By Jason Delgado
We all watch movies through our own prism of life experiences. Growing up, I proudly carried my Empire Strikes Back lunch pail and thermos to school, had a custom made birthday cake of Luke dueling Vader, and during said birthday party received almost every Star Wars action figure available at the time (of which there were many). I was quite upset when my sister broke my cherished AT-AT (to play with her Barbies on it, in the mud), something she still brings up every once in awhile, possibly to gauge how much it bothers me to this day. I vividly remember my dad taking me to see Return of the Jedi in the theater, and as a kid, I thought about how surreal it was to finally see a Star Wars film up on the big screen, after watching the other episodes countless times on VHS. To say that I loved the original trilogy is an understatement; it was a way of life.
Then I got older (as one tends to do), and the quality of the subsequent films went down, starting with The Phantom Menace. I tried to make excuses for it, such as, “At least the final duel with Darth Maul with pretty cool!” But it just wasn’t the same. The Lucas magic had worn off with trade federations, Jar Jar Binks, and midi-chlorians, even though individual moments in those movies were still entertaining.
Fast forward to the Disney-produced Star Wars films of today, and I feel much the same way that I did about the prequels, but for different reasons. Aesthetically, they’re beautiful and the special effects are amazing, but The Force Awakens lacked originality (It was a thinly veiled Episode 4 remake), and The Last Jedi made odd character and story decisions that detracted from the overall experience for me. The sequel films have fun moments and characters (who I wish were fleshed out more), but overall I find them to be lacking the creativity of a young, inspired George Lucas.
It’s funny that I bring up originality, because Lucas himself “paid homage” heavily to other influences, like the Flash Gordon serials of his youth, and particularly the Akira Kurosawa samurai films such as The HIdden Fortress and The Seven Samurai. Even though he borrowed from those story elements and characters, Lucas created an entire interesting alien universe, as well as the Force, and the inherent spirituality that comes with it.
The Force is a character in and of itself, and Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi started an off-putting trend where dead characters could use the Force to shoot lightning bolts or do whatever they wanted to affect “real life.” This possibility makes death inconsequential and completely changes the rules forty years into a classic franchise. Star Wars fans are divided over The Last Jedi, for the above and many other reasons, including Rey’s parentage, Snoke, and the pointless casino excursion.
The Rise of Skywalker writer/director J.J. Abrams tried to “fix” a lot of those problems (although not all) in this movie. It’s now a strange situation that if you liked The Last Jedi, you probably won’t like The Rise of Skywalker, but if you enjoyed the Force Awakens and not The Last Jedi, you’ll probably be into The Rise of Skywalker. Isn’t it enough that our nation is forced to take sides over politics, but now we have to take sides over Star Wars too?
Having said all of that, I enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker for the most part. It has some major plot holes, which I’ll get into in my full-spoilers review (coming soon), but the ending gives a satisfying emotional payoff. This is an entertaining and well-paced film, although there’s a lot of plot to digest for much of it.
The John Williams score is wonderful; it’s mainly a greatest hits farewell tour, but the music swells and uplifts the audience at all of the right moments. Speaking of farewells, Carrie Fisher’s role is a nice tribute to the strong character of Leia, as well as the actress herself. I liked many of the acting performances, and I’ll get more in-depth in my next review so as not to spoil anything.
I give The Rise of Skywalker three out of five hot sauce packets. It has its problems, but not enough to detract from having a fun time, for me at least and hopefully for you too! May the Force be with you, always!