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26 Dec 2019

The Force Has Failed: 'The Rise of Skywalker' Is a Baffling, Often-Unwatchable Disaster

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John Boyega and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker.

Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker is a disastrous, soulless squandering of the good will built up by The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy should’ve stepped back after producing this rancid film and realized that this franchise deserved a better sendoff. They should’ve eaten the dollars and started over. True fans would’ve waited for a real movie. But sadly, here it is, the last chapter in the Skywalker saga—a chapter that had me longing for The Star Wars Holiday Special in favor of it.

Let me give you some thoughts as the anger flows through me like the Dark Side of the Force. The first hour is virtually unwatchable—fast and furious, but with no editing flow and no sense of purpose other than to get you to the next scene. Fans looking for answers or meaningful storytelling will not only be bewildered, but pissed off. It’s now pretty clear that Abrams and friends had no firm plans when they laid out this trilogy: They were making this crap up as they went along.

The Force Awakens, also directed by Abrams, was a promising start. Heck, I will call it a classic. Then The Last Jedi happened, with Rian Johnson getting permission to go off the reservation with his storytelling—and he most certainly did. Some of the plotting choices in Jedi were odd, but at least that movie was a decent film that felt like a Star Wars movie, even if it was peppered with some laughably bad moments.

The Rise of Skywalker is a laughably bad movie peppered with occasional moments that don’t suck as much as the rest of the others.

The most regretful moment in Star Wars history stands as Princess Leia using the Force to float through deep space and save herself in The Last Jedi. Allowing the character to survive paved the way for what happens here, as “the last performance” of the great Carrie Fisher is cobbled together from outtakes—stuff that was originally meant for the cutting-room floor. It’s awkward; it’s obvious. It reminds of the way Blake Edwards insulted the late Peter Sellers with the posthumously released, and equally terrible, Trail of the Pink Panther.

For the first two trilogies, George Lucas, love him or not, had a solid story plan. He tweaked it along the way, but he governed over what was happening like a mad dictator, even when he wasn’t directing. There was a certain uniformity to the series. After Awakens, Disney and Abrams made the bold choice to hand the storytelling over to Johnson for Jedi (not unlike Lucas giving up directing control for the original trilogy)—and then they second-guessed their own bravery. The Rise of Skywalker is an unabashed Abrams apology for “missteps” of The Last Jedi, rendering the second film a complete joke, and doing everything it can to win back the fans that may have gotten disenchanted, continuity be damned. Some fans were displeased, but that didn’t mean they wanted the spine removed from one of their favorite movie-going experiences in favor of a Star Wars Happy Times mix tape.

As for the return of Emperor Palpatine, his footage plays like a bad Hellraiser sequel. If Palpatine would have had a presence or influence in the two preceding movies, his presence here might’ve made sense. Instead, the sound of his cackle reeks of storytelling desperation. And don’t get me started on the Death Star wreckage.

My advice: Pretend this movie never happened. Allow hologram Luke Skywalker facing down Kylo Ren in Jedi to be the end of the “Skywalker Saga,” and skip this one. Watch the superior The Mandalorian, and use the soul-healing powers of Baby Yoda on Disney+, along with the upcoming Obi Wan series, as your Star Wars fix.

Yeah, I know you are still going to see The Rise of Skywalker. I can’t stop you. This film is a debacle that no movie reviewer can prevent.

Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

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