Todd Russell’s review published on Letterboxd:
Luke Skywalker was barely in The Force Awakens and this is the one where we find out what he has been up to, and it's done through Rey, the new Jedi protege, similar to how Luke once visited Yoda on the Dagobah system. Only this isn't the Luke we recognize. Rey seeks out the great Jedi knight to find out why he isn't fighting the dark side. Skywalker is presumably assuming the Obi-Wan Kenobi role ... or so we think.
Oh how wrong we are!
Like many other Star Wars fans of the original trilogy, I was disappointed with the sharp left turn in Luke's character growth -- or rather his destruction -- from Return of the Jedi until now. It is 30 years and yet it seems like 3000 with his character (or maybe he went through some weird Rian Johnson time warp and this is a different Luke Skywalker, permanently warped by the Force). What he has become doesn't remotely fit with his past adventures and actions in the original trilogy. J.J Abrams might have to resort to time travel like he did in Star Trek to undo this damage. All the teachings of Obi-Wan, Yoda ... guess none of that means anything in this new Disney Star Wars creation.
Huge risk, great potential payoff that .... mostly misses.
Rian Johnson took Luke to a very dark place that just didn't work for me and I found this all punishing to watch. We took a heroic character and made him bitter, angry, despondent, almost suicidal. The reasons given for why he became this way just doesn't make sense. Even R2D2 beeping and bopping and showing off images from the past trying desperately to bring this muddled Luke Skywalker to his senses.
Seriously, it's like Luke Skywalker now has dementia and is wandering around confused and dejected by the Force through the bulk of the movie. How entertaining is that? Who is this Invasion of the Body Snatchers Luke Skywalker?
I tried to give this another chance today. Really, really tried. Opened my mind.
Still, had to grind to power through it. Not sure I ever want to watch this movie again. It's sad, too, because I liked some of the scenes and how the space battles were filmed and the ending tried to right the damage created by 95% of the rest of the film. Try, it did.
I think Rian Johnson is a very skilled director who could make a good film in the Star Wars universe, he just shouldn't have been given the sandbox with the original Star Wars timeline and characters to do it. He needs his own sandbox, far, far away from the original.
The second act in the original trilogy (Empire Strikes Back) gambled with the huge twist of Darth Vader and Luke and it worked brilliantly. Here there are twists of sorts, but few if any work. There is no second act Twilight Zone twist moment at the end. There is ... the end.
This movie has been very controversial with Star Wars fans for good reason, because it pretty much ignores the original trilogy and most of what happened in part 7. By the ending, I now barely care what happens in Rey or Finn's journey after seeing this movie. Yeah, there's Poe, too, but that guy just seems like some cosmic whiner. Why didn't he really die in part 7 ... or part 8? Maybe we get our wish and he dies in part 9. Good riddance.
Princess, er, General Leia. Oh, how I wish Carrie Fisher was still alive. There is footage that J.J has to piece together with her and I hope he uses every second of it. When she's on the screen there is some small glimmer of redemption and hope. It's like just about every scene he's doing something annoying.
Am feeling sorry for J.J Abrams who setup a decent part 7, then Rian Johnson comes in and does whatever this broken experiment was to part 8, and now J.J Abrams is back to try and fit this jigsaw puzzle with tons of missing pieces back together and somehow reunite understandably disillusioned and angry fans of the original trilogy? Yikes. Not just gigantic shoes to fill, maybe impossible ones.
Obviously, I'm unable to rate this movie positively. All three prequels are better than this movie because it's not the Star Wars we have come to know and love. Even the boring political mess of The Phantom Menace and meandering Attack of the Clones puts this monstrosity to shame.
I would rather have seen Rian Johnson do another Star Wars project (which he is rumored to be planning) than part 8 in the 9-part saga. This just feels like most belongs in another movie using completely new characters. Somebody please rescue the Star Wars I saw in the theater in the late 70s, the Star Wars I loved and think fondly of, this movie was just an aborted mess.
Not recommended to anybody, including Star Wars fans, I don't care if it made billions -- it's the fast erosion of 40+ years of fan goodwill and wouldn't be surprised if Rise of Skywalker is punished at least somewhat at the box office. Then again, The Mandalorian is (rightfully) creating all kinds of good will and buzz for Star Wars, so who knows?
(As an experiment I went to the theater and saw if I could preorder tickets on opening day to the closest theater with the reclining seats. How full is the theater to the first 3D showing? Still has 23 seats available in a theater that fits 70. I checked the very first 2D showing on Thursday ... less than two days from now: 5 seats still left. The second showing, 15 minutes later? Over half the theater still available. In the past there would be long, long lines for Star Wars movies ... these days with preorder tickets, no lines. Nobody waits in lines to see movies any more, I guess. At least not for Star Wars any more.)
Disney seemingly can do no wrong at the box office, so Rise of Skywalker probably still makes well over $1 billion. Just make it right in part 9. Make it right. Please.