Netflix & Chill #79: The Rise of Skywalker
Watched On: Disney +
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams
Rotten Tomatoes: 52% Tomatometer, 86% Audience Score
So, with the end of any trilogy, you've got to approach a review kind of on two levels: one, is it a good movie in and of itself and two, does it complete the trilogy in a satisfactory way. I'm not entirely sure that The Rise of Skywalker rises to meet even the most basic qualifications of those two points and I've been puzzling over it and trying to figure out why.
Picking up after The Last Jedi, it turns out Palpatine (last seen falling into the Death Star at the end of The Return of The Jedi) is alive and well and threatening the free worlds of the galaxy with something called The Final Order. This turns out to be a massive fleet of Star Destroyers that his followers have built in secret on the Sith Planet Exegol. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) finds a Sith wayfinder and goes there-- and Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) reveals that he created Snoke as a puppet to control The First Order and to lure Kylo Ren to the dark side. He tells Kylo to find Rey (Daisy Ridley) and kill her.
Meanwhile, the Resistance is facing down Palpatine deadline and wondering what to do, when they realize: they have to go to Exegol and destroy the fleet before it launches. Rey knows that in order to do that, they need a Sith wayfinder, so the usual suspects of Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), BB-8 and R2D2 join her to go and find out.
Then like eighteen million things happen before you can blink three times: they go to one planet and get a clue to the location of the Wayfinder- a Sith dagger oh and Lando Calrissian is hanging out there (Billy Dee Williams) and helps them out a little bit. The Knights of Ren show up with the First Order and they manage to capture the Falcon, Chewie and the dagger-- in the course of attempting to save Chewbacca, Rey destroys the transport she thinks he's on with Force lightning and they've got to run in another ship to planet number two.
On planet number two, they erase C-3PO's memory in order to translate the Sith dagger. (That's actually kind of a touching moment, as he says 'goodbye' to his friends-- they took a breath here, thank goodness.) Also, surprise, surprise, they figure out that Chewbacca is alive and on Kylo's Star Destroyer so they launch a sneak attack to rescue him. Rey gets the dagger back and has visions of her parents being killed. Kylo tells her that she's Palpatine granddaughter and her parents hid her on Jakku to be safe. General Hux (hey, remember him? He's Domhnall Gleeson, btw) turns out to be a spy and saves Finn, Poe and Chewie from execution before being executed himself by Evil British General #4 whose name is actually General Pryde (Richard E. Grant.) They figure out that the coordinates of the Wayfinder are on the Forest Moon of Endor, hidden in the ruins of the Death Star.
They go to Endor where there is neither a forest nor Ewoks in evidence, but there are a tribe of ex-Stormtroopers who ride around on space horses? Long story short, Rey gets the Wayfinder, but not being dueling Kylo who gets destracted for a scrucial second by his Mom, Leia (Carrie Fisher) who uses the last of her strength up and dies to give Rey the moment she needs to stab him through the stomach with her light saber. She then heals him (sensing Leia's death) and flies off to go into exile on Ahch-To.
Ach-To, Luke persuades her to stop feeling sorry for herself and go and meet her destiny and gives her Leia's lightsaber to do just that as well as his ex-wing. Meanwhile back on Endor, Kylo talks to his dead Dad and decided to give up being moody and angsty and just be his regular old Ben Solo self again. The ghost of Han Solo convinces him to give it all up and he throws his light saber away.
Rey, on the way for a final showdown with Palpatine shows everyone the way to Exegol and the Resistance starts taking out fighters and doing what they can, backed up with a huge armada ralled by Lando of all the free people in the galaxy. For her part, Rey confronts Grandpa Palpatine, declines to accept his invitation for her to kill him and take his place and gets all the Jedi ever to help her out and kills him and herself in the process, but surprise surprise- a redeemed Ben Solo shows up and repays the favor of the life force thing she did to him by reviving her at the cost of his own life. Rey kisses him before he dies. The Star Destroyers are all defeated. The Galaxy rises up agains the First Order. Everyone celebrates. Rey returns to Tatooine to bury the light sabers of Luke and Leia at his childhood home, having finally built her own. A passerby asks her what her name is and she says 'Rey Skywalker.'
Overall, I think the biggest problem with this movie is that just way too much shit happens way too fast. And I think the breakneck speed of the film enables the viewer to ignore some glaring problems along the way. It also feels like a big old fan service sandwich to apologize for the frankly baffling backlash to The Last Jedi (which personally I think is the best of the three new ones)- and if you're viewing this from a purely fan perspective, there's a lot to like. Leia gets a good send off. We go back to Endor. The confrontation at the end is pretty epic and we see fan favorites like Wedge Antilles- even if just for like half a second.
Rose Tico from The Last Jedi? She more or less vanishes in this movie. Keri Russell is in this movie, but I'm not sure why as her character wears a helment and sounded vaguely familiar- but I didn't place her as Keri Russell until looking at the credits. The biggest and perhaps most unforgivable waste is Lando. Who just sort of shows up, apropos of nothing- don't get me wrong, it was great to see Billy Dee Williams stepping back into the role, but I wanted more for Lando. I wanted better for Lando. And was sort of irritated when I didn't get it.
All in all, I was hoping to be blown away. The Last Jedi set the bar very, very high for this movie in my opinion- and while some moments the movie clears the bar with room to spare, overall, the movie as a whole doesn't deliver the goods and as a result is just kind of 'meh.' My Grade: *** out of ****.