Tuesday, 24 December 2019

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

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (third-pass / PLOT SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2

Okay you know the drill, this post is less a cumulative appraisal and more a list of 'notes as we go' through The Rise of Skywalker. Because of this, it features spoilers. Great, whacking, Star Destroyer-sized spoilers. So if you haven't seen the film yet, stop reading now. Apart from anything else, there's no real context for most of them as I assume you've seen the movie, so they won't make sense to you coming to this review blind. But because I'm nice like that, the spoilers don't start until after this bump.

It's also worth pointing out that as sarcastic as I'm about to be, I do love The Rise Of Skywalker and I'm feeling more 'at home' with it on each subsequent viewing. This is playful joshing.

And this is your last chance to turn back...


The Bad Guys

• Right, this galaxy-wide broadcast from the Emperor who's been thought dead for the last 35+ years is quite an important thing, right? Am I meant to have read the lead-in novel to get this? Will we get to hear the broadcast? Surely we would if it's important enough to be the first thing the crawl mentions, right?

• Is this the longest gap between the start of a Star Wars movie and the first line of dialogue? That's quite a bold move.

• Wow, the Knights Of Ren really are the briefest window-dressing in this movie, aren't they? Almost as much as those red-armoured Sith Troopers.

Vader: "So there are only two of the Wayfinders, is that right?"
Emperor: "Yes, and they're totally safe. Don't worry, I'm on it."
Vader: "And can I ask where you keep them?
Emperor: "Well one of them is in a vault behind that door ten feet away from you. I mean it's not out on display but always close at hand so I can grab it if I have to leave here in a hurry for any reason."
Vader: "Ooh, nice touch. And what about the other one?"
Emperor: "I've left it upside down under a garden ornament just out in the open on some planet you've never heard of. Got a couple of lads watching it though so it'll be safe as houses."
Vader: "..."

• Y'know what? If Rian Johnson had brought The Emperor out of absolutely nowhere at the beginning of his movie and had him say "I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head", toxic-fandom would have been calling him every EXPLETIVE under the sun for it.

The Good Guys

• Wait, the rebels have to fly all the way to a hidden base to transfer a message through a cable? Is the e-mail down? Get onto IT about that, lads.

• In the lightspeed-skipping sequence, are those pipe/towers at Bespin?

• I'm very much enjoying grumpy, sarcastic Poe Dameron in this. Ironically, he's far more likeable than his gee-whiz pirate-lite from the previous two movies.

• Oh, Rey is trying to summon the spirits of deceased Jedi. I wonder if this will come up again later in the film?

Poe: "Somehow, Palpatine survived"
Rose: "...do we believe this?"
Poe: "I hope so mate, there'll be no further explanation of how, so just take it as read, yeah?"

• So the secret Sith world is Exegol? Not like, say, Moraband or something? Okay, that's fine.

Finn: "Rose, last chance?"
Rose: "The general asked me to stay here and literally study schematics of old ships rather than go on an adventure to save the Rebellion like I did earlier. It's almost as if my screen-time has been cut for some reason while retaining my contractually stipulated appearance in the movie."
Finn: "Okay, somebody's touchy."
Rose: *looks over spectacles*

• Evil space-chimp is running Sith hat repair-shop now. Okay, that's fine.


• Guys, stop making desert locales which aren't Tatooine. Or like return to Jedha instead. Please.

• I am loving C-3PO's humour in this movie, he is fantastic.

• Oh, Rey has been asked her surname and she's stuck for an answer. I wonder if this will come up again later in the film?

• Oh, a physical object has been teleported using the Force between Rey and Kylo Ren. I wonder if this will come up again later in the film?

• So wait, Ochi's ship is just "there", parked on a rock? You can just leave stuff out on Pasana and it doesn't get stolen, ransacked or vandalised? You'll be telling me next the ship is working and ready to go.

• Bonus points for six-legged elephant droid in the desert, serving precisely no practical purpose. Lovely stuff.

• The speeder-bikes with massive wheels seemed cumbersome and impractical in the trailer, and here they're shown to be cumbersome and impractical. Fair play.

• Oh, Rey has healed another living creature by transferring life-energy using the Force. I wonder if this will come up again later in the film?

Poe: "Okay, we've only got eight hours left!"
Finn: "Are we doing this literal countdown-thing again? Like last time, in the film that everyone complained about?
Poe: "Shut up, Derek."

• Okay, I love Joonas Suotamo but why does Chewie look like a guy in a suit for this film? I know Joonas is around the same height as Peter Mayhew, but they're built differently (Joonas is a basketball player, Peter was a hospital porter with bad posture) and they move differently. Peter coached him for TFA and that seems to have been forgotten. It totally looks like there's padding around his middle under the yak-hair. It's very much a guy in a suit. Less of this, please, bit of respect.

OMG! Chewbacca's dead!! Haha, not really.


• Okay, where is my 3¾" figure of C-3PO wearing a coat, please?

OMG! C-3PO's going to be lobotomised!! Haha, not really.

• When they're all like 'mate, doesn't R2-D2 back up your memory?', why doesn't Babu Frik just make a backup before he performs the procedure? He's such an expert slicer he's forgotten that making backups is the cornerstone of IT?

• Zori Bliss is great. Which comes as something of a pleasant surprise because I've only ever seen Kerri Russell being absolutely dreadful in stuff before.

• Why is D-O here, though? I get that there's toy-potential, but he doesn't really do a lot, does he? As soon as he starts giving the Rebels information about Exegol, Rey just transmits markers from her X-Wing anyway.

• C-3PO: "Oh, my first laser-battle!". A smashing callback to Attack Of The Clones there, and illustrating the full factory-settings extent of his wipe.

• Speaking of which, the change in mannerisms between the C-3PO who sat down in Babu Frik's chair and the one who got out of it is remarkable. They're both definitely Threepio, but it shows how much Daniels has evolved the characterisation over four decades.

• The split-screen of Rey and Kylo's conversation here is lovely, especially the way the locations intersect and overlap.

• Oh, thank you for the reminder of the teleporting objects through the Force with Vader's helmet. I wonder if this will come up again later in the film?

• Actually, why didn't Kylo just give Vader's helmet to the space-chimp to repair as well?

First real point of order though, when Kylo admits to Rey "I didn't lie, your parents were nobody, they chose to be", that's not Abrams trampling all over Johnson's writing from The Last Jedi. When Kylo made that assertion in the previous film, he was doing so based on information planted by Snoke (indeed Palpatine, as we now know) specifically to disrupt the protagonists' faith. Pretty much every line spoken by Kylo Ren can be attributed to lies, arrogance or being flat-out wrong about the subject at hand. And while I'm happy to put my hands up and say I was incorrect about claiming Rey would turn out to be Han and Leia's daughter (ie Ben's brother), I'll reiterate that I never believed for a second that the 'nobody' hypothesis would turn out to be literally true. Short version of all this: it's not a retcon lads, it's the reveal to the existing buildup*1.

Kylo: "My mother was the daughter of Darth Vader, your father was the son of Palpatine-"
Rey: "Yeah I'll be honest, it sort of feels like everybody's turned over two pages at once, there. I'm meant to just accept this with no context, yeah? Who is Palpatine other than some dead guy that everyone frowns about?"


• Horses on Endor. Okay, they've got tusks, but it's still a fantastic callback to the Battle For Endor movie.

• Love that the Sith-dagger has that Jonesian Staff Of Ra feel, not least since it seems the blade was forged as part of a prophecy of the second Death Star being destroyed. Although much like the staff, it really seems like you have to be in the exact elevation, distance and angle for it to work. Fair play.

• Okay, Chewie said that the Falcon's landing gear was out of action, but why does that mean they have to come to a skidding stop churning up half a field in the process? Couldn't he, like, slow to a stop and then just drop the ship down?

• I know LFL are making the absolute best of the footage they've got with Carrie Fisher, but her exit in this movie makes absolutely no sense. Although given Padmé apparently died of a broken heart...

OMG! Ben Solo's dead!! Haha, not really.

• So Han is-- ...y'know what? Okay, I'll give you that one. Although as they both admit he's figment of Ben's imagination, obviously this means we're going to see actual Force-spirits of actual former-Jedi later in the film, right?

Ajan Kloss

• That transmission that Finn, Poe, Rose and Beaumont hear, the one Beaumont translates. Is that the transmission mentioned in the crawl? Because they're acting like they're only hearing it for the first time, but they're really not surprised about it. This strand of the plot really needs more time allocated to it.

• Alright Billy Dee, I know you're pleased to be back but you don't have to grin your way through every scene like you're Gina Carano in The Mandalorian.


• And the second point of order is Luke, here. Let me assure you that when he walks on-screen, makes a wry quip about 'respecting' the weapon of a Jedi and admitting he was wrong about staying on Ahch-To, that's not Abrams reversing Rian Johnson's script, it's him underlining the point. It was clear in The Last Jedi that Luke was wrong. That was the point; he's fallible. The Last Jedi is a film about failure. Although obviously (and I know this is not the place to get into this) a lot of people seem to believe that their childhood hero should have precisely the same personality and outlook he did 35 years earlier, as if they themselves have been completely unaffected by what life has thrown at them over three and a half decades. Luke was wrong, and there's no redemption for a fallen hero without sacrifice. Or weren't you paying attention to Return Of The Jedi?

• I notice Luke's spirit is translucent, not solid like Yoda's was. Okay, that's fine.

Please for the love of God stop CGI'ing young Leia. It looked terrifying in Rogue One and that hasn't changed.

• And that X-Wing is just going to work out of the water like that, yeah? With or without a navigator droid? I mean was the cockpit watertight? Because the padding of the seat and helmet-interior is going to have perished years ago, otherwise. Okay, that's fine.

Ajan Kloss

• C-3PO: "You want to put what in my head? Under no circum-" is the greatest joke in this film. Bravo.


• When I first heard that Richard E. Grant was in the new Star Wars film I figured he'd have a couple of lines as an officer in the background, but he's really bloody in this isn't he?

• Two best snatches of dialogue in this movie:
"Jam their speeders."
"...I can't sir"
"Why not?"
"they're not using speeders..."

"It's not a navy sir, it's just... people"
Both showing that the Final Order is every bit as blinkered as the old Empire. Beautiful writing.

Palps: "Kill me and my spirit will pass into you, as all the Sith live in me..."
Rey: "Right, wait, is this something that's always happened, or have you just invented this? Explain pls."

• Ben Solo just rocking up in a black sweater to take care of business. Where did he get the working TIE fighter? Can't have been on Endor. Did he call through for it pretending to be still-bad? Never mind, add it to the list of questions.

• Oh look, Rey's force-teleported a weapon to Ben. Well isn't that a thing?

• Although Ben's John Wickian shrug when he gets the lightsaber is the second-greatest joke in this film. Bravo again.

• Hahaha, hi Wedge. I see they brought you back for literally three words. Oh mate.

• Oh look, Rey has managed to communicate with the spirits of deceased Jedi. Well isn't that a thing?

• Although you do realise cinema is a visual medium, right? Just running a load of voices - many of which sound quite similar by the way - maybe not the best way to communicate this breakthrough?

OMG! Palpatine's dead!! Yeah, really. Apparently. But seriously tell me why he won't just rock up in another movie in ten years' time? He even said himself that he's died before, and I see nothing of permanence here any more than being dropped screaming into an exploding Death Star.

• When Ben is crawling his way across the floor to Rey, is anyone else's brain playing Superheroes from the end of Rocky Horror?

• Oh look, Ben has transferred life-energy to Rey using the Force. Well isn't that a thing?

• So #ReyLo is a thing. Okay, that's fine.

• Right, there are a lot of people dying on Exegol, there. It's not just stormtroopers and officers, there's the maintenance and support crews, the cleaners, the caterers, the plumbers - this is like the red jumpsuits and the scissors in Us, where did all this stuff come from? How is this a secret base when hundreds of thousands of people have disappeared here to populate it? I mean they've got to have been brought here because if they've been born and raised on Exegol then where are the schools, the hopspitals, the pubs and the shops? The First Order massed in the Unknown Regions, and now Palpatine's Final Order are massing in a different part of the Unknown Regions. I know they're big but is no one noticing all the shit going missing? Anyway, here they are all dying. That's a bit harsh, mate. Mind you, with two Death Stars and Starkiller Base under their belts, I suppose genocide is pretty much in the Rebellion's HR manual by now.

• And the not-inconsiderable remnants of The First Order are still around in the 'regular' galaxy, right? All that was destroyed here was Palpatine's secret-navy and the officers who'd flown in to command. Back in The Last Jedi, The First Order dudes had pretty much taken over the galaxy, so there were definitely more of them about than the destroyers chasing the Resistance fleet. I mean yeah, any First Order presence is now rudderless, but as it's an organisation seemingly made up of utter sociopaths, it's not going to take too long for some a-hole to rise and fill the vacuum. More fodder for the novels and comics, and that's all good.

Ajan Kloss

• Okay, I am totally here for that kiss between Commander D'Acy and Rebel Pilot Tyce, because a) representation is important especially in smaller, throwaway moments, and b) I know it will infuriate the movie-gammons and I feed on their high blood-pressure like a facetious vampire. Bring that shit on.

• Why do we get that shot of Bespin? Endor and Jakku I understand, but we haven't been to Bespin for years. Unless that was Bespin in the lightspeed skipping earlier?

Maz: "Chewie, this is for you"
Chewie: "Oh, while everybody's busy hugging and having their own reunion parties. Getcha. No award-ceremonies is enough for me, thank you."


• So wait, the Lars Homestead is still just "there" on Tatooine and no one else has moved in? No new tenants for an operational moisture farm, or just squatters or anything? The place doesn't get ransacked or vandalised? Okay, that's fine.

• As I mentioned before, this film is great at wrapping up the Sequel Trilogy, but not the OT and certainly not the prequels. Anyone telling you otherwise is doing marketing. This is the close of a trilogy, not the nine-part saga.

• And apart from anything else, Rey burying those sabers like that is a clear sign that we will be back, even if it's with the stable-boy from The Last Jedi. This shit is not over.

• And where does that black-handled saber with the orange blade come from? She just rocks up at the homestead with it clipped to her belt. How much time has lapsed between Exegol and Tatooine?

• Oh look, someone has been asked her surname again. Well isn't that a thing?

Woman: "There's been no one here for so long. Who are you?"
Rey: "I'm Rey".
Woman: "Rey, who?"
Chippy Imperial recruitment officer pops into frame: "Well you're on your own, so... Solo it is! There, I've written it down, it's legal now and that's that."

Rey looks at camera.
Iris-out. Credits.

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?
Adam Driver spends the entire third-act without a single line of dialogue; that is magnificent.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Already have once this week...

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Okay, I think there's a Wilhelm buried low in the mix coming from Ben when Palpatine blasts him into that pit. But the acoustics weren't great in the auditorium today so it was less clear than my second-pass.

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 Naomi Ackie, who was in The End Of The F**king World with Geoff Bell from that RocknRolla, a movie which also featured Thandie Newton who was in 2018's Gringo with David Oyelowo, who had a role in 2009's Small Island alongside Hugh Quarshie, a regular on Holby City at the time in 2011 when Silas Carson was in a bunch of episodes, an actor who appears in 2019's The Corrupted with Naomi Ackie...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although I would be genuinely amazed if Rian Johnson had "she's Palpatine's granddaughter" scribbled in the margins of his Last Jedi pad. One of my few bugbears about this trilogy is the way the newly-organised Lucasfilm have been winging-it and just hoping everything will turn out for the best, and writing the Saga-films on the hoof is by far the worst offender here. More on that another time... [ 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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