Zach's Zany Movie Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE IX THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, ho ho ho)

Merry Christmas (well…Eve) everyone! As present to my faithful readers and since I haven’t had any backlash on what I’ve said about STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER so far, my present to you is a full review, albeit some spoilers in this here stocking stuffer. So, if you haven’t seen it, I’d steer clear until after you have, so you don’t blame Zach Claus and put him on your own naughty list. I don’t go into detail with every single thing that happens in the film mind you, but I do go into some specifics about what I liked and didn’t like about the film. The only way to really do that is to spoil some major shit that goes down. So if you have seen the film, gather your family around by the computer, maybe start a fire in your fireplace, or put a fake one on your big screen television, and bundle up to get warm, as this sleigh review ride might be downright bumpy to you and yours from the get go.

Why is that? Because The Rise Of Skywalker is NOT my favorite/best film of 2019. Yep. Did I just shove some shocking coal down your stocking? If you’ve read my shit for awhile, you would know that The Force Awakens was my top film of 2015 and The Last Jedi was my top film of 2017 (and still are, no shame here). And if I could go back and tweak my 2016 and 2018 lists, I would take Rogue One completely out of the spot (I think #3, how insane was I? was probably bias) I put it on and it wouldn’t even be on that list at all, and Solo would reappear near the bottom twenty of the year of its release. I’ve learned that you can’t just rank a new Star Wars film on your best of list without several repeat viewings of said new adventure. The Rise of Skywalker, while I ultimately had a lot of fun watching it and it kept me entertained the entire 2 hr and 22 minute run time, I thought was too rushed, a little too convoluted at times, was too rushed, had way too much material that felt just shoved in and didn’t have a lot of room to breathe, was too rushed, had a little too much fan service for my liking, and was just too rushed. Did I happen to mention it just felt too rushed?

But I can’t blame J.J. Abrams for this, he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with. The main problem with The Rise Of Skywalker is three fold.

  1. The Passing of Carrie Fisher – Abrams did the best with the archival footage he had of Carrie to work with. Someone telling you they should’ve just killed her off in between films or just had her character absent is a dumb fuck. If someone tells you that shit, they have absolutely no idea what a cohesive and rewarding narrative feels like. Leia HAD to be in that film, her character had to have some kind of resolution with her son Ben, and I think Abrams and company did the best job they could. Is some of her footage and dialogue jarring? Yeah…but it could’ve been much, much worse. The jarring parts are completely worth it when it comes down to Leia’s emotional last act.
  2. They didn’t plan out the trilogy – whoever is in charge of Lucasfilm in the coming months, whether Kathleen Kennedy steps down and Jon Favreau and/or Dave Filoni take her place, this sequel trilogy (and the two solo ((pun intended)) films) are solid arguments about what NOT to do with planning out your franchise. Back whenever Abrams was hired, there should’ve been a stipulation that he had to direct and write and/or co-write all three episode films, and stick with it for about a decade (he didn’t do shit between Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker btw). There also needed to be at least 3 years between the Episode films, what Lucas had (but didn’t utilize) with the prequel trilogy. While I still love The Last Jedi, and am one of its few defenders, Rian Johnson’s film at the end of the day feels very insignificant when put into the confines of this trilogy. Everybody in that film ended up in the same place by the end in terms of where they were at the beginning, with no threads leading to any kind of a hint of where the last film was going to go. When The Rise of Skywalker picks up, its quite jarring, as it seems that Abrams just let a bunch of new ideas fall onto paper and he just started grabbing at some of them to put them together to make something cohesive. It’s cohesive at times, but not enough. Maybe this is a lesson learned for any future expansion of the brand.
  3. Rise of Skywalker feels like a film that catered to the fans wishes and especially to those that hated The Last Jedi. DON’T EVER DO THIS. You can’t make everyone happy, so you need to throw those notions out of your brain and make a film that feels completely cohesive, a strong and structured narrative, no matter if it pisses those angry fan boys off or not. That’s what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi, even if his film did kind of trip the other one a bit to the finish line. The Rise of Skywalker feels like a bunch of fan explanations and theories put to paper and then jumbled up and then reassembled quickly . So much shit happens in this film, it completely felt like Abrams tried to cater to everyone. You can’t do that with movies. You just fucking can’t and anybody that tries to do that from now on is going to look like an absolute moron and giant asshole.

I’m saying all this and you’ll probably look down at my ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters and be shocked to see that Rise of Skywalker is still above the middle of the list. So what did I enjoy about the film exactly? I enjoyed Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s performances as Rey and Kylo respectively. I really really enjoyed Harrison Ford’s emotional cameo. I enjoyed the special effects, as always with this new trilogy (anything to prevent my eyes from being burned by the forever glowing green screen madness of the prequels). I enjoyed C-3P0’s arc, even though I thought everything was kind of negated when he got his memory back at the end. I still enjoyed Rey and Finn’s chemistry, even though that romantic story line that was started in The Force Awakens didn’t seem to go anywhere in this film (I don’t fucking buy Abrams explanation that Finn was going to tell Rey that he was Force-sensitive. That’s stupid to say to someone when you are about to die. I love you is the only thing that needs to be said at a time like that). I loved the new character of Babu Frick (the little guy that fucks with C-3P0’s mechanics), and even though they were hardly in the film, I enjoyed the new character played by Keri Russell named Zorii Bliss, and I enjoyed Billy Dee Williams small return as Lando.

I also really loved Ian McDiarmid’s hamming it up as Emperor Palpatine once again, even though his return isn’t really explained very well. I don’t care if it is going to be explained in canon off shoot novels and comics, that needed an explanation then and now. Was he a clone or was that his dead body from the destruction of the second Death Star? I loved the whole Rey Skywalker thing at the end, so fucking sue me. I got that message and it touched me in the feels, so fuck off. I liked Ben Solo’s redemption and his little nod for the Knights of Ren’s ultimate demise when Rey force connects herself to Ben and she passes the light saber to him. I liked that Rey was revealed to be a Palpatine (his granddaughter), even though that brings up the question of who would’ve fucked that wrinkly old sack of shit in the first place to produce offspring to eventually produce her (again, probably something that will be expanded upon in future comics/novels). The thing I probably enjoyed the most more than Harrison Ford’s cameo was the unique force connection thread that Abrams thankfully brought back from The Last Jedi, and expanded upon it (even though I think at the end of The Last Jedi, Rey closing the door to the Falcon was symbolizing her cutting off the connection, but whatever). There is just so much in this film to deconstruct, I really can’t do it all in one review. Hit me up on messenger if you want to talk long and talk specifics. That being said, let’s get to the stuff I didn’t really like:

  1. Unfortunately my prediction of the Knight of Ren hardly being in the film and ultimately being a wasted MacGuffin came true. They are completely useless in this film, and even though they are being expanded upon in the novels and comics, they’re ultimately so easily defeated by Ben Solo that I don’t really care to know much more about them. They are the Captain Phasma/Boba Fett of this film.
  2. While Abrams embraced and acknowledged some of the events of The Last Jedi, I didn’t like the little subtle one liners of taking some events back from that film and taken them for granted. I didn’t like the line explaining Holdo’s kamikaze lightspeed maneuver in the last film being chalked up to a 1 in a million shot. I didn’t like when Luke’s force ghost just catches the lightsaber Rey tries to throw away after learning about her lineage near the end of the film and Luke says he was wrong for his actions in the last movie. I didn’t like the explanation of Snoke was just a patsy that was made from Palpatine and I almost laughed when I saw a vat of Snoke bodies in that liquid container on Exogol.
  3. The fake out with Chewie’s death was kind of dumb.
  4. Huge mistake was not giving Rose Tico/Kelly Marie Tran anything to do, it just made those complaints about her character from angry fan boys valid, as if saying, “they were right.” I feel really bad for her, I really do. I really think Tran is a nice, humble, and fantastic human being in real life. Hope she excels in other, better roles.
  5. Why are we introducing new characters at the end of a nine part saga story? I mean Zorii Bliss was kind of cool and everything, but did we really need Naomie Ackle’s character? Or Richard E. Grant’s General Pryde character? I have a feeling they might be Disney Plus’d soon to have an explanation for their appearances. Abrams should’ve focused on the characters already established, for more well rounded and fitting ends. Because I think Finn and Poe, even though they had great chemistry together, ended up being an afterthought in this film. Take out the new characters, put back Kelly Marie Tran, and work on just those, and they could’ve had something special.
  6. The awesome looking Sith Troopers and the Final Order was wasted.
  7. Maz Kanata…what was the point of her ultimately?
  8. I didn’t like that J.J. Abrams didn’t pay close attention to the shit that has been established in canon novels and comic books. There was literally no time for Poe to have once been a spice runner, something new about him that was just revealed in this film, and the fact it was revealed in a comic book that Chewie had his own medal from the Battle of Yavin, just so Abrams could punch you in the feels with his own Chewie getting a medal scene. Him not taking that canon to heart, and me reading about that canon, made those scenes make not much sense in the long wrong.
  9. The whole film just felt rushed, there was way too much packed into it, and some of it felt convoluted. Abrams needs to get his head out of story lines that involves maps and finding a thing that leads to another thing, that leads you to another thing that eventually gets you to a hidden location. It’s like maps are his Star Wars porn that he jerks off to.

Only in the last third of the film did everything slow down a bit and was allowed room to breathe. I liked the final semi-space battle. The “ground” battle on top of one of the Star Destroyers was cool and something I hadn’t seen in Star Wars before, I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the look of Exogol even though Rey’s final confrontation with the Emperor was a tad disappointing as it basically ripped off Harry Potter and Voldemort’s final match in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I enjoyed all the voices from Star Wars past, including television characters that haven’t been put to live action film yet. I enjoyed the desert chase, the lightsaber battle on the ruins of Death Star II and I even liked the new force additions like Force healing. If you tallied up everything, you can see that I enjoyed more of the film than what I didn’t enjoy.

Thankfully, on my second viewing, I put all my criticisms to the side and tried to enjoy the film for what it was. And while I still think the whole story is rushed as fuck, I enjoyed the The Rise of Skywalker even more the second viewing. And I have a feeling that with even more future viewings, I’ll eventually chalk it down to that this film was my generation’s Return of the Jedi. An underwhelming, yet entertaining final chapter. By the way, you might be surprised where Return of the Jedi is on my list below. I really don’t like large portions of that film (Boba Fett going out like a bitch, didn’t care for Jabba, and I hate Ewoks. Solo and Leia don’t get much to do. I do enjoy Luke’s final confrontation with Vader and the Emperor and I’m always exhilarated by the speeder bike chase.) At least we know we aren’t getting a new Star Wars film for at least 3 or 4 years, so there is some optimism to be had that maybe everyone at Lucasfilm can breathe and actually plan things out for once. At the end of the day, for every Star Wars fans, everybody is going to have a different opinion. There is so much in the Star Wars universe that your different opinion will be unique, your own special one. And that is perfectly okay, just don’t have it be an angry fan boy toxic opinion. Don’t hate, try to appreciate everything you have been given by being lucky enough to live in a time where you actually HAVE Star Wars. Try to find that balance of optimism in the forest of all that negativity. If you don’t, you are going to force yourself down a long dark hole of hate, a feeling that will ultimately make you feel like shit, maybe even depressed. You will regret feeling that way, but by then it will be too late, there is no turning back from that path to the dark side. Pun intended on everything with those last couple of sentences, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…and of course…May The Force Be With You!

My ranking of all the Star Wars films that were released in theaters:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. The Last Jedi
  5. The Rise of Skywalker
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Solo
  8. Revenge of the Sith
  9. Rogue One
  10. The Phantom Menace
  11. Attack of the Clones
  12. The Clone Wars Movie