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Overall Rating
2.78

Awesome: 8.7%
Worth A Look: 4.35%
Just Average52.17%
Pretty Crappy: 26.09%
Sucks: 8.7%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Lumpy Conclusion"
3 stars

In the past, the biggest challenges faced by the “Star Wars” sequels has been living up to the expectations set by the previous and enormously popular entries in the franchise. In the case of the latest and supposedly last entry in the saga, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the film not only has to do all that but it has to overcome three additional challenges ranging from the unavoidable to the seemingly unsurmountable. First, it has to figure out a way of working around the unexpected real-life passing of Carrie Fisher, whose character, General Leia Organa, had played a key role in the two previous films, “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” and who was presumably set to be an important part of the completion of this trilogy. In addition, anyone following up “The Last Jedi” would have to grapple with both the sometimes audacious and unexpected narrative developments that writer-director Rian Johnson dropped in that helped it to become the first one of the sequels since “The Empire Strikes Back” that wasn’t wholly beholden to what had come before it but which also inspired the wrath of a small but vocal minority of entitled fanboys upset that it didn’t play out in the way that they expected. Finally, and most challenging, it has to come to a conclusion that wraps up not just the current trilogy but the entire saga in a dramatically and emotionally satisfying manner. Put them all together and you have a virtually impossible task for any film to pull off and while “The Rise of Skywalker” doesn’t come close to doing it all, it comes close enough to make it sort of work, although those who treasured the audacity of “The Last Jedi” may be somewhat disappointed by director/co-writer J.J. Abrams’s apparent determination to tamp down or entirely eliminate some of the more intriguing developments that Johnson brought to the proceedings.

My guess is that for most of you reading this, the less said about the particulars of the plot, the better. Suffice it to say, when we pick up the story this time around (and I am just assuming that you are reasonably familiar with bot “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”), Rey (Daisy Ridley) is still trying to come to terms with the awesome Jedi-like powers that she has been demonstrating with the encouragement of General Leia (Fisher), despite still being hampered with feelings of self-doubt stemming in large part from not knowing who she really is. Meanwhile, Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (himself) have returned from a typically hair-raising battle with news that the seemingly long-dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is feeling a little better and has amassed a massive new fleet designed to defeat the Resistance forces once and for all in less than 16 hours. (Lest you think I am giving away a massive spoiler, be advised that Palpatine’s return is hailed in the very first paragraph of the opening text scroll with the opening words being “The dead speak.” Not surprisingly, Rey and her friends sets off to try to track down the hidden planet where Palpatine and his followers are residing and stop him once and for all. Slightly more surprisingly, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the conflicted leader of the First Order is also in search of Palpatine for his own reasons. And yes, there is still tension between Rey and Kylo, for whom “complicated” does not even begin to describe their relationship. More than that, I will not say except to mention that the film makes room for a few new characters, the most intriguing of whom is Zori Bliss (Keri Russell), a character from Poe’s still-murky past, and the fully evil Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant). Oh yeah, there are a couple of extended skirmishes in space that pretty much fit the legal definition of “star wars,” as it turns out.

The end result is a solid, if not especially spectacular, entry that is nowhere close to being the worst entry in the series but which is probably the most wildly uneven. From a technical standpoint, it is as impeccable as always—the key action sequences, such as an emotionally fraught lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo and the big climactic battle, are impeccably staged and executed and the ability of the series to convincingly create and populate vast new worlds remains as impressive as ever. There are moments of effective high drama and some very funny bits as well, perhaps the most inspired of the latter being the conflict that arises when C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) receives a vitally important piece of information but is technically prevented from conveying it because of programming issues. Perhaps the biggest highlight is Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey—over the course of the three films as she has charted her character’s desire to figure out who she is, both literally and metaphorically, she has delivered some of the best acting seen in the entire seres and her work this time around is as deeply felt and focused as ever. On the other hand, the screenplay conjured up by Abrams and Chris Terrio is pretty messy at times—way too rushed at some points (especially the first half-hour or so) and draggy at others (though no sequence is as completely expendable as the casino sojourn in “The Last Jedi”)—and without getting into too much detail, it must be noted that they rely a little too heavily on the gimmick of having seemingly dead characters turn up in some form or another. Although the plotting is never as amateurish as it was in the prequels, even at its best moments, you can’t help but think that the script might have benefitted from one last draft.

So how does the movie deal with the obstacles that I cited above? In the case of the Carrie Fisher question, the film makes the best of an awful situation. Simply writing her out of the proceedings was obviously out of the question and trying to go the CGI route with her would have been a disaster—taking one of the most recognizably human elements of the entire saga and reducing her to a digital simulacrum would have been too unspeakably depressing to bear. Instead, Abrams went back through scenes featuring Leia that he had shot for “The Force Awakens” but deleted from the final cut and repurposed them with the aid of some judicious editing, a little redubbing and what I suspect is one brief moment of digital manipulation. This sort of trickery is not unprecedented but when it is done improperly, it can come across as fairly ghoulish—remember when Blake Edwards attempted to create a “new” “Pink Panther” film around the volumes of unused material he had accumulated as a half-assed and money-grubbing “tribute” to Peter Sellers? Here, it is done relatively sparingly (it seems there was only about eight minutes or so of footage to work from) and while those with reasonably sharp eyes can easily discern the use of editing tricks and stand-ins to help create the illusion of a “new” performance, the effect is not nearly as distracting as it might have been. The end result allows the film to give her all-important character as much of a sense of closure as possible under the circumstances and, more importantly, it allows her fans to have one last opportunity to celebrate her work.

On the other hand, the film is far less successful in how it tries to respond to the blowback engendered by some viewers of “The Last Jedi” who were enraged by a number of the elements that Rian Johnson threw into the mix. The film clocks in at 141 minutes and it feels as if Abrams has dedicated a good chunk of that time to appeasing fanboys by taking back the things that they didn’t like for reasons that spoke more to their outsize sense of entitlement than anything else. Upset that the last film suggested that Poe was a hothead whose rash ways were taken to task by his female superiors, Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern)? No problem—the film starts off with him leading a daring mission behind the wheel of the Millennium Falcon and it is he who leads to troops into battle during the big finale. Frustrated by the revelation that Rey’s parents were “nothing” and the implication that her ability to harness the powers of the force were not simply the result of her genetic heritage? Well, that notion is certainly reversed here in a manner both decisive and silly. Annoyed by the very existence of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), the perfectly delightful character whose greatest sin seemed to be that she was played by an Asian woman who brought a little more diversity to the proceedings? No worries—this time around, Rose has been so blatantly sidelined from the proceedings that it basically comes across as an insult to both the character and the actress, both of whom deserve far better than they get here. Beyond these “corrections,” the film is more than a little heavy-handed with the fan service this time around. Yes, Abrams was guilty of the same thing with “The Force Awakens” but in that case, the shout-outs to the saga’s past made sense because they helped to remind viewers of what made them love the series in the first place in the wake of the extremely wobbly prequels. Here, he just seems to be pandering to those who freaked out over the refusal of “The Last Jedi” to obsess over its past and after a while, the in-jokes and callbacks (which continue on up through the final moments) become more distracting and irritating than anything else.

Does “The Rise of Skywalker” ultimately stick the landing, both as a conclusion to the recent trilogy and to the entire saga as a whole? I dunno. Not surprisingly, it is not a film that has been designed to stand alone as its own thing and it is easily the least of the current trilogy—it lacks the balance of excitement and nostalgia of “The Force Awakens” (though the hype surrounding that one may have caused it to be overrated a bit by some observers) and it never shows the daring and nerve that helped make “The Last Jedi” the best entry in the series since “The Empire Strikes Back.” As a conclusion to the trilogy, it is undeniably messy and often frustrating but it has been made with skill and on some basic level, it brings the storyline to a reasonably satisfying ending, which is more than I can say about “Return of the Jedi.” As to its position in the series as a whole, it probably lands somewhere in the middle—it doesn’t come close to approximating the greatness of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Last Jedi” or “Rogue One” but I promise that the franchise has hit far greater depths than this one. Of course, there will almost certainly be more “Star Wars” films in the future and it will be interesting to see how they unfold now that the Skywalker storyline has officially (in theory) come to a conclusion. I just hope that those put in charge are allowed to put their own stamp on the proceedings instead of being beholden to relive and rehash the events of the past.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31269&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/18/19 08:39:43
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User Comments

12/22/19 DJ If you enjoying The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi you will enjoy this film. 4 stars
12/22/19 Louise Quite astonishing, a truly exuberant and stunningly breathtaking end to the story. 5 stars
12/21/19 JS It was fantastic. Fitting end to the Skywalker saga. 5 stars
12/20/19 A BEAUTIFUL, SHINY, POORLY WRITTEN TURD Pete SOBczynski is such a woke shill, it's hilarious. Disney should've had a game plan :_( 1 stars
12/20/19 Bob Dog Worst of the franchise - - full of sound and fury signifying nothing. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  20-Dec-2019 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Mar-2020

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Dec-2019
  DVD: 31-Mar-2020




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