Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Based on the consensus I was seeing coming from critics' screenings, I tempered my expectations. The Last Jedi was always going to be a tough act to follow, but I still wanted to like this, or at the very least, be pleasantly surprised by it.

I think the problem with Star Wars in general is that it has a scale problem. If the last movie had a Death Star, the next one needs a bigger badder one; if the bigger badder one got blown up, then we should miniaturize the Death Star tech and bolt it on the outside of a cruiser. The problem with this approach is that there's nowhere to go once you've decided to raise the stakes by amping up the scale of destruction. What good is ruling the galaxy if all you're going to do is actively destroy it, planet by planet?

The problem with this Star Wars in particular is that it, to quote Palpatine, suffers from a lack of vision. The scale problem is partially to blame, but the more disappointing issue is that the script ties itself into knots trying to get Rian Johnson's wild left turns back under a control that they never needed. The Last Jedi was so brilliant because it abandoned the Star Wars playbook. It tried new things; it left the calcified idea of the Force as an inherited trait behind. Anyone could be a Jedi again, including street urchins and nobodies. The Rise of Skywalker throws all that away for a plot twist that is uninteresting and obvious. I don't want to know how Rey got her potential. I just want to know what she's going to do with it now that she's tapped it. I don't want Rey and Kylo Ren to be star-crossed lovers, and I'm particularly annoyed that romantic love is what redeems Kylo. I was excited to see him fighting with a blue lightsaber (I'm not made of stone), but I didn't buy his sudden face turn.

I'm being tough on The Rise of Skywalker because it had so much potential, and it threw all that potential away for a retread of familiar plot points. Like The Force Awakens, it's too safe, and a little too rapid fire.

Despite my disappointment, and despite its deep and fundamental flaws, I enjoyed the pieces of this movie. Corpse Palpatine looked genuinely unsettling with his white eyes and black lips. I liked the ex-Stormtrooper horse people, although I would have liked to get to know them as characters and not plot devices. I appreciate that Rey continued her Jedi training under Leia, and I liked the new Force powers we got to see--the lightsaber pass in particular was dope. The droid mechanic puppet was delightful, and D-O's polite "No thank you" made me smile.

I'm not sure if I'm going to sour or settle on this installation. I'll probably need to see it again to be sure, but I've had enough Star Wars in the past couple weeks; I think it's time to go dormant and give it a rest for now.

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