Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker *NO SPOILERS*

Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Keri Russell, Oscar Isaac, Jimmy Vee, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Daisy Ridley, and Naomi Ackie in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) *NO SPOILERS*

Directed by J.J. Abrams

The Star Wars franchise has become so big it’s difficult to really discuss objectively – everyone has a position on which of the nine films are best, favourite characters, etc. As a film scholar, I tend to look more at how scenes are handled, shot, lit, if the music intrudes or enhances, if the editing/pacing hits or misses, if the narrative makes sense. But as a film fan, I’m old enough to remember going to the cinema to see the original trilogy, so for me it’s always going to be Han Solo and Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Often cited as the first true transmedia narrative, the Star Wars saga has been told in graphic novels, animation, books, video games, fan fiction as well as the films. Add on the thousands of toys that fueled the imaginations of children for the past four decades and there’s a cultural icon of truly epic proportions. 

So it’s really appropriate that this final film in the most recent trilogy, the ninth movie overall, ties up all the loose ends and draws a final line under the Skywalker story. And for the most part, it does a pretty good job. 

The first act is (to put it mildly) hectic and altogether rather messy, deviating a little too much from the standard Star Wars formula of big opening set action piece to draw in the viewer and then a short (and usually) more static interlude before settling into its own groove. Here, the action goes on – a little too much for me – and gets in the way of the narrative flow. I should also warn that this is one of those movies that is difficult to see in isolation – I doubt it would make a lot of sense to anyone who hasn’t much background in the story world or has at least a modicum of interest in the other films. 

As a whole, it rides high on nostalgia and the central themes of family and redemption. There was a moment at the end of the second act when I knew I was being emotionally manipulated by the film – and I was perfectly happy to shed tears! The production design is superb (hats off to Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins) and there are easter eggs galore, oozing out of almost every scene and often, embedded in the set design. The sound design is also right on target and the visual effects are everything I want from a Star Wars movie. Once again, the young cast are perfectly fine, with Daisy Ridley perfect as Rey, but it’s Adam Driver who stands out (despite being in everything at the moment!), delivering a memorable performance as the conflicted Kylo Ren. I have to mention one of my favourite actors Richard E. Grant too, who looks like he’s having way too much fun as General Pryde. 

Without giving anything away, I found this a mostly satisfying conclusion to a very big story but I have to admit, I prefer the often derided The Last Jedi (2017) for its much bolder approach to both narrative and direction. My prediction is that in years to come, Rian Johnson will be vindicated in his choices and The Last Jedi will be reassessed far more favourably. In the meantime, J.J. Abrams delivers a workmanlike film that doesn’t have the flair of the Russo brothers’ Avengers: Endgame (2019) but is infinitely better than any of the Star Wars prequels.

I’m very interested to see where the property lands next, as there’s so much great material in the extended universe. Rest assured, just because the Skywalker story has finally come to an end, don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be more from this fertile story world.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Report | Debra Manskey

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