And so we come to the finale, the final chapter in the Star Wars universe (well, for now) and with it comes tears of sorrow and of joy that after 42 years of ups, downs, midichlorians, Jar-Jar’s and galactic family tree exploring, it all comes down to this. The franchise finds itself in something of unfamiliar territory going into The Rise of Skywalker: its predecessor, The Last Jedi, split audiences like never before with a tirade of hateful and spiteful vitriol spread like wildfire across the internet, while last summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story saw the first signs of wobbles, both behind the scenes and at the box office.
In hopes of bringing “balance” to the series again, director J.J. Abrams has been brought back into the director’s chair for the final installment with the hope that he can steady the ship, bring back onside those fans who had the plan to desert it and give us a satisfying and fulfilling ending. They were half right. A safe pair of hands if ever there was one, Abrams’ love of the series, as well as his revitalisation of it all with The Force Awakens, made him perfect to conclude it. The funny thing is, however, no matter where you fell on The Last Jedi, TROS is just that: safe. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the saddest thing you can say.
It has all the elements you would expect – intergalactic shenanigans, light-saber duels, mystic planets and their inhabitants and, as almost all fans had begged for: answers. To Rey’s mysterious past, to the Skywalker legacy, to Kylo Ren’s supreme leader status and the why and how of Emperor Palpatine’s resurrection, all of them neatly wrapped up in a bow to finish the series but so neat and tidy is it all that it feels
hugely underwhelming in places. That said, Abrams’ typically electrifying set-pieces and Dan Mindel ‘s cinematography are suitably awe-inspiring and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
To that end, TROS does it’s job and does it effectively so, as stirring and wondrous as you’d expect, and yet there is much that will grate, most coming from it being so darn safe. There are no stakes, not really, and such was the backlash and criticism of those aforementioned previous forays that it seems the studio and filmmakers have tried everything that can to make this look, feel and sound like a Star Wars film of Christmas Past.
Think of this more as a greatest hits album and not something more daring, more challenging, and – whisper it – more like Rian Johnson‘s superb middle film. Indeed, such is the necessity to “right the wrongs” as it where, the focus shifts much more to Rey and Ren and lesser on those that made TLJ so refreshing – namely Kelly Marie Tran‘s Rose, absurdly and ridiculously the brunt of the worst of fan vitriol, now relegated to the background as if she, and the earlier film, didn’t exist.
It’s saved from being a huge disappointment thanks to the turns of Daisy Ridley (her best of the three), Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, as well as Carrie Fisher‘s heartfelt farewell performance, and they along with the hullabaloo make this a trip across light-speed one last time enjoyable – but only just. The fate of the franchise now lies with its expanded universe and it’s Disney+ content and, frankly, we can’t wait because if this is going to endure, it is in drastic need of a shake-up.
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Sci-Fi, Action | USA, 2019 | 12A | 19th December 2019 (UK) | Lucasfilm | Dir.JJ Abrams | Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Marie Tran