Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (No Spoilers or Plot Points Discussed)

5.30pm, Wednesday 18th December 2019

I’m on the train home from work, I’ve finished for Christmas and it is six hours and thirty one minutes until I finally see Star Wars: Episode IX. I’m excited about all of these things but see if you can guess which one has got me in an almost fevered state. I have literally been counting down the days since April (just after Endgame was released).

Clearly I have high hopes for this little movie and I realise that these might well be so astronomical as to practically be in a galaxy far, far away but I’m sure it will be great. This said I’ve suffered disappointment in a Star Wars film before. I had my reservations about Rogue One and I really didn’t like Solo. This is part of the main saga though so I’m bound to love it. Of course there were all those people who didn’t like The Last Jedi and while I didn’t think I would be ever one of them, being on the other side of the fence on the widely celebrated Joker has taught me that maybe I could.

I’ve obviously not forgotten the whole let down of the prequel trilogy either but even here the final one was the best. Then again, Return of the Jedi was the weakest out of episodes IV, V and VI.

Oh God, I hope I like it!

The dry wipe board that has been in my living room for the last eight months

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3am, Thursday 19th December

It’s okay. I think I really liked it.

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8.30am, Thursday 19th December

Right, I’ve had some sleep now and in the harsh light of day my position on The Rise of Skywalker is unchanged; I think I really liked it.

This might seem an odd way of phrasing things but while I have no great reservations about the film I don’t think it is quite as good as it could have been. I certainly have that warm, satisfied glow that comes from waking up in the knowledge that the film you’ve been waiting for for two years, and that ends a saga you’ve loved for forty two years, is not a disappointment. I’m just not entirely sure I’ll feel exactly the same after I’ve seen it again tomorrow (in 3D IMAX this time).

I have to admit that in places the film is predictable and the story too often relies on plot contrivances and McGuffins. Also, while it is action packed from the start, it does take a little while to get going. I can’t help but feel that the first hour is writer/director J.J Abrams version of what the middle film in the trilogy would have been if he’d made that one too. It all ties into the larger mission but early on some of what happens might be slightly superfluous.

As many suspected would be the case when it was announced that the director of Episode VII was coming back for this trilogy closer, Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII now feels a little irrelevant too. As a stand alone film it is still excellent but it doesn’t really work as part of the bigger picture. Several of the directions that Johnson took the plot in have been reversed or explained away here and characters assumed dead or missing are back with no explanation of where they were in the last film. A few other characters also have denouements that I am sure Abrams had not planned when he created them but had to come up with to follow where Johnson had taken things (namely Hux and Snoke). I have to say that across all three films the story is not flowing as well as it did in either of the other trilogies.

These may become bigger irritations in time then but right now they are tiny gripes easily eclipsed by what I loved about the film. The characters are still great. They are really well written and their relationships and motivations feel authentic. Finn, Poe, Chewie, C3-PO and Lando all get interesting stuff to do and while Rose, Maz, R2 and Connix might have had their best moments in previous movies they still feel important. The new players fit in nicely as well. Leia is given an important part to play too and the use of archive footage for Carrie Fisher’s performance largely works. It is hard to know if this would have been a problem if we hadn’t been told that all of Fisher’s screen-time would consist of out takes from The Force Awakens but the way they have digitally inserted her into different settings does occasionally look odd. In places her sections feel like those old clips that Billy Crystal used to do at the Oscars where he’d add himself to scenes from the Best Picture nominees. You know, where he fitted in surprisingly neatly but his eyes didn’t always meet the other actors and some of the lines written to fit around the prerecorded dialogue were a little forced. Still if this film can’t use force then what can? All in all they have done Fisher and the Princess proud.

Crucially Rey and Kylo get solid resolutions to their stories as well, especially her. These two characters and their conflict is the heart of these films and the way it comes to an end feels entirely satisfactory. It is interesting that the initial marketing for the first of these movies set Finn up as the hero but Rey was quickly established as the true lead and it has been a feminist thrill watching her on this journey.

Then in the last part of the film there are all kind of throw backs to the whole Star Wars saga. I suspect some critics will dismiss this as clumsy fan service but I’m a fan and I absolutely lapped it up. The Force Awakens made me feel like I was eight again and this film made me feel like all of my birthdays since had come at once.

Yep, this morning I am one happy geek.

It isn’t a totally perfect movie then but I think I really liked it.

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3.50pm, Friday 20th December 2019

Correct that, I’ve seen it for a second time now and I totally love it.

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