Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Well, Palpatine fucks now. That's canon.

Did they have the second unit shoot the entire first act? I swear, from the opening crawl until they boarded the star destroyer (or whatever the hell it was), every single shot with characters in it - even a freaking helicopter shot circling a group of people - was shot at chest/face level. Every. Single. One. It was so lifeless, and artless, and un-creative. And, well, that's the movie in a nutshell. Only the film itself has a really rotten core and left a nasty taste in my mouth.

It's good, in fact it's the culmination of everything it means to be a "Jedi," to get really angry and violent now. That's canon.

I'll say this, the cinematography got better eventually, albeit intermittently - those long shots with the camera dancing around the characters as they fought through the halls were a lot of fun, and there were a lot of cool compositions in that, whatever the hell it was, that Sith Moria place where Palpatine's clone-on-a-hook lives.

But aside from that, and the practical effects/puppets, and the infinitely better acting (ok, a lot of things), this weirdly ended up bringing back a lot of the problems the prequels had. Which is bizarre because, whatever one thought of The Force Awakens, it sure didn't do that. But here, there are lots of flat shots and static compositions; they lost the references/patterning after WWII combat footage, instead just cramming as much stuff as they could on the screen; characters were undifferentiated and mostly just bland paper dolls wearing/doing/saying whatever the script told them to; there was way (way, way, way, way, way, way) too much emphasis on lightsabers and lightsaber combat. Most attempts to show us something new were uninspired and frankly kind of stupid.

They ride horses on the outside of a star destroyer and shoot starfighters down with a bow and arrow now. That's canon.

Whatever faults the prequels had, though, they were written in service of the story and themes of a certain vision (however clumsily). Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side of the Force - maybe it didn't make perfect logical sense but the idea there is pretty clear. Anakin gave in to fear, which lead to anger, which lead to hate, which lead to becoming a soulless cyborg minion (albeit one with a bitchin' helmet). In Return of the Jedi, Luke is tempted to give in to anger and hate, but opts not to, in fact opts to die instead. This prompts Anakin/Vader to recognize his failure and rectify his own mistake, better late than never, and at the end he and his son finally behold each other as family.

But you know what's EVEN MORE powerful than love and family and sacrifice and all that happy horseshit? Attacking the emperor with TWO lightsabers, so you can EXTRA-reflect his lightning back at him and make him explode like a water balloon. That's canon.

I can't believe I have to explain the themes of god damn Star Wars to the idiots that made this horrid thing - to paraphrase the great Gene Belcher, they're not subtle - but holy hell without Kasdan holding their hand they lapsed into the dumbest, most insipid mistaking-violence-for-"cool" film-making instincts the world has ever seen. Even Zack Snyder thinks this is thoughtless and soulless (and he had the same screenwriter!). I mean, yeah, messages of non-violence in something with "Wars" in the title, but that's in the original trilogy, damn it. The culmination of the triple-trilogy, this 40 year epic as the trailers kept saying, cannot be, must not be, Yell Real Loud And Whip Out More Weapons.

The villain's greatest, most lethal power, the culmination of this diabolical plan, the apex of this nine-film/40-year build, is to shoot a blue beam into the sky. That's the best they could come up with. And that's canon.

Look, I love violence. Violence is great entertainment! But the culmination of an epic of this magnitude cannot be a simple violent act. It just cannot. That sucked about the Harry Potter series, too, but at least in that there were all the machinations with assembling the Deathly Hallows and the super-wand's true owner and all that (and Harry doesn't actually use a lethal spell, at least in the book, haven't seen the movie in a long time). Yeah I know the idea here is she's rejecting her "destiny" and her lineage - and two lightsabers unite the "Force Pair" (and the OTHER "Force Pair", ooh deep!!) - and so Palpatine's grand plan blows up in his face/blows up his face. But that's 1) something they just pulled out of their ass at the very end of this whole shebang and 2) just... cheap. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Overpowering Palpatine, whether physically or in terms of "force power" or whatever, is such a hacky and frankly sad interpretation of that, regardless of the (half-assed) subtext.

God, everything about this is just the dumbest possible. And artless. Say what you will about The Last Jedi, it had some really striking images - the "Holdo maneuver", the speeders kicking up red dust from the white sand ("It's salt!"), the carpet bombs falling all around Rose's sister - that were creative and unique. Here - again, the culmination of 9 films/40 years, they kept emphasizing - the best they've got is, "what if the bad guys had, like, a million billion ships!!" And how are our heroes going to triumph against such a multitude? "Yeah well we've got a million billion TRILLION ships!!!" And then the filmmakers have the gall, the fucking nerve, to actually call it out, "Should we do the 'Holdo maneuver'?" "No, that's totally unnecessary!" Excuse me, yes it is necessary. Or at least, it's necessary to do SOMETHING more interesting than a million billion trillion ships shoot down a million billion ships. This movie makes the battles in Revenge of the Sith look elegant and restrained. And it's the dumbest possible interpretation of "the spark that lights the flame," get a million billion trillion ships to show up and save the day.

The dumbest possible thing they could do with the Rey-Ren force visions: "Okay, so our main characters can talk to each other across space. You know what would be even cooler? If they could FIGHT each other across space!" The dumbest possible thing they could do with the Millennium Falcon: "They're always escaping to light speed, what if they had to KEEP jumping to lights peed, like, a whole lot! So much that it starts on fire!" The dumbest possible way they could 'raise the stakes' of the First Order's evil-ness: "What if they were, like, doing Nazi SS style raids of random houses to find... uh, some people... and then they ALSO blew that whole planet up!!"

Ech, I'm just ranting now. But god this was so dumb, and heartless, and tasteless. I'm just so put off; in a film that consciously echoes/emulates the one that had the beautiful ending of the whole Luke-Vader arc, from a franchise with "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes." at its very core, everything, every single god damn thing in this movie, in this franchise, is reduced to "Grr, fight!"

Fire Abrams and Terrio out of a cannon and into the sun. And then destroy the sun with the Sun Crusher. Which is not canon. But maybe it should be.

Anyway, Ben Solo's death got literal laughs out loud in our theater, so good job with that.

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