Movie Review: Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker

There is a common, and oft debated, idea in the world of art that once an artist releases their work for public consumption, that it becomes property of the world and is no longer their own. That it now belongs to humanity to decide its worth, its reputation and its future. That is something George Lucas seemingly forgot, or didn’t buy into, when it came time to sit down and write the first three episodes of his hallowed franchise. 

He somehow missed the fact that for 20 years his original trilogy became property of the world. That the fans analyzed every detail, every line of dialogue, wrote and read technical manuals of the ships used throughout the films and created an entire universe in a far, far away galaxy that he had never dreamed of. These movies became our pastime. They were generational beyond measure. Something that the entire world could connect to and it didn’t matter if you were old or young, male or female. It didn’t matter your race, your religion, your political preferences. If you were a Star Wars fan, you were interconnected with your brethren in a way never seen before. Friendships were formed, parents and children who had no other common ground found it, there was almost a zen like cult following surrounding this pop of culture in the highest order. 

I think that’s why we were so upset when Episodes I, II and III came out. It was almost rubbing our faces in our fandom. Lucas took all of our knowledge of the world he created, and threw it back at us and dared us to challenge him. Suddenly, Anakin was young, abrasive and petulant. Not at all the methodical and ruthless tyrant we knew him to become. The contradictions abounded, and they were not understated. Obi-Wan was now trained by a new character, not Yoda as he claimed multiple times. Padme died seconds after Luke and Leia were born, despite Leia claiming to have clear memories of her kind and generous mother in Return of the Jedi and many more that I could write an entire article regarding…but that’s not the point as of right now. The point is we were destroyed, gutted, that this world we believed in so much and these characters that we loved so dearly became comical versions of themselves trapped in trade wars, political briefings and a whole new generation of bland, quasi-racist characters that were unremarkable at best. Lucas either had lost his touch, never had it in the first place, or didn’t care enough to give the fans what they wanted. Personally, I think it was maybe an unholy trinity of all three. 

Flash forward 15 year later. Lucas is out, the mouse is in and JJ-Everything I touch turns to gold-Abrams is now at the helm. From the moment The Force Awakens begins, it had that feeling. That memory. It was like stepping into your favorite shoe you haven’t warn for awhile. It was instantly comforting and warm. The new characters were deep and complex, and paired beautifully with the old characters. The story, whereas not original by any means, was a palate cleanser to reset this universe and let us know that we should have a good feeling about this. And oh…oh yes…the effects were practical. The future was bright and we were in for a new journey we would never forget. 

Then Episode VIII happened. The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson, who as of yet has failed to recapture the magic of his masterpiece Brick, was now the show runner. And instead of the tour de force (pun slightly intended) that we deserved, we got a bland, water downed tale that is instantly forgettable. Luke was now a hermit that had no respect for the force or his past. The amazing dynamic of Rey, Finn and Poe that was on display with VII was shattered as they separated all three of them thru the majority of the film, Rose Tico became one of the most polarizing figures in recent cinema history, because she was almost universally condemned, but with that came conversations of race and minority on film, and….in my humble opinion…he took Admiral Ackbar out like a punk….but that’s just my beef. 
How were they going to fix this? Where were they going to go from here? Were we set up once again to admire this franchise so greatly, only to be left utterly disappointed and unfulfilled? 

JJ to the rescue. 

Like a Jedi Knight, he dropped down, reclaimed his rightful place as the overseer of this galaxy and set on a mission set right what once went wrong. From the very beginning of this film, it makes good on his promise to us. To be thrilled and to be satisfied. Every beat, every movement of the film is a love story to the fans that knew it so well. It was a conclusion to 40 years of wondering what was next. The old once again integrated with the new, seamlessly, and our team of heroes got to be just that…a team again, as they should be. The machinations that had been set forth in 1977 finally paid off in a glorious swan song of nostalgia. Problems and dialogue that ruined the previous film were ret-conned with precision. The  characters we didn’t like took a back seat and new characters were brought in who were humorous, dynamic and complex but not difficult.

It was maybe the funniest of all the Star Wars. But the humor was never forced, in your face, it was subtle. You laughed because something genuinely funny occurred in the moment, and the characters spoke to each other in the language of friendship, not stiff lines read from the pages of a script. They spoke to each other like I speak to my friends. Whether happy, loving, aggravated, annoyed or encouraging, I knew their emotions, because they’re the same emotions I feel when speaking to the people in my life that have transcended friendship into family. 

When I consider a movie’s pacing, I usually have to wait until I see it again. My determination being when it will be ok for me to leave the theater to use the restroom or refill an overpriced beverage. To me, I couldn’t find that time, even the second time around. I was as glued to my seat the second time as the first. There was no downtime. Leave for a moment, and you’re going to miss something really cool. Each segment was concise. Story lines that were initiated that could have weighed down the movie had they been a persistent thread thru the whole show were quickly resolved and too the point, but did not leave you unsatisfied nor neglected in their conclusion. It did not feel at all like a runtime of 2.5 hours. 

The pay off for each character’s journey is excellent. Each one of them left me fully satisfied that this was the end. That even though, some of the these characters have been with me my entire life, I’ll never see them again, and that’s ok. They told their story and whether their story ended happy, sad or somewhere in between, I walked out not needing a second more. They deserved the endings they received and were fully realized from the outset of events four decades prior. 

The only real critique I can give this film, other than the fact that they made Keri Russell wear a mask the whole time, is that it’s almost too perfect. The entire thing can be summed up to “fan service”. Loose threads from 6 movies prior are made up for, everything you want to happen…. happens… and when that’s the biggest complaint I have, that too much of what I wanted was given to me then I have no real complaint at all. 
The first words I said walking out of the movie were literally “I don’t understand how the critics are bashing this movie…it was almost perfect” and I understand that by reading this whole thing, you did nothing more than amuse me by pandering to a critical analysis, but critics be damned. This one was for the world the fans created. It belongs to us, now.