Thoughts on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. (may contain traces of spoilers. Or heaping huge handfuls of them.)

Folks who know me know that I absolutely HATE inadvertent spoilers. Hate them with a passion, and even though the odds are probable that I’ve never met you, I’d hate to spoil anything for you.

As such, it’s traditional for me to put in some spoiler spaces so that if you’ve landed here before you see Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, you can back out peacefully, nothing spoiled at all.

It’s a time of year for traditions, so I’m certainly not going to stop now. Scroll beyond Weird Al at your own peril, presuming that you’ve seen Rise of Skywalker at least once. Also, I guess, Weird Al’s Yoda contains spoilers for The Empire Strikes Back, but I can’t cover every possibility.

I’ve now read a lot around The Rise Of Skywalker. Some of it was high praise, and some of it the most damning criticism. I think I lie somewhere in the middle, but to sort it out for my own head, I’m going to lay it out in pros and cons. Don’t take the count of them as my final verdict, either.

The Rise of Skywalker: The good stuff

  • This is a great popcorn movie: Now, I’m not the most fanatical Star Wars watcher. I like the movies just fine (for the most part), but my own fanaticism lies in other sci-fi directions. To me, Star Wars movies have always been at their best when they’re purely escapism, and The Rise of Skywalker delivered unto me plenty of that. I don’t actually hit the cinema all that much these days; the price of movies and availability of streaming and rental services means that I do tend to go for films I feel will be at their best on the silver screen. The Rise Of Skywalker is one of them. See it in a cinema if you can, because it will lose impact on the small screen.
  • Some of the set pieces are great: I’ll give a particular call out to that whole set of scenes on the crashed Death Star, and especially the CGI waves. In an age where CGI effects are so commonplace that big set pieces often come off as just fakery, I felt genuinely nauseated by the churning waves that Rey had to navigate through, and even the lightsaber battle afterwards had more impact because of all the crashing water.
  • Snoke gets explained: This might not fuss others as much as me, but I did feel that the whole “Emperor Snoke” storyline in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi was left as a dangling plot thread that actually did get wrapped up by Palpatine. For the record, by the way, I’m in the “I liked The Last Jedi” camp. I know lots of folks didn’t. That’s cool.
  • It wrapped up the story: This can’t have been an easy task, and like any other major fandom, you’re never going to please everybody. Did it do so in a way that called back to previous films in a big way? You bet it did, and then some. But it wouldn’t have been Star Wars without some of those callbacks in play.
  • Lando Calrissian is the MAN: Nobody tell Becky Lynch, mind. But seeing Billy Dee Williams back in Star Wars brought a huge smile to my face. Especially when you realise that he’s 82. I hope I look that good when I’m 82!
  • Chewie got his medal: I laughed. That was enough.
  • That John Williams Score: Sure, there’s a lot of the classics in there as well, because it wouldn’t be Star Wars without them. But the use of music to enhance mood in these films is handled superbly.. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something I feel I must earworm you with:
  • Carrie Fisher: It’s very clear indeed what a central role they had in mind for Carrie Fisher, and it’s also sometimes all too painfully clear when body doubles or careful camera angles are hiding the fact that she’s sadly not with us. Still, they did a lovely job of dealing with that harsh reality. Harrison Ford’s surprise cameo was almost certainly a matter of giving him lines originally intended for Carrie, but he worked it rather well.

The Rise of Skywalker: The bad stuff

  • You don’t have to cram in every bit of fanservice, you know: Look, I get it. Lots of fans were very unhappy with The Last Jedi, although a decent proportion of those seem to have been idiot/misogynist scumbags who simply disliked the idea of strong female leads. Ahem. But even I will admit that The Last Jedi has some pretty serious problems, and it does feel like The Rise of Skywalker tries to paper over them with a whole heaping load of not-at-all-subtle “Hey, remember THIS???” moments. Of course, your mileage may vary on how you take all of those.
  • They killed Chewie — and then didn’t: Excuse me for a second, because I have to put on my Beskar armour before I say this, because it’s going to piss off a LOT of the fanbase. They should have kept Chewbacca dead. Really. Actually dead. Now, I know that (again, sadly) Peter Mayhew is also no longer with us, but that’s part of what made the scene with the exploding transport so powerful to me. It was a literal jaw drop moment, and it said to me that the filmmakers weren’t afraid to see a major character die. This is war, and the stakes were never quite so real… for about 3 minutes. Then Chewie was back, thanks to a mystery “second transport” — I’m still not sure if that’s ever in shot before this, and even if it is, why was the other transport departing that way in that style right then? — and it deflated any sense of risk I had for any character apart from Leia and (rather obviously) Ben Solo. And sure, that robs me of my Chewie getting his medal moment later, but it still would have set the tone and path for Rey in a much more concrete way. No peril that any major character was in, from Finn trying to take down the Star Destroyer to Ben being cast into a pit felt at all “perilous” after that.
  • Those bloody space horses: There’s a movie that almost none of you will have seen called Getting Lucky. Trust me, it’s not worth seeing, but right near the end, there’s a moment where a never-before-seen-character comes into shot riding two horses at once. He’s clearly there because the director knew somebody who could do that particular trick, and for no other reason. It’s a total break from what passes for the reality in that movie, and seeing the charge of the Rebel brigade at the conclusion of The Rise of Skywalker felt like it was there for the same reason. Not because it made a lick of sense, but because they could.
  • So really, the Emperor just needed a shot of Midichlorians? I rather liked that Palpatine was back, and my appreciation for the pulp background of Star Wars meant I could even deal with the handwaved nature of him surviving Return of The Jedi somehow. What I was left more puzzled with was his Jedi-vampirism trick with Rey and Ben. OK, he’s a bad guy, Sith, all that, I get. But he then takes almost all of their life, but not quite all. Why? I mean, is there a point at which he goes “Hmm, my Force Power bladder is full, better stop now even though they might still be alive”? The plot armour thing meant I figured Rey wasn’t in serious peril, but they didn’t do quite enough to convince me of the “why” of it in that instance.
  • How does gravity on the outside of spaceships actually work? It’s massively inconsistent, but it seems as though you get attached to the surface of the ship, and there’s breathable air (why?) AND just because the ship is crashing to the ground, you’ll only be tipped a very small amount. Also, you can jump to another ship without any particular issue. At least in Empire, Luke had to fall downwards from Cloud City, but again, the evident plot armour meant I never felt as though Finn was in any peril at all.

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