So here we are, on the last of the Star Wars movies, collectively known as ‘The Skywalker Saga’.
Episode IX of IX.
The official ‘end of the story’.
The culmination of a journey some 42 years in the making. And by definition the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. No, wait, that’s a different space-based adventure. But still, 42…
No pressure, Mr Abrams, but the world was watching and if you got this wrong…
Of course he got it wrong.
How could he have got it right?
Star Wars fans have got used to disappointment over the years, but we still always seem to be surprised when the next disappointment comes along.
And ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ seems to have come in for the same level of vitriol as ‘The Phantom Menace’ in some corners of the internet.
But it’s not that bad.
Before we get into all of that though, it’s time, once again, for the spoiler alert:
Spoiler Alert: There will be plot details in the ensuing text. And as this film is but a few months old, it’s more than possible that you haven’t seen it yet. But plot details won’t ruin this movie for you. What will ruin it for you will be the unrealistic expectations you had before you sat down to watch it.
It probably goes without saying that I liked this movie. I liked ‘The Phantom Menace’ so I was always going to like this, because, for all its faults, it’s much much better than ‘Episode I’.
It looks, feels and sounds like a Star Wars movie. There are no ten-year-olds in it. There are certainly no gungans in it. And yes the Ewoks pop up briefly but I always quite liked those little guys.
It has a relentless pace, there is a ton of action, and there are lightsabers aplenty. The main characters, as they have throughout the sequel trilogy, remain immensely likable. The dialogue is well-written. When the movie tries to be funny, it is, for the most part, quite funny.
There are camoes from Luke and Han, even though both characters died in previous movies. Luke is obviously a ‘force ghost’ and Han is…well I wasn’t quite sure what Han was meant to be, but I’m never going to begrudge anyone giving Harrison Ford screen time in a Star Wars movie. Carrie Fisher is also back as Leia, which is no small feat given that she passed away in 2016. Somehow unused footage from ‘The Force Awakens’ was able to bring her back for this movie. It works well for the most part, though in some scenes her dialogue seems to only just about fit. But, under the circumstances, it’s an appropriate send off for one of the best characters in the whole franchise and far better than having her character killed off-screen.
Lando is also back for this one, and his inclusion is a nice touch for those of us who watch Star Wars as much for the nostalgia as for the story. Unlike most of the original characters, Lando actually manages to survive this one too. As does Chewie, and given the apparently ageless nature of wookies, and the fact that presumably anyone tall enough can play him, we might yet see Chewie in future Star Wars movies and TV shows.
Because while this is notionally the end of ‘The Skywalker Saga’ it’s certainly not the end of Star Wars. And, let’s be honest, it might not even be the end of ‘The Skywalker Saga’. We’ll all need a bit of time, but I can well imagine episodes X-XII being mooted in a decade or so. And we’ll all flock in our droves to see those too.
And that is really the problem with ‘Episode IX’. It tries way too hard to be ‘the end’. ‘Return of the Jedi’ was a fitting end to ‘The Skywalker Saga’. The sequels needed to be something else. By all means call them ‘Episodes VII-IX’ but tell a different story.
And actually have some idea of what story it is you’re trying to tell before you start making the movies.
And if you’re going to have different writers and directors for each of the instalments then you absolutely need a George Lucas figure to oversee the whole thing and tell those writers/directors what they can and and can’t do. Obviously not George Lucas himself, not after the prequels, but someone surely needed to have overall responsibility for the story.
Otherwise you’ll just end up inexplicably bringing back the bad guy that was definitely killed off in ‘Episode VI’.
And that’s going to annoy everyone, especially if he wasn’t even mentioned in ‘Episodes VII and VIII’.
Palpatine was the ultimate bad guy. But he was definitely killed in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and his reappearance here is a problem because it massively undermines everything that has gone before. Also it’s not properly explained in the movie how he’s managed to come back. Yes it has been explained since, but it should be abundantly clear in the movie how he’s not only managed to return from the dead but also, how on earth he ended up with a granddaughter.
Because that was, of course the other ‘big reveal’. Completely contradicting the revelation in the previous movie that Rey wasn’t the offspring of anyone important, which I personally thought was a nice touch, we now have the revelation that she’s the granddaughter of someone that was old enough to be her grandfather when Darth Vader was a little boy. And I know that this too has been explained elsewhere, but I don’t want to have to read a novel to understand a movie.
And frankly if she is also a Palpatine, then why are we even calling this set of movies ‘The Skywalker Saga’. Because at this point in the narrative, the Skywalkers look very much like secondary characters. Surely this is now ‘The Palpatine Parable’.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ just tries too hard to be bigger and better than anything that has gone before. As I’ve said before, if the first movie has a weapon that can literally blow up a planet, you are not going to top that. And having lots of weapons that can blow up planets is no more ‘topping the Death Star’ than the weapon that can blow up several planets simultaneously in ‘The Force Awakens’. It’s all just variations of the same thing.
But if you ignore all the plot holes and the fact that the sequel trilogy just doesn’t work as a trilogy and you take ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ as just another Star Wars movie, then it’s fine. It’s not the best, but it’s by no means the worst.
It all depends how invested you are in the notion of there being a complete story that is being told in nine episodes. If you are, then I can’t see how ‘the Rise of Skywalker’ could be anything other than a massive disappointment.
If, like me, you just like watching Star Wars films, then it’s an entertaining couple of hours that is a nice homage to, but nowhere near as good as, the original movies.
Which is absolutely fine.
Best Character – C3PO
No-one is more surprised than me about this, but I really liked C3PO in this movie. There were moments when he actually made me laugh out loud in this and, even though he’s an ever-present of all nine movies, that’s never happened before. Also, he is quite heroic in his own way and he does play a much more pivotal part to this story than he does in any of the others, when he’s normally just there to provide misguided comic relief. Actor Anthony Daniels is pretty much ‘Mr Star Wars’ as he’s in all nine movies plus he always does the voice of C3PO in associated cartoons and video games. And as I’ve mentioned before, I saw him when he narrated ‘Star Wars in Concert’ a few years ago and he was excellent. So I’m glad there was finally a movie in which I really loved C3PO. But I never thought it would happen.
Worst Character – Palpatine
Much like I never thought I’d ever list C3PO as my favourite character, I’m genuinely surprised that one of my absolute favourite characters was the one that I didn’t like in this movie. But Palpatine is the worst thing about this movie and why it doesn’t really work. Ian McDiarmid does his best to make it work, and I certainly wouldn’t fault his performance, but this was not the end we were looking for.
Unsung Hero – Hux
Partly because Hux does betray the First Order to help the Resistance, although he appears to be motivated more by his dislike of Kylo Ren than any altruistic rationale. But mainly he’s the unsung hero because he spent two movies positioning himself to be the main bad guy once Kylo Ren turned good again (which he was always going to do) and then he gets upstaged by some bloke called Pryde, who we’d never seen before. And to make matters worse, given that the aforementioned Pryde is the bloke who shoots him, it appears Pryde really does come before a fall for poor old Hux.
And that just about wraps up ‘The Skywalker Saga’. But worry not, there are plenty of other Stars Wars movies and TV Shows for me to write about. Tune in tomorrow to see if I’ll be writing about one of the good ones.
Or one of the shockingly bad ones…