There’s a point, early on in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ where I felt confused by what I was seeing. There is a huge narrative jump between ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ that made me feel that I’m missing out on a lot of story happening in-between.
At the beginning of the film, with the usual text crawl, it seems there’s a spy amongst the First Order and Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca are on the Millennium Falcon to intercept the message while Rey is undergoing training with General Leia. While Kylo Ren, who is now Supreme Leader of the First Order after killing Snoke, is searching for the voice of Palpatine, who threatens the sovereignty of his rule.
All three stories will force our characters to collide as a larger threat looms over the galaxy. At the center of it all, Rey and Kylo Ren are engaged in some metaphorical dance as Rey must face the tug of heart as she faces the lure of the Dark Side head on.
What makes ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ so confusing is that the film doesn’t feel at all like many of the elements here were thought of in any of the prior films that precede it. In the adventures of the rebel team of Rey, Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, and the droids, they go to different planets and meet new characters who have such quick narrative turns that it feels forced. Characters like Keri Russell’s Zorii, who is on a helmet the entire time and figures in with Poe’s past.
In the few scenes she’s in, she hints at a world of history between her and Poe but this is never really explored and her character makes a significant turn that feels rushed and gratuitous.
In fact, many of the narrative elements here feel rushed and gratuitous. A pervading theme that runs through ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is about friendship and camaraderie. Rey, Finn, and Poe talk about working together and never leaving anyone behind but as I’m watching the movie, I’m wondering where all this deep love for the group stems from when the majority of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ had each of these characters tackling their own solo adventures throughout the movie. I don’t have enough scenes to call into memory that justifies this sudden attachment to each other. It just rings false and forced.
Again, the strongest storyline for me is Rey’s conflict within her own self and the constant offer for joining the Dark Side. In ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ she almost gives in to Kylo Ren’s offer to scrap completely the Jedis and the Dark Side and just use the Force for their own needs. And this was interesting to me.
Here, it reverts back to a Jedi versus Sith dynamic that ties in with her heritage (as teased by the latest trailer) and this new reveal completely eradicates the themes of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’
In fact, a lot of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ feels like a direct address to the feedback and comments about ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’ Many thematic elements were dropped, characters were benched in this one, and it feels like a totally different movie altogether.
And it’s in this film that made me realise why I loved ‘Rogue One’ so much. Now that the saga is ending, it seems that all the big leaders of the Empire and the First Order spend all their time dealing with rebels and destroying planets. I don’t actually see them ruling and the kind of rule that they have. The Empire and the First Order just seem to exist within their starships and chasing after rebels.
It was only in ‘Rogue One’ that the world felt like it had something to fight for; that the Empire was actually an evil force. I didn’t feel this autocratic and oppressive rule from any of the films of this final trilogy. Everything is in the point-of-view of the Empire, of the Rebel Alliance, and the random mercenary. Where are the people?
There’s a story thread in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ that picks up from Finn’s actual backstory of being a former Storm Trooper but it feels more of a subplot than what the film is about and that’s where it should be focused on.
Instead, it keeps its sights on The Force and The Jedi and how only one person can truly save this galaxy. It’s such a departure from a visionary and refreshing thematic point of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ but it all goes back to the Skywalkers, doesn’t it? And for that, it feels like a step back. For all its huge set pieces and made-for-epicness fight scenes, it crumbles under the sheer weight of the single hero story.
'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' opens in cinemas December 20, 2019. Find showtimes for 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' and book your tickets in advance!