Not every website has an angry Scotsman writing for them. But by golly we do. We keep him feed on a steady diet of heavy metal, pizza, and gunpowder. Normally he dominates the offices keeping the other typing monkeys in line but, recently we let him loose on the town and he came back with another Rise of Skywalker review.
So, Palpatine is back. That isn’t a spoiler by the way, he’s in the trailers. The questions is how and why? That’s the question JJ Abrams should have been asking himself as he sat down to pen the script with the writer of Batman V Superman and is a question that is never fully answered. At one point in this movie’s breakneck pace, Merry says “something, something, Clones, something, something” and that’s pretty much all you’re going to get. Because JJ gotta JJ.
Star Wars colon The Rise Of Skywalker takes place around a year after The Last Jedi but it may well have taken place in an alternative universe. Far, far away. Terrified at the vocal, angry minority who considered The Last Jedi to be the equivalent of the Holocaust and Krakatoa rolled into one, Lucasfilm summarily fired director Colin Trevorrow for having the nerve to follow on from what Rian Johnson set up and instead brought back Mr Mystery Box himself to write a script that basically says “yeah, you know that last movie? Yeah we didn’t really mean all that and by the way LOOK OVER HERE AT THE THING FROM YOUR PAST YOU REMEMBER!” Nostalgia is all the rage at Disney right now and JJ Abrams is an expert in the fine art of remaking a classic movie with better CGI so who better to helm The Return of the Jedi But With More Running and Shouting than him?
In fairness, the actors do fine work when they get a minute to breathe (which isn’t much) and as usual for a Star Wars movie the production values are superb with terrific set-pieces and design. John Williams blows it out of the park as usual and really helps to elevate the material. The humour is ever present although a little on the nose compared to the more subtle gags we got from Johnson and there are more lightsaber fights here than probably any other movie in the saga. All in all, there’s plenty there to keep the casual fan or audience member occupied for 150 minutes. But dig under the surface (there’s actually an unintentional metaphor for this in the movie itself) and you’ll find it pretty much hollow.
TROS as we’re now calling it is basically a three hour movie crammed into two and a half, or better still, two movies crammed together. The first half is a treasure hunt where our hero’s need to find a McGuffin which will lead them to another McGuffin which will lead them to Palpatine. Meanwhile Rey confronts Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren (who get roughly 3 minutes of screentime in the whole movie) and finds out more about her past. Even though we’re supposed to let the past die and that she’s a nobody right? RIGHT?! In this first half, JJ may as well be standing in frame, holding up a sign with the words F**K YOU! written on it to anyone who liked The Last Jedi as the movie proceeds to undo everything and anything built up in the previous instalment and crucially undoes any of the lessons learned. By doing this he ultimately undermines the entire concept of a coherent through-narrative in the sequel trilogy (if there ever was one) and decides to retcon it to suit his own desire for more past reverence and nostalgia.
The second half of TROS is arguably more successful, as our hero’s and villains head out for a final confrontation. It’s no spoiler to reveal there’s a big(ish) space(ish) battle involved. The problem is that we’ve already seen the big climactic moment in the trailers. Imagine if the trailer for Avengers Engame, they showed us the big hero gathering at the final battle. That’s pretty much what happens here. Also, not to spoil it but the way everything is resolved happens way too easily. Think droid control ship from The Phantom Menace. There’s no tension or high stakes like we got in Return of the Jedi or A New Hope and in the end it feels like the final boss fight in a video game.
The real problem with TROS is the pacing. My Gawd, it makes 2001 look like a Roadrunner cartoon. This movie is so fast it broke several world speed records during the premier. For a minute I thought it was being projected at the new Netflix 1.5 speed. Characters and locations come and go faster than a night out in Manchester. In the first ten minutes alone we visit five planets, witness a ground assault, a training montage and a space chase. And the movie doesn’t slow down. Not. Once. By the time it’s over you feel like a cat who climbed into the washing machine. This is what happens when you try and cram two movies into one. If it had been 30 minutes longer, if the plot had made actual sense and our characters had a little more, you know, character time this may well have been the perfect ending to the trilogy and the saga. Unfortunately, JJ wanted to please both sides at the same time and ended up pleasing neither. That’s not to say there aren’t things to enjoy here but one can’t shake the feeling that this is a disappointing conclusion to something that had so much promise.