REVIEW: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Posted by Matthew Thornton on Monday, December 23, 2019

Director: JJ Abrams
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay and story by), J.J. Abrams (screenplay and story by), Derek Connolly (story by), Colin Trevorrow (story by), George Lucas (based on characters created by)
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver
Runtime: 141 mins
MPAA Rating: PG-13

      This current Star Wars trilogy was already an impressive mess, and this movie manages to conclude things as ridiculously and incoherently as possible. After the terribly unimaginative Episode VII: The Force Awakens (aka A New Hope 2.0) that reestablished the franchise in the safest way possible, JJ Abrams is back as director and a writer after the bizarre shenanigans pulled by Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Upon receiving complete control of writing and direction for the previous installment, Rian Johnson eagerly proceeded to display his complete and utter disdain for the beloved original trilogy characters as well as showing he had no interest in using the majority of the characters and elements set up for him in Episode VII. To say he wrote the series into a corner would be an understatement; rather, he wrote the series down into a writing chasm from which I do not think even the cleverest screenwriter could escape. Fortunately, Disney secured the screenwriter of the laughably awful DCEU films Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League Chris Terrio to assist with resurrecting the corpse of a story created by the writing team for the equally terrible Jurassic World franchise (Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly) before they were fired to get the Star Wars story back on track. What could go wrong? Let me digress to say that JJ Abrams has a pronounced direction style that generally annoys me and has never been involved with an original film in his life. Within cinema, he has written or directed Mission Impossible III, one of the weaker entries in that franchise, the forgettable Spielberg-knockoff Super 8, the extremely unintelligent and unoriginal first two Star Trek movies of the latest era (though they were written by probably the worst high-profile writing team in Hollywood, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzmann), and the aforementioned Star Wars retread…I mean reawakening. On top of everything, there were rumors of tension between Rian Johnson and JJ Abrams about the creative direction of this series. Why anyone who knew anything about this production was excited for it, I do not know.

      As soon as this movie starts, we are greeted with the writers’ solution to getting out of the hole Johnson left them in: ignore where The Last Jedi leaves off and pull in something so completely out of left field that people will be distracted by the absurdity to the point that they will forget about how the continuity between the movies makes little sense. Amusingly enough, numerous elements of this movie make it abundantly clear that JJ Abrams wanted to undo as many of Johnson’s decisions as he could. The big plot addition that you probably guessed from the trailers is profoundly stupid on every level. It makes no sense, comes out of nowhere in the title crawl, and expertly showcases the fact that this circus of pitiful screenwriters are entirely devoid of an original idea. From there, nonsense ensues. In typical Star Wars fashion, our gang of heroes jump around from location to location, but it is done in such a contrived and silly manner with so many random elements thrown at you that it is hard to seriously digest. This movie does not feel like it was written by a group of creative adults; rather, it feels as though it was written by a seven-year-old. The plot, which is pretty much the exact same structure as Episodes IV, VI, and VII, is simple enough that it could have been devised by a child and is filled with enough over-the-top and bizarre elements that you could easily see it being the output of a child’s imagination as he or she plays with action figures or Legos. The first act more closely resembles a Star Wars-themed fever dream than actual Star Wars. The second act is littered with scenes that feel like Star Wars parody. The third act plays out like Star Wars fan fiction heavily influenced by psychedelic drug use. Even with all the crazy absurdities that occur in this movie, there is nothing intelligent, creative, or original presented at any point of the underlying plot. It continually sets up plot elements and emotional beats similar or identical to ones given in previous movies to manipulate the audience into thinking what is happening is meaningful and exciting. The amount of cringe-inducing dialogue rivals that of any of the Prequel trilogy films. The only mildly interesting element of the current set of characters is the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey though Johnson nerfed most of the interesting possibilities of that relationship in The Last Jedi. The screenwriters have nothing interesting to do with Rey so they make her inevitable identity reveal as ridiculous and meaningless as possible, and they literally copy Episode VI in how they end Ren’s arc. It is all so poorly developed and delineated to the point where I could only laugh. Every moment of this movie just feels like the screenwriters constantly dangling shiny objects in front of our eyes to distract us from noticing and thinking about all the silliness at the frail core of this movie and trilogy. For what it is worth, here is a list of some other things in this movie:

  • A-Wings
  • B-Wings
  • Billy Dee Williams
  • A bunch of Star Destroyers
  • A bunch of TIE fighters
  • C3P0 being relevant
  • CG-resurrected characters
  • Changing how The Force works
  • The Death Star
  • Different-colored Storm Troopers
  • Ewoks
  • Jedi mind tricks
  • The most WTF romantic kiss in a major franchise movie possibly ever
  • New planet-destroying laser weapon
  • Porgs
  • Rebel transports
  • Retcons
  • Richard E. Grant
  • R2-D2 being irrelevant
  • Sabacc
  • Tatooine
  • X-Wings
  • Y-Wings

      I will be positive for a brief moment. The production design of all the costumes, vehicles, props, and creatures as well as the majority of the visual effects are extraordinarily well-crafted. Props to all the individuals who worked on those aspects of the film. John Williams’ score is phenomenal as always since it is largely the same with some interesting variations on the classic pieces. Even for how offensively awful it is for the Star Wars saga, I cannot say I was ever bored during the lengthy runtime–angry, confused, and questioning reality, but never bored.

      This movie is a grandiose spectacle of ludicrous excess crafted by a creative team with suspect writing talent who are attempting to trick the audience into thinking they are flying high and fast in a spaceship when in reality they are attempting to patch leaks in a sinking boat. I am not even going to tell you to not go see it. It is a profoundly weird albeit infuriating experience that should probably just be seen for the sheer stupidity. Right now, Disney could put out anything with the Star Wars logo and make a billion dollars. However, I think audiences are getting to the point where they are going to expect more from how much money gets put into this franchise. People will at some point start to lose interest in a franchise that clearly has no discernible direction and is not seriously attempting to satisfy fans or any other moviegoer in the most basic of ways. This movie is an atrocious entry in the franchise on top of being a terrible standalone movie as well. Star Wars deserves to be developed by a better creative team, but, at this point, the main storyline just needs to end. There is not (and I do not think ever was) an original or coherent vision for what to do with this saga, and Disney should rethink for a bit how to milk this property for more money in a better fashion in the future.

RATING: ★½


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