Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 27, 2019

Critic's Corner: So ‘Skywalker’ isn’t perfect; it still makes me feel like a Jedi

“Is the new Star Wars movie good?” someone asked me this morning. I hesitated to share my opinion because I have no critical objectivity when it comes to “Star Wars.”

Since seeing the original “Star Wars” in a theater in Toledo, Ohio, when I was 13, I have loved the series. I adored it when it was great cinema (“The Empire Strikes Back”) and when the movies had been abysmally made (the prequels).

I also loved it after Disney purchased the rights from creator George Lucas and made a carbon copy of the first film (“The Force Awakens”), and when the company handed the reins to Rian Johnson, who bravely tried to steer the “Star Wars” in a new direction (“The Last Jedi”) but really only ticked off a lot of fans.

“The Rise of Skywalker” concludes the nine-film storyline that started with the 1977 film, and like much of “Star Wars,” it’s a bit of a mess. Many critics have said it’s a huge mess, but the part of me that lacks critical objectivity thinks they went into the film eager to dislike it.

They do make some good points, though. The plot begins at a breakneck pace and rarely slows down, which wouldn’t be a problem if the storyline were less convoluted.

But in order to stop Emperor Palpatine from resuming his toxic rule of the galaxy, this trilogy’s heroes must do a dizzying amount of planet hopping to find an artifact that can lead them to the evil Sith lord. When Rey, Finn and Poe realized they needed to go to another planet to transcribe the text on the artifact, even I rolled my eyes.

Another common complaint: “Rise of Skywalker” works too hard to undo everything Johnson did with “The Last Jedi.” At the center of this grievance is Rey’s mysterious parentage, which “The Force Awakens” hinted was significant, and “The Last Jedi” said was insignificant, and “Rise of Skywalker” argues is very significant.

In the end, it does feel like J.J. Abrams, who directed the first and third installments of this trilogy, bent over backward to fix the things he felt Johnson broke.

Also, critics have accused “Rise of Skywalker” of offering sickening heaps of fan service. Explaining this in more detail would require me to step into spoiler territory, which I won’t do, so I’ll just say Abrams, who also wrote “Rise of Skywalker,” gave the film’s detractors plenty of fodder for this criticism.

Additional objections in reviews abounded, with critics pointing their fingers at alleged plot holes, poor writing and controversial storytelling decisions.

Yet “Star Wars” has always had these issues. People complained about Lucas’ complex plotting of the prequels, each successive film in the original trilogy introduced outlandish story beats that contradicted the previous installments, and Lucas bent over backward to give audiences a happy ending to “Return of the Jedi,” the film that concluded the original trilogy.

And through it all, people loved “Star Wars.” They loved the characters, the action, the drama and the universe itself. And the new trilogy, including “Rise of Skywalker, has all of those things.

“Rise of Skywalker” is frenetic and messy, but it’s also a fitting conclusion to nine films. It moves fast because it’s the climax to a 40-year saga. Although it retcons “The Last Jedi,” it does so in ways that make sense. And it hits the emotional highs this series needed at the end.

It’s also visually beautiful, skillfully acted and contains moments of great cinema.

So, when the attorney who works down the hall from my office asked if “Rise of Skywalker” is any good, I said yes. My opinion might lack critical objectivity, but it was born in the heart of a 13-year-old whose life was changed when he saw the original “Star Wars,” and it persists today.

After seeing the original “Star Wars,” I flew home on my bike to tell my friends about what I had seen. As I sped away from the theater, I was Luke Skywalker, my bike was his X-Wing and every car was an enemy Tie Fighter.

All these years later, I felt nearly as elated after seeing “Rise of Skywalker.” I drove home carefully in my Nissan Sentra, but inside, I was 13 again, and I couldn’t wait to tell people about what I had seen.