“This will be the final word in the story of Skywalker.”Emperor Palpatine
The Rise of Skywalker is a bloated, unimaginative conclusion in which a lot of stuff happens but for no particular reason and largely without consequence. With JJ Abrams back at the helm, this all feels very familiar. I was forgiving to The Force Awakens‘ blatant retread of A New Hope because some nostalgic connective tissue was necessary to bridge the gap between old and new. If The Last Jedi was Rian Johnson’s response to this over-reliance on nostalgia and mystery boxes, looking to a future of fresh stories in this vibrant universe, Abrams uses the final film of the saga to reassert himself with disappointing results. He leans heavily on Return of the Jedi, restoring the importance of Rey’s heritage in an interesting twist, but the ultimate payoff is non-existent for such a central plot point despite all manner of ways it could have been satisfyingly concluded. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren remains fascinatingly conflicted but the film’s most interesting character is largely wasted in this outing. The side-plots, often derided in The Last Jedi, feel even more perfunctory here. There are positives: the CG is first rate, Rey and Kylo’s scenes together are engaging, and children will probably be entertained. Meanwhile the returning characters from the original trilogy are relegated to trite, disjointed cameos (the subtler return of Wedge Antilles being the only truly welcome one). This slavish devotion to the past, coupled with setting a third of the film on desolate rocks, means the Star Wars galaxy has never felt so empty. This entire mess is ultimately Disney’s fault. Embarking on a trilogy in a $4 billion franchise without charting the major story beats in advance was an exercise in stupidity, particularly when compared to the carefully coordinated construction of Marvel’s Infinity Saga over 23 movies, but such is the way when strip-mining an IP for profit is placed above artistic merit.