Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie review — An immensely enjoyable theme park ride that offers nothing more

If Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker were not the concluding segment of a decades-long storyline, it would probably have been received more warmly.

Mihir Fadnavis December 20, 2019 08:52:43 IST

3/5

JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens did something completely unexpected: it offered an element of surprise despite being a soft reboot. The novelty in the subsequent films has worn off, but the visual grandeur, the fan service, and the general ‘epic-ness’ remains intact in The Rise of Skywalker, a sequel that offers exactly what you expect, and stubbornly nothing more.

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker movie review   An immensely enjoyable theme park ride that offers nothing more

A still from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. YouTube

It is best not to get into story elements because the Skywalker saga is no longer about plot, but more about the shock value revelation of who belongs to which family. The answers you expect are available in plenty here as Abrams doubles down on the sensational aspects, leading to a string of crowd-pleasing moments juxtaposed against huge – and I mean mammoth – set design. You will find yourselves overwhelmed by the sheer scale in this film, a feat that is increasingly rare considering the number of blockbuster films coming out every week. The action is kinetic and laced with a lot of style. There is a lot more focus on the characters being part of the action as opposed to the world around them moving around to create an illusion of it. 

So the main question is – do the arcs promised in the first of this trilogy come to a satisfying conclusion? They do, for some of the characters, though a majority of them still look like cardboard cutouts in a universe too dense to stand out in. Rey’s journey coming to an end (or a new beginning) is exuberated with both Daisy Ridley’s super size emotional performance as well as the cinematography of Dan Mindel who gets a giant sandbox of both visual exhibition and emotional resonance to play with. Finn and Poe have a little more interesting runtime than they did in the previous film, although their dynamic never really reaches the potential promised.  

The downsides remain the same: the film continues to hark back to the original trilogy, and nostalgia is splashed across like sugar water. The whole point of The Force Awakens was to introduce a new set of characters, but the decision makers at Disney continue to believe bringing back the older characters is far more necessary than fleshing out the new ones. Abrams’ insistence on paddling back to the glory days of Star Wars may get a bit tiring for the new generation who have invested so much in the rivalry and mysterious bond between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Again, the feeling of this being more of a theme park ride than a film persists – especially in the final act over loaded with money shots. Whether being taken away for a cinematic ride with unearned emotional honesty is a negative is moot, because there is definitely fun to be had, even if at the cost of a disconnection between viewer and screen.

Reduce your expectations a little bit, and you will find yourselves enjoying this giant of a film. If it were not the concluding segment of a decades-long storyline, it would probably have been received more warmly. The burden of juggling the old and the new as well as being unsure of where to go next in a cinematic universe so vast yet so familiar is a problem the film often falls prey to.

As a tech demo, this is a brilliant showcase of light and sound. Maybe, that is all these films demand – a recognition of their technical superiority. It is probably our fault we expect too much from stories about wars in stars.

Rating: ***

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