By Chic DiCiccio
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” starts out with such promise. It begins with a prologue featuring the most interesting of the new characters, Kylo Ten (Adam Driver), on the hunt for a believed deceased character. It’s done with little to no dialogue, and Driver conveys evil determination and drive with nothing more than body language. It’s dark, captivating and ultimately ominous.
All risk-taking ends there. Whether due to fan pressure, studio pressure or the limitations of J.J. Abrams as a director, “Skywalker” goes through the motions and delivers a movie with little to nothing that will challenge a viewer. It’s pleasing eye-candy that, yet again, relies on nostalgia to get to the finish line.
But “Skywalker” isn’t necessarily bad. It doesn’t go off the rails as much as “The Last Jedi” or seem without purpose like “Solo,” it just feels like it should be so much more. The alleged surprises aren’t earned as much as seeing Han Solo frozen and captured or Darth Vader’s heel-to-face turn. Instead, everything slots in like a carbon copy of what we’ve already seen.
It doesn’t help that “The Last Jedi” shredded the intrigue surrounding the background of its star, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and “Skywalker” is forced to retcon her background into something of interest. With that, the movie does a great job of re-establishing her as the key figure in this new trilogy.
“Skywalker” also gets the three stars together again, and that leads to some fun, if not simple, banter. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) become a great duo, and their bromance provides more chuckles and fun than the previous two movies combined.
The plot is very cat-and-mouse-like as Rey, Finn and Poe are looking for an item that will lead them to the source of evil in the galaxy. It’s a typical MacGuffin plot device and gets lazier as the movie proceeds, complete with a few “well, actually…” cop outs from presumed doom.
The movie really cooks when Kylo Ren, hot on the trail of our three leads, catches up with them. It leads to several great action sequences and a show stopping, breathtaking battle between Rey and Ren as massive ocean waves crash down around them, leading to enough hero shots of Rey to get even the most tepid “Star Wars” fans on their feet.
You almost have to feel badly for Abrams. Barring an absolute miracle, these movies will never live up to what has proceded them (as long as you ignore Episodes 1-3, that is).
These will either be seen as copies or failures with very little wiggle room, and hitting that sweet spot (see “Rogue One” or “The Mandalorian”) is extremely difficult.
This isn’t an indictment of “Skywalker” and declaring it a time waste. It’s not as poor as some critics will say and it’s not as great as super fans will declare it to be. The problem is that nearly every plot development feels like a foregone conclusion, and there’s no real shock to the system on par with “No… I am your father.”
Of course, you could just see “The Rise of Skywalker” and enjoy one last journey with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. … Actually, do that. It’s action packed, much funnier than you’d expect, and even if the end is a teensy bit underwhelming, it’s still a satisfying goodbye to this part of the “Star Wars” world.