When the new “Star Wars” trilogy began back in 2015, it started on a somewhat shaky note. J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” ended up being a decent film, but there’s no denying that it amounted to little more than a beat-for-beat remake of “A New Hope,” leaving many fans disappointed that he hadn’t tried to do something a little more creative. However, all of that changed with Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi.” His film was big, bold, original, and dared to go off in unexpected directions, resulting in the best “Star Wars” film since the original trilogy. Now the time has come for the conclusion of the trilogy, and of the entire Skywalker Saga, with “The Rise of Skywalker,” where we once again see Abrams taking the helm. Will he take a page from Johnson’s book and dare to go big and bold, or will the finale end up being not quite so grand?
At the start of the film, it has been rumored that Emperor Palpatine has returned, which causes Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to attempt to seek out and destroy him. However, the Emperor reveals a secret fleet dubbed the “Final Order” and sends Kylo to kill Rey (Daisy Ridley). Meanwhile, the Resistance receives the information regarding the Emperor’s return from a spy, which leads Rey, Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and their comrades to the ship of someone who might be able to help find him. There they find an item that could help lead them to him, but with the First Order closing in, they’ll have to put all of their skills to use to overcome the odds and pull off their incredibly dangerous mission.
There’s really no beating around the bush with it: J.J. Abrams’ conclusion to the Skywalker Saga is something of a mess. Whereas Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” had been daring, exciting, and encapsulated everything that makes “Star Wars” great, “The Rise of Skywalker” brings the trilogy to an end with a bland, dull, and very forgettable final entry. In fact, the difference between the two films is night and day, and is quickly noticeable from the opening scroll of “Episode IX,” which reads as though it was written in a rush by an inexperienced writer. The problems only expand from there, including multiple silly plot twists (which won’t be given away here), writing that lacks the adventure and spirit of the franchise, and a dull conclusion that doesn’t bring about much excitement.
The biggest problem though is that this entire film feels as though it was made to pander to the fans. Apparently the filmmakers thought that easy answers and a familiar villain is exactly what everyone wanted, even if it didn’t make sense, and even going so far as to change certain shocking things from the previous film. “The Last Jedi” worked so well precisely because it didn’t go this easy route, and didn’t go the exact way fans thought it would. Johnson dared to do something different, and in doing so, came up with something incredible, whereas Abrams and co. tried to give fans exactly what they wanted to see in a “Star Wars” movie, therefore giving them a film that has no surprises to offer.
The obvious place to point the finger would be at co-writer Chris Terrio, who, while he did win an undeserved Oscar for the decent “Argo,” was responsible for the dreadful films “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League.” It’s unclear as to why they would choose someone who has already ruined two big-budget superhero films to help pen a “Star Wars” film when he’s clearly not qualified. It certainly doesn’t help either that Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, both responsible for the terrible “Jurassic World” films, were allowed to help write the story. It’s possible that Abrams himself is to blame as well, but given his track record, and those of all of the others involved, it seems clear as to who hurt the project the most.
It all really just makes you wish that Johnson had been able to return as writer/director of this last installment, but unfortunately given the last-minute director shakeup (thankfully Trevorrow was fired before he was allowed to helm), he was unable to commit. A conclusion to this saga could have been something truly remarkable in the hands of the right writer, and it’s rather disappointing to wind up with this overstuffed actioner that does little justice for the characters in this epic narrative. After all these characters have been through, there should’ve been something more than this. Unfortunately this is what we are left with: a completely forgettable finale that could have been so much more. 2/4 stars.