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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker 

December 18th, 2019 by Andrew McCarroll Comments

Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams and Billie Lourd
Running time: 2h 21mins

Partly due to the divisive reception of Rian Johnsons “The Last Jedi”, what is no less than the ending to one of the biggest franchises of all time has an oddly muted arrival. Lacking the bombastic pre-ordained success surrounding Avengers: EndGame, Disney was forced to turn back to the man who had successfully re-launched the franchise with a sugar rush of nostalgia in The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams (sorry Colin Trevorrow).

From the opening 5 minutes, it’s clear Abrams’ brief has been to divert from the path forged by the previous film and box-check-off every issue and thread left hanging by its predecessor, instead tying them up with a fan-friendly resolution. As a result, this doesn’t feel like its own movie and rather a reactionary course correction.

The film feels like it was written by an angry Reddit comment-section on The Last Jedi. Plot points are either clumsily reshaped or ignored entirely. The trolls who chased Kelly Marie Tran from social media will be happy to learn that Rose is not only completely side-lined, but later stripped of any heroic traits she had previously displayed.

The plot has always been secondary in even the best Star Wars movies. You get the thing, to find the other thing, before ending with a parallel ground and space attack and a lightsaber battle for good measure. Where the original trilogy soars is in its characters. Han, Luke and Leia (who have had as much screen time to develop as the current crop) are infinitely more interesting characters. Rey constantly bares the expression of someone who is trying to do long-division in her head. Finn, who had the interesting origin of a rogue Storm Trooper, has now been reduced to either whispering “Rey” or screaming “REY!!”. Poe as the wish.com version of Han Solo, carries none of the spike or edge and exists only to hug Finn every time he gets out of his ship.

There is the odd bright spot; Driver as Kylo Ren has been the highlight of this trilogy and here he offers the most interesting thread of the film. Domhnall Gleeson’s sneering panto-villain Hux is a continued delight. It’s remarkable though, that a film with so much going on can still be so dull. There are a million space battles, returning characters, new creatures but nothing that lingers after the credits roll in the way that Vader’s parental revelation or even Phantom Menace’s three-way battle did.

There is no art to Rise of Skywalker, it exists only to placate the screaming children who didn’t get “my Star Wars” last time around. It adds nothing to the saga and leaves us essentially back where we were in 1983. This is precisely what I feared the Disney take-over would become; the backlash scared them into pandering to trolls. Commerce will always take a backseat to artistic expression but this is knee-bending to the point of cowardice. It’s hard not to draw comparisons with EndGame which also had to bear the weight of closing a saga but even then managed to take the odd risk and left the series in a far different place than it started.

Ironically The Last Jedi will be this trilogies lasting legacy. Sandwiched between what are essentially two remakes of the original trilogy. It will be the only memorable movie in an otherwise lukewarm (sorry) series.

2 out of 5 Nerds

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Andrew McCarroll never quite built on the dizzying career heights that he hit at 6 years old, when as a member of the “Ghostbusters” he would charge his neighbours to remove any unwanted spectres. Now retired from slaying spooks, he spends his time obsessing over superheroes (especially Batman) and devouring shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones and Archer in a manner that would make Galactus proud. You can follow his rants on twitter @andymc1983