Sunday, December 22, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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The return of Emperor Palpatine leads to a race to find a Sith wayfinder which will lead its bearer to the location of the planet hosting him. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) finds one first, which takes him to his new master further intensifying his inner struggles between light and dark. Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training with Resistance general Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to prepare for the coming war with Palpatine’s Final Order. Her Jedi journey is cut short when she cracks a code from Luke Skywalker’s notes that could bring them to a Sith wayfinder, in an effort to ambush the evil emperor before he can ambush them. And so begins her mission alongside Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), bringing them to different corners of the galaxy to find a way to tip the scales of war on their favor. Unbeknownst to them, a secret lineage will soon be made known, which will affect their bond in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

The plan seemed clear since The Force Awakens obliterated box office records when it was released a few years ago. Each part of the trilogy seems to be a tribute of sorts to the older generation that started it all: The Force Awakens is for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo; The Last Jedi is for Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker; while The Rise of Skywalker brings the trilogy of trilogies back full circle as a homage to Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa. Unfortunately, her untimely death dealt the definitive final blow to that grand plan.

We still see Fisher here, and she is sorely missed by Star Wars fans all across the generations. Leia’s participation has been downgraded for obvious reasons, much to the detriment of the plot. What you get is a hodgepodge and, most of the time, rather self-contradictory storyline that doesn’t do this film any favors. Much of what were established in The Last Jedi are overturned here, from minor characters given the spotlight only to be sidelined like they never existed all the way to promising premises that took a 180-degree detour.

Take for example that snippet of a kid, basically a nobody, at the end of Episode VIII which hinted on the idea that anyone can tap the force regardless of lineage. Of course, Rey is supposed to be the poster child for that argument since Episode VII. Instead of developing that uplifting hypothesis, Episode IX decides to take the intergalactic soap opera route by relying on the oldest tricks of the telenovela book. Rey is not a nobody after all because controlling the force is in her blood, which is a letdown after all the years of letting the audience guess as to who the heck she really is.

The ending throws in a last ditch attempt for correction which derives from the title of the film itself but the effect is anti-climactic at best, akin to that of a beauty queen who wins a pageant with a slew of cliché motherhood statements. In the end, you feel like the writers ran out of ideas and are now just trying to bullshit their way out of this mess, begging you to empathize with whatever logistical challenge they had to face while filming. Apparently, not all good things come in threes.

This does not mean to say, however, that The Rise of Skywalker is not entertaining. It is still a Star Wars movie through and through, troubled as it may seem. Perhaps the silver lining in all of this intergalactic shitstorm is that no movie franchise EVER comes close to Star Wars in its potential as a unifying popcorn flick that three or more generations of your family can enjoy. There is a Star Wars trilogy for each and everyone of you, regardless how old you are. If you don’t like a particular one, then you just stick to whichever trilogy that defined your formative years.

Overall, this temporary ending has been disappointing, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t end here. A decade from now perhaps another trilogy will be on its way to introduce a new generation of padawans to the ever-extensive Star Wars universe. Let’s hope they get a trilogy with a better treatment. As for us, I guess we’ll just have stick to Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, and yes, even the oh so annoying Jar Jar Binks. To each his own Star Wars generation, I guess?

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