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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

3,115 words

In memory of Raven.

Even I didn’t expect Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to be this bad. It is simply a terrible movie: derivative, incoherent, arbitrary, superficial, and deeply boring and uninvolving—despite, or maybe because of, the frenetic action sequences, dazzling duels, and effects so special they’ll leave carbon scoring on your eyeballs.

The Rise of Skywalker is 2 hours, 22 minutes long, which is long enough, but it feels even longer. I saw it in a half-empty theatre, and when Harrison Ford showed up on the screen, a whole row of people began streaming toward the exits. It would have been the last straw for me too, but I had my duty to you, dear reader, to sustain me.

There’s no way to “spoil” a movie this bad, thus I am going to give a running summary of the plot. So if you don’t want to hear it, now is the time to angle your deflector screens and warp on out of here, or whatever.

The Rise of Skywalker is the third installment of Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy. The die was cast in the first installment, The Force Awakens, directed by Jar Jar Abrams. Instead of coming up with original stories and a new cast of characters, Abrams and Disney decided to do something calculated, cynical, and easy: milk nostalgia for the original trilogy by bringing back the main cast (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, the droids, the walking carpet) and shooting a derivative remake of the original Star Wars and parts of The Empire Strikes Back (see my review here), but this time as an inept farce.

Somehow the Republic has been defeated and a new Empire has risen, turning the victory of the first trilogy into defeat and all their striving into naught. Instead of a male hero, this time we have a Mary Sue, Daisey Ridley’s Rey, who takes to the lead like a fish to a bicycle. And instead of an imposing male villain, we have an Emo man-child try-hard, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who basically comes off as a parody of Darth Vader.

Since Star Wars fans are not exactly the most mature and discerning cinephiles, they squealed, grunted, and buried their noses in this slop while Disney rubbed their hands together in glee and raked in untold millions of shekels.

The second installment, The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, continued in the same vein, with point by point, sometimes shot-by-shot retreads of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. (See my review here and a podcast here) But this time the director’s cynicism and contempt for the story and the fans were so transparent that he provoked a rebellion.

There were many objections: Luke throws away his lightsaber, Luke dies, Leia can suddenly do Force magic, Supreme Leader Snoke is killed off, Rey’s parents are nobodies, etc. Some of these objections may be silly. (Imagine actually caring about non-entities like Snoke and Rey.) But Star Wars fans were awakening to the fact that Disney was exploiting them and holding them in contempt while taking their money.

This gave the impetus—and Gamergate provided the template—for the great Star Wars boycott of 2018 that tanked the movie Solo. (See my review here.) As we shall see, The Rise of Skywalker does attempt to placate at least some of the more superficial critics of The Last Jedi.

Since Abrams and Johnson managed to remake and mock the whole original trilogy in only two films, Abrams was in an uncomfortable position in The Rise of Skywalker: he might have to actually come up with something original. Of course he tries to minimize the shock of doing something really new by bringing back the original cast some more. Luke and Han Solo are both dead, but Luke comes back as a ghost and Han as a figment of his son’s imagination. Carrie Fisher really is dead, but Abrams cleverly incorporates unused footage from the first movie. He also finds Billy Dee Williams in carbonite to reprise the role of Lando Calrissian. But the greatest surprise is that he resurrects Emperor Palpatine.

Yes, I know, the last time we saw Emperor Palpatine, he was thrown down a shaft in the second Death Star, followed by a big explosion that we interpreted as the release of malign energies when he went splat at the bottom, followed by the destruction of the whole damn Death Star, to add an even greater air of finality.

But, as in the Roadrunner cartoons, when Wile E. Coyote falls to his death through a portable hole, or blows himself up with a bomb, or gets an anvil dropped on his head, only to be magically resurrected moments later for further adventures with the bird, Palpatine is back to spare Jar Jar Abrams the necessity of coming up with a new villain after Rian Johnson casually dispensed with Snoke.

The trouble is that, for all his Gungans and Ewoks and juvenile dialogue, George Lucas’ Star Wars still had a bit more realism and existential heft and credibility than Roadrunner cartoons.

The Rise of Skywalker begins in medias res as Kylo Ren, the new Supreme Leader, battles to find a Sith McGuffin that allows him to fly to a hidden planet, where he finds Palpatine alive. (Yes, he appears to be on life support. But more than 40 years have passed.)

Still, we have questions. If Palpatine was merely injured, how exactly did the Empire fall? Why didn’t he just dust off his skirts and continue the war? Why in the galaxy did he retreat to this remote, hidden planet (Mordor, or something)? Why did he set up Snoke as his cat’s paw rather than rule directly? Why did he not step forward when Snoke was killed? Why did he allow Ren to take over? How, given his exile, did he build a vast fleet of new star destroyers armed with planet-killing lasers? Why was Ren searching for him? Etc. Of course none of it makes sense, which means that resurrecting Palpatine is arbitrary, dumb, and unintelligible.

Oh, and you’ll love this: the First Order was just the beginning. When Palpatine launches his new fleet, then we will have the Final Order.

Palpatine orders Ren to kill Rey because he fears her. But why is Ren now taking orders from Palpatine?

Meanwhile, Poe Dameron, Findu Nuffin, and Chewbacca meet a contact who tells them of a mole in the First Order. They escape by performing as many as six impossible stunts before breakfast, jumping wildly in and out of hyperspace while the enemy fighters manage to still follow them. (So they can do that now?) Then we see Rey doing dangerous and impossible feats, training under her new Jedi master, Leia.

This too has the credibility of a Roadrunner cartoon, and it seems very silly in the universe of Star Wars, where even though there are all sorts of magic and advanced technology, there is still a sense of rules and limits, which helps the viewer suspend disbelief.

Jar Jar Abrams explicitly mocks his suspension of Lucas’ rules (and our disbelief) when Stormtroopers start flying. “They fly now?” asks Findu incredulously. Throughout this film, lot of us were thinking “They x now?” incredulously. But incredulity is a barrier to actually getting into the story. Which is one reason this film is so goddamn boring.

When Poe, Findu, and Chewie return to base, they bicker like children with Rey. Rey and company are as surprised as we are by Palpatine’s return, so they go to the exotic planet of Pasadena to search for a McGuffin that Rey just happens to find in one of Luke’s books. This second McGuffin will lead to the first McGuffin, which will lead to Mordor or something.

There’s no hemming and hawing and hesitation in Abrams’ script. No problems to stump the characters. No sense that military campaigns need more than just a locker-room huddle to plan. Just a series of arbitrary McGuffins to move them from one chase, space battle, monster, or sword duel to another. But somehow the movie is still 142 minutes long, and somehow it seems even longer.

On Pasadena, our heroes conveniently just bump into Lando Calrissian, who conveniently knows just where to look for the second McGuffin in the desert: the abandoned ship of a Sith assassin, which has just been sitting there for 20-odd years, untouched by the Sith, unstripped by Jawas. Hell, by all appearances, the local teens have not even “partied” in it. Conveniently, even the battery has not run down, so our heroes can escape on it later. Our heroes also find the assassin’s bones and a dagger which is inscribed with Sith “runes”—naturally the most evil people in the universe write in runes—giving the location of the McGuffin that gives the location of the Sith planet.

But, since C-3PO is programmed not to translate Sith (hate speech is barred in his terms of service), this new bit of arbitrariness requires a visit to yet another planet, Kimchee, where a tiny puppet extracts the info from 3PO’s head. This whole digression, as well as the stupid idea of inscribing what is in effect a memo on an ancient-looking dagger could have simply been avoided by putting a post-it note on the ship’s dashboard giving the McGuffin’s location, or better yet, a direct route to the Sith planet. It wouldn’t have been any dumber, and it would have streamlined the movie considerably.

Kylo Ren uses his Force bond with Rey to find her on Pasadena. He reaches out through space and time and somehow snatches her necklace off, which she just so happened to acquire on Pasadena, so Ren goes there to meet her. But if Ren can snatch a necklace off her across untold light-years, why can’t he just magically intuit her location? In fact, he does magically intuit where she is. So why not give her coordinates to his lackeys? Why does he have to use “analysis” to determine where the necklace came from? And why assume she is on the planet where the necklace is from? (Imagine if she had bought the necklace on a different planet. Girls who like to travel do that, you know.)

Ren and the First Order show up on Pasadena. Rey goes to confront him, taking down Ren’s TIE fighter with a lightsaber. But, this being a Roadrunner cartoon, he walks away from the fiery crash. The First Order capture Chewbacca and the Newmanium Falcon. Rey uses her magic powers to try to prevent the First Order transport from leaving the planet. (She can do that now.) But the transport explodes, killing Chewbacca. But don’t worry, this being a Roadrunner cartoon, we soon learn that Chewie was on a different transport.

The ancient-looking dagger contains coordinates to the Sith McGuffin on the second Death Star which was built, what, 40 years before? And wasn’t the Death Star blown to atoms anyway? Conveniently not. It crashed on “the nearby forest moon of Endor” (rinse, repeat), and although it landed in an ocean “on the nearby forest moon of Endor,” the location of the McGuffin conveniently is above the water line. Conveniently, the ominous metal doors still have electrical power as well, and they are not even locked. Rey grabs the McGuffin and has a vision of herself turned evil.

Then Ren shows up, grabs the McGuffin, and breaks it. The only way she is going to get to Mordor is with him. Then they fight. Leia uses the Force from clear across the galaxy to distract Ren (she can do that now), and Rey stabs him. Leia dies, and Rey feels so bad that she uses magic to heal Ren’s wound. (She can do that now.) Ren, who tried to kill his mother in the last movie, now feels remorse. Rey steals Ren’s ride while he is distracted by a vision of his father, Harrison Ford. Ren has blown up entire planets, but there’s still good inside him. This stupidity, at least, is Lucas’. Ren throws away his weapon. He’s going to be a good boy now.

There’s also a sequence where Findu and Poe infiltrate the First Order command ship to rescue Chewbacca, which turns out to be absurdly easy. But I don’t remember how it quite fits with the rest of the story because by this time it had become so overcomplicated that even my big brain was getting fatigued.

Also, Ren magically communicates to Rey that her parents weren’t exactly nobodies. You see, her father was Emperor Palpatine’s son, so that makes her Palpatine’s granddaughter. Yes, Palpatine now has a son. Yet that didn’t prevent Palpatine from having Rey’s parents killed for hiding her from him, because even when she was a toddler, he feared her powers and wanted her dead.

It was great drama when Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker that he was his father. But this new revelation barely attains the level of farce. (I wasn’t the only one in the theater who scoffed.) Perhaps Disney’s next Star Wars trilogy can focus on the adventures of Palpatine’s nephew’s girlfriend’s roommate.

Discovering that her grandfather is the Emperor messes with Rey’s head, so she decides to have a good cry on the planet of Achoo, where Luke hid out. When she arrives, she burns Kylo’s starship. She tries to throw her lightsaber into the fire, but the ghost of Luke Skywalker catches it and tells her that a Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect. Then he convinces her to go back to the fight.

But how? She just burned her ride. Fortunately, Luke uses magic to raise his x-wing fighter from the bottom of the ocean, where it has been for how many years? Conveniently, it is in perfect working order. Luke also gives her Leia’s lightsaber, because she’s now been retconned as a Jedi too, and in a flashback, we see that she was even better than Luke. Also, somehow the McGuffin on Ren’s ship was not consumed by flames, so Rey uses it to find Mordor where she will confront the Emperor.

When Rey arrives on Mordor, she transmits its location to the Resistance, who mobilize to attack Palpatine’s fleet. When Rey meets Palpatine, he demands that she kill him and take his place on the Iron Throne. When he dies, his spirit and the spirits of the other Sith will live on in her. (They can do that now.) Then Kylo Ren, now reverted to good boy Ben Solo, somehow shows up to help Rey. But somehow his henchmen the Knights of Ren also show up. For some reason they are now on Palpatine’s side, so he has to fight them. Too bad he threw away his weapon in a fit of pique. Rey loans him a lightsaber.

When Ben shows up, Palpatine has a change of plan. You see, Ben and Rey have so many midichlorians or something that they constitute a Force Dyad. (They have those now.) It turns out that a Force Dyad is just the thing that Palpatine needs to get off life support. So he drains them to rejuvenate himself. Then he’s back to wanting to kill Rey.

No, Palpatine is not crazy. If he were crazy, how could he negotiate such extreme mood swings?

Palpatine throws Ben down a hole, but this being a Roadrunner cartoon, he climbs back out. Palpatine attacks the Resistance fleet with Force lightning. (He can do that now.) Rey manages to drag herself back into the fight, and using both Luke and Leia’s lightsabers, she manages to kill Palpatine. Then she dies from the strain. Ben Solo then brings her back to life, whereupon she kisses him, then he dies.

Meanwhile, a diverse array of Resistance fighters destroys Palpatine’s fleet. My favorite moment is when Findu and a frizzy-haired mulatto chick lead a cavalry charge across the top of a Star Destroyer. (This stupidity is simply a continuation of Lucas’ Viet Cong inspired idea of primitives—Ewoks, Gungans—defeating high-tech Imperial armies.)

Then we have long drawn-out scenes of celebration, including a couple of cat ladies kissing. The movie ends with Rey on Tattooine, burying Luke and Leia’s lightsabers near the house where he grew up. A passerby asks Rey’s name, and she says “Rey Skywalker.” And, in a bit of symbolism, we see the ghosts of Luke and Leia as Tattooine’s twin suns set.

Clearly when Luke prevents Rey from throwing away her lightsaber, and when we are told that Rey’s father was Palpatine’s son, Jar Jar was trying to placate some of the fan objections to The Last Jedi. Aside from the apparent lesbian cat-lady kiss—and who are we to assume their genders anyway?—Abrams actually seems to go out of his way to make this movie as inoffensive as possible.

For instance, the long-feared love match between Rey and Findu never happened. Nor does the Asian chick Rose end up with Findu. Instead, the introduction of the frizzy-haired mulatto chick on Endor seems to be setting him up with a woman of his own race. Even the bad guys are racially and sexually diverse, with strong womyn and magic Negroes genociding whole planets along with the white guys with British accents.

Indeed, the only demographic that gets slighted in The Rise of Skywalker are the Gungans. This movie contains all manner of humanoid and alien diversity, pretty much every species we have seen in the other films, except for the Gungans. The Gungans are conspicuous by their absence, which to my mind makes them the key to the whole damn movie. Where are the Gungans? They must be involved. And if they are not in front of the camera, they must be behind the camera. Director Jar Jar Abrams, for one. When you think about it, crypto-Gungan influence seems to be the only possible explanation for a movie this bad.

The Rise of Skywalker has really only one redeeming feature: John Williams’ lovely music, but in this case, the score does not add depth to the movie but simply highlights how shallow and dumb it is. The Rise of Skywalker isn’t Ed Wood bad or Coleman Francis bad, such that you might just succumb to the temptation to see it anyway. It is just plain bad, a painful waste of time and a cruel mockery of Lucas’ original mythos and the millions of fans who found meaning and pleasure in it. Jar Jar Abrams and Disney have killed Star Wars. Let’s hope the fans stay away in droves and kill the careers of the people responsible for this disgusting cinematic abortion.

 The Unz Review, December 20, 2019

 

21 Comments

  1. Rhodok
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I am not trying to be negative, I am sure this is a good review that will help people.

    But honestly, I have arrived at the point where I don’t even care about Starwars movie reviews anymore. I have completely given up hope that any kind of good movie can be produced by Disney anymore. It won’t happen. And of course the same is true for most western studios in general.

    Even movies that get reasonably good reviews from the right are filled with sjw-ism. Sure, they may still possess some of that old quality, but I just cannot help but notice the civilization destroying themes that run rampant, even if not in plain view.

    • Corday
      Posted December 23, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      The only objection I have with the anger over the sequel trilogy is that many fans seem to be under the impression that Star Wars was good before Disney took over.

      Set aside your childhood nostalgia. The prequel trilogy is bad in terms of story, acting, and dialogue. But it is also bad on a technical level – sterile CGI, flat wide angle shots, amateurish use of shot/reverse shot for almost every conversation, etc. The original trilogy has one good movie (Star Wars), one great movie (The Empire Strikes Back), and one very uneven movie (Return of the Jedi), all of which lost some quality with their edited rereleases.

      By my count, that’s two really good movies out of eleven. For nearly 40 years now, they have been stripmining The Empire Strikes Back for merchandise and content. Almost all of the really famous moments come from that installment.

      When you put Star Wars against other massively popular speculative fantasy like Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40,000, or Star Trek, Star Wars just cannot compete. The brand is also laughably overextended, so ubiquitous and mainstream now that it is impossible not to view every attempt at emotion in a Star Wars film as cynicism and impossible not to see every film as an extended toy commercial.

  2. Nancy Lloyd
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    I can’t figure out if the reviewer likes the movie or not. Actually, this is quite a review, the movie sounds very random, almost like it was the result of the residents of an insane asylum brainstorming the plot.

    • K
      Posted December 23, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      The movie is just that incoherent. It does not have a plot and things just happen. It is that bad that reviewers have trouble reviewing it because it is such a mess

  3. Roger Eeekbert
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Normies will slurp up their prolefeed.

    The real question is if this movie will bomb in China?

    • K
      Posted December 23, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it will. Chinese people will accept anything Marvel related, but most of them do not care for star wars. It also didn’t help that Rian Johnson in tlj tried and succeeded in pissing them off with his Findu and an Asian woman love story.

  4. Vagrant Rightist
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    It seems these new SW efforts are a crude hodgepodge of contemporary globohomo ideas about diversity, gender and so on under the SW banner. They are corporate productions. They are productions made from the top down by elite committees, they are about power looking to maintain its power. They are made my the real empire we live under to crush the rebellion.

    And if I can put my tinfoil hat on for a minute, it wouldn’t surprise me if in 10 years time, we hear an announcement they will remake these new SW films, and this time ‘they will be really good’, and ‘what the fans want’ and fans will get excited, but it will be the same old shit again, this time even slightly more extreme, and then they will repeat in another 10 years.

  5. Peter Quint
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Are you going to review the new “Terminator” movie?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 23, 2019 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      no

      • Peter Quint
        Posted December 26, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        That bad, huh?

  6. Posted December 23, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I hadn’t heard Findu Nuffin yet, that was a good laugh. Those of us who’ve had the pleasure of spending lots of hours around young blacks know that they like to use the term “finna” in place of going to or “gonna”, so Findu Nuffin works on many levels. I am so happy right now.

    Merry Christmas!

  7. Nero
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I thought the movie was entertaining but that doesn’t mean I liked it, and I’ve been a SW fan since RTOJ. I enjoyed RoS more than the prequels mainly episode 2 and 3, Rouge One was pretty good. I was pretty upset that all the novels and other literature published after ROTJ and even TESB was automatically considered non canon, a lot of the stuff published after the trilogy was great literature and they should have considered and drawn some inspiration from that when making more films after the trilogy. Absolute total injustice!

  8. Vehmgericht
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t watched the George Lucas merchandise tie-ins since childhood. By all accounts each new iteration upon original Samurai in Space high concept is ever more infantile and tendentious.

    I am not suggesting that we purge ourselves with a regimen of Tarkovsky and Bergman, but surely the answer to this periodic deluge of mawkish nonsense is to ignore it in favour of worthier fare?

  9. SheevDidNothingWrong
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Wacky theory time – maybe these Disney “SJWars” films are actually a very clever comment about modern life?

    In the way that Andy Warhol’s advertisement-style artworks were actually a dig at the shallow nature of modern consumerism, perhaps these new Star Wars films are actually a subtle criticism of the current state of affairs?
    Forced diversity, ADHD style characters + story, two dimensional characters, style over substance, wonked nostalgia, live-in-the-moment style low time preference, a clear cash grab, and a deep sense of impermanence and rootlessness, and ultimately, meaninglessness.

    Or maybe they really are just terrible? You decide

  10. Digital Samizdat
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen a Star Wars movie now since Attack of the Clones. As a kid, I loved the original trilogy as much as the next guy; but once I saw Clones, I realized I had just outgrown this stuff and haven’t bothered to see any of the new ones since. From what I hear, the franchise has definitely gone downhill, so I guess I haven’t really missed anything. But thanks for soldiering on to bring us this review.

  11. Ex-Proofreader
    Posted December 23, 2019 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    “The die was cast in the first installment, The Force Awakens, directed by Jar Jar Abrams.” Shouldn’t this read “The dreidel was spun . . .”? (Of course, I trust that nobody here will “cool it with the anti-Semitic remarks.”)

  12. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted December 26, 2019 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    It’s a shame as Ridley is a good looking space elf

  13. Peter Quint
    Posted December 26, 2019 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t get the title, which Skywhacker was supposed to have risen–Luke or Anakin? I don’t remember a Skywhacker being mentioned in your review?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 26, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      The title is ironic. The Skywalkers all die. Luke dies first and is replaced with his sister who is retconned as a Jedi too, and even better than Luke. Then Leia dies. Then their name is taken by Rey. The whole thing is a systematic destruction of Luke Skywalker, a hero to millions.

  14. chd7y
    Posted January 2, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “Palpatine’s nephew’s girlfriend’s roommate.” – Spaceballs reference?

  15. anongroyper
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Greg I am surprised you didn’t crack a joke about the scene at the end where the old lando meets the younger black woman. I can’t remember the script but they sort of imply that the black woman is Landos long lost daughter. Its as if the SW directors were pushing the stereotype of fatherless homes in the african-american communities.

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