Thursday, 26 December 2019

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

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (fourth-pass / IMAX 3D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3

This is your spoiler-break. Enjoy these while you can, because any reviews of The Rise Of Skywalker posted after the New Year won't feature the buffer. You've seen the movie by now, I'm sure, but this section is to preserve the sensibilities of the hundreds of thousands of readers*1 who flock to my scribblings irrespective of the subject at hand, or just blithely follow links next to hashtags on the socials.

While we're stalling, I'll take this moment to mention that the IMAX 3D version of this movie looks outstanding for colour-depth, clarity and the razor-sharp 3D we've come to expect of the format. For reasons best known to Disney, Real-D screenings of TROS are running at an absolute minimum (with D-Box having being jettisoned completely by Cineworld in favour of the disappointingly distracting 4DX), so this has been my only exposure to the three-dimensional presentation which it seems is no longer A Thing. A real shame, if only because that was a key feature of the Sequel Trilogy launch back in 2015.

Further to my second-pass ponderings, the movie has settled down a little for me by now. I'm automatically separating the action-sequences from the lore and looking into the wider implications of the latter. That's what this post is about. If you haven't seen TROS yet, go no further. If you have, read on...


So. How does The Rise Of Skywalker affect the prophecy of The Chosen One?

The Original Trilogy made references to the balance of the Force, apparently achieved by the removal of The Emperor as a player (hahaha). For a long time this resulted in back-and-forths over whether this should mean 1 Jedi = 1 Sith, or if the true natural balance would be restored by removing the Sith altogether. After all, nature on our planet has its ownbalance between natural selection, hunters and prey. The large animals with the sharp teeth eating the smaller more timid ones may seem unpleasant, but it's driven by a complex web of biological requirements and availability, rather than greed and malice. This equilibrium doesn't include a tourist with a shotgun and an empty slot on the wall of their study.

So as long as the Force exists in the galaxy's living beings (remembering that although there's a level of hereditary-gifting, Force-sensitive children are born to 'muggle' parents all the time), there will be those that use the power for good things (healing, empathy, meditation) and those who use it for bad (lightning, choking, throwing crates at people). For the most-part, this will balance itself out. The Sith, however, are a cult. A group of next-level dark side adherents with their own rituals and magic outside of regular manipulation. Sheev Palpatine is, on a galactic scale, the tourist with the firearms and the armoured 4x4 against which the local wildlife - good, bad or indifferent - cannot reasonably fight back. Removing Palpatine will restore the natural balance of the Force. And so it proved.


The Prequel Trilogy raised this bar by introducing the prophecy of The Chosen One. An ancient messianic prediction - so old that the Jedi Order itself was unsure of its precise mechanics - that one figure would rise in the darkest of times to restore balance to the Force. Of course all dark times feel like the darkest from the inside, and even the more objective mind wonders if worse is yet to come*2. With this in mind, the coming of The Chosen One was still questioned during the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire.

But cited among the Jedi Council throughout all of this was Anakin Skywalker. The vergence in the Force; the tousle-haired virgin-birth from the meekest of backgrounds with Force-powers off the charts*3 and the potential to reset the game. Anakin's part in this larger picture was a subject of debate for three movies, and into The Clone Wars series. That he was special was never in any doubt, but whether he was Chosen was another matter entirely. And who actually was it that brought balance in the space station above Endor? After all, it's Anakin who finally throws the screaming Emperor into the reactor-shaft, but his long-overdue redemption is only possible because of his son Luke. Was Luke the Chosen One throughout all of this? This is still debated now.


Fast-forward three and a half decades and it turns out the Palpatine found a way back. So that balance of the Force, in the broadest yet truest sense, wasn't restored after all. At least not then, not over Endor. So was Anakin ever the Chose One? Or was Luke? There's now a chance that the prophesied being could even have been Rey. While the Sequel Trilogy boasted a strong inference from the off that she is a Skywalker*4 the revelation of our heroine being Rey Palpatine (in blood, if not in spirit) presumably means that either a) the prophecy was bunk, mis-read hieroglyphics from a fragment of a hand-me-down artefact, or b) the Chosen One was never a Skywalker to begin with. Meaning that this was arguably not 'The Skywalker Saga' in the sense of legend, rather the lighthearted space-opera originally touted in 1977.

But more to the point, does this matter? It certainly won't to a lot of people; the specific idea of the prophecy was a construct of the Prequel-era, after all. And as previously noted, The Rise Of Skywalker is more properly a closure of the Sequel Trilogy, not the Saga. The OT already had its own joyous wrap-up, and the bittersweet denouement of Episode III fed optimistically into that. But 'prophecy' is notoriously vague (otherwise it's referred to as 'instructions'), and it's not like Abrams and Johnson jettisoned the old lore. The original texts which Rey takes in TLJ and is picking through in TROS*5 probably even contain the foretelling themselves. And okay, Rey defeats the Sith with the help of the Skywalkers, but it's technically with the help of everyone else as well.

So is The Rise Of Skywalker a sign that the old ways no longer shackle us, that we can face new challenges without fixating on the weight of expectations of the past?

Or is it more that the old ways never really mattered to begin with?

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?
Some of 'em.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That is entirely possible, although no grudges will be held.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Suspect it was probably my imagination which located one during the second-pass, buried in the mix as Ben Solo gets thrown into that pit by the Emperor, and so it is with a heavy hard that I concede there is not.

Unless, of course, you know better.
In which case, get onto them comments

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 Adam Driver, who was in Inside Llewyn Davis with Oscar Isaac, who in turn appeared in Ex Machina alongside Domhnall Gleeson from Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows with Warwick Davis, who provides voicework in the upcoming Master Moley with Richard E. Grant, who also lent his tones to 2013's Khumba as did Liam Neeson, the actor who starred in SIlence with... Adam Driver.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Hahaha LET ME DREAM [ BACK ]

*2 Because as a wise man once said, "Everything will be alright in the end; and it it's not alright, it's not the end". [ BACK ]

*3 And I cannot emphasise this enough - Midichlorians are not The Force. They're a biological indicator of Force-potential, the one common physical signature among the galaxy's species who are powerful in the Force. They're the equivalent of the high white blood cell count which suggests an immune system is fighting an infection; the while blood cells are not the illness, they're the indicator that something is different. They're also the reason, incidentally, that the new Empire was able to quickly identify and wipe out the remnants of the Jedi as well as monitoring (and presumably destroying) Force-sensitive children. Because then you can despatch a military squadron with the ID-tools, rather than needing an Inquisitor on every team. Midichlorians don't demystify the Force in the same way that a mechanic doesn't demystify the magic of your car. There. I said it. [ BACK ]

*4 All the pointers are here, by the way. [ BACK ]

*5 Have you ever watched Who Do You Think You Are and been horrified that the week's particular archivist is happily leafing through a book that's hundreds of years old without wearing cotton gloves, leaving a trail of cake-grease over the fragile sheets? That's me, watching Rey in this movie. I'm genuinely amazed she hasn't folded the corner of the page down to find it again. "Here's that bit about Exegol, Leia! Look, I've run a highlighter over it!"... [ 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.

No comments:

Post a comment