“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is abysmal

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From left, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." [Disney-Lucasfilm]

William Becker, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first eight Star Wars movies, but not “The Rise of Skywalker.”

In 1977, George Lucas brought the first Star Wars movie to theaters with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford as the leads. Just three years later, the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back” followed. The sequel is generally seen as the better of the two films, but both are well regarded as classics. The conclusion to the trilogy, “Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi” came in 1983.

The first three “Star Wars” films spawned countless toys, video games, posters, T-Shirts, novels, theme park rides and had an undeniably profound impact on pop culture. In 1978, just a year after the first film, Kenner Products produced 40 million “Star Wars” action figures.

Part of George Lucas’s genius did not come from the films themselves, but through his merchandising through video games and toys. Lucas did not even direct “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return Of The Jedi.” It could be reasonably argued that “A New Hope” was something of a happy accident, while the quality of the other two films is because they had other directors.

The first serious decline in quality seemed to come in 1999 with the first of Lucas’s prequel trilogy, “The Phantom Menace.” Unlike the first three films, his entire prequel trilogy was directed and written by him. While the movies have interesting overarching concepts, characters and ideas, they are bogged down by subpar writing, pacing and CGI. When the prequel trilogy is good, it holds some of the most interesting and well-written parts of Star Wars, such as Darth Maul’s lightsaber duel, but when they are bad, it is downright embarrassing.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac return in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” [Disney/Lucasfilm]

In 2012, George Lucas sold his brand to Disney for 4.05 billion dollars, and just three years after the sale, a sequel trilogy of films began with “The Force Awakens” in 2015, which had decent reception, despite being something of a rip-off of “A New Hope.” The second film in the trilogy, “The Last Jedi,” received polarized reviews, with some fans praising the change in direction, while others viewing it as a bastardization of the franchise.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is the third and final film in Disney’s sequel trilogy. Essentially, the movie feels like a two-hour-long apology for “The Last Jedi,” which is not a good thing in the slightest. For an ending to a nine-film saga (not including the TV shows, books, comics and spin-off films), it feels underwhelming and like pure fan-service. “Avengers: Endgame” managed to mix fan-service, good writing and new elements into a satisfying conclusion that made 3 billion dollars with amazing reviews. “The Rise of Skywalker” destroys much of the point of the original six films in just two hours. From the trailers and opening crawl, it is clear that Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, is still alive, which completely defeats the point of Anakin Skywalker’s sacrifice and redemption.

Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) appears in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” [Disney/Lucasfilm]

It should be rather telling that the selling point of all of the trailers was based purely on nostalgia, whether it be the emperor returning as the villain or Lando Calrissian showing up out of nowhere. Despite having two films dedicated to them, the new cast of main characters is completely and totally uninteresting. Disney seems to recognize this when they market the newer films. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a classic Mary Sue who is all-powerful for no reason whatsoever, Finn (John Boyega), despite having a mildly interesting backstory, is purely there for comedic relief, and Poe (Oscar Isaac) feels like a Han Solo stand-in. Luke Skywalker died for what feels like nothing in the last film and had his character turned into a bitter old man. Han Solo was killed by his own son after he returned to smuggling, and seeing as Carrie Fisher died in 2016, her character had to be written out of most of the movie. Seeing the three new main characters, C-3PO, Chewbacca and R2-D2 (the latter two cannot even speak English) are not very interesting. The big thing that really bothers me about these characters is that the universe feels so small. The First Order is quite literally the Empire, Palpatine is still alive and half of the important characters are all related to each other by blood. No one’s story feels like it ended right. The trade-off in character was not satisfying enough.

Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” [DISNEY/LUCASFILM]

For the most part, the writing of the movie is what makes everything such a mess, but the problems extend beyond that. The editing of the scenes is borderline hyperactive, with random cuts across the universe and very little time for the film to breathe. When watching it in the theater, the transitions almost gave me a headache. Daisy Ridley’s acting is mostly just breathing really hard, screaming in fear and crying.

It feels almost like the writing was aiming to be Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with one-liners sprinkled here and there to a cringe-worthy effect in an attempt to get a cheap laugh out of the audience. There is also a pretty specific beat in the climax of the film that feels stolen from the climax of “Avengers: Endgame.” I cannot say much without spoiling both films, but the cadence, delivery and emotion of both scenes feel like copy and paste.

As flawed as the prequels were, they at least were somewhat sure of what story they wanted to tell and felt somewhat original. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was almost difficult to sit through with all of its issues. It is an embarrassing film that pretty much only succeeds in looking pretty and having great visual effects. Ian McDiamond and Adam Driver give the most compelling performances here, but otherwise, it is a trainwreck that most fans are going to wish was merely a bad dream.