Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is now showing in cinemas.
How do you end the Skywalker saga, born 42 years ago, while drawing to a close a timeline of new characters born five years ago? In the case of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the answer to this question is somewhat messy and disappointing. While fun and emotional in places, Episode IX lacks the spark of ingenuity and creativity that the previous instalments promised, ultimately offering a conclusion that feels rushed and fan driven.
As this is a spoiler-free review, I will not indulge in the discussion of any significant plot points. However, one plot point many anticipated is announced as having happened in the opening credits as Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) returns to finish the job he started in Episode I.
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This rushed announcement in the first five minutes is symbolic of the movie’s problems as characters from the previous films are brushed to one side or brought back with little build-up or explanation. Here the main focus of the film is the narrative closure of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewie (Joonas Suotamo), and Kylo (Adam Driver). However, did that mean all other characters of interest needed to be thrown into a bonfire? Even Poe and Finn suffer a lacklustre finale where ideas built over the previous two films are left hanging despite their central role in the action.
As a result, while Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a beautifully shot film with moments of wonder, the final episode feels confused and hollow. Performances are engaging, and yet, at times, their confidence in the screenplay feels off balance.
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Some of the structural problems inherent in Star Wars Episode IX are problems that have existed throughout the sequels as Disney introduced new characters with no clear overarching plan. But it’s not all the fault of Disney, as Star Wars Fans also need to take some responsibility for the eventual mess. Many fans want nostalgia over strong characters and creativity, openly criticising anything that departs from their own fixed view. The Force Awakens played to fan desires, while The Last Jedi suffered their wrath for taking a different path. As a result, Disney executives opted to return to safe fan territory with Episode IX, offering us a carbon copy of Return of the Jedi without the shock surprises.
Now I am in no way saying the sequels didn’t break new ground, but surely these characters deserved more than The Rise of Skywalker offered? After all, will we remember these characters in forty-two years? I doubt it! To this end, maybe the absence of George Lucas and the Disney obsession with taking a different path to his original ideas ultimately destroyed the potential of the sequels. After all, sometimes, for stories to live on, they must push the boundaries of older fan expectations by focusing on a new generation. While it has been a fun five years of sequels, Star Wars deserved better than this, as did the actors who gave it their all.
Director: J.J. Abrams