‘Skywalker’ is satisfying, but not close to spectacular
By now, I have spilled enough ink over my ‘Star Wars” love. Now it is time to say goodbye to the franchise of my childhood with “Rise of the Skywalker,” the supposed last of the “Skywalker” films.
“Rise of Skywalker” is a visit to Disney World’s “Star Tours” ride (you know, the tiny little corner of Hollywood Studios before the opening of Galaxy’s Edge?). It was nice seeing familiar faces and contained some briefly fun parts. But when you exit the ride, the more you think of it, the more you question if that long wait in line was worth it.
Having followed the franchise from the jump – making excuses for “Phantom Menace,” and honestly enjoying “A Force Awakens” despite its virtual remixing of what is now known as “Episode IV: A New Hope,” I am as devoted a fan as you will find.
As divisive as “The Last Jedi” was, I felt like, for the first time, a “Star Wars” film was taking chances and risks. Not all of them worthy, but it certainly felt as though it was steering the franchise out of the trenches of the well-worn paths it had been taking.
That, of course, stoked the ire of other so-called “true fans.” It did not match their nerdy visions, so they did what they do best: whined incessantly online about the ruination of the series. I have a close friend – an adult, mind you – who refuses to see any films directed by “Jedi’s” Rian Johnson as an act of protest. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em!
So the franchise enlisted “Awakens’” director J.J. Abrams, a man who admitted in an interview he is bad at ending things, to complete the franchise. Abrams had a monumental task of trying to steer everything back into the comfortable ruts of the franchise so that all the vociferous nerds will be pacified, and Disney can continue making money.
And he does just that with “Skywalker.” But he also tries to shoehorn in about a half-dozen other plotlines while trying to erase “Jedi” from memory. In doing so, there is absolutely zero time to let any sort of emotional beat set in. Just when we think one character has been killed, within five minutes we are told, “Oh, no. They are OK. They were on a ‘different’ ship that didn’t explode.”
Abrams should have let those moments add emotional weight and mean something to the overarching story. These pauses are what helped us to invest in the franchise in the first place. The scenes with Luke Skywalker and his aunt and uncle at the dinner table. The sit-down meetings with Han, Luke and Obi-Wan. Those moments gave us, and the story, time to breathe.
Not so with “Skywalker,” as we are rushed from location to location, trying to wrap up the last 42 years of fractious fan gripes: Look, Chewbacca got his medal you complained he never got! Look, it’s Ewoks, remember when you liked them?! Look it’s Lando Calrissian, he’s cool, right?!
Granted, I am not a machine, and I got the feels when certain characters made their cameos, but as far as the new batch of characters: Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), Poe (played by Oscar Isaac) and especially Finn (played by John Boyega), I could not tell you much, as we’ve never allowed them to develop and grow. Poor Adam Driver, who played the conflicted Kylo Ren, should receive his pay in chiropractic services for the amount of heavy lifting required of him not just in “Skywalker,” but literally throughout the new trilogy.
The resulting film is satisfying, but never close to spectacular. Its moments are filled with “What do our fans want to see?” and not “What are we trying to say?”
And so, the series limps off into its cosmic abyss and a chapter of my cinematic life that opened in childhood closes. It was not the ending I felt the franchise deserved, but I refuse to take to Reddit and cry about it; I will simply anticipate the next bit of theatrical whimsy from wherever I find it. Meanwhile, I will save up enough money to create my own adventure at Galaxy’s Edge theme park at Disney. And I should hope that Disney would allow future Star Wars handlers the creative flexibility to put their own imaginative stamp on the franchise (more “Mandalorian,” please!) so that a new generation can sit within a darkened theater and be transported to a galaxy far, far away as I once was a long time ago.