Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Everyone is saying this is the “last Star Wars film.” Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s the last of the “Skywalker” movies, but there’s no way Disney paid billions to Lucas to not continue bringing in billions. The Mandolorian and their Baby Yoda are tearing it up on TV, and we’ll continue to see films similar to the stand-alone we had on Hans Solo. There will be a Boba Fett film and so many other characters they’ll make origin stories about.

This movie did get me a lot more teary eyed while watching it, because a week earlier, my best friend of 35 years, passed away suddenly. And right before the screening, his first-born son happened to be there, and came up to say hello. It was a tough 15 minute conversation, and I kept thinking about that while watching this. And when there’d be a scene referencing Kylo and his dad (Han Solo), or just thinking about how Star Wars over the years, has been a film series that fathers got to share with their kids…well, it all just broke my heart. So the following review (free of spoilers), might be a bit of a scattered mess. Which is probably appropriate, because so was this film.

Part of the problem is that J.J. Abrams plays it all so safe. It feels like a film that panders to fans, and covers themes that had been tackled in previous Star Wars pictures. It’s strange because, we were introduced to three interesting new characters (played by Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Kellie Marie Tran, and John Boyega) years ago, yet it was only Driver that gets much of a story arc.

Perhaps because of some backlash director Rian Johnson got (catch his new movie Knives Out while it’s still out), maybe Disney preferred Abrams to play it safe by combining these new characters with all the ones we know and love.

You can only tell so much of this premise without spoiling, and really…it’s all rather predictable anyway (as well as a slight plot hole).

The Resistance is working hard with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, who I’m still not sure how they got this footage to use). Rey (Daisy Ridley) is once again training to become a tough Jedi. She has a few really fun fighting scenes, and a jump over a TIE fighter that puts Kobe Bryant jumping over that car, to shame. Kylo Ren (Driver) still wants to rule the world (oh wait…the universe), and he still has eyes for Rey, and is trying to bring her to the dark side.

I was excited by the addition of Lupita Nyong’o, but her character is only in a few quick scenes. Keri Russel was brought in as a scorned lover of Poe (Isaac), but she’s covered in a mask the entire time, and that hurts their bit of chemistry.

There’s a new pilot, Snap Wexely (Greg Grunberg) that’s a bit of fun, as well as a droid named D-O, who has a bit of anxiety. That, along with C-3PO losing his memory, generates a few chuckles.

I loved seeing Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) as Allegiant General Pryde.

Finn (Boyega) still pulls off his enthusiastic vibe well, and all of us old-timers loved seeing Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) back with his charisma and that voice. He’s not the only one from the original trilogy you’ll see, and folks of all ages get excited when each of the originals pop up on screen.

With all these new and old characters, it’s surprisingly not confusing. Mostly because you get the premise, and also because of the inordinate amount of exposition dialogue.

At least the big budget Disney brings to this, makes for some great set pieces and wonderful special effects. Cinematographer Dan Mindel deserves some credit for a lot of interesting shots, especially since I thought I had grown tired of dog fights in space.

For whether or not this is a great conclusion, I think of it as when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played the last of his 20 years in the NBA. Every team was giving him gifts (cars, rocking chairs, etc.). He only averaged around 10 points a game, but it was your last time to see this legend, so you got excited if he blocked a shot, or did one of his beautiful skyhooks (side note: has anyone put up a hook shot since Kareem?). Yet it wasn’t the best basketball. And that’s the kind of enjoyment you’ll get watching this. It’s not a great “movie” but it’s still fun.

I met a guy named Dave Macias recently who had a Millenium Falcon tattooed on his forearm. He has a show called “Star Wars 20” on YouTube, so I invited him to come with me to the screening. He loved the movie, and when I asked him to send me a paragraph about what he thought, he sent me this:

“I was 5 when I saw Star Wars at (back then) Mann’s Chinese theater in Hollywood. So I’ve been a fan most of my life and Rise of Skywalker was made for both the 5-year-old that was me and the current 47-year-old me.

It tugged at your heart, it was funny and did Star Wars proper. Was it a film in the ESB way? No. But it was entertaining.

It wasn’t perfect and the plot was a little convoluted and that’s where toxic fans will tear it apart. Overall, great fun, humorous and exciting entertainment.”

I’m going to give this movie 2 ½ stars out of 5, and I’m going to take the liberty of guessing Mr. Macias would have given it 4 stars out of 5.

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