movie was solely Rian Johnson's vision, and he made many questionable choices, but he did what Lucas would do, which is to take us to new exotic locations and introduce new ideas that we had not seen before.  However, about half the audience rejected the movie outright.  There was such a backlash to The Last Jedi that when the movie Solo came out six months later, hardly anybody went to see it.  Disney lost money on Solo, and reportedly there were serious discussions at Disney about how to fix this problem going forward.

One of the problems with The Rise of Skywalker is that it tries too hard to not piss anyone off.  It is loaded with crowd-pleasing moments, which makes it entertaining, but it is not very original.  Instead of introducing new ideas, new locations, and new creatures, everything is comfortably familiar.  The movie tries so hard to be crowd-pleasing that parts of it, especially toward the end, seem a little hokey.  The ending has a Return of The Jedi hokiness to it.

I'm not sure that the movie makes sense. They chose to bring back a character in a way that makes no sense at all, but this was probably the most entertaining choice they could have made.  There are many twists that are problematic, and the movie proceeds at such a frenetic pace and so much happens and so many characters come and go that it is hard to grasp it all.   Had this been a George Lucas film it would have taken time to develop a less complicated story.

The plot is not unlike a video game, where the heroes need to get to a location, but to get there they have find an item, and before they can find the item they have to complete a task, and then they have to complete a sub-task before they can complete the main task.  It is enough to make your head spin, and this doesn't quite feel like what a Star Wars movie should be.

On the plus side, the movie is beautifully made.

Because of all this, it is hard for me to take this film as seriously as I would other Star Wars movies.  It is not quite the payoff I had hoped for, although there is some payoff.  However, I don't think it matters.  It is a fast-paced well-made entertaining movie, so the audience just wants to ride with it.  It doesn't have to make sense; it just has to entertain and make money.

Rating: B+.

As of today, The Rise of Skywalker has a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It deserves much better than this.


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