tobman’s review published on Letterboxd:
JJ vs Rian vs the audience.
This is what it comes down to.
This is the story.
With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams delivered an incredibly solid and functioning comeback to the biggest franchise of all time. With it, he left a lot of open ends for the future installments. But what you have to keep in mind is that neither Disney nor he himself ever planned for him to make more than one movie. The trilogy was meant to have a new creative vision with every installment.
Enter Rian Johnson, a thriving writer and director who just made one of the most popular sci-fi movies of the decade. But just as much as he is a huge Star Wars fan, he is an artist obsessed with getting meta and deconstructing the very thing he makes or is a part of. Signs of this can be seen in his full length debut Brick, which tells a classic noir mystery story in a campy high school setting, and his Breaking Bad episode Fly, which pulls the viewer out of a paranoia-fueld season and puts him into a condensed, almost irrelevant story.
So with all creative freedom given to him, he makes HIS Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. It answers questions left open by Abrams in ways that are new to the franchise and scrutinises tropes that have been part of it for years. In my opinion, he did those things while competently continuing the story of TFA and leaving enough options for the last installment. The only proplem is that TLJ becomes one of the most polarizing movies of all time. A huge ampunt of people claim that Rian Johnson destroyed the movies that came before his and those that will follow.
What happens after this is a bit unclear, but my bet is that Disney didn't want to risk another TLJ happening, so they played a safe bet. So they rehire JJ Abrams, a man known for three things:
1. His Spielberg/Lucas era nostalgic type of blockbuster filmmaking.
2. His obsession with creating mysteries.
3. His incompetence to resolve those mysteries satisfiengly.
So what do you get with The Rise of Skywalker. A full JJ Abrams package, and its complicated. At its best, a fun action adventure that sounds and looks amazing. Sometimes its unapologeticly fun, sometimes extremely emotionally affecting. JJ is an artist who knows exactly what the fuck he is doing when doing the right things. At its worst an unnatural return to the old, a lazy and safe story, a movie that bends over the back of its own construct just to please the audience that felt alienated after the last installmant. In its first act, the movie instantly tries to function as some sort of damage control for The Last Jedi. Story beats from TLJ get undone and get exchanged with old, overdone story beats from the original trilogy. And the way those story beats are brought back is gutlessly justified, kind of ridiculous.
Either JJ was scared of letting his own vision in the way of ending the saga in a way that "everyone would enjoy", or he really just does't know better. Sometimes JJ goes out of his way to eradicate elements of TLJ just so he himself can resolve the mysteries he created in VII. It's suffocating. Even if you would have prefered the story to go the way it goes in TROS from the first place, I dont think you will enjoy the changes. They just feel so dishonest and gutless.
So what you end up having is a movie that is often extremly enjoyable in its own rights but painful in the context of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Really stupid but really fun