Sunday, 1 March 2020

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

New Review: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

We had each other. That’s how we won…

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) ★★★½

Directed by JJ Abrams

I have a confession: I’m not really a Star Wars fan. I can’t be a Star Wars fan. Why not? Because I actually like Star Wars. Pretty much all of it. I love the prequels. I liked the original Clone Wars movie before it became a series. I loved, loved, loved Episode VIII. I enjoy all of these things as fun, slightly silly, Saturday-morning fare for kids that can sometimes skew slightly adult. Therefore I can’t be a true Star Wars fan, because I don’t nit-pick the damned thing to death. As such: I really, really enjoyed Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

The only problems I really had with the film were with pacing. Even at being the longest Star Wars movie to date, some parts of it seemed rushed, as though bits and pieces of scenes were edited out haphazardly just to get the film’s running time down. At times (especially transitions between set-pieces) it felt kinda herky-jerky.

Unfortunately a lot of these editing problems involve scenes with the late Carrie Fisher. JJ Abrams does as well as he can with leftover footage and face-mapping special effects, but the Princess Leia scenes unfortunately had a bit of awkwardness to their flow. They never felt completely natural, like everyone was trying to cover for missing pieces.

But when it’s given space to breath, it works wonderfully. Probably the most well-done sequence is the middle desert sequence, which has a lot going on in it: exploration of a new alien culture, the reintroduction of a fan-favorite character, the introduction of 2 startling new force powers (more on one of those in a bit), an innovative chase sequence, a mystery, a fateful confrontation, and a shocking ending. It all flows really well and you can tell that this sequence was one that JJ Abrams felt was really important and that he really protected during the editing-down process.

One of my absolutely favorite elements of the movie was an expansion of the “Force bond” between Rey and Ben/Ren that was established in Episode VIII. Their bond begins growing stronger at a fierce rate during this film (Ben/Ren describes the two of them as a “Dyad in the Force”) such that eventually they aren’t just able to instantly communicate via the force regardless of distance, but they can actually physically interact with one another. The ability is shockingly introduced when Ben/Ren rips a necklace right off of Rey’s neck even though they’re light-years apart! In the middle(ish) of the second act, Rey and Ben/Ren have an actual light saber duel even though they’re not even in the same location. And the ability is used in a great, smart way in the climax of the film. It was all ridiculous and audacious, and I loved it.

I also really liked that this film finally gets the core three (Rey, Poe, & Finn) together and keeps them together for most of the film. It is complicated by Rey’s lone-wolf complex, where she has this insatiable desire to run off and do things on her own. It’s the classic “I have to do this alone” psychological disorder that also plagues Elsa in Frozen II. But the interactions between these deeply-affectionate characters is great and fun and funny. Plus C-3PO is in most of the movie and has some of the funniest bits. And Babu Frik is the best and I love him.

Overall I did not think that Episode IX was quite as good as Episode VII, and certainly not as good as Episode VIII, which is my favorite of the sequel trilogy. Hey, this is interesting: there are now three Star Wars trilogies, and my favorite movie in each trilogy is the middle one: Episode II, Episode V, and Episode VIII. My least-favorite films in the trilogies are Episode I, Episode VI, and Episode IX. Interesting! Star Wars has some great middles, it turns out.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews.

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