Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker

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.

SW Palpatine

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.

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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

34 thoughts on “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

  1. If the prequel trilogy was brought down as a result of a single creative vision in desperate need of an editor, then the sequel trilogy was brought down by the right hand clashing with the left. Whatever good intentions it may have had from the onset were lost the exact second Rian Johnson decided second drafts are for suckers and torpedoed every conceivable plot thread set up in The Force Awakens. Fans of The Last Jedi were angry that J. J. Abrams backpedaled in The Rise of Skywalker, but the fact of the matter is that Rian Johnson painted the trilogy into a corner. It would’ve been a miracle had The Rise of Skywalker been average or even mediocre under those circumstances. But no, this was a complete mess, and a predictable one at that. It should serve as a case study for any future creators, showcasing how wrong a project can go when the people involved are actively working against each other and no clear plan was formed. The results aren’t pretty to say the least. At least both sides can now agree that the sequel trilogy was a failure, huh?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, the clash is evident; to be fair, though, the vision was sorely lacking even in The Force Awakens – instead we got shameless pandering to fans mixed with an ill-considered concept of retelling original Star Wars trilogy for a younger generation. Johnson seems to have actively hated the first part of the new trilogy and tried to steer it in an entirely different direction; afterwards, Abrams was left with a jumbled mess. Whichever way you cut it, the end result is a failure indeed!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. As far as I’m concerned, this was all deliberate. We’ll have to see if tv shows like Mando can keep the franchise on life support of if Disney will kink those lines and kill the patient completely…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love The Mandalorian. It’s the only great thing in Star Wars franchise for ages, and I’d even say it’s better than some of the movies of the old trilogy as well! 🤩 That said, that’s the only great thing in Star Wars franchise for ages. This last trilogy was just horrible, and The Rise of Skywalker the worst movie I had seen for a very, very long time 😫

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m willing to cut this a little more slack. As nostalgia-laden and unoriginal as it was, I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens. It felt like a Star Wars movie and I came out of the theater feeling that same sense of joy and excitement I remembered as a child.

    And then The Last Jedi came along and disgusted me so much, infuriated me so deeply, that I actually put away the action figures and Lego sets that adorn my bookshelves. It was so bad, it sullied me on the entire franchise.

    Enter The Rise of Skywalker. I was cautiously optimistic about the trailers, but went into it fully expecting to be disappointed. Was it perfect? No. Was it flawed? Yeah. Was it formulaic and cliched? Yes again. But it looked great, it sounded great, and (more importantly) it felt great. I enjoyed it. It rekindled my love for the franchise. I walked out of it with that familiar sense of joy and excitement . . . and immediately bought Black Series figures for Rey and Jannah, pre-ordered Zorii Bliss, and even went back and bought a Vice Admiral Holdo (the lone bright point of TLJ).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry, Bob, we haven’t realized your comment was waiting to be approved!

      I think you are not alone in this sentiment, I have friends who were reasonably happy with The Rise of Skywalker on similar basis to you – mainly, it was fun and looked like a proper Star Wars movie should. I have no bone with this – my main woe is that this movie did nothing but look well, and that the plot was simply a painful, lazy rehash of old, often rejected ideas.

      Thankfully, I have The Mandalorian to keep the Star Wars fan in me happy – and now we started watching SW Rebels, and this series too is quite cool 😀

      Like

  4. When I read profoundly disappointed reviews like yours I count my blessings that I was never a big Star Wars fan: I enjoyed the first three original movies, and still enjoy watching them when the occasion arises, but I mostly fell asleep with the prequel trilogy and watched these three new movies with the definite sensation of looking at something already seen and explored. So I believe I understand the emotional “pain” of those who were young enough back then to literally fall in love with this story and are now experiencing a sensation of betrayal of a story and universe that were such a big part of their imagination. Maybe a good, solid story (and I mean the original three movies) should be left alone and not squeezed until the last drop of… narrative blood has come out….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yes, I completely agree. Star Wars franchise, at least when it comes to movies, seems to have been squeezed dry. I am thoroughly disappointed, I freely admit. It pains me when stories with such potential are turned into money-making vehicles and nothing more. I’m happy it’s not the case with Star Trek, though! 🙂 And, obviously, The Mandalorian gives me plenty of hope and satisfaction! 😀 I think we’ll need to make a post about it too 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What I miss from the original trilogy was the delightful mix between drama and tongue-in-cheek humor that made those movies special. Both the prequel trilogy and this new one lacked that element and – from my point of view – took themselves far too seriously and lost that very important quality that the original movies possessed.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I agree! The original trilogy had a feel of an adventure. There was a youthful spirit of indomitable energy and imagination, and even if we find the movies lacking in some cinematic, technical aspects, they are a fantastic tale that speaks to generations of viewers and invites them to take a leap of faith and just get immersed in the simple and yet compelling universe.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. piotrek

      Amen to that! That should be a general rule, we’re flooded by mediocre and pathetic sequels and prequels, and if half of the money and effort was invested in something new and original… I’m not against all franchises, but there is no balance 😦

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This seems to be a widespread trend in the movie industry: they seem fixated on sequels and reboots, ignoring the mountain of great stories they could take, for example, from books. We know how many great stories are there, we review them constantly, but almost no one in the movie industry seems interested in them…

        Liked by 2 people

  5. This was one of those films where, when it was announced, I just didn’t care at all and knew I’d not care to see it. Which, considering its a Star Wars film is something I never expected to say.

    Some pretty scathing scores there, sounds like its justly given.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I waited for this to become available on DVD. I vowed not to see it in cinemas 😉 I’m with you 100% here – this was not a movie I was waiting to see, and even though I knew I’d be disappointed, I guess I didn’t expect what a crushing failure it would turn out to be.

      Oh yes, I believe it’s one of the worst movies I have ever seen – at least when we take into account the fact that it’s supposed to be a crowning finale of a 40-years-long saga. At least The Mandalorian is amazing! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, that’s the right approach! 😂

          I think Mandalorian is great. And its success doesn’t hinge solely on Baby Yoda’s appearance, despite the flood of memes 😉 It’s a lovingly respectful, highly creative tribute to the ideas of Star Wars, and it tells a compelling, strong story in a highly addictive way. I watched the series twice already, and it’s up there among my all-time TV series favorites, with Generation Kill, Netflix’s Daredevil and The Punisher 😀

          I’m pretty sure we’ll write a separate post about this series at some point! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s different, and not so moody or dark, but there’s a lot of that lonely vigilante/sheriff/avenger vibe. Very Western-like, and very much in the best traditions of Westerns as tales of the struggle between good and evil in a place bereft of moral norms. See? I just can’t shut up talking about it! 😂😂😂

              Liked by 1 person

  6. I had plenty of fun reading through this post. I haven’t seen SW Episode IX knowing that I was in for a disaster. I’ll probably get around to it soon and move on. The Last Jedi was one of the worse surprises I’ve had from a franchise that was meant to strive and not fall. I do wonder what Disney plans to do next with the cinematic universe but if their Marvel movies is any indication, their formula will continue to be rehashed and incorporated into any of their later movies. I can’t even imagine what they could do to other Fox franchises with their formula… Like Alien and Predator… Oh boy… On a much kinder note, I did finish The Mandalorian last month and will go on to agree that it is the best thing to happen to SW since Episode VI! There’s still hope, I believe! Again, fantastic review, you two! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks 🙂 Well, I often encourage people to see even imperfect stuff, if it somehow makes sense or fills some gaps in a beloved franchise… but this time, it’s so bad, than I agree, not worth it, only makes things worse.

      Good thing they also gave us the Mandalorian 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Lashaan! Glad you enjoyed our rant so much, I must admit we felt better getting it all off our chests 😄

      Yes, I also feel keenly the superheroic fatigue – particularly when it comes to the movies and that damnable repetitive formula Disney applies to almost everything.

      We’ll definitely make a review for The Mandalorian soon – it deserves all the praise it can get, and I think it shows us that there still might be some hope for the Star Wars franchise! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh yeah I was relatively enthusiastic after TFA- but boy this trilogy did not pay off! I haven’t actually bothered to watch this, though I’ve completely spoiled it for myself at this stage (maybe if I watched it I’d be swayed by the pretty visuals… but I doubt it. Cinematography isn’t nearly as important to me as a good plot, meaningful themes and characters I give a damn about- none of which this series- or film- seems to have). I have no idea why Disney can’t create anything good with this franchise either (aside from Rogue One). And yeah the infighting made such a mess of the storyline- though personally I blame both directors equally for undermining each other’s work (instead of actually trying to collaborate!!) It’s clear now Kennedy had no plan and I find this comes out most in how poorly the world building was fleshed out (the first order a good example of this- how can you fob audiences off with *they came to power because Palpatine made a clone*? That doesn’t explain anything!) And yeah, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but at least the prequels had a coherent narrative.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I actually thought Last Jedi was much less obnoxious in shooing in directorial whims than The Rise of Skywalker – at least after TFA the story could have gone in many different directions, whereas changing it after The Last Jedi required lots of retconning and outright contradiction of most plot points from TLJ.

      I can’t believe they still want to continue this mess instead of writing it off as Legends and returning to what had been Canon – this would at least bring us back a fully realized universe and while not flawless, not by a long shot, it would still be much more interesting and coherent! But apparently Disney wants to bring Lucas back so that he can patch up what they had broken 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Thanks! Solo’s not really worth watching if you ask me, but Clone Wars are pretty cool once you get used to the clunky animation style – the stories are interesting and there’s actually some character development 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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