Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars IX Review: The Dark Side

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To see a more positive review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, click here.

**Minor Spoilers Ahead**

They say that the biggest Star Wars critics are Star Wars fans. And as one of the biggest Star Wars fans out there, I’ll be the first to admit that I had my issues with the latest Star Wars. This was a good movie: the acting was terrific. (Daisy Ridley was the best she’s ever been, and Adam Driver continues to be amazing -- they both provided the emotional heart of the film. And Oscar Isaac was just plain fun.) The movie was beautifully shot and the cinematography was complementary to the scope of the show. But while the technicals of the movie were all in check, the story overall had so many issues that a bit of good acting and photography really don’t make up for the pandering fan service. Let’s get into it.

Star Wars IX had a lot of the same problems that most of the Star Wars movies have: Rey can levitate, lift rocks, and hold entire vehicles in some scenes, but she can’t lift herself or her friends out of quicksand? Too many characters do nothing and are in the film for just a handful of lines. (Hello, Rose!) Alliances and relationships happen way too quickly and with very little development. (Rey talks about how important her friends are, but we don’t really see the personal connections advance throughout the course of the film.) Things happen way too conveniently. (A mysterious MacGuffin is suddenly found without any trouble. Rey happens to be standing in the exact correct spot to find a new location.)

But bigger issues abound. This film is supposed to be the culmination of 42 years of films. 9 of the biggest films in history. Films that have transformed culture and shaped countless lives. The end of the Skywalker Saga. But instead, this feels like the end of a smaller story about Rey and Kylo Ren. And it’s a decent ending for them, it really is! But calling the film “Rise of Skywalker”, and making Kylo Ren a Skywalker by blood (if not by name), doesn’t quite give the gravitas needed to end the Skywalker Saga.

The movie almost feels like a reaction to Rian Johnson’s divisive penultimate film, The Last Jedi. Fans were so torn about that film and its strong choices that the backlash was palpable. It’s almost like J.J. Abrams didn’t want to have any of that negative talk, so he chose safe routes so as to not upset the fans. It’s not a spoiler to say that Palpatine is back; but he is underserved, and seems more like a shadow of the menacing overlord he played in the past 42 years. Towards the beginning of the film, two characters die … for a few minutes, and then they don’t die. And even though we say goodbye (in more ways than one) to our favorite Disney Princess, death doesn’t really have much of an impact in Rise of Skywalker. Rey trains and fights and wins, but there’s almost no cost to her sacrifice. The deaths in this Star Wars don’t have much emotional hold, and don’t represent the price and sacrifice it takes to win.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a good movie. But it doesn’t feel like the epic saga conclusion it should be. It doesn’t really feel like an epic saga at all. There were great moments -- Rey in the desert, C-3PO’s Sith translation, the return of the great Billy Dee, every line by Poe, and anytime Rey and Kylo Ren shared the screen -- but there were so many missed moments and opportunities for greatness. J.J. Abrams played this one safe, and it made for a very good movie. But when I watch Star Wars, I don’t want “very good”. I want epic. And this was not.

To see a more positive review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerclick here.

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