- Release Date: 20/12/2019
- Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Jason Isaacs, Mark Hamill, Harrison ford, Carrie Fischer
- Director: J.J. Abrams
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is the final film that culminates not only the sequel trilogy that was started off in 2015 but also in a way ends the whole Star Wars saga that started with the release of Star Wars : Episode IV– A New Hope in 1977. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it Avengers Endgame of Star Wars. The expectations were sky-high. The buildup was humongous and even after the lukewarm response to the previous installment, The Last Jedi. This film was still set for an earth-shattering opening. In the midst of all this, some disturbing news was making its way to the media about the troubled production and how they were still editing the film weeks before its theatrical release. Even the makers started taking a defensive stand on the film and it sounded the alarms for many but I was still hopeful and pumped for this film.
Snoke was killed off in The Last Jedi by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). So we needed a new baddie for this film and who better than Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The villain who terrorized a generation of moviegoers makes his way back to the final film of the Star Wars universe. Apparently, he was the one who made Snoke and has been busy building a fleet that he plans to use to annihilate the resistance. He also renames the First Order as The Final Order. Kylo Ren bludgeons his way though planets to reach Palpatine with an aim to kill him off and be the Supreme Leader for eternity. However, Palpatine has the better of him and convinces him that he could be the commander of his Fleet and have unprecedented power and clout over the galaxy. He only asks one thing in return. Ren must kill Rey and end the resistance once and for all.
Rey has been training under the guidance of Leia (Carrie Fischer) and trying to hone her skills. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Jason Isaacs) believe that she should be spearheading the various attacks instead of training after they narrowly escape death trying to retrieve a secret message from a mole in the Final Order. The message reveals to the resistance that Palpatine is alive and has been raising a fleet to destroy the resistance. Rey, Finn, and Poe decide to go after Palpatine as it seems like the only way to end the War. However, to reach Palpatine’s domain, they have to find a means to get the coordinate of the place. The search takes them to different worlds in search of the artifact that holds the coordinates to the place. Ren, on the other hand, is searching for Rey and he has plans of his own for her and Palpatine.
For me, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker scored on the following points.
Adam Driver is terrific. The way he kicks off the proceedings by murdering his way through a planet to get to the device that would get him to Palpatine was sensational to watch. I really wanted this sequence to continue for a little longer but unfortunately, it is the shortest action sequence of the whole film. Rey keeps referring to his inner conflicts and how he was divided between good and evil ever since he killed his father. One look at Driver and you can actually feel that conflict especially in sequences where he is supposed to deliver a telling blow on his opponents. I loved the action sequence between him and Rey towards the end. It felt real and there was undeniable physicality to it. Every blow that they landed made an impact and the crashing tides made for a great background to it all. Driver’s arch through the three films made the most sense and was the best realized. Adam Driver is undoubtedly the strongest character in the trilogy and he has to be given a lot of credit for that.
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Jason Isaacs do their parts as well as they could. In all three films, the protagonist never felt like a single person. Even though Rey was at the forefront of it all, Finn and Poe had a lot to do for certain things to happen. Here too Finn and Poe are smack in the middle of the action and are forced to risk their lives again and again for the cause. Boyega gets a meatier role than Isaacs and Abrams adds little nudges to his character that hints at the possibility of him having the essence of the force in him. There might be implications of that in future films if at all they are made. Isaacs is given what can be called a girlfriend who kicks ass just like him. The film also tries to give us some idea about his past and what he did for a living. The same is done with Boyega’s character who meets a girl who used to be a Storm-trooper just like him and gave that up to join the resistance as she was unable to kill any more innocents. All these ties in well with the characters and makes them feel wholesome and real.
Daisy Ridley excels in the sequences that she shares with Adam Driver. The two work wonderfully off each other and since it is not made clear which way their story was headed, there is always a sense of mystery in their story. In addition to that, it is safe to say that she does pretty well in every sequence that has anything dramatic to work with. She looks the part physically too and even when she is doing gravity-defying stunts, she can be taken seriously. That I believe is no mean feat to pull off in a film like this. By the end of it all, we get a pretty clear picture of who Rey is and it would safe to say that her character comes around full circle. Shirley Henderson as Babu Frik is adorable.
As was the case with the two previous installments, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is exceptionally well shot and edited. We get to see a few different worlds in addition to all that we have been witnessing so far. I really liked the feel of Palpatine’s planet Exegol. His lair was fearsome in its presentation and was befitting for a Sith who has been lying dormant for generations to finally land a killing blow and end all hope for his enemies. The planet where Rey faces off against Ren with huge tides crashing on the strip on which they are fighting was also very well realized. It provided the perfect background for the battle and also added to the tension and physicality of it all. It is needless to say that the areal battle sequences are spectacular. That is something that we have come to expect from Star Wars films. However, here there is a view at the end of it all when the whole Resistance turns up knocking at Palpatine’s door. I believe that was one shot that one could save as wallpaper. The film is 2 hours and 22 minutes long but felt more like an hour long. That goes on to tell us how well paced it was.
Having said all that, I finally get to the part that I hate the most. My complaints about the film.
I loved The Force Awakens. I didn’t like The Last Jedi even half as much. While I evidently didn’t hate The Rise of Skywalker, it fell somewhere in the middle of those two films. This is a film that felt very mechanical. The first two films built up Snoke as a fearsome adversary and in one swift blow, he was taken away from us. This film starts with a scroll that tells us that Palpatine is alive even after that iconic scene in Episode VI where Darth Vader throws him overboard to his death. It just didn’t feel right. Not to mention that it felt way more convenient to let us know of his existence in the scroll itself avoiding considerable cinematic work. It also undid a lot of good that Episode VI had done and in a way took away some charm from that classic.
There was no feel for the characters in the film. Even though the actors were doing a great job with their respective characters there was just no tension or for that matter connects with the audiences. When Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) arrives with the whole resistance, in the end, it should have been a goosebumps-inducing scene like the final battle of Avenger Endgame. But in this case, I didn’t even roll in my chair. That just tells you that the scene couldn’t have the desired impact. Once that happens, the film is bound to miss its mark. This is the kind of film that should inspire cheers and violent clapping in the end. It must also be added that this is the final installment of a story that has been made into 9 films and hence must have resonated with its audience base. Sadly that is not the case. The film does this strange thing of having characters and telling us in different ways that they would become important to the story but then shunning them abruptly somewhere in the narrative. This was extremely annoying at times.
Another big problem with the film was its blatant refusal to acknowledge the fact that The Last Jedi existed. It felt as if the story was continuing after The Force Awakens and the problem in that was that The Last Jedi made us feel in certain ways for certain characters and that is not given the least bit of respect here and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. At the end of The Last Jedi, we hoped that Luke’s sacrifice would inspire the Resistance. That is what was hinted at in the final scene of the film where a little boy was shown lifting a broom and using it like a lightsaber. This is all ignored in this installment in a manner as if it never happened. That didn’t go down too well with me. This film felt strangely like a manufactured product more than a film with a living breathing heart. It is well-executed and polished but somewhere in trying to be precise and exact, the director forgot to make a film that was alive.
One of the greatest sagas of world cinema is ending and it is really sad that it is ending so meekly. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining and well-made film if you look at it as a standalone film but considering it as a part of a trilogy of films, it is problematic. J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson had different visions of the universe and they created two films that grew so far apart from each other that the third film couldn’t possibly have cohesively culminated that story arch. As a result, we get a film that may be pretty to look at and have good performances but ultimately feels soulless and shallow.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)