'Rise' and ... eh | News | Almanac Online |


'Rise' and ... eh

The long awaited 'Star Wars' Episode IX woos fans, falls short

Few, if any, films in cinematic history face the scrutiny of a "Star Wars" film, and one can feel the added burden weighing on "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

After launching the current trilogy with 2015's "The Force Awakens" and sitting out Rian Johnson's 2017 "The Last Jedi," director J.J. Abrams must bring satisfying closure to this trilogy's younger generation of characters -- most notably Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren -- and their current conflict between the righteous Resistance and the genocidal First Order, while also honoring the previous two trilogies overseen by franchise creator George Lucas.

Post-Lucas production company Lucasfilm reportedly picked Lucas' brain for story ideas before commissioning the film's script, which hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning with unsubstantiated tales of disastrous test screenings, reshoots and an unused cut purportedly supervised by Lucas. I didn't encounter any of these rumors before watching the film, but they would explain a lot about the disjointed narrative of "The Rise of Skywalker," which at times feels wet with spackle. The inclusion of previously unused Carrie Fisher footage, while welcome, sets the film's awkward tone with General Leia Organa appearing to have been Photoshopped into her scenes.

More than ever, "Star Wars" ostensibly exists for the fans, those who care deeply about the sprawling mythology, its worlds and its characters. Any rube could have walked into 1983's trilogy-ending "Return of the Jedi" as their first "Star Wars" movie and had a popcorn-munching good time, but in this era when peak-TV has become cinematic, and cinema has become episodic, "The Rise of Skywalker" plays to the well-informed blind-faithful.

Yes, screenwriters Abrams and Chris Terrio pack in the requisite lightsaber battles, blaster shootouts, space dogfights, whooping critters and fretfully chirping robots, but a lugubrious sense of duty hangs over the proceedings as the writers try to rescue the hash Lucasfilm has made of a Lucas-less "Star Wars."

The die-hard fans, who have the best shot of actually enjoying "The Rise of Skywalker," are likely to have some serious complaints, and it's not inconceivable that it may be received as warmly as the finale of "Game of Thrones." A hard-to-resist but creatively thin nostalgia machine, Abrams' "The Force Awakens" overdosed on comforting call backs, while "The Last Jedi" stepped lively in its own direction, with encouraging results. "The Rise of Skywalker" mostly rolls back Johnson's improvements.

"The Rise of Skywalker" nearly gets by on its visual dazzle, toy-line-ready production design and big action set pieces: The money is definitely all there on the screen (plus, cute banter). But even at its best, this franchise-capper struggles to raise a pulse to make its audience feel or care about the specifics of its complicated plot beyond pre-existing goodwill for "Star Wars" itself and the saga's first female protagonist. For a brief, shining moment, "The Rise of Skywalker" perks up with a Lucas-esque twist of fate and good-evil duality, but the intriguing idea sorta just disappears into the film's creative quicksand along with everything else.

If Abrams has topped himself, it's by making a "Star Wars" film that's even more of a multiplex-filling Hollywood widget than his first. It's a product through and through, and no amount of "voices of Jedi past" and unimaginative guest shots can disguise the new trilogy's critical lack of a unifying vision. The big thematic takeaway from the new trilogy and the saga itself? You can write your own ticket. It's gonna cost you, and even more if it's in IMAX, but you can write your own ticket. And your own fan fiction, which is liable to be as good as, if not better than, the real thing.

— Peter Canavese

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 15 comments | 7,957 views

Flying: How much is enough? It's personal.
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 2,620 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 18 comments | 2,207 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 7 comments | 1,719 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 958 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

View Details