The ninth episode in the Star Wars Skywalker saga and the third instalment in the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set a year after the events of The Last Jedi. Directed by J.J. Abrams, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) lead the Resistance’s final stand against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. Forced to confront their past, it’s time for the battle between the Jedi and the Sith to come to an end.
Star Wars is one of the few franchises that I get goosebumps over when that first trailer is released. And there are certainly elements of that which linger in this film. The visuals and score are stunning, and there are some really beautiful shots of the series’ epic set pieces. But whilst there are a handful of moments that fill you with great nostalgia, I felt very little for this concluding episode overall, which lacked any real sense of joy or imagination.
All I kept thinking throughout this instalment is that everything felt very Disney-fied. The humour feels slapstick and forced, the darker elements are sugar-coated, and even the characters stopped feeling authentic. Finn was like an over-excited puppy, whilst Poe was unnecessarily angry about everything, as if this was to just show a contrast between them. Their bromance was set-up brilliantly beforehand, but I lacked any emotional engagement for them in this film.
Rey’s character is developed really well, as is Kylo Ren’s for the most part, but it’s also annoying that so much of what was established in The Last Jedi is made irrelevant, just so that whichever writer or director had control in the end could have the last word.
The problems that occurred behind the camera between TLJ and TRoS are very obvious. Rian Johnson set up a very different path for these characters in TLJ, a plot with less nostalgia of the early episodes but one that also felt more original. Yet TRoS tramples on all of his progress. I wasn’t particularly pleased by the revelations in TLJ, with the two things we wanted from that film both coming to dead-ends, but to completely destroy Johnson’s developments feels even worse.
Even new characters from TLJ like Rose are put on the back-burner, whilst a new robot means that one of our favourite new additions, BB8, gets put on the shelf with R2D2 and C3PO. TRoS seems to become a film filled with cameos rather than having fully developed characters to support, meaning that there’s very little to keep your loyalties pinned to.
The final battle is a great one, but the lead up to it feels rushed and all over the place/galaxy in an attempt to tie up all of the loose ends. But whilst TRoS manages to give everything a sufficient conclusion, even if it retcons most of the developments made in Episode 8 to do so, it also does so with only a specific fan-base in mind.
It’s not often that I want less kissing in a film, and I certainly think there’s a place for romance in the Star Wars franchise as I loved seeing Anakin and Padmé’s relationship grow in Return of the Jedi, but TRoS‘s closing scenes would have meant a lot more without the need for a smooch.
TRoS is certainly a film that will split audiences. For many, it will have everything they wanted from an endgame instalment, especially if they didn’t like the direction that TLJ took. But for others (like me), there’s a lot that doesn’t feel consistent with the rest of the franchise, destroying the roots of something much bigger than any personal achievements behind the camera.
It’s sad to have to say it, but I felt very little for this film and its characters in the end, as it failed to maintain that level of excitement that I felt with The Force Awakens.