Sunday, 19 January 2020

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

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Okay, rather than harp on about the rights and wrongs of The Emperor again (there's still fuel in that tank, I assure you), it's probably time to write the review I should have several weeks ago and lay some appreciation on the Sequel Trilogy's central character, Rey Skywalker*1. Yes, there's a lot going on throughout all three movies (arguably too much in this last entry), but the one line which cuts directly through everything is the path of Rey. From an intrinsically lonely kid on a dustball planet in the back-end of nowhere to the galaxy's brightest light in a time of darkness, Rey has always been a Skywalker in the truest sense.

The temptation is to think that Rey boring, with her wardrobe as linear as her outlook and character-progression. A Mary Sue. She absolutely isn't. Okay, some of the spin-off material centering around her is dull as a watercolour weekend on Hoth, but the performance of Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise Of Skywalker is nothing short of outstanding, and the character undergoes the same trials and pitfalls as Anakin and Luke before her.


Rey's emotional growth is a delicate process throughout, discernible at each key stage but still nuanced to the point where we can see the frightened-yet-defiant kid from the desert shanty town. Because of Rey's isolated upbringing (even within the 'community' of junk traders on Jakku), much of the struggle throughout her arc is internalised, Ridley's facial expressions and body language conveying far more than the script. With Rey's background as an abandoned child and also having Palpatine's innate Force-ability, she should be all rights be an absolute psychopath whenever she's pushed out of her comfort-zone, lashing out with reactive bursts of Dark Side energy (hi Akanin).

But like Luke before her, this trilogy is about the hero(ine)'s inner strength, adapting to new surroundings and a tendency to see the best in a situation rather than follow a predetermined path based on primal instinct and DNA. There really is no such thing as 'bad blood' in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, you have to choose to be evil.


Three times in three movies, Rey is presented with the worst news for her at that time (leave your home and your chance of being reunited with your parents; your hero Jedi Master doesn't particularly like you and also your parents are total wasters; okay you do have parents but they're dead because wait until your Grandad gets home...), and each time she manages to rise above it, largely through her own force of will.

Rey engages with Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base*2 untrained and unready, knowing that Finn is in danger and this is a battle which can't be put off until another day (at least before the planet starts falling apart). It's the same 'standing up to a bully' ethos she used when rescuing BB-8 on Jakku. And when she arrives on Crait to be reunited with the Resistance, Rey doesn't know what awaits or that Luke Skywalker has had a change of heart, she just knows she has to be with her friends whatever happens. And in the finale where Rey goes to confront the Emperor alone? Well, that was by no means a certain victory. Our girl is just going all-in, knowing that the situation needs to be dealt with one way or another. While she's certainly gung-ho, Rey's intuitive growth in The Force comes from the learning-cycle perpetuated between her and Ben. She'll run fearlessly into each fight knowing she's stronger than before.


The sequel trilogy may occasionally feel like a Lego model which has been added to by different children, but these are bumps in the road adding to the unpredictability of Rey's journey (from the character's point of view, at least). In terms of our protagonist, the three movies are indeed a cumulative, flowing narrative. Rey moves forward, never back, growing in experience, power and wisdom as she does. But it's still good to feel the sand under your feet once in a while.

Darkness rises and light to meet it.
The greatest teacher, failure is.
Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.

The path of Rey Skywalker is The Hero's Journey for a new generation. And we haven't even got back to broom-boy, yet...

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?
That one's up for debate, but probably not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
As the weeks go on that's looking possible, yes.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I can tell.

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 Ian McDiarmid, who appeared in 1999's Sleepy Hollow alongside Christopher Lee, who was in 2010's Burke And Hare with Andy Serkis, the actor who played Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age Of Ultron which also starred Paul Bettany, who rocked up in The Young Victoria in the company of Julian Glover, who was in 'The Lovers' episode (part 2 at least) of Trial & Retribution with Guy Henry, who made an appearance in the 2009 TV drama Margaret with... Ian McDiarmid.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yeah I'm calling her that. Not only did I think it was literally the case from the beginning, but it's also the identity she choses with the closing words of the trilogy. Define people by who they show themselves to be, man... [ BACK ]

*2 Can we just call it Ilum? It's Ilum. I mean after the Empire's ransacking of the Temple on Jedha for Kyber Crystals to power the Death Star's superlaser in Rogue One, we'd suspected that a weapon with as much power as Starkiller Base would probably need to be built around a planet made from them. And so it proves, the TROS Visual Dictionary confirms that the rubble formerly known as Starkiller Base is also the planet formerly known as Ilum. [ 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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