Not So Quick Review of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

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When I like a film, I find it difficult to say much with these posts.

I just want to say: “Go watch it. Have a good time.”

I like this film.

But this film is a bit different than the usual.

And it’s not just because it’s a Star Wars film.

And it’s also not because it’s the long-awaited conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy after a controversial second film (The Last Jedi) that left many wondering if there could be a decent ending at all to the new saga.

But if you’re a fan of Star Wars, I’ll cut to the chase and highly recommend you to go watch the film to have a fun time.

7.5/10

There. That’s the score I would give… if you’re a Star Wars fan (yes, that’s indeed a foreshadowing) for just a fun time.

Just make it through the first 20 minutes or so. As I’ll discuss a bit later, the first act of the film is a mess and absolutely boggles one’s mind how it made past the editing and the test audience. Perhaps it’s due to the unexpected passing of Carrie Fisher but it unfortunately still doesn’t change the fact that the first act of the film is chaos.

And if you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars? You’re probably safe waiting to see the film whenever it’s convenient for you.

This film may be difficult to really appreciate or sit through at times for even the casual fans of Star Wars.

Something about the film will feel off. As a Star Wars film and as a film in general.

Most of the payoffs of watching this film feels like they were intended for the more fervent fans of the franchise and felt like many elements of it were concocted purposefully for those avid fans who were really upset with how the new trilogy developed.

But those fan services made me feel… dirty and cheap. Like I just ate a bag of chips from the gas station as my dinner even though I had stuff in the fridge for a proper meal.

I feel full and satisfied but I hate myself for it. I enjoyed the gluttonous devouring of the cheaply fried thinly sliced suds… but I’m pretty sure I had a USDA prime steak in the fridge.

So.

Before I ramble on too much longer…

5.25 / 10

If you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars.

It’s a fun summer action film during winter. It’s flashy, a bit dumb, and a lot of fun. But it’s also not without some glaring flaws and unapologetically tries to mend those flaws and gaps with fan services.

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The Rise of Skywalker’s writing coach

Alright.

That was the quick version of the review for those of you who are not interested in the more nitty-gritty thoughts I had of the film.

Most of these thoughts were thoughts I jotted down as soon as I walked out of the movie theater with my date who subsequently suffered from me sharing these thoughts for the next half-an-hour until she escaped. But she may or may not have received a phone call so that I could continue talking to her about Star Wars at 1 am.

When there are problems with a film, I feel like there are certain moments within the film that captures the problems like a metaphor. It’s the spirit of those flaws that echoes through the hours until the end credits begin to roll.

With this film, there were three such moments.

1. The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene

2. The Necklace Heist

3. The Rise of the Fan Service



SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON



The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene

“That’s the weirdest crawl for a Star Wars film that I’ve ever seen.”

…Was the first thought that crossed my mind as soon as the familiar theme’s bombastic fanfare blasted through the IMAX speakers and the golden texts, as-in-tradition, begin to scroll across the stars.

It’s not just the odd wording in the first couple of sentences but the entire spirit of it that felt like it was against the grain of the usual Star Wars crawl.

Why did the crawl tell us about Palpatine’s voicemail being sent out across the galaxy instead of the film showing us it? With all the resources they had, did they really not figure out a way to actually fit that into the film?

The title of this section comes from the first few minutes of the film where we are reintroduced to our protagonist, Rey. After some mishaps during her Jedi training, Rey finds herself lacking the merit the carry the lightsaber passed onto her by the late legendary Jedi, Luke Skywalker.

She gives up the saber and hands it over to General Leia. It feels like a significant and an emotional moment where it’s telling the audience that we will see Rey receive the saber when she’s “earned it.” There’s a definite sense of character arc developing with the saber.

But just a minute or two later, the saber is tossed back to Rey as if she’s suddenly earned it because the situation called for it. There’s a real-life like awkwardness in their air akin to The Office.

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Basically, Leia handing the saber back to Rey after Rey’s little speech about needing time to earn the saber.

As the audience, there’s a jarring feeling of something went wrong.

Either they had to make last-minute changes or didn’t really have time to polish up the script. Whatever happened, it resulted with a plot with what seemed like a lot of throw-away, lazy, and thoughtless plot points.

Many moments like the “saber being returned” are peppered throughout the film and especially concentrated within the first act of the film.

Characters like Zorii and Jannah feel like they’re just plot progression devices or plot padding devices.

There doesn’t feel like there’s a real meaning behind Kylo putting on the mask again (contrast to the short but poignant scene he had in getting rid of it) other than to sell toys.

Han Solo reappearing feels cheap and non-sensical and he, himself, has to explain why and how he’s showing up.

How did Palpatine develop such a massive army out of nowhere?

How does he have such a huge following without anyone noticing for decades?

Why were Rey’s parents not subjected to becoming new vessels?

How did Leia know of Rey’s origins and why didn’t she say anything?

When did the Force start to become magic solutions to every problem? (more on that later)

Why would you inscribe directions onto a dagger? Why make a custom dagger?

Oh, the little droid happened to have the coordinates to the mystery planet?

One of the few validly poignant scenes of C3PO choosing to have his memory wiped for his friends end up meaning nothing as nothing meaningful was really lost. What was the point of that little venture other than to cheaply invoke something from the audience?

Just like Chewbacca “dying” only to relieve us from that loss just minutes later. At least draw it out so that little ‘prank’ of sort towards the audience doesn’t mean completely frivolous.

And Palpatine being the final villain of the trilogy also feels like another symptom of either lazy or desperate writing that didn’t really care to develop anything. A clone Darth Vader would have made more sense and would have had a more build-up with the last two films than Palpatine.

Have Kylo Ren face the clone Vader only to be guided to light by ghost Anakin.

Or have Kylo Ren be thwarted in some sense by clone Vader when realizes that Vader isn’t what he thought he was.

Also, while we’re on the subject of Palpatine…

…Why didn’t he just conquer the galaxy first and then find Rey/Kylo later when his army is obviously so overwhelmingly large that it threatens the entire galaxy?

Why warn the galaxy at all before using a fleet of planet busters?

Didn’t we need a planet-size facility before to do that by the way? Literally just a year or two ago?

From a writing perspective isn’t a fleet of planet busters just way harder to believe than a planet being carved into a weapon without anyone noticing?

Am I really resorted to comparing what breaks the sense of believability between a planet being carved into a weapon and fleet of starships that are each capable of destroying planets that went under the radar?

Why did he need First Order again?

How did he afford to pay for all this? The Final Order has even more confounding logistics problems within the story than the First Order did… given that it seemed all those small country-sized ships were fully staffed.

Does Palpatine enjoy getting electrocuted?

Why not just stop shooting lighting bolts for a moment and come up with something else real quick? Push her away?

Did he not learn from the first time when he got his face all burnt off?

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At least in the first incident, he had few excuses for why he had to keep using those lightning blasts that were ripping off his own flesh.

But against Rey, it just seemed like he can recover fingers but not his brain cells. She was so far away, he had so much power, and he could have done so many other things like—”Hey, thousands of you chanting. Pick up a rock or something and throw it at her.”

Also. Why revive yourself with the same scars? For the scare factor?

The power creep of the Force that happened with this film also makes you question how did the Jedis get wiped out in the first place?

If Palpatine can just zap space ships left and right with his full power does he really even need an armada?

All these things. All these choices made with the writing. Just makes one wonder… are we stupid? Do they think we’re stupid? Is it both?

The can of worms that’s been unleashed by having the Force users be so powerful… hell everything being so powerful makes me wonder how the future Star Wars films will deal with… anything.

Everything feels played out. How do we ever genuinely feel that our Force using protagonists are in danger other than them being grossly incompetent or just because the plot wanted them to be?

The Necklace Heist

Look. I understand we’re talking about a franchise here that made its bones by having a young man shoot 90 degrees turning proton torpedos into a tiny hole of a death machine that’s size of a star via channeling a magical doopitydoo guided by a ghost of his dead old neighbor.

(Oh, WOW. Is that why the Death Star is called a Death Star?)

Empire PR Team: “And we want to call it what sir?”

Emperor Palpatine: “The Death Star. It’s a bit on the nose but… but it feels right.”

Empire PR Team:

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Even then, there are still rules to the fantasy that the story laid out for the audience so that we understand when up is up, down is down, problems are real problems, and which dangers are real dangers.

The title of this chapter comes from the scene where Rey and Kylo are doing their Force telepathy Skype chat and Kylo manages to essentially reach across the screen and grab Rey’s necklace.

This changes everything about the Star Wars universe.

Even Kylo gave a little shrug to his foes near the climax of the film when he pulled out a lightsaber out of thin air thanks to Rey… which allowed him to decimate his enemies and save himself from the life-or-death situation.

Look, this isn’t just me nerding out about some lore discrepancies within Star Wars. Though, again, there is something to be said about suddenly changing the rules established within an established universe. It almost feels like the writers are cheating to get out of problems.

There are generally two camps of dealing with magic when it comes to fantasy in writing.

  1. There’s no system to it. Magic is magic. The story will use it as it sees fit.
  2. There are established rules and systems behind the magic.

The former is Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He waves his staff, bright light, and boom— The problem is solved.

The latter is what’s more popular these days where the readers are generally made clear how the magic works and what the limitations of it are within the story’s universe.

The former makes magic unpredictable and often a cheat code for characters to get out of sticky situations. Unless done well, it cheapens the experience for the audience as any build-up of conflict is always at risk of vaporizing into bubbles by the shake of a magic wand.

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That’s not butter. It’s magic.

The latter makes magic easier to measure and gives the audience a way of holding the story accountable. It makes conflicts feel like conflicts in fantasy and even when magic is used to solve them, if done right, the solution feels earned.

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For some modern reference, that’s what Smart Hulk’s role essentially was in Avengers : Endgame. Giving some rules to establish some order for the lore behind Infinity Stones and the time travel so the audience can understand what the goals were and how they were achievable and what conditions would cause the heroes to fail. All that works together to create suspense in the story.

Star Wars, within the films at least, was always generally leaning towards the systematic magic where at least it seemed certain limitations were established.

George Lucas, the creator of original Star Wars, made it very clear that the force users were tempered and grounded to reality as much as they could be while still being magic knights with laser swords— even when other iterations of the franchise often took the magical elements dialed up to eleven.

It kept the films suspenseful as it kept our heroes feel vulnerable and more human than not.

But now?

We got time and space bending telepathy and object transportation.

Force users holding rocket ships in the air and destroying a fleet of them with lightning bolts out of their fingers.

Sucking the life out of one another to cure mortal wounds and amputations.

Where do we go from here?

Not only did the power creep feel jarring for long-time fans but using the sudden change of rules to solve the major conflicts developed through not only this film but the past two films felt… distasteful.

It also just creates problems of its own as mentioned in the previous section where the audience can’t help but ask the question of, “If you can/had [x] then why did / didn’t you [y]”.

To cover these moments, whether it be from good intentions or just thinking the viewers are idiots who’ll salivate over things like Chewbacca finally receiving a medal, the movie didn’t hesitate to just senselessly shove in fan service whenever and wherever it damn could.

Kind of like a Christmas special episode of TV programs where old characters and celebrities from different shows come out of nowhere for no good reason just to make you go feel good about your nerdy self that you understand the references and your getting your nostalgia massaged in all the right places.

The Rise of the Fan Service

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I’m going to put that image up again.

Because it just fits.

Let’s talk about the Chewbacca scene mentioned earlier.

I’m sure many of you felt elated or maybe even cheered out loud when our favorite Wookie received his overdue medal.

It happened so quick and so out of the blue with such a vague reason for happening at that moment that probably by now you start to understand why some of the people in the theater might have been bewildered that the nerds were cheering over that small moment.

And when you think about it a bit more you’ll be left with the profound sentiment of:

“What the fxxx?”

It’s a powerful and universal feeling that your subconscious has finally begun to grasp what you’ve processed somewhere in the back of your mind. Let the initial bang and awe wash away. And let the logic and reason sink in.

That medal scene was so nonsensical and executed for such cheap thrills, that I feel icky that I started the domino of claps in my theater.

It’s like I spread herpes through the room and forgot to put on a proverbial condom on over my nerd excitement to prevent letting it think instead of using my head.

Let me put this way.

If you really cared about Chewie never receiving a medal before… is it really okay that he received what could be a random piece of replica, from a random person, as he’s just getting out of his ship?

Or would it have been more appropriate if it was at least a bit more formal and a bit more ceremonial?

The scene meant nothing but to serve as a (insert various sexual acts) to please the long-time fans… but by them being satisfied by it also means they’re just utterly stupid.

It’s like we’re monkeys who are just happy to receive a banana being thrown our way without wondering why we’re even getting the banana. The context doesn’t matter (we’re strapped onto a metal table) and the consequence doesn’t matter (the banana was to calm us down before our cranium is cut open and rods are shoved into our brains).

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Did y’all catch his cameo?

And I don’t mean that for just that one moment. I mean it for most of the fanservice.

It feels like a lot of the fanservice is an aftereffect of the previous film, The Last Jedi. Sort of a “here’s a bone” move after complaints people had of the previous film and the new trilogy without actually solving much of anything.

The plot of The Rise of Skywalker is painfully predictable even to the death of Kylo not because the plot itself had nowhere to go but to be simple, but because it felt like a lazy and safe attempt to appease the fans to ensure that Star Wars remains a valuable IP for Disney.

At least, in that sense, The Last Jedi tried something new and attempted a direction that took courage. The Rise of Skywalker, on the other hand, threw in the towel, committed as big of damage to the lore as The Last Jedi, and just twerked its glittery fanservice ass in front of us hoping that we won’t notice or won’t care.

In many ways, Palpatine being the final villain and Snoke being his little test tube baby feels like the ultimate fan service for the new trilogy. And a great demonstration of how much this film lacked in courage and lacked in respect for the previous stories… even the just last one.

There may be split opinion regarding The Last Jedi, but nevertheless, the film happened. It established that the new baddie for the trilogy, Snoke, was at the end a nobody.

Fans complained.

Instead of sticking to their guns and sticking by their work, this film decided to just completely toss aside any value to Snoke and his identity of being just a random evil guy by turning him into a Palpatine’s lab rat. It’s not covering for what could be the mistakes of The Last Jedi, rather, making the whole experience of the new trilogy feel like a joke. Like nothing matters.

Was it so hard to keep Snoke a nobody and still develop a better transition to having Palpatine as the grand villain?

Couldn’t it have been as simple as Snoke was somehow keeping the weakened Palpatine at bay and now that he’s gone Palpatine was able to rise?

And what was the point of “Dark Rey” other than to mislead the viewers in the trailer, giving them a little peek of “what if” costume change for Rey and a new lightsaber toy for the kids nerds? There was no substance to her appearance at all. It didn’t develop into anything and the way it was presented wasn’t particularly thoughtful in regards to the narrative they were trying to build.

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I am a commercial disguised as a spiritual journey. Many young girls, nerds, and pervs will buy my merchandise.

That’s it isn’t it?

The biggest problem with the fan service is that not only does it highlight a lot of the film’s lack of substance but they also act as a vacuum for whatever substance is left.

And just on that note…

..Why did Kylo/Ben die at the end?

It feels so lazy and cliche.

I was secretly hoping that the movie would surprise me and keep him alive. Send him to jail. Come up with a mature and complex plotline that leaves the audience guessing how Rey and Ben will continue their love.

All that bullshit with Force mumbojumbo to fix all of their difficult conflicts and they still chose a cliche way to answer the question: “What now for Ben Solo?”

Final Thoughts

There are so many more things I could talk about.

Regarding how awkward it feels that the fruition of our journey was Rey becoming the new Skywalker.

Regarding other aspects during the film where it felt too strongly that J. J. Abrams cared even less about Star Wars and more about doing whatever he wants as a filmmaker compared to Rian Johson. And how his stance feels like, “It’s just a dumb movie. Get over it. Here’s some fanservice that you can suckle on to keep quiet.”

Regarding how the word “inconsistent and careless” can be applied in so many different ways to the new trilogy.

And finally, regarding what the new trilogy may mean for the future.

The new trilogy overall reminded me of a lot of the second half of the second season of Twin Peaks.

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There’s probably also a series of blog posts that can be written about the sheer brilliance and the utter disappointments that are packaged in this little show.

To those unfamiliar with the series, it was David Lynch’s TV series in the 90s that was a mix of an investigative crime thriller, paranormal, and a good dose of odd beat humor.

It was a global phenomenon with still a huge cult following that produced a feature film, a few books, and a third season by popular demand that released in 2017—nearly 30 years after the original series ended with its two seasons.

But during what should have been its legendary first two seasons, it’s tarnished by the odd second half of the second season when David Lynch left the series for a while to pursue other projects.

It’s universally panned and took a lot of power away from series. For the fans of Twin Peaks it’s an interesting experience to watch those episodes because they obviously understood what made Lynch’s formula for the show so entertaining, powerful, and popular… but they could never really capture the essence of it.

It’s like a cheap cologne or a fast-food burger.

The new trilogy never really felt like Star Wars to me after The Force Awakens. Each one of them felt like imitations and vessels for new creatives to do whatever they want to make names for themselves by using the name of the franchise.

As problematic the prequels by George Lucas were, there was still a sense of cohesiveness and innate understanding and care for the Star Wars universe.

The prequels at least built and organically expanded the lore of Star Wars instead of becoming pickled and shriveled into itself.

And whether the new creators like it or not, Star Wars is much bigger than any of them, bigger than almost all of the other modern film franchises, and its massive reach is a legacy of its own.

Not even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at the level of Star Wars until it can demonstrate that it can also survive and thrive after 50 years.

And given that fact, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the franchise to be treated with a bit more care, thought, and respect.

Even if it’s just a film franchise, it’s a fantasy that’s enjoyed and means something to millions of people across generations.

Let’s grasp that for a moment.

Millions of people, across generations, throughout this little blue planet of ours.

We all enjoy this silly space opera. We all feel something together as we watch it. We’re not just mindless wallets to be opened by studios.

And if we don’t see some inherent and self-evident worth and value to be respected from a franchise like that, then we need to accept that everything that’s just meant for entertainment is also meaningless and pointless. Whether it’s some scribbles on paper, some noise we make through instruments, or throwing balls across fields… they are all pointless.

They only have meaning because we give them meaning.

But there’s a meaning to the fact that we humans decided to give those things meaning.

Art and Entertainment are what ultimately make humans—humans. And it is also what makes their experience in life beyond the capacity of what should have been. Beyond the limits what only could have been.

We are more and we can do more because we imagined it so.

Our ability to think kept us alive and our ability to dream kept us free.

So, I hope if they make Star Wars again, I hope they’ll do it with a bit more love and at least a bit more respect for those who love it and have loved it.

If they don’t, that’s just a message being sent to the millions of fans that their time and devotion are only worth the amount of cash they can bring in.

Anyways.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 or 5.25 / 10. Depending on how much you like Star Wars.

As mentioned, if you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer. Just turn off your brain and go watch it. Have fun. At least we got an acceptable ending.



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