Thursday, 19 December 2019

Review: Star Wars - The Rise Of Skywalker (first-pass)





Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (first-pass / Spoiler-free)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer



The sandy-haired 4yr old sitting in awe of a Star Destroyer in Robins Cinema, Durham in 1978 couldn't have imagined this moment, or the impact that Star Wars would have on his life in the decades between. Then again, that's the same 4yr old who went to school the next day and wrote about a film he'd seen where Luke Skywalker got kidnapped by Jawas, so objective processing and credible projection was never really his strong suit. With that in mind, here are my initial thoughts on Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. I'm still processing...

CRAM


The longest Star Wars film to-date (not that it feels it) has a lot to cram in, and we hit the ground running. Visually and tonally we're 'home' right away, with JJ Abrams well enough versed in the Galaxy Far, Far Away that new locations and characters are introduced on the hoof, with fairly economical exposition.

Abrams strikes a fair balance between his 'safe' TFA and Rian Johnson's more playful follow-up. For the most part, he lands on his own side of the court, but TLJ is never gainsaid or disrespected. And while a few wry digs at previous plot revelations may placate the dissatisfied, I fear TROS has more moments of its own which will cause disquiet. Although I adore the high blood-pressure of others like a facetious vampire, so that's all the better.

ROGERS


For obvious reasons, the concerns of the Sequel Trilogy are served first and foremost here, followed by the Original Trilogy then the Prequels. Again none are brushed aside (and there are some lovely small nods to the TV properties), but there's just less to tie up the further back the timeline goes. The screenplay digs its own holes with gusto but manages to claw its way out of most of them with varying levels of gainliness. There are aspects of TROS which the audience are asked to accept at face value. Some of these receive a perfunctory explanation, others I suspect will be the source of novel and comic retcons for years to come. And that's not a bad thing at Blackout Towers, but 'civilian' audiences*1 are less likely to be as understanding.

John Williams is on solid form with the score this time around (it's no secret I've initially struggled with his recent Star Wars outings), being able to pull more freely from the back catalogue as the story requires. Visually it's as flawless as you'd expect*2 with plenty of background details to draw the eye if the viewer is that way inclined. There's also a smattering of nicely-unsettling moments; nothing a 12A audience shouldn't be able to handle, but younger-youngsters may need a reassuring squeeze.

NAGE


Abrams' overall characterisation works within the context of Star Wars, which is what you'd expect but there are leaps of faith here. Some returning characters aren't quite as prominent as you'd perhaps imagine, and I must confess that one of these passed me by completely until I noticed performer's name in the credits. But as above, there's a lot of ground to cover here; there are going to be casualties. Speaking of which, yes: there are casualties. See this soon to minimise the chance of spoilers (should go without saying really, but it never hurts to warn). There's nothing during or after the credits (other than Williams' score of course), but you should have guessed that already. Again, it doesn't hurt to have this confirmed.

And as for the ending itself? Mostly satisfying. I think. A bit of Dust In My Eye at one point, but I'd predicted more. As noted above, it's three in the morning and I've been in the cinema for eight and a half hours and I'm still processing a lot of what I've just seen. Don't expect all of your questions to be answered here. And be prepared for some of the answers to be things that you weren't expecting. But despite the marketing-push inferences, we all know this will not be the last Star Wars film. And while it's the final chapter of "The Skywalker Saga", that's not to say the future is a closed book.

Because as a famous doctor once said, "nothing ends. Nothing ever ends..."



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Star Warses.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Obvs.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Obvs.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Difficult to say at this early stage.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
I can already spot the moments which the naysayers will latch onto yet I love this unconditionally, so that's possible yes.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.
Help me out, folks
.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: It is Star Wars.

...but if you wanted to go around the houses with it, The Rise Of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, who was in 2017's Murder On The Orient Express along with Josh Gad who rocked up in the live-action Beauty And The Beast that featured a candlestick voiced by Ewan McGregor, the same actor who donned a stetson for 2015's Jane Got A Gun alongside Natalie Portman, who appeared in Annihilation with Oscar Isaac, aka the evil purple dude in X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie which had a supporting performance from Rose Byrne who was in 2018's Peter Rabbit, featuring the voice-work of one Daisy Ridley.

You're welcome.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 And that is in no way a slight. If you're reading this and you consider (or suspect) yourself a 'civilian' Star Wars fan then be aware that yours is the lion's share of the money this film will take. Disney/Lucasfilm need the casual audience more than the hardcore 'see it ten times' fans, because there are more than ten-times-more of those. But also be aware that parts of TROS will have you scratching your head and asking 'is that how that works now, then?'. And that's fine, because in those moments that's what the hardcore are asking as well. It's just that we'll re-watch the movie nine times to make sure. [ BACK ]

*2 Okay, apart from one moment and we can talk about that another time. Seriously, it's fine. It's not playing on my mind or anything. Look, stop asking me about it, okay? It's fine. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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