I adore the Star Wars franchise, no matter how poor, looking at you Attack of the Clones, I have enjoyed every episode, and will watch them on repeat for the rest of my life. However the discourse around Star Wars has really left me disillusioned recently. That said as we got into the last month or two my excitement returned, and I couldn’t wait for The Rise of Skywalker.
It’s a shame then that the film just isn’t very good. The problems with J. J. Abrams and Chris Terrio’s script become apparent almost immediately and the film jumps between scenes so frenetically that there is barely a moment to breath or register what is happening. It takes until a significant way into the film for it to settle down, and even then the film doesn’t really start to flow until the final third. Whereas Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi focused far more on character and the individual’s stories Abrams has just tried to cram as much plot into the film as possible, and the pacing of the film, along with the characters, have really suffered for it.
It doesn’t help that what overarching plot there is feels largely derivative of The Return of the Jedi. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Abrams’ last film in the series, The Force Awakens, again faced a lot of criticism for a lack of originality. This film however lacks the overall quality of The Force Awakens, choosing to rely heavily on fan service moments rather than well constructed story or character moments. There’s a good amount of the film that feels all too like the Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba moment from Rogue One, and honestly it came across as unintentionally hilarious when it wasn’t meant to.
But that’s not to say the film is a complete disaster. Whilst Abrams doesn’t bring everything together too well, there are a number of individual scenes that are fantastic, and his direction in those deserves credit. In particular the majority of scenes featuring Rey and Kylo Ren are fantastically constructed, and Abrams uses the groundwork laid in The Last Jedi to create some brilliant moments, and some exceptional action sequences. He once again works with his usual cinematographer Dan Mindel, who absolutely nails it with this film. He’s worked with Abrams a number of times, but this might just be the best work of his career as the film looks stunning.
And the cast that has been assembled over these films is obviously great. The standout is once again Adam Driver, who has to be up there with Harrison Ford as the actor giving the best performances throughout the franchise. He isn’t always given the best material to work with in the film but he always elevates it to another level. The other big favourite coming out of the film is Anthony Daniels as 3PO, who brings the character back to his hilarious best after being sidelined in the last couple of films. The rest of the returning cast are all as solid as ever, as are the new additions like Keri Russell and Naomi Ackie.
It’s a shame though that this sequel trilogy can’t finish with the bang it deserves. As I said, I haven’t seen an episode of the Skywalker saga that I haven’t enjoyed, and the same probably goes for The Rise of Skywalker as well, but in reality it is probably about the quality level of Attack of the Clones.