Sunday, 22 December 2019

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

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (second-pass / thematic spoilers)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer

Previous review: 1

Ah, that's better. As is usual, the second viewing of a new Star Wars movie allows for a step back, looking at the bigger picture without fixating on the plot as it unfolds. And I'm very happy to say that The Rise Of Skywalker flows far more smoothly when you know where the river is headed. You can put down the map and enjoy the scenery, so to speak. Too many metaphors for a single paragraph. Not sorry.


Make no mistake, there is still a lot of story-admin going on here, and yet somehow not enough. That's coupled with a smattering of unnecessary explanations as a sort of scriptwriter's garnish. Huge revelations are dropped into the dialogue with the same dramatic inference as a Rebel technician pointing out that the toner cartridge needs changing, and they're usually accepted in the same straightforward fashion.

We (by which I mean Fandom™) have spent the last four years asking questions, be it where do things come from or where did they disappear to. Star Wars movies have never been about massive ungainly bouts of backstory*1, but we hadn't stopped to think that when our answers did arrive, they'd do so with no further explanation or qualification. More fodder for the novels and comics, and that's fine.


But ultimately there are two films here. There's the Abrams-esque rollicking adventure, in which our planet-hopping heroes solve puzzles, locate artefacts and blast their way out of tight corners. Then there's the more Johnson-esque ponderous study of duty, destiny and the resurgence of the Sith. And while these are both definitely Star Wars™, they don't meet in the middle because even 142 minutes isn't enough time to properly do both ideas justice.

Think of how unbalanced Return Of The Jedi is. All of the interesting stuff happens aboard the second Death Star, with the space and ground battles providing breathing-room for the heavyweight force of wills. But as much fun as the Jabba's palace adventure is*2, when you've seen RotJ a few times it starts to get in the way, knowing there's more important business to be taken care of. One of the hills The Rise Of Skywalker has to climb is that this mismatch is apparent from the beginning, so the viewer quickly has to decide which of the two films they're in the mood for. Most of us want both, but that won't come until later viewings, when it's all bedded in.


We want instant gratification from Star Wars, but that's rarely how the series operates. The first 1977 flick did it, and to a certain degree The Force Awakens was probably closest to replicating that feel-good blast, but even that later work was subject to a quick reappraisal when it became apparent how structurally similar it is to A New Hope and The Phantom Menace.

You want the same movie experience from each new release? Fast & Furious is right there. You want to love Star Wars? I'm afraid it might be a little more work than just sitting down in front of it.

I have spoken.

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

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

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

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
For some it will be high on the CV, yes.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Okay, I think there's one when REDACTED falls into the REDACTED at REDACTED.
Need to investigate this, though

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 Carrie Fisher of course, who was in 2009's Fanboys along with Ray Park, who performed voicework for the motion-comic of Spartacus: Blood And Sand next to Jaime King, who rocked up in last year's Ocean's Eight alongside Richard Armitage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a movie which also featured Kiran Shah, who was in 2011's Your Highness with Justin Theroux, who also had a role in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle next to the one and only Carrie Fisher...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although many would argue that Episodes I-III fit squarely into this bracket; naturally, I'd disagree. [ BACK ]

*2 And as much as even I have grumbled about Snoke buying the farm halfway through the trilogy, let's not forget that the iconic Jabba The Hutt wasn't originally introduced until 13 minutes into the third Star Wars movie, and 25 minutes later he's a smouldering mess of barbecued blubber. That's it. That's Jabba. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ 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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