I’ll need a lot more time to process what I just saw. There is so much to this film that they could have extended it into a 10 episode series. It’s a lot to take in, and the first half hour has so many things happening that it becomes impossible to process it before Finn, Poe, Chewy, and Rey have boarded the Falcon and are off on a space adventure in search of a secret Sith planet where Palpatine is miraculously, and unbelievably, alive.
The negatives of this film are much like the negatives of ‘The Last Jedi’. Where ‘Last Jedi’ turned Snoke into a throwaway villain, ‘Rise of Skywalker’ casts Billie Lourde and Keri Russell in throwaway side characters. Russell’s Zorli Bliss is more interesting than Poe and Finn combined and only has five minutes of screen time. ‘Last Jedi’ did away with Kylo’s ridiculous mask. ‘Rise’ brings it back in a cheap, cracked plastic metaphor for Kylo’s splintered personality. ‘Last Jedi’ had a useless space casino subplot. ‘Rise’ had a Burning-Man-Music-Festival that does nothing except add some color to the desert.
My least favorite thing, surprisingly, is the use of old footage of Carrie Fisher. It makes the dialogue in her scenes clunky at best, and the scenes feel rushed because they didn’t have enough of her dialogue for whole conversations.
On the flip side, Rey and Kylo Ren have whole story arcs that feel complete. They try hard with Poe, but his character needed more time. Finn is just an afterthought, which is sad since they really never used the whole stormtrooper deserter story to its fullest in any of this trilogy.
If you turn off your brain, and just enjoy it for being a Star Wars film, then you will like it. It does require a large amount of suspension of disbelief. As soon as you start thinking about some if the situations the characters find themselves in, the movie starts to lose merit. It touches on themes of the choices we make defining who we are, but there are too many lightsaber fights to let those themes really exist on their own.
It ranks above Episodes I, II, & III, but it doesn’t quite reach the level of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ or ‘Rogue One’. In the end, it’s a nice send off to Carrie, Harrison, Mark and all the original cast members who became such a big part of our culture. J.J. Abrams had an impossible task – to make everyone happy after ‘The Last Jedi’. Maybe when I’ve had more time to process this film, I’ll know if he almost succeeded.