By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
The First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has made a grave discovery on the legendary Sith planet Exegol. Emperor Palpatine, once thought slain by Darth Vader at the end of the war against the Empire, is alive and has spent the decades building a fleet of Star Destroyers armed with the same planet-destroying weaponry as the Death Star. Palpatine offers Ren his fleet in exchange for killing Rey, the last surviving Jedi.
The Resistance learns of Ren’s discovery, and plots a final desperate push to destroy the Sith once and for all, and save the Galaxy from tyranny. Jedi Rey and her friends Po Dameron, Finn, Chewbacca, and the Robot C3PO set out to discover the location of Exegol with hopes of uncovering a weakness in the First Order’s new devious secret weapon.
“Our Secret Weapon is being fabuloooooooous”
As with both of the previous films in the new Star Wars trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker mixes practical and computer effects beautifully, to the point where it is often quite difficult to tell which shots were accomplished primarily with real sets and locations, and which were done via Green Screen. Numerous practical costumes and puppets add tactile realism to a franchise that needs to feel lived-in. The art design of this trilogy is its greatest strength. Of particular note is the sequence set in the long-abandoned husk of the destroyed second Death Star, with chunks of it being swept away as the ocean’s waves beat away at it mercilessly.
There’s a certain visual poetry to apocalypse
The new Star Wars trilogy has a tone problem. The first film worked because it introduced a lot of new and interesting characters. And while it felt a bit too similar to the original Star Wars, it was mostly forgiven by fans because of the promise it delivered for something new and exciting in the films ahead.
Enter The Last Jedi, which defiantly zigged everywhere the first film zagged, dispensing with numerous plotlines set up in the first film and created something new. Unfortunately it did so by destroying the essence of several central characters fans have known for years. It didn’t help that the film failed utterly to move any of the new characters forward in any new or interesting directions.
Who can forget (or remember?) this useless plot-thread?
Unfortunately, this new film is not just a course-correction, but also intended as the final entry in the reputed “original 9 episodes” of the Star Wars Saga. J.J. Abrams was given the impossible task of fixing all the issues of the previous film while also bringing this series to a respectable conclusion. He tries to do both and succeeds at neither goal.
Reintroducing Emperor Palpatine is one of the most peculiar decisions made in this franchise to date. This virtually guaranteed that this film’s finale would be directly compared to Return of the Jedi. While the Emperor didn’t really get involved in the original Trilogy in any major way until that final film, the way the first two films hinted around his power and his presence was palpable and tense. No matter how you may feel about ROTJ overall, the Emperor sequence in ROTJ is easily that film’s greatest strength. The way the emperor just reappears in this film and with throwaway lines about cloning to explain his survival feels like a lazy way to go back to the mine to find one last lump of gold. And sadly the find played out long ago…
What I found profoundly strange about my viewing experience with Rise of Skywalker is I didn’t hate the movie. The action sequences are well-shot, the art design is solid, and the cast carries the material with vigor. The movie even manages some quirky comedic moments that reminded me of the series at its best. But the problem is that is all it did: remind me of when the series was at its best. I am certain that there is an audience that will embrace this movie unflinchingly and look forward to episode 10, 11, 12 and beyond. And honestly, I’m not opposed to the series continuing either. But the magic and thrill of what made the series so iconic feels lost long ago in a galaxy far far away…
The Star Wars saga receives a tepid finale that struggles admirably (and ultimately in vain) to write around the failures of its previous entry. Disney seems determined to continue devaluing their multi-billion dollar investment.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time “Palpatine” is named
Take a Drink: whenever someone dead turns up out to be somewhat less than dead.
Take a Drink: each time someone pulls out a lightsaber.
Take a Drink: for gratuitous references to the original series