Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Review

Tony uses the Force one last time.

Here’s the thing about the three ‘new’ Star Wars movies. You know how everybody’s creeped out by the so-called ‘uncanny valley’ in Cats? The combination of people in CGI cat-skins, but some of them wearing additional fur coats? The weirdly varying size and scale of the cats to the objects in their environment?

The new Star Wars movies have the storytelling equivalent of that uncanny valley. Rey the nobody from nowhere (much like the original Luke, the nobody from nowhere) is supposed to be a new generation in a galaxy that’s post-Palpatine, post-Vader, post-initial Rebel Alliance, facing a new generation of threat, the First Order, who absolutely aren’t the Empire, nosiree Bob, ruled over by a creature called Snoke, who absolutely isn’t just Palpatine on growth hormones, of course not, that would be ludicrous. And yet from the very beginning, the new movies have swaddled Rey, Finn, Poe et al in the lore and the characters of the original movies. Chewie, Han, Leia, Luke, R2 and Threepio, they’re all in these movies, not so much handing over the reins to a new generation as being trotted out for a pre-extinction shindig without in any case facing up to the question of how the Rebel Alliance, having defeated the Evil Empire went remarkably quickly from being winners to being hunted rebels again. The obvious answer seems to be that the characters of the Rebel Alliance only work when they’re struggling to overthrow an oppressive force, but still – it feels like a poor statement on the power of democracy and rebellion that all the characters from the original trilogy are seen to be still alive in time to have had the tables turned on them and be rebels again. The result is that the new Rebel Alliance feels like an exercise in nostalgia, and in the absence of the power couple that was Vader and Palpatine, or anyone who comes even remotely close to their chemistry and on-screen scares, the whole thing feels a bit ludicrous.

It feels especially ludicrous as the movies have a lot of bare wiring showing. There’s the son of Han and Leia being a desperate emo Wannabe-Sith, and as such, being personally responsible for taking out most of the surviving members of his family without in any way ever being actually scary, as though a stern ‘Go to your room, young man’ would sort him out. There’s the seemingly contractual slaughter of at least one of the original cast per movie – although of course, with the whole ‘Force Ghost’ thing, this tends not to mean a whole hell of a lot. But most of all, the dynamics of the screenwriting are up there on screen for all to see: Kylo Ren, born too late, desperate to be the equal of the former Dark Side glories of his house, Rey from Nowhere, beloved of the new Rebel Alliance (which is actually most of the old Rebel Alliance with altogether gloriously fewer knobs on). If Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is Darth Emo, then Domhnall Gleeson has been stomping around the place for a couple of movies giving it his best Grand Moff Wannabe, even to the extent of having a souped-up would-be Death Star and being foot-stampingly determined to use it. Everything in these three movies has been a battle between the kernel of a new iteration of the Force personified (Rey, and to some extent, Finn too), and a Star Destroyer full of nostalgic baggage crying ‘Look, look! Things were better in the old days!’

The third movie might be called The Rise Of Skywalker (though that in itself is a massive cop-out. For…reasons), but really, it’s the movie in which the fight against the overwhelming tide of fan-serving nostalgia is lost. It’s not an enormous spoiler for anyone who’s seen the trailer, and they also put the news right in the opening crawl – Palpatine’s back! No particular explanation of how or why that’s possible is given (though fans of course have a ready-made solution to that through other media). But he’s back, he’s been hiding in the darkness, building, of all things, a fleet of Star Destroyers, each of which is equipped with planet-killing capabilities. They’re like a fleet of Death Stars… only…y’know, much less cool. Impressive and imposing, certainly, just less cool.

Much of the movie is taken up with finding a compass that will allow the good guys and gals to even get to the region of the Sith where all these Star Destroyers have been secretly built (You have to wonder – does this mean most engineers are Sith, because that would explain a hell of a lot), interspersed with dialogue battles and occasionally somewhat under-inspired lightsaber battles between Ren and Rey, despite them being in different physical locations at the time. So that’s new.

If we’re cutting to the chase, then Rey is not what she’s been painted as being – a new nobody with a particular affinity with the Force, to kick the saga down a new path. She’s very much a relic of the old mythos, which more or less swallows her up in this instalment. She has an intense source of personal power which can only be explained one way – and is, fairly on in the film, meaning we’re then waiting for her and the characters around her to play catch-up with information we already know. There are battles, feelings, the will-she-won’t-she turn to the Dark Side question, as faced by Luke throughout the original trilogy of movies, and there’s a more explicit duality expressed between Rey and Ren as the film trundles on, with a familiar outcome, inasmuch as a turning can happen in either direction, and we’ve seen what happens here once already, though on that occasion there was a little less snogging involved. The Rise of the Sith (sorry, I’m having that one, although it should absolutely have been what this movie was called) looks imminent as the planet-killing Star Destroyers start to roll out, a pan-galactic fleet of ‘just people’ is assembled to fight the forces of the Dark Side (I’m as woolly-headed a liberal as you’ll find anywhere, but even I cringed slightly when the fleet assembled against the rising emperor was described as ‘just people, and there’s more of us than there are of them’ because the Real World politics of it was sledgehammer-subtle), but as in the original trilogy, the fate of the galaxy ultimately hinges on a battle for the souls of two Force-sensitives, a would-be Jedi and a Sith, while the emperor watches. Even the beats feel the same, treading the same old path with new faces – and a couple of old ones, as Billy Dee Williams pops in to save the galaxy again as Lando Calrissian just in the nick of inevitability – but the whole thing feels saturated with sameness and admittedly not-undeserved self-congratulation.

That said, if it’s nothing especially new, retreads old flight paths, and yanks Rey back into the realms of ‘old’ Star Wars, rather than letting her be the start of ‘new’ Star Wars, it’s by no means an especially bad way to spend two and a half hours. There’s fun with robots, Chewie nearly gets killed in a spectacular fashion, Richard E Grant arrives and easily, almost instantly, outclasses Domhnall Gleeson as the Moff To Watch, giving of his best Space-Nazi acting. Lupita Nyong’o and Shirley Henderson both make anything they’re in almost instantly better, though recognising them in The Rise Of Skywalker is more of a challenge than usual, and the list of pleasing cameos is long to the point of glorious film nerd absurdity, with Denis Lawson, Billie Lourd, Vinette Robinson, Jodie Comer, Warwick Davis (Yes, apologies for the spoiler, but even a particular variety of forest-dweller is in this movie), Dominic ‘One Star Destroyer To Rule Them All’ Monaghan and even, in voice at least, JJ Abrams himself being just a handful of highlights. There’s the discovery by Finn of a group of other Stormtroopers who rebelled against the darkness of the First Order, led and more or less personified by Naomi Ackie as Jannah – think Valkyrie from the MCU and put her in a galaxy far, far away. And in a vague nod to George R R Martin, there’s the notion of a Throne of the Sith, whoever sits on it being the embodiment of thousands of generations of evil gittery. There’s Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, following fully on from Han Solo, getting to say the impossible sugary nonsense at which Harrison Ford occasionally baulked, and coming to the conclusion that it takes a village to do the work of one General Princess Leia Badass Organa. And of course, if you’re watching The Rise Of Skywalker for fairy tale fun in the stars, or for full-throttle space opera with the clashing of good and evil archetypes, you’re in the right place, because this movie has all that by the bucketload, and is determined to leave nothing in the tank. You’ll absolutely be entertained by what we’re told is the final instalment in the Skywalker saga. You just probably won’t be able to resist scratching the itch of knowing that you’ve seen most of this before, and that most of it, by virtue of not being a knowing, self-referencing re-run, felt better that first time.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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