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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' falls victim to cliché

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While 2020 may be the start of a new decade, the sun (or suns) has set on the Star Wars saga. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is the final film both in the most recent trilogy and in the series as a whole. For many, it was the end of all things, but for new or young Star Wars fans, this new trilogy signified a beginning.

“The Rise of Skywalker” was released just before Christmas. While home for winter break, I attended a showing with my father, who is old enough to have seen the first movie, “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” in theaters back in 1977. We had differing opinions about Episode IX, and so did many other Star Wars fans.

My father, who belongs to the now-infamous category of "baby boomer," enjoyed the movie for its jam-packed moments of action and plethora of light-saber fight sequences. I, however, felt that the movie left something to be desired.

Maybe that’s because I was such a fan of Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” was surprising, especially in its unique presentation of what it means to be a hero: you can be a nobody, an orphan or someone who just doesn’t know their place in the world yet, but that doesn’t mean that you are anything less than special.

But director J.J. Abrams callously undermines the previous movie's message in his “The Rise of Skywalker.” He chooses to name Rey’s grandfather as the evil Sith Emperor Palpatine.

Rey, in true Star Wars moralistic fashion, overcomes the pull towards the dark side, but this totally changes Rey’s characterization. The revelation that Rey belongs to such a bloodline removes some of her agency— she is constrained by the archetypal binary of good or evil. She comes from evil and is supposed to become evil, yet ultimately chooses to be good, to embody the side of the "light," because of the goodness shared by Leia and Luke Skywalker. It wraps things up a little too neatly and a little too expectedly, and it makes her less of an "everyman" than she was in "The Last Jedi" (when all we knew about Rey's family is that her parents were nobodies).

From a visual standpoint, Abrams managed to create a fast-paced phantasm of light-speed jumps, strobing and the combustion of planets. However, I felt that the movie didn’t slow down enough, mainly in terms of minor character development. Many have questioned the film’s prioritization of screen time for the General Leia Organa hologram over that of new Star Wars favorite, Rose Tico, who was played by Kelly Marie Tran — the first Asian American woman in franchise history to be cast in a leading role. In “The Last Jedi,” Rose was a main character, but in “The Rise of Skywalker,” she was demoted to the role of a minor character, appearing on screen for only about  2 minutes.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” attempted too much in too little time. There’s nothing wrong with bringing back old favorite characters like Han, Leia and Luke, as well as Lando Calrissian from “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.”

When this is done to the detriment of many new, beloved characters, though, the movie loses its story and nuance, becoming merely a vehicle for parading unrealized characters into view solely to determine who will be "best in show." Leia, Luke and Rey (the Skywalkers) soak up the most screen time at the expense of the more diverse or interesting minor characters. This makes the movie predictable.

J.J. Abrams had his hands full in finishing one of the most beloved sagas in the history of film, and while he delivered a fast-paced, visually stunning action movie that many loved, some "movie-making magic" was missing in the end.

Movie: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

If You Like: The original Star Wars trilogy

Shamrocks: 1.5 out of 5