Ola: So here we are again, at the end (I wish, but that’s not going to happen!) of the infamous Disney journey, which took us all up and down on the rollercoaster of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker. Episode IX theoretically ends the grand saga conceived and created by George Lucas over 40 years ago, tying up all the threads from the previous trilogies and the unholy mess of this latest one.
Piotrek: I… do we need to? Poke where it hurts? I was actually pretty enthusiastic after I saw The Force Awakens for the first time, but the rollercoaster took me down, and down, and down.. our cherished franchise, something we followed, on multiple media, for decades, degenerating into… this.
Ola: You probably already know this, but let me be very upfront about one thing: yes, I have been a SW fan for over a quarter of century, and Disney’s butchery of this franchise only made me realize how much I cherish the original saga. And how furious I can become when someone mindlessly and greedily destroys it for the sake of… money? Their own self-importance? Ill-considered fan service?
Piotrek: Disney has all the money. They will get more, whenever they spout a new one. Why can’t it be good? Flawed, but great, like Rogue One?
Ola: That’s a very good question, and I’m truly baffled as to why it is so difficult for Disney to create something good here. If I were to venture a guess, I would say it might be first and foremost a matter of vision. It seems that Disney has none when it comes to Star Wars.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about the technical and structural issues, which, quite frankly, were unavoidable in a franchise nine movies long. Even despite Disney’s decision to eradicate the SW Expanded Universe (EU) with the onset of The Force Awakens, Episode IX has a lot of ground to cover – not only it must arrive at a conclusion to the Disney trilogy without any hints of said conclusion in earlier movies, but it actually needs to backtrack on several developments from The Last Jedi. This kind of infighting doesn’t serve any movie well, as Fox had learned the hard way with their X-Men franchise, but it is especially evident in a movie that’s supposed to be a story’s finale. Suffice to say, The Rise of Skywalker is much too self-indulgent even without the potshots taken at The Last Jedi. The key points of divergence seem to stem from the difference between the directors: JJ Abrams was responsible for the first and the third installment of Disney’s trilogy, while the middle movie was directed by Rian Johnson, who clearly had other ideas when it comes to such trivial things as fan service, risk-taking, internal logic and destiny.
Piotrek: At least he had some ideas of his own. I was in awe of the first installments, and still think it had some worth as an exercise in nostalgia. But overall it’s a disappointing trilogy, and the final part is the worst of them all. Both on its own (de)merits, and as a culmination of decades long saga. As I understand Kathleen Kennedy is responsible for the overall management, and I believe she did a terrible job. There is no coherent plan, signs of random executive meddling everywhere, and thoroughly unsatisfying results. When it comes to MCU, I’m not always ecstatic, but I always get at least a decent movie that fits within the larger picture of a big franchise. New Star Wars sometimes produce something good, but offer no convincing narrative that would make me want to see what happens next, or even believe the authors know what will. But let’s concentrate on this particular movie. In a full-spoiler mode, it’s been a few months already.
Ola: Full spoiler mode? Okay… Let’s start with the most infuriating, pathetic plot point of all, a key example of creative laziness, not to say a definitive symptom of complete brain death – Palpatine’s granddaughter. We knew Rey was a special snowflake from the very beginning, we knew that Johnson’s insistence that her parents were nobody important would come back to bite us in our collective backsides – and what a cringe-worthy scene THAT was, if I were Adam Driver I would’ve cried myself to sleep for weeks afterwards! – but the collateral damage made by this hare-brained delusion was still staggering. I’m frankly surprised midichlorians didn’t put an appearance – though, for all we know, the mysterious appearance of never-heard-of Palpatine’s son might have well been a result of this very same intellectual constipation.
Piotrek: I really liked the idea of Rey coming from nowhere. It corresponded so well with the little servant boy looking up with hope in The Last Jedi. Making Rey a Palpatine… I totally agree with you.
Story-wise, it’s a mess, from beginning to end. Things happen, often too quickly to follow the plot, no time to appreciate significant effort and money put into production values. We know it’s some time since The Last Jedi (although it’s largely ignored… is it even still canon ;)?), we know stuff happened, but not exactly what did. We have no time to rest, to see a planet and its inhabitants, to appreciate the colorful world of Star Wars.
Ola: I fully agree. We rush from one world to another, each next planet barely distinguishable from the previous, and certain things just don’t match with anything that had happened before, even within what is now considered canon… I know it’s a tiny (ha ha, indeed!) element of the whole, but the size of the ruined Death Star was something that drew my attention. I mean, it’s been said many times that its size was that of a small moon. And here we see all its elements, nearly intact, sized down to something smaller than a city block. And how easy it is to navigate, that crashed down wreck – at least if you’re Palpatine’s granddaughter, that is, and apparently you have its architectural plan in your blood.
Don’t even let me start on various McGuffins of this movie, from that idiotic Kylo Ren mask to Sith Wayfinder to the mysterious fleet on the Sith planet – yes, we even come back to that particularly laughable idea of Lucas, discarded by him ages ago: the bad planet full of bad, long dead Siths – and to the wonders of hidden imperial technology, which in a fit of truly miraculous ingenuity is somehow able to size down the Death Star weaponry to fit a single Star Destroyer!
Piotrek: There is bitterness between some characters, some relationships that started before seemingly ended, but it’s not really explored or explained. I felt a bit like when I was watching Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie I did not like that much, but there it made sens. Here it made me bored, despite all the sounds and blasts. And tired. It was too long. Not long enough to save the trilogy, that would need a few seasons of good TV and a lot of retconning, but for the actual contents of this script.
Ola: While I can logically see where you’re coming from, my instinctual response is “Oh, this movie was NOTHING like Mad Max,” even though I didn’t even like Fury Road all that much 😀 But at least, it had a plot, it had an overarching, neatly delivered message and a foundational idea which was not about money, and it was admirably well done. None of the above can be applied to The Rise of Skywalker. This horrid mess of a movie sees actors cringing when delivering their own lines. I actually feel sorry for Driver who, I’ve learned only after seeing The Force Awakens, and for a while I couldn’t believe it, is not a bad actor. The same could be said for Isaac, who had some interesting roles before becoming Poe Dameron. The old SW guard was either conveniently killed or died out in the course of the new trilogy, and what we are left with is an awkward triangle which is designed to remind us of Luke, Leia and Han, but fails miserably on all fronts.
Piotrek: There are cheap nods towards old fans, usually not really integrated into the story in any way, there are cheap tricks planned as surprises (as when we learn general Hux had been the spy all along, there really were multiple earlier occasions for him to change the course of history…).
This entire universe does not make sense. The politics and economy behind the New Order makes no sense. Palpatine’s hidden armada… laughable. We already discussed this problem in our earlier reviews, it does not get better here.
I even miss the prequels. There were some great ideas poorly executed, here we have no ideas, and execution stands to scrutiny only in the purely technical dimension.
Ola: I couldn’t agree more. I know I’m in minority here, and the prequels from the purely cinematic perspective leave a lot to be desired (acting! This seems like a curse of the new SW movies, the only well-acted movie since Return of the Jedi was Rogue One) – but the prequels delivered the one thing my already downsized expectations when it comes to SW still cling to: a story. A foundational idea, forming the basis for the whole trilogy. The old wonder of new worlds: Coruscant, or Kamino, or even Mustafar. Here? There is nothing left of it all – where The Force Awakens still clinged to the feeling of real in Star Wars universe, The Rise of Skywalker leaves us with a jumble of scenes and half-formed concepts, a few picturesque frames.
Piotrek: Yeah. Bigger disappointment than The Witcher. I wouldn’t like it as a standalone, it sucks as a part of the series. Most of the time I had a feeling I’m watching something pointless.
Ola: A lucrative exercise in futility – that’s a very apt description. I found no saving grace for this movie. Poor Lando appears for a pitifully short moment, Leia’s role has been truncated by life. Hence…
Score: Ola: 1/10, Piotrek 2/10