Star Wars. The name itself signifies the very definition of a cross-generational symbol of hope. But recently, sentiments have become more binary; amongst fans, Star Wars films either provoke a tremendous, post-Battle of Endor-esque sense of jubilation or cause an outburst of hatred and dismay comparable to the destruction of Alderaan. To reflect on this final instalment, we must look back to the very beginning of this epic journey.
The original trilogy, initiated by 1977’s ground-breaking Star Wars: A New Hope, saw an unlikely figure ‘rise’ to become the galaxy’s greatest hero. The triumph of the Light Side. The subsequent prequel trilogy, concluding with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in 2005 (creator George Lucas’ final film in the franchise), outlined the downfall of a prophesied beau idéal to the temptations of evil. The triumph of the Dark Side. Two binaries, manifested in the iconic Binary Sunset scene in A New Hope, but together futile without an ultimate balance.
Enter, the sequel trilogy. The films that were meant to bring definitive balance to the force; to its dedicated fan base still divided over the quality of the films outside of the originals; and balance between all things, regardless of any positive or negative traits. Say what you will about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but it made monumental steps towards fulfilling this notion, emphasising – as A New Hope did all those years ago – that heroes can come from anywhere, and familial accomplishments are irrelevant on the path to becoming a true hero. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is not this hero; it is the antithesis of everything Star Wars has come to represent, and what’s more, it is also a bad film.
The script is preposterously spasmodic. Written by director J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, this is unquestionably Abrams finishing what J.J. started. It’s uneven, incoherent with its predecessors – especially with Emperor Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) sudden and contrived return – and far too hasty to get off the mark, barely stopping thereafter to catch a breath. There is no balance here, only a monstrosity of a plot based entirely around convenience.
Characters and their subsequent arcs are therefore decimated by the narrative’s lack of fine-tuning. The struggle between the Light and the Dark Side within Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) – the personification of this omnipresent moral entanglement – is reduced to superficiality; he’s no longer that lost, conflicted young man audiences instantly connected with in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Instead, he’s either one or the other. Light or Dark. Binary.
There are some saving graces, however, and not the ones you might have expected. C-3PO is one of the strongest aspects of this film (yes, seriously). The irritating, loquacious, odds-obsessed buzzkill is used to perfection here and receives a surprisingly gratifying redemption for all those times he’s been an exasperating dead-weight. Furthermore, The Rise of Skywalker certainly looks spectacular, and it’s impossible not to be energised by the resilience of the protagonists, coupled with John Williams’ marvellous score. It’s moving at times, yet not to the degree we’ve come to expect.
Thematically, the final instalment of the ‘Skywalker Saga’ shoots for the stars but hits a Palpatine-shaped asteroid just out of orbit. It was never the destiny of Star Wars to continue this Light versus Dark skirmish because good and bad coexist within everyone – a message that this trilogy has done so well of accentuating. The Rise of Skywalker tackles this idea in the most negligent way possible, and never escapes the self-inflicted tractor beam of its misjudged principals.
The Rise of Skywalker is a bitter disappointment. But you were the chosen one, Abrams. It was said that you would destroy the haters, not provoke them. Bring balance to the franchise, not leave it in darkness.
There is no balance. Only the inevitable feud that this finale is going to incite online.
Image: Movie DB