June 6, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:

Counterpoint: Messy Movie

Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker is an unpolished conclusion to the thematically and identity confused latest Star Wars trilogy. Many of the problems that have plagued the trilogy are front and center in this movie. 

This movie spends the first thirty minutes of it’s run time going back on many of the important points that the previous movie, The Last Jedi, had established. The primary example of this is Kylo Ren, the trilogy’s antagonist, and the symbolism of his mask.

In the previous installment Kylo’s mask was destroyed in a fit of his rage. The mask symbolizes him hiding his true self from the Dark Side. He was never truly sure of his path until he stopped playing dress up and idolizing his grandfather, Darth Vader. Only then could Kylo be sure in his path. The Last Jedi led Kylo to a place of confidence in his role as the antagonist, which he struggled with throughout the film. The end of the film left Kylo in a place that would be difficult to redeem, if at all. He was sure in his place in the universe for the first time in his life.

Rise of Skywalker abandoned this idea. The first thing they did with Kylo’s character was fix his mask and remind the audience that he still has some doubts. Whether or not Kylo ending the trilogy on the Light Side is a good idea or not is not the problem. The problem is the movie ignored the pacing and the themes established by the movie before it.

It’s no secret that many people disliked the Last Jedi and were vocal about their distates. It makes sense that the executives would steer Rise of Skywalker away from that film, however they did so in a way that felt inconsistent with the characters and unsatisfying to watch the growth, or lack of it.

This can be seen in other areas as well. The major decision of this movie, having Rey be the granddaughter of Palpatine, is in direct contrast to the themes of the previous film. The  Last Jedi put emphasis on the idea that it’s not who you are but what you do. Rey was not important because she was destined to be; she was important because she decided to use her gifts for the good of others. Making her a Palpatine takes away the impact that the revelation of her parents had in the previous film.

That being said, I believe a move should be analyzed on its own merit, as well as its place in a series. I will say that Rise of Skywalker is entertaining. However, it’s rushed and unpolished. The plot moves so quickly to get to the end, that it doesn’t take time to give weight to the journey. My experience with the movie left me wanting for more quiet time with the characters. I never felt the sense of dread from the fleet of Star Destroyers. I never felt the anger that Rey was supposed to be struggling with. I never felt the newfound sense of duty that Finn found last movie.

An example of the movie’s rushed plot is how it handles death. The movie teases two big deaths, Chewy’s and C-3PO’s. However, not only do we miss a chance to mourn alongside the characters, Chewbacca’s death is quickly reversed. This creates a movie experience where death does not feel like a real threat.

I think the movie suffers from being rushed specifically because it is a part of the series. It suffers from an overreliance on cheap intertextuality. It plays the nostalgia card too much and without any real weight. Rise of Skywalker tries to find it’s meaning in trying to remind you of the previous films, but without any of the work that makes it satisfying. 

Overall, I think the movie fails to stand as a thematically solid end to the series. I also think that it’s plot needed a few more rewrites to be cohesive and more impactful. But there is one thing this movie did get right, it’s an entertaining time to watch. There are a lot of really cool scenes. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t lose my shit when Rey passed Ben the lightsaber.

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