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Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker – film review

December 21, 2019


A desperately cobbled-together franchise-killing finale.

Reviewed on Thursday 19th December 2019

Directed by J.J. Abrams. Screenplay by Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams, story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams. Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Billy Dee Williams and Ian McDiarmid. Running time: 141 mins.

While Rey continues her training under the tutelage of Leia, Kylo Ren embarks on a quest to locate former Galactic Emperor Palpatine (who miraculously survived the destruction of the second Death Star ) – in order to take him down because he perceives Palpatine as a threat. When Rey learns of her true ancestral lineage – she too embarks on a quest to confront the Emperor. While, with only sixteen hours to go until the Sith launches a full blown attack with a fleet of planet-killing star destroyers – Finn, Poe and Chewbacca also join Rey in her quest.

As lame and ‘fan-fictiony’ as this sounds – this is essentially the plot.


For the last two years since the release of the previous instalment, I had been following with interest the backlash from fans and subsequent mad scramble by Lucasfilm to come up with an alternate game plan to complete the saga – after Rian Johnson diverged so wildly from the initial three picture narrative arc with The Last Jedi. While I did come out of Last Jedi assuming it was all still part of the game plan,   it didn’t take long for the truth to emerge – that Johnson had effectively thrown out the plan – leaving the story with nowhere to go. And so it was with a distinct lack of confidence that I went into The Rise of Skywalker – thinking it might be nothing more than a hastily slapped-together convoluted mess – but hoping that it might at least be an entertaining one.

If there is one thing to be said about this film – it moves along at break-neck speed; never slowing down long enough for us to process anything that is happening – whether it be the continuous rapid-fire expository dialogue being spoken at double speed or the beauty of a moment, shot or location – this film doesn’t care if you’re keeping up with it or not; it’s determined to get this thing over with as quickly as possible – so you better hang on.

As Abrams has demonstrated time and time again – his concept of ‘the mystery box’ (where, because it happens in real life, certain plot points are routinely unexplained) – is clearly just an excuse for lazy plotting. And Rise of Skywalker also falls prey to this idiotic reasoning. When internal narrative logic is discarded so arbitrarily – this can only make for an extremely frustrating experience. This is perhaps why virtually all of Abram’s films fail to hold up on subsequent viewings. When your story is so riddled with glaring plot holes – it can’t help but collapse in a heap under the slightest scrutiny (and as I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to conduct a deep dive analysis of this myself – I’ll leave it to others to dissect the dozens of nonsensical narrative plot points on display in this train wreck).

The only character who has any semblance of an arc in this movie (indeed, this entire trilogy) – is Kylo Ren. And Adam Driver delivers a solid performance with the material he’s been given. And while it’s nice to see Daisy Ridley given more to do here (as far as demonstrating her range) – particularly in making the omnipotent Rey a more likeable character – with relatable vulnerabilities, it ultimately ends up being a case of too little too late. The rest of the human cast fare a lot worse; sadly remaining essentially one-note and undeveloped. Interestingly, it is Chewbacca who provides what is perhaps the film’s most emotionally impact-full moment – with his heart-breaking response to the death of another beloved legacy character.

With this Disney trilogy now finally complete, I really am at a loss to understand what the point of it all actually was. With the original trilogy (and indeed with the prequel trilogy) Lucas always said his intent was to provide young people with a new mythology in order to impart the understanding that the choice we all make between good and evil is purely one’s own. So what lessons were meant to be gleaned from this new trilogy? What message – if any – is it attempting to impart to young people? Well, none that I can see. For there is no underlying subtext to any of this.

The artistic failure of this sequel trilogy as a whole must be laid squarely at the feet of studio head Kathleen Kennedy, for it was she who green-lit Rian Johnson’s recklessly divergent (reportedly first draft) screenplay for Last Jedi – in order to selfishly inject her own toxic brand of hyper-feminism into the mix. This is not to say J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson should be let off the hook. Not at all. Abrams’ lack of imagination (in his shameless rehashing of what came before) – coupled with Johnson’s slavish allegiance to Kennedy’s political agendas – pretty much gave rise to a perfect storm of creative incompetence.

Convoluted, incomprehensible and just plain dumb – I would even go so far as to place Rise of Skywalker in the same franchise-killing pantheon of recent duds as The Predator, Alien: Covenant and Terminator: Genysis.

Avoid at all cost.

1.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Wallis Cinemas Mitcham, Adelaide, December 19th 2019

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

  1. Mike Charlton permalink

    I have to agree. Watched this at the IMAX in Tbilisi, Georgia. This hash of a film left me desperate to latch onto one plot and savour it for a while. Just a couple of minutes. Please JJ? Alas, JJ wasn’t keen on allowing that to happen and bounced us all over the galaxy from one story to the next with almost zero character development and all the while adding new characters and sledgehammering in cameos from the old gang. And would it have been that hard to have just one minute without the overbearing music telling me what I am supposed to feel?
    I could almost read the music mood sheet the composers had – anger here, move to betrayal, onto love. One saving grace is they sell large bottles of beer here you can drink in the cinema. There was plenty of time and motivation to get more.


    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers for the comment, Mike. Yeah, I can imagine this would make a great drinking game movie. Every time something contrived or stupid happens – take a shot.


  2. Hi Greg, always great to read a new review by you, hope you are well mate. I haven’t seen this yet (frankly have no inclination to, which as a Star Wars fan is pretty damning in itself) but the reviews I’ve read have been pretty scathing. It all seems very typical of modern film-making and script-writing and I really expected no more from a hack like Abrams. When I heard they were bringing Palpatine back (thus breaking the narrative of the films up to ROTJ and Vaders act of redemption) I considered it just one more demonstration of their disrespect and lack of understanding of the saga. I cannot imagine any fan fiction could have managed to be any worse than this awful new trilogy.


    • gregory moss permalink

      Hey Ian. Good to hear from you. Yep – I’m all good. Been busy this year developing a script which we’re hoping to begin shooting next year (which is why I haven’t been as active on my blog as I have in the past). Yeah – Abrams may be a semi competent director (and that’s being kind) – but he really should let someone else do the writing. I’m just glad it’s over – and I don’t have to waste any more energy thinking about Disney era Star Wars. I’m basically done with it. We do have Denis’ DUNE to look forward to this time next year after all. Now THERE’S something I’m excited about. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Greg, I’m back! Having watched the film now, I have to say, you are absolutely right, its such a pointless exercise, this whole trilogy and hopelessly inept. Its almost as if they thought they could film anything, slap the Star Wars logo on it, and that they’d make a tone of money. And I guess they were right, but the damage done to the brand is getting pretty damning.

    I expected little, but was still underwhelmed by Rise of Skywalker. It made so little sense, and so clearly rushed, it actually felt as if it wasn’t finished. Given another six months, maybe it would have been a better film, better-edited anyway. But the real hurt was done by that horrible script and the idiocy of Abrams giving the Jedi new powers, and bringing Palpatine back was like something from a SNL sketch. So many times I wonder, ‘what WERE they thinking?’.


    • gregory moss permalink

      Hey Ian! Are you gonna review it? I hope you do. 🙂


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