Star Wars Binge Week 2020: The Rise of Skywalker

Here we are. It’s been a heck of a ride, but we’ve finally reached then end of the Star Wars saga. And we’re capping it off in a weird place too, as this is the only film in the series that I hadn’t seen before this week. I’ve also avoided all spoilers, so I went into The Rise of Skywalker with completely fresh eyes, and no idea what to expect.

And I really do mean that I had no idea what to expect. As the main theme began to blare out, it hit me that I didn’t even know what this movie was about. One could reasonably assume it would be the final epic showdown between Rey and Kylo. But what would be the plot that leads up to this climactic showdown? Not a clue. The Last Jedi ended with the First Order in position to take hostile control of the galaxy, Luke Skywalker presumably Force-ghosted himself, and there were approximately six Rebels left alive. Where are we going from here?

Turns out, we’d be going on a planet-hopping adventure to look for a magical macguffin. This is the first half of the film, and ends with the big Rey/Kylo showdown. Yup, the requisite rival battle happens halfway through. And only then does the actual plot begin, which is basically just a really long space battle. You know, now that I think about it, that’s kind of how Return of the Jedi was structured. Only the first half of that one was a little more meaningful. The Rise of Skywalker‘s macguffin hunt sequence is actually more like the time heist sequence in Avengers: Endgame: it made me a little bit bored and wondering if this was really necessary, or did they just want to pad the runtime?

That’s not to say that each individual scene wasn’t packed with fun and excitement, it just rang hollow when you step back and look at exactly how it advances the plot or develops the characters (spoiler: it doesn’t). And I like that it keeps Rey, Finn, and Poe all together for a while. Though I will tell you that if they had actually killed Chewbacca, in the way that they did, I might have just quit watching the movie there in frustration.

What can I say about the Emperor GlaDOS? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I can tell you that filmmakers should play more video games for the sole sake of avoiding doing things like Emperor GlaDOS. I was half expecting him to bait Rey with promises of cake.

So the big finale -which lasted the whole second half of the film- was pretty exciting. Lots of cool spaceships zooming around and blasting each other, tension kept building, and there was even a bit of lightsabering. All in all, a very good epic action setpiece. I do question the Emperor’s ability to shoot enough Force lighting to zap every singe Rebel ship at once. It seemed a bit too much, even just as a visual representation of how powerful he was after absorbing Rey and Kylo’s life energy. Why would he even need an army with that strength.

Oh and also I crossed my arms and cocked an eyebrow at Rey and Kylo’s ability to teleport items to each other. I should also question their telepathy in general because it’s equally impossible, but at least in The Last Jedi, Snoke specifically said that he linked their minds with the Force. I don’t see how that would allow them to move physical objects across space like that, though. But I guess when you’re dealing with magical powers, you can just write in any ol’ deus ex machina without having to address it.

Please note that I did like this movie. I would have given it three and a half stars out of five, but Sony doesn’t allow half-stars (I rented it through my PS4) so I settled on three. It wasn’t a slog, at least on my first viewing, but it didn’t really stoke any excitement within me. I didn’t laugh out loud at any of the jokes. I absolutely cried when I thought that Chewbacca had been exploded, but nothing else really resonated with me emotionally. There weren’t even any specific shots that were visually stunning like there were in The Last Jedi. I’m also a little let down that the ending didn’t really surprise me. Of course, the likable villain pulls a face turn right at the end, and yes good triumphs over evil, and yes there are some butt-clench moments that all get resolved right before disaster. All leading up to the happy ending and last-second reveal of what the title means. It was a fine watch, but I honestly don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to revisit it.

I’m glad I finally got to see the adventures of all these new characters though. I’m glad that Rey finally discovered who she is and found her place in the universe. Rey is cool and a good lead character. I would like to see her further adventures. But mostly I’m glad that this adventure of mine is over. I really had a great time watching all of these movies back-to-back-to-back-etc, but I’m actually feeling like I’m a little Star Warsed out now. Not that I’m done with the franchise or anything, but I will need a little break for a while. I was thinking about 100% completing the series by watching Rogue One and Solo next weekend, but even though I think Rogue One is a spectacular Star Wars film, I really don’t feel up to it. In fact, I think I’m taking a break from movies in general for a while.

Because it might be important to someone someday, here is my ranking of the nine core Star Wars films as of this specific point in time. I reserve the right to change my mind about this order at any point in the future.)

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. A New Hope
  4. Return of the Jedi
  5. The Last Jedi
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Rise of Skywalker
  8. The Phantom Menace
  9. Attack of the Clones

*I’d put Rogue One after A New Hope, and I haven’t seen Solo.

Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride with me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to play some dang video games before my vacation is over!

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