THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: Four decades deserves more than this
The galaxy far, far away that began over four decades ago reaches its finish line for the Skywalker Saga. Ingraining itself into the lives of many generations young and old, the name “Star Wars” holds a special place in everyone’s heart -- including Sun-Gazette critics Quinn Deitrick and Joseph W. Smith III. Here, they give their somewhat different opinions on this ninth and final film.
QUINN: Traveling through different creative hands over the last few years has shifted the direction the series has gone, with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” seeking to wrap a bow on the legacy left. Although it is nowhere near the perfect ending that we all hope and wish for, the Force still resonates with this nostalgic conclusion.
JOE: For me, “nowhere near perfect” is an understatement. I’m not a die-hard “SW” fan, but I have followed the series with interest since seeing the first film way back in 1977. And I found this entry terribly disappointing -- such incredibly lazy writing. It isn’t funny, it isn’t clever, it isn’t exciting; it doesn’t even have much of a plot!
QUINN: I’ll give you the isn’t funny, but I think it is certainly exciting; the journey is filled with twist and turns that keep the story fresh. I must admit, the plot can be haphazardly crafted at times (feeling like a glorified scavenger hunt). However, the writing of characters like Rey and Kylo Ren is excellent. While much of the rest of the cast is left in the “speeder” dust, these two are fleshed out exceptionally.
JOE: That scavenger-hunt thing drove me nuts: “We have to get A, so we can find B, so we get to C and find D.” Sheesh! But yes, I in turn will give you Rey and Kylo. I could watch Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver do just about anything; can’t wait to see what kind of other stuff Ridley will do in the future (as opposed to a long, long time ago, etc.). Very solid support as well from franchise stalwarts Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. Clearly, writers J. J. Abrams and Chris Terrio worked hard to throw in nuggets from the other eight films that led to “Rise.” Did you feel this long-awaited finale provided enough closure?
QUINN: That’s a tricky question. Did it provide enough closure to this single installment? Yes. To all nine films? Maybe. The conflict feels very contained to this film only, with more smaller connections to the rest -- granted, that is due to how “The Last Jedi” set the film on a very different course. All of those Easter eggs and cameos do help to make every Star Wars fan feel satisfied by the end, but it becomes too much at a time. There was a roughly 15-minute sequence with a consistent nostalgia stream which came across as cheap.
JOE: “Very contained” is a good point; I felt the story arc could’ve been enlarged to feel more epic, especially after nine films and 42 years. Would’ve been smart to bring in original writer Lawrence Kasdan, a Hollywood veteran who did a lot of work on the preceding films. He also might have tidied up some of the insipid dialog, which features such earth-shattering nuggets as “Something happened,” “There’s been a development” and “I gotta go do something.” Ugh.
QUINN: “Something happened” was my personal favorite. Luckily, these instances of cringey dialogue are followed by thrilling action. The special effects are truly breathtaking, with a lightsaber duel amidst a raging ocean being a highlight. It’s very evident that the writing could have focused more on the story though, and less on spectacles. But like the rest of the film, these battles were fun, a quality every Star Wars film should have. So in that field, it doesn’t disappoint.
JOE: Among fans I’ve talked to, you seem to be in the majority, Quinn. Most liked “The Rise of Skywalker” more than I did -- though nearly everyone admitted it could’ve been better. But then, with a new trilogy expected from Rian Johnson (“Knives Out,” “Last Jedi”) -- plus Disney’s “Mandalorian” and forthcoming Obi-Wan series -- well, this clearly won’t be the franchise’s last chance to reach for that far-off galaxy.
JOE: * 1/2 (out of four)
QUINN: * * * (out of four)
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,”
directed by J. J. Abrams
Run time: 141 min.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and language