Review: The Rise of Skywalker

(This review will be spoiler-free, but the comment thread will be allowed to have spoilers. If you’ve not seen the movie yet, tread lightly there.)

In the digital era of music, there have been complaints about something called “Dynamic Range Compression” — a production tactic that levels out the sound in the a recording so, on one hand, you don’t have to suddenly jab at the volume knob when an incredibly quiet passage is followed by an unbelievably loud musical phrase, but on the other hand, you no longer have the highest highs and the lowest lows. The music all gets stuffed into the same middlin’ band, volume-wise, and after a while, consciously or not, all that middlin’ gets noticeable.

Which is where we are with The Rise of Skywalker, and indeed the Disney era of the Star Wars saga.

To be clear: I was perfectly entertained by Skywalker, and I’m not in the least surprised that I was. Disney, bless its infinitely black heart, knows how to entertain; these days one rarely goes to a film from one of the studios that forms Disney’s sprawling cinematic archipelago (Pixar, Marvel, Walt Disney Animation, Lucasfilm) with the fear that one’s about to see an eyebleeding clusterfuck — this is not the studio that’s going to make CATS, for better or for worse. Disney has entertainment down to a science, and you will get your money’s worth: a little song, a little dance, a little Force tug down the pants.

And indeed, over the five Star Wars films that Disney has made since it bought Lucasfilm, it has done something no one else managed with the universe: It’s made it reliably consistent, and consistently entertaining. The first Star Wars trilogy was all over the place in terms of consistency, including within the same film — even The Empire Strikes Back, the best and most consistent of the lot, struggled with this. The prequel trilogy was consistent, but it was consistently bad, an artifact of George Lucas’ own disengagement with the concept of entertaining people other than himself. Disney doesn’t have Lucas’ ambivalence on that score; it gets that when you lay down your money for a Star Wars movie, you want to go somewhere a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and enjoy it, for a couple of hours at a time. So even the least of the Disney Star Wars films (that would be Solo) is entertaining as heck.

But that comes with a price. That price is, for lack of a better term, Cinematic Dynamic Range Compression. The grand operatic scope and feel of the Star Wars saga, which even the prequels had in abundance (heck, there was even an actual opera scene in the third prequel film) has been squashed down and routed into something like a bus tour of various planets, each with its single big tourist spot, which one enjoys for a bit and gets a selfie at before one is placed back into the bus for the next destination and the next big event. The Disney trilogy is forever hustling us along; we’re on a schedule, folks, keep moving, sorry.

Nowhere is this more evident than The Rise of Skywalker, which, incidentally, actually has its characters visit a tourist event, just to be hustled away on bus. Director JJ Abrams has a checklist of places he needs to get to and people he needs you to see (the fanservice aspect of this film is very very very obvious), and he’s gonna hit them on time, because apparently he gets paid for checking things off the list, rather than for letting his story have a moment to breathe. Breathe on your own time! We’re walking! There is enough plot for three films here, possibly because Abrams and his various screenwriters are wrapping up not just one trilogy but three. There’s no time for time.

Which is a shame. There are a lot of moments in Skywalker that, while affecting, could have been even more so if they hadn’t been so gosh darn rushed. The prequel trilogy had excellent actors who weren’t utilized fully because as a director Lucas didn’t know what to do with people; the Disney trilogy has excellent actors who aren’t utilized fully because they simply don’t have the time to process, onscreen, the overwhelming emotions they’re supposed to be having. Abrams the director steps on several of those moments because apparently he’s got another plot point he’s gonna cram in. It’s deeply rare, especially these days, that I say a film should be longer — Jesus, they really don’t need to be any longer — but Skywalker genuinely could have benefited from an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to let its actors do their jobs.

But I don’t think that’s what you hire JJ Abrams for. Abrams has six films to his credit; five of them are parts of franchises — Mission Impossible, Star Trek and now Star Wars — and the sixth could best be described as the bastard child of ET and Close Encounters. Abrams isn’t bad with actors, and has a light touch with humorous moments that I very much appreciate. But he was hired to shepherd a very expensive film with many moving parts saddled with an almost impossible set of cultural and financial expectations, because he’s shown that he’s actually good at it (poor Colin Trevorrow). The craft of acting might understandably take a back seat to those off-screen realities, even if ultimately it doesn’t do the movie itself any favors as its own thing.

Looking back, I realize that my observations about Skywalker are very much of a piece with my observations on Avengers: Endgame, another Disney film this year which was tasked with wrapping up not just a trilogy of films (well, a quadrilogy in the case of Endgame), but an entire universe to that point — down to the allusions to a tour and the phrase “we’re on a schedule, here.” Both Skywalker and Endgame are films that can’t and don’t exist for their own sake — if you came to either without being steeped heavily in their respective universe’s lore you would be hopelessly, hilariously, lost — and to that end the miracle is that they work to any significant degree. Both of these films are ungainly and in some ways existentially sad cinematic beasts, never to be appreciated out of a context that will now recede further and further into time. “The thing about a dancing pig is not that it dances well, but that it dances at all.” Disney has given us two dancing pigs in the same year.

And they both… dance well enough! I enjoyed my last swing through the Skywalker saga, and with these characters, and would happily watch it again, even as I acknowledge that it’s rushed and haphazard, and dynamically compressed in that familiar and safe way Disney entertainments are and will almost certainly will continue to be, for Disney is too big at this point to mess with its own formula in any significant way (maybe they’ll let 20th Century Fox be the place where they say “fuck it, let’s throw this against a wall and see if it sticks,” but I seriously doubt it). I was entertained, and having now seen eleven Star Wars films between the ages of 8 and 50 years old, I appreciate when a Star Wars film is consistently entertaining, because enough of them weren’t. And if this is indeed the end of the Skywalker family as a central focus of the Star Wars universe, it ends well enough.

But I would have been okay with some more dynamic range, Disney. “Ending well enough” isn’t the same as “the best it could have been.” The Rise of Skywalker could have been better, if you would have just let it breathe.

67 Comments on “Review: The Rise of Skywalker”

  1. Reminder: I’m allowing spoilers in the comment thread! Do not read the comment thread if you’ve not seen the movie and wish it to remain unspoiled! I’ll put in some space to help you avoid any spoilers.
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    Okay, that’s enough.

    (Also, commenters, don’t feel like you have to spoil the movie. Just don’t worry if you do.)

  2. I’m going to explicitly ask for a spoiler. Because this is near the start of thread and is a spoiler for The Last Jedi too, although if you haven’t seen that and you are in its sequel thread then why(?), I’ll put it in Rot13: Qbrf Gur Evfr bs Fxljnyxre jnyx onpx gur ovt zvfgnxr sebz Gur Ynfg Wrqv naq znxr Erl n Fxljnyxre be bgure cer rkvfgvat Wrqv snzvyl?

    I am on the fence on going to see this movie, and I actually prefer knowing the what of what happens, and am more interested in the how of what happens instead. So please nobody be coy or teasing about the answers, I hate coyly teasing “I don’t want to spoil it, but here is a hint” type of answers, they make the movie worse for me personally. I kinda want to know what happens so I know whether I want to spend my money on that or go see, I dunno, maybe Cats?

  3. I mostly agree with you, although edging toward the spoilery there were a number of fairly major story and character decisions that I wish strongly had been made differently – but once those decisions had been made and committed to, they were fairly well executed. I note as someone who really liked where The Last Jedi took the series, most of my disappointments seem to be with elements of RoS that walk back decisions that Rian Johnson made, which I don’t want to call /cowardly/, but do feel like serious wasted potential.

  4. My first thought when I came out of the theater was “How can a movie with so much going on be so boring?” But it wasn’t boring so much as it was highly predictable. There was one “Huh, didn’t expect that.” moment (the reveal of the spy) but every other beat seemed obvious. I would think “This has happened, so now that will happen” and sure enough it did. I suspect part of the predictability was that I saw the original Star Wars 5 or 6 times in the theater on first run, Empire Strikes Back and Return even more, and then all the rereleases. Plus vhs, dvd, and blu-ray. Someone who has seen them enough to know what’s going on will, I think, enjoy it more.

    And while it’s no Rogue One (the Prequel We Should Have Gotten) it’s an ok Star Wars movie.

  5. I have thought this for a while but the emblematic problem of the third trilogy is that Poe Dameron wasn’t allowed to sink beneath the sand with the crashed TIE fighter in the Force Awakens. The growth that was backward engineered into his character in Last Jedi went for naught in Rise. Oscar Isaac is entertaining enough to get past it, mostly, but I keep thinking that if his character were in a WW1 or Vietnam movie, he’d be the gloryhound officer everyone hated.

    I was kind of amazed at how blatantly Plot Coupon driven it was at the obvious expense of the characters having much reason or purpose

    It was an OK roller coaster, but the contrast to Endgame was interesting in that the actors in Endgame got time to pay off 10 years of setup, emotionally, whereas Rise just brought back Palpatine because the idea of Kylo Ren as the bad guy was too hard to deal with

  6. crypticmirror: I’m going to say yes, but not in the way that you’re expecting from how you phrased your question. Rot13’d for detail: Erl vf Cnycngvar’f tenaqqnhtugre. And personally it’s one of the things I didn’t like that I mentioned above.

  7. My first thought when I came out of the theater was “How can a movie with so much going on be so boring?” In retrospect it wasn’t boring so much as very predictable. There was couple “Huh, didn’t expect that.” moments (Rey’s parentage and the identity of the spy) but every other beat seemed obvious. I would think “This has happened, so now that will happen” and sure enough it did. Of course the First Order has a new Planet Zester, etc.

    It was entertaining, worth the $20, I’ll give it that, but it was no Rogue One, which is the Prequel We Should Have Gotten.

  8. Crypticmirror.;Yes. In a completely unambiguous way that leaves little room for interpretation. I’m not trying to be coy here. Just trying to answer your question without ROT13 and respectful of people (like me) who say they don’t mind spoilers, but then regret it.

  9. Wiredog:

    “But it wasn’t boring so much as it was highly predictable.”

    Yup, down to the beat, actually — I actually counted off in the theater when I thought the cavalry would show up in the third act, and it arrived exactly on time. I was rarely surprised by anything the film did, although I didn’t find myself that annoyed by rarely being surprised. This may have more to do with my overall feelings regarding how Disney approaches entertainment than the film itself.

  10. To answer crypticmirror: Erl jnf Cnycngvar’f tenaqqnhtugre. Ure cneragf jrer “abobqvrf” va beqre gb cebgrpg gurz naq ure.

    My question (since the last Star Wars movie *I* saw was Episode 1, so I’ve seen 4, 5, 6, 1) is, how is this Rise of Skywalker? Was there something else that makes the title make sense?

  11. Huh. I thought a comment got eaten so I rewrote it, and then the software barfed up the first one.

  12. Crypticmirror: yes, Rey fits nicely in a safe little box again. It’s the biggest budget piece of fanwank (for better or worse) ever put to film. It won’t challenge or surprise you at all, but it’ll make you smile.

  13. @Nathan C and @Tom Streeter
    ROT13 for this movie, previous movie, Revenge of the Sith and also a Clone Wars cartoon spoiler too.
    Jryy Cnycl vf onfvpnyyl Nanxva’f qnq, fb jr’yy pnyy vg pybfr rabhtu. V’q unir cersreerq fur or n Xrabov, naq Qhpurff Fngvar univat orra uvqvat n frperg sebz Bov-Jna qhevat gur Pybar Jnef, ohg vg fgvyy znxrf ure n Fxljnyxre naq V thrff Xlyb’f frpbaq pbhfva (svefg pbhfva gjvpr erzbirq, znlor)? Gung vf cebonoyl gur orfg svk guna pna or yrirentrq evtug abj. V’z fher abiryf naq pbzvpf pna trg ure va shyy qverpg yvar yngre.

    TL;DR I’m good with that. That works for me.

    Thank you.

  14. Thank you to Bob and Doc Rocket too, your comments popped up after I’d written my previous post. I don’t want to make you feel I was ignoring you, just it was a comment-posting crossover thing. Thank you too, though.

  15. Perhaps there will be an extended cut on home video. Theatrical releases can only be so long because theaters are resistant to showing longer movies (they can’t cram in as many showings per day), but there is no bar to going longer for home viewing.

  16. Shirley Dulcey, one can hope, but I’m not holding my breath. New Line did this with the LOTR and I have to say tbe movie that was worse in that trilogy (Two Towers) benefitted the most. I would really love to see an extended version of Rise.

  17. I will say that the two worst parts of the movie were the neutering of the “Rey could be anyone” that Rian Johnson gave us (Vox really does a great job talking about that here: https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/12/19/21028496/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-spoilers-episode-9-reys-parents) and the lack of the Finn/Poe couple that both of the actors clearly think would have been amazing.

    The rest… it was good. Not great, but good. And in a Star Wars series that gave us Solo and … whatever might have happened in the ’90s-00s… that’s enough. I think Endgame stuck the landing better, but this did a serviceable job of it. It delivered great visuals and a heel-face turn that *actually worked* as a character beat.

    I wish Carrie had been alive to film it; I can see the crumbs of her expected role everywhere, and it’s tragic that it wasn’t realized.

  18. I read the leaked synopsis on Reddit, and spent a month hoping it was an Internet prank. By all accounts, the leak was right. So, I’m going to sit out this movie.

    I haven’t trusted Abrams since the incident where he claimed Benedict Cumberbatch was playing a new character in Star Trek Into Darkness. That is when I vowed to give zero emotional investment in any narrative Ponzi scheme he concocted. When I saw THE GREAT MYSTERIES set up in The Force Awakens, I knew they would never pay off with satisfying answers.

    There was some hope at the end of The Last Jedi that Abrams would have to develop something new. Snoke went out like a punk and Rey wasn’t related to anyone we knew. Instead, 108 minutes passed and we hit the reset button because Abrams wasn’t done playing with his Kenner action figures.

    One last thought occurred to me. When did LucasFilm start calling this the “Skywalker Saga?” Are they doing this to justify bringing back Palpatine? If anyone deserves to come back from the dead for no reason to get a decent conclusion to their story, it’s Padmé Amidala.

  19. Chris R: Huh. The heel turn really didn’t work for me, which is probably why I would rate it lower than some folks. And the sidelining of earlier characters (e.g., Rose and to some extent, Finn) to give more time to Rey and Kylo didn’t sit right with me.

    And, yeah, Reys parents? Totally gratuitous and actually unnecessary to the plot. And I really thought adding Palpatine was among the worst choices they could have made.

  20. I am off to read your Avengers: Endgame review, but wanted to just note that Endgame had many pauses to let the characters react. Taking the time for Hulk to hand 2 tacos to Scott (spoiler!), for example, just watching Hulk and Rocket riding in the back of the pick up truck, and so on.

    And in Endgame, I don’t believe anyone saw the Five Years Later beat coming.

    Now off to read your review.

  21. I have been unimpressed with the Disney Star Wars films thus far and will probably skip this one. They just aren’t very good and feel like they were made by marketing teams instead of being a good story.

    I love the original 3 but haven’t seen anything worth watching since.

  22. Personally, I thought the strongest post-main-trilogy storytelling in the whole franchise was the “Rey could be ANYONE” idea. And the possibility that “The Force” itself, while not intentionally evil, is an intrinsically corrupting factor that will inevitably corrupt or destroy even those who are trying to prevent that and retain the whole “power for good” aspect thereof.

    I was kind of hoping we were going to see Star Wars for Grownups in which the reality that even in a universe of magical elements and fantabulous technology, the central task of life is to connect and grow and be more and more of itself in a way that makes life better for all versions of life. And that shortcuts like binary thinking about good/evil based on theological constructs, grabbing for tools like The Force or Doomsday technology, etc. simply perpetuate the lack of balance that is the cause of suffering.

    But it was only a “kind of” hope because, yeah, Disney.

  23. These are still largely children’s films. Ten year old me loved Star Wars. Sixteen year old me waited in line for hours to see RotJ and hated it. So I will leave these works of fantasy in the past where they belong. Any series in love with its mythology is doomed (or Duned).

  24. Maybe I’m the exception here, but I found the movie not enjoyable. (I had actually somewhat enjoyed all the Disney Star Wars movie so far, including Solo, which I thought was the most fun, if shallow, of the lot).

    Things I hated:
    1) The return to the “Who is Ray’s bloodline” mystery and its resolution.
    2) Much as I love Carrie Fisher, every time she appeared on screen, it was impossible not to notice that we were watching B-roll reaction shots & footage from other films rather than a living actor. Every Leia scene felt robotic and awkward – “Oh, we have a line where she says something about being more optimistic, let’s create this awkward attempt at a humorous scene around that line even though it doesn’t fit in at all!”
    3) The soap opera. Jeez, how often can one movie pull the “someone is dead / dying! No they’re alive again” twist without getting embarrassed.
    4) The cult. Aside from being a weird background screensaver, what did they actually do / believe in?
    5) Kylo Ren’s plot arc.

    Tihngs I found tedious.
    * The Last Order. The First Order. Where do all these baddie Orders come from?
    * What did we gain by Luke burning down the force tree and ending the Jedi in the previous movie?
    * Where did they get the people from to staff all those new destroyers that rose out of the ground?
    * The Easter eggs for nerds. Lines of dialogue from previous movies constantly popping up again, this time in the mouths of other characters. At some point, all this self-referential nonsense just becomes smug.
    * Flying stormtroopers. Jedi healing powers. Planet-killer guns in every destroyer. It felt like someone was thinking “Let’s upgrade everything in this universe until we jump the shark!
    * The decision to leave any semblance of love / romantic plots unresolved, for every set of characters where feelings had been hinted at.

    The Rise of Skywalker is a fairly rubbish movie. Yes, there is something happening on screen at every moment. It might seem like a breathless pace… except, in order to be entertained, the audience has to feel involved with the story. TRoS just did not make me feel involved at all. It felt like Matrix Revolutions: big things on screen, zero emotional investment in the narrative. Around me, people were snorting and occasionally scoffing, once even laughing, not at the funny scenes, but at the daft moments.

    The actors did as good a job as they could, but this movie was poorly written and directed. I just hope that Disney turns a new page and basically starts fresh with whatever Star Wars things they do next. All the fawning over the original trilogy has hampered this new trilogy (they didn’t give enough to do to the current characters because they had to spend so much effort revering the old guard), and they were so focused on having continuity with the original stuff that they forgot to put much internal continuity into the character developments in the new trilogy. Heck, even the prequels felt more continuous as a trilogy than the last three movies did.

  25. I am curious as to why the obvious problem of Rey falling for and “saving” her abuser hasn’t gotten more flak from fans who should don’t seem to recognize how problematic a message that sends to young fans like my daughter. Who really doesn’t like it when I ruin “fun” films for her, but dammit there is a lot that is problematic with the treatment of both Rey and Finn in these movies.

  26. Tracy Hodge: It’s one of those “strongly disagree with the decision” things I didn’t want to list, but yeah that was a real problem for me – and even more for my wife, who was going into this film with one single hope that they wouldn’t do that, and all else was secondary.

  27. Tortured her in the first film, emotionally and verbally abused her in the second …

    I left my abusive first marriage with my child and the clothes on my back. To say I’m displeased by this turn in an understatement.

  28. John, yours is, without doubt, the absolute first commentary I’ve read that not only makes sense, but gets it right. TRoS *was* entertaining, with a whole lot packed inside–so much that my wife (who was never very invested in this universe before we married) spent her whole next day at work just thinking about this movie. She couldn’t get some of the scenes out of her mind, and has already demanded we see it again soon. She never wants to see a movie in a theater twice.

    It’s *cool* and *edgy* to find something to hate about these movies, but most of those seem to forget what going to the movies is all about–entertainment. And those cool and edgy people are like the emo kids a few generations back–all wearing black clothes and dark makeup to not “be like the other sheep”, never once getting the irony.

  29. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am content with what they did. They could have done more, they could have done it differently, sure, but this is the finished film we have, and I don’t begrudge a cent of the ticket price (or what I’ll be paying for the DVD), and I’ll be re-watching this one a number of times (certainly more than the prequels).

    And having said all that, there is one little thing that bugged the hell out of me, and still does, because it is a trope I loathe – the whole “redemption equals death” thing. Finally, finally! a character was redeemed half-way through the film, not simply as a bonus prize at the end, and that redemption actually had an effect on the story… and they elected to kill the character any-damned-way. Apparently just because villains who change their ways just have to die for what they did as a villain regardless of how much the film (and series) bangs on about redemption and forgiveness…

  30. Echoing the whole Rey/Kylo thing.

    I actually am glad that he died rather than ending up with her and forgiven by everyone, but the whole “but you did one last great thing so you’re totally good now” Snape/Vader/etc bullshit is gross, and has never been not-gross. Kylo in particular was coded as such a spoiled emo Redpiller/Gater that any ending for him that didn’t involve the Sarlacc was going to disappoint me, to be fair, but the whole romantic relationship with Rey was just…barf.

  31. Let’s talk about deus ex machina, isn’t Reys lineages a lil’ too convenient and out of nowhere? Historic bad guy shows up in the 3rd act and it’s his whole plan the whole time…

  32. Loved 99% of the movie and can even be ok with Kylo’s redemption arc up to the point (ROT13) jurer ur naq Erl xvff (ROT13) which was absolute, complete and utter bullshit dismissing his abusiveness towards her and the, apparently minor, detail that he’s a multi-billion-times-over murderer

  33. I was happy there were some -slight- nods to the Expanded Universe I grew invested in so that the whole thing wasn’t completely thrown out with the Disney buy. Not exactly the concepts, but at least someone did a bit of reading. I knew I was being manipulated, but the entire thing wasn’t completely predictable, and that’s a plus for such a cash cow. At least they got another cute droid to market!

  34. So…I just saw the movie, and there was a lot going on there. But I definitely liked it. A bunch of people here have raised a lot of very legitimate criticisms of the movie, but I guess where I differ is that I approach these movies as a “romp.” I don’t expect or need Shakespeare. I just want it to be fun.

    Mission accomplished.

    I do agree that it needed to be longer to really develop the story. The multiple plot lines felt rushed

  35. I don’t understand why Palpatine needed to be in this movie at all. I don’t understand why Rey – who was established as coming from nothing, a creative decision that had profound implications for the Star Wars universe – needed to be retroactively inducted into the space equivalent of the Bush/Clinton families. I don’t understand why Kylo Ren needed to be so thoroughly (and unconvincingly) redeemed: he’s a sympathetic villain, to be sure, but he had his chance in TLJ, and he turned it down.

    Most of all, I don’t understand why, after The Last Jedi turned in a $1.3 billion box office while telling a genuinely subversive story, Disney felt the need to end the series with an empty, derivative shell of a film that seems to take as its primary mission cramming in as much fanservice as humanly possible, all else be damned.

    I have to be honest: I thought this movie was garbage. Not only is it the worst of the original and sequel trilogies, but it’s worse than – at the very least – one of the prequels. Maybe even two.

  36. I could have done without bringing Palpatine back in as a living participant, but I really thought where they were going with it was going to be a revelation that Palpatine, having engineered Anakin’s creation in his attempt to breed a Force-haderach, had used his own genetic material, and thus all subsequent Skywalkers had been Palpatines as well. So, as another of Palpatine’s interventions, Rey would have also turned out to be a Skywalker as well, with her final ascension being the titular Rise of the film. I mean, they were recapitulating everything else they could file off the serial numbers from from the original trilogy anyway, so why not?

  37. Doug G.
    I agree with you, that explanation would have been much better.
    I liked the movie but it felt really rushed.
    As Scalzi himself pointed out, looked like they were just checking bullets on a to do list at one point.

  38. I agree with a lot of your points. It was waaay too similar to Return of the Jedi, and I felt like I knew every single thing that was going to happen. I also don’t think that Rey/Finn/Poe spent enough time together in the first two movies to make me believe that they suddenly had this great friendship. It felt like Finn/Poe spent most of the movie chasing after Rey, literally.

    I do think it was a shame that they got rid of Kylo/Ben. Again, it was sooo repetitive of Vader turning back to the light in Return of the Jedi and then immediately dying.

    Also, the author in me can’t help but think of all the missed opportunities for future Ben stories. How interesting would it be to write a story where Ben tries to atone for all the horrible things he’s done? When everyone in the galaxy hates you and wants to kill you? Plus, you know that there will be more Star Wars movies in the future, and getting rid of Adam Driver seems like a waste. A movie with Ben confronting something from his Knights of Ren past (a la the upcoming Black Widow movie) could have been really interesting.

    I posted more of my thoughts on my Facebook page if anyone wants to check them out: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferEstepAuthor/

    Happy Holidays to all! :-)

  39. Yeah…I really would have had a long, hard, mean road of atonement for Ben. I can buy Rey waiting at the end of that, but the immediate redemption is cheap and unearned.

  40. I’m surprised that no-one has commented on the absurdly phallic nature of the underslung cannon on the Sith warships. It’s so extreme it has to be deliberate. And then we learn that shooting this penis destroys the entire ship. Is this some sort of commentary on toxic masculinity?

    With regard to people dying after redemption . . . this seems to represent an unwillingness to forgive in our culture. In real life, reformed criminals make excellent ambassadors to youth, who can believably say “don’t make the same mistakes I did”. But we are unwilling to let them near children.

  41. Controversial take: Rose Tico got robbed. She got the only real win in TLJ (sewing the seeds of rebellion on Canto Bright). That’s clearly related to the methods Lando took advantage of in RISE.
    (#ThatsMyHeadCanon and I’m sticking to it.)

  42. Bear with me while I reference another franchise. In Skyfall,
    James Bond with M in tow opens a backstreet lockup to reveal the one and only original iconic Bond wheels, the Aston Martin DB5, and the crowd went squeee… There’s a DB5 moment in RoS, and it made me unreasonably happy.
    .. However..
    The takeaway from The Last Jedi that the armed might of the Resistance wasn’t going to get the job done, and was in fact somewhat compromised as just one arm of the galactic military industrial complex which was arming both sides, got lost in the wash somewhere.

  43. Didn’t need to be longer, I think; just needed the twisty plot streamlined, with a stronger throughline and more time for emotional reflection.

    I was disappointed that they walked back one of the best things about TLJ: the suggestion (statement, in fact) that Rey’s parents were nobody remarkable, with the hint at the end of the movie that the Force might be accessible to anybody with the right mindset, not just a few “special” families among the countless trillions of people in the Galaxy. (I hate the whole “bloodlines” thing.)

    Absolutely did not need Palpatine back. (And where did all those new Sith a-holes and the evil super-fleet come from?)

    Palpatine was always a completely uninteresting villain, and arbitrarily bringing him back seemed like a lazy way to have a full-on villain while allowing Ben/Kylo his stupid “redemption” arc. I hated that with Vader; hated it with Kylo Ren. It’s like having a WW2 movie where Hitler becomes a sympathetic character at the end and magically earns our forgiveness.

    Who the hell wanted to ever see Ewoks again?

  44. Bathymetheus @ 12.43:

    When a character’s presented as having no qualms with torture, forced conscription of children and genocide – when their first moments on screen are spent killing sentients – I think that the bar for forgiveness should be set fairly high. And if the creators howl “You’re taking the fun out of our romp!” at people who engage thoughtfully with the above-mentioned horrors, maybe don’t treat such messy realities as throwaways to suggest that this new take on the Empire is really, really bad.

  45. Epiphyta: To wit, Ben should have stopped Rey at the kiss and said, “I can’t do this yet” and trudged off for 40+ years of atonement.

    Then, MAYBE they can talk about something…

  46. @Epiphyta: if I understand you correctly, you are saying that the makers of this movie are trivialising atrocities by using them merely as the basis for a redemption arc. And that they are by implication criticising you because you take atrocities seriously.

    I pretty much agree, but that is a different point than I was trying to make.

  47. and routed into something like a bus tour of various planets, each with its single big tourist spot, which one enjoys for a bit and gets a selfie at before one is placed back into the bus for the next destination and the next big event.

    You know… they’ve got a literal one of those at Disney World. Probably not a coincidence.

  48. I would be firmly in the camp of walking back TLJ was very disappointing. It’s interesting as back at the end of TFA in discussions about a possible heritage for Rey I liked the idea she could be a descendant of Palpatine. There were interesting storytelling opportunities with having your light and dark coming from dark and light heritages. Then TLJ found an even more interesting idea along with some challenging ideas about the value of heroism.

    I’m not surprised by the direction of TRoS. I pretty much expected it when JJ signed for the third movie. As noted, JJ does things by the books.

  49. Bah. Unhappy – baggy where it needed to be tight, too much plot, none related to the best points of the last movie, weird character interaction. How could I not feel emotional at the death of Leila? All that charm in the new cast, misused. Bah.

  50. With regard to Palpatine’s re-appearance,I was very doubtful about it prior to the movie.
    And I think the introduction of the idea in the movie is beyond forced. You would think his return, 30+ years later, would be a more momentous event that it feels like at the beginning of the movie.

    BUT. In the back half of the movie, it felt right to me. The scenes with Palpatine were very well done even if completely divorced from any real context. And while the development of Rey and Ben/Kylo’s characters was hugely rushed, I still liked where they went.

    On a day’s reflection since seeing the movie, I feel like the recent trilogy was a war between directors. Abrams sets it up in the first movie. Johnson burns it all down in the second. And here comes Abrams again in the third movie trying to set everything up again (essentially ignoring Johnson’s movie) so he can close out the plot lines. So this trilogy doesn’t have a beginning-middle-end. It has a beginning-new beginning-new beginning/end. There was never a middle to really develop the characters.

    They should have stuck with one director/writer with a consistent vision for the trilogy/characters.

    As for the phallic nature of the new superweapons – even Freud said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

  51. I read lots and lots of reviews of this movie and Cats (while home with a cold). I see very few films, and these two are definitely not ones I’ll see! Nonetheless, I now have thoughts:

    (1) None of the reviews that I read mentioned the abused woman trope; this is the first place I’ve seen it. This seems too important to ignore! I’ve seen myself as reading the left wing of the MainStream Media — WaPo, Guardian, NYT, Mashable, Wired, BoingBoing, et al (and in this case I also followed links to MSM entertainment sites). Should I be reading something else?

    (2) I did see RotJ (although my mind wandered every time there were ships or weapons). I’d love to see a Finn-Poe romance. But did any of you REALLY expect Disney to risk millions of dollars of toy sales by showing gay main characters? In a movie that every parent is expected to take their kids to??

    (3) None of you mentioned one thing that stood out (unless you did it in those RotF — I mean Rot13 — or is it RotJ — remarks). It’s this: not only did Rose get sidelined, but they “had time” to introduce two NEW female characters. WTF (or do I mean LOL?)

  52. I think I just posted a comment where I got so busy being Clever With Words that I didn’t notice I was using “RotJ” to refer to “TLJ.” Ooops, sorry, I never earned the Star Wars badge.

  53. I’m with Tracy Hodge in registering my extreme displeasure with the Rey / Kylo Ren relationship, as well as the Ben Solo redemption arc.

    He started the movie massacring an entire village. He tortures people. He abuses his subordinates using the force and by extreme shows of violence. He gaslights the one person who tries to reach out to him, consistently, throughout the three movies. Kylo Ren is an abuser, and while he may or may not deserve a chance at redemption, he does not deserve the kind of weak, cowardly heel-face turn that the writers gave him in Rise of Skywalker, in which we find out that he’s a bad boy because he thinks mommy don’t love him anymore, and that his shitty behavior gets a pass from the people he had hurt and abused over the years.

    Seriously, I don’t care about anything else about the movie — Rey’s ancestry, the fate of the Resistance, the fact that we have a Zombie Palpatine — the way the movie was paced, in a very similar way to how Martin Keary (tantacrul) calls out corporate music — something that has the trappings of a particular aesthetic, but done in such a risk-averse and inoffensive manner that you honestly stop caring. In this case, it was pretty evident that JJ Abrams really paced the movie like a metronome — all the items in his checklist, from the fanservice to the fakeouts and the middle fingers — came at a regular clip, with barely any variation to the pace.

    But that smooch near the end? That was like the last straw. When you’ve abused and hurt people the way Kylo Ren did, the fact that you get smooches before you pass on into the Force (and thus, away from the crowd of other angry people who had to live through your terror), is troubling to say the least.

  54. Griping about the latest Star Wars. A vignette.

    AngryFan: “Rise of Skywalker” destroyed the perfect vision of George Lucas!

    AcceptingFan: So….. Ewok Christmas Special was perfect?

    AngryFan: …

    AcceptingFan: Yub nub, eee chop yub nub.

    AngryFan: ack!

    AcceptingFan: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere”

    AngryFan: that’s not… that doesnt count…. at least Lucas’s plots for ep 4,5,6 had consistency.

    AcceptingFan: in ep 4, Obi Wan tells luke that Sand People couldnt have attacked the Jawas, the blaster fire was too accurate, only imperial troopers could be so precise. The rest of 4,5,6 storm troopers are notorious for being unable to hit the broad side of a barn.

    AngryFan: That was just a one-off line. Lucas was consistent with the important parts.

    AcceptingFan: Luke had the hots for Leia in ep4, then Lucas decided she was his sister in ep 5.

    AngryFan: that was planned from the beginning.

    AcceptingFan: Vader tortures Leia with a mind probe and his force powers and never realizes its his daughter. In ep5, the Emperor tells Vader that Luke is his son. Vader disbelives. The Emperor merely says “search your feelings” and Vader figures out Luke is his son.

    AngryFan: thats… thats because the force is complicated.

    AcceptingFan: (stares at AngryFan)

    AngryFan: ok, maybe Leia being related was retconned. But his characters had real arcs. Lucas had a vision. These new movies just want to sell merchandise.

    AcceptingFan: Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to redeem himself by sacrificing his life saving his friends in epidode 5, but Lucas wouldnt allow it because he feared kids wouldnt want to buy actions figures of a dead guy and it would hurt toy sales.

    AngryFan: Well, at least episodes 4,5,6 didnt have moronic military strategies like ReyFinPoe.

    AcceptingFan: After escaping a battle station the size of a moon, Han and Luke thought it perfectly reasonable that only a few Tie fighters followed. Leia realized the empire must have put a homing beacon on the Falcon, but they fly directly to the hidden rebel base anyway.

    AngryFan: well, the new movies keep adding new force powers and I hate that.

    AcceptingFan: You’re… you’re mad that the make believe magic powers in a children’s story don’t follow your adult, nonmagical expectations?

    AngryFan: Well, at least Lucas was consistent about the Force.

    AcceptingFan’: midichlorians?

    AngryFan: Stop it! you’re ruining my childhood! Just like the latest movies are ruining my childhood.

    AcceptingFan: Ep 4,5,6 are children’s movies with plot problems, but you watched them when you were a kid and too young to see all their flaws. Ep 7,8,9 are just as flawed as 4,5,6, but you’re watching them as an adult. If you want the movies to give you the same reaction you had when you were a kid, you have to be as accepting of the movies as you were when you were a kid. Imagine you’re watching the new movies, but you’re 5 years old. How would your 5 year old self react to the new movies?

    AngryFan: … Rey’s a girl, and girls are dumb.

    AcceptingFan: That’s not exactly what I meant.

    AngryFan: and we never get to see Rey in a slave bikini outfit, so why would I like her?

    AcceptingFan: keep in mind 5 year old you was growing up in the 1970’s which had a lot of bigotry. So maybe try to be less bigotted than the 70’s.

    AngryFan: storm troopers cant be black. Black characters are secondary characters and are shifty and cant be trusted by people like Leia.

    AcceptingFan: that doesnt even make sense. In a galaxy with millions of forms of intelligent life you cant-

    AngryFan: and I dont want to see two women kissing, even for a split second.

    AcceptingFan: You suffer because you hate.

    AngryFan: Oh gawd! Woke Culture! PC police!

    AcceptingFan: I was paraphrasing Yoda.

    AngryFan: Yoda was a badass. He would never parrot SJW nonsense.

    AcceptingFan: Yoda would never be a social justice warrior… fighting for justice?

    Note, this isnt directed at anyone in particular. It’s just that most criticisms of the movies over sell how good the originals were. They are all OK movies. (Not ewok christmas special, that is just the worst).

    Kids who grew up on the prequels often like them more than ep 4,5,6. Which I couldnt understand, having started the movies with episode 4 when it came out in the 70’s. But with 7,8,9, I realized the main problem is every adult wants to be taken back to their childhood, which would bore new viewers to tears. And new viewers want mostly standalone movie, which would infuriate the fans who have been waiting nearly half a century for the ending to the Skywalker story.

    Did 7,8,9 have flaws? Absolutely. But every episode does. The biggest problem i had with ep 7 is Rey is so powerful without any training. 9 tries to fox that by saying Ray is related to the Emperor, one of the most powerful force users in the galaxy. Which fixes the issue with a grossly overpowered with no training Rey.

    Does it create other problems? Sure. There wasnt much setup for Rey’s connection to the emperor. It was sort of sprung on us. But then so was Vader being Luke’s father sprung on us.

    Things that dont make sense are the economics of the Sith hiding for 20 years building a superfleet in secrecy for all that time. But, hey, in eps 1 through 6, we see a world with insane kevels of artificial intelligence that a kid can put together from scrap parts, yet that world still has people living as slaves? Droids would be cheaper than slaves.

    Droids would also be fighting the wars, not hunans. Far faster and smarter than humans. But instead of skynet, star wars droids are more for comedic relief. They actually do very little and serve very minor roles in most of the movies. It makes absolutely no sense.

    So, I am fine with episode 9. It is flawed like every other episode. But my guess is that kids who grow up on ep 7,8,9 will like them best. And I’m ok with that. They can have their own childhood.

    And if someone doesnt like 9, i’m fine with that too. If their childhood was ep 4, they can have their childhoid the way that want.

    But for me, ep 9 was a fairly typical Star Wars movie.

  55. @Matthew J. McIrvin:

    My daughter commented specifically on that. She said that it was like the first half of the movie was shot with an eye to repurposing it as Star Tours footage.

  56. the Ben Solo redemption arc

    Like most of JJ Abrams stuff, that’s a direct imitation of the Darth Vader redemption arc from Return of the Jedi. Does that arc bother you the same way?