Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Ep. IX)

A course-correction after the misstep of Last Jedi that retcons ~all its sacrilege, *embracing* series lore instead of erasing it – with fan service abounds, viscerality in pacing, & the best cinematography of SW-history, but an overstuffed narrative. 7.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A Broken Franchise In Need Of The Force

Can J.J. Abrams Return To Finish What He Started & Save This Trainwrecked Trilogy?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

A series in disarray. Declining profit-shares, boardroom politics, & waning interest in a $4.2-Billion asset that just happens to be one of the most storied & beloved franchises in film history (and is rightfully treated/guarded as such by its fanbase). After Rian Johnson almost broke the franchise with a pretentious, pointless-subversion dumpster-fire that spit in the face of original lore, I and millions of others hesitated at the prospect of going back into that theater and giving Disney/Star Wars another chance. I am glad I took the risk though: they’re finally repenting for their sins and listening to fans, turning the ship away from the corpse-riddled iceberg mines of dead franchises past in a new hope of returning this broken series back to its shelf of previous glory. A course-correction after the trainwreck of Last Jedi that retcons almost all its sacrilege, embracing series lore instead of erasing it – with fan service abounds, viscerality in pace, a return to hope-driven tonal mixes, & the best cinematography of any SW movie to date – despite an overstuffed, rushed narrative that needed a 2020 release delay, TROS is a surprisingly-adequate end to The Skywalker Saga.

The Breathtaking Visual Canvas

The Most Cinematographically Stunning Star Wars Movie Ever Made, TROS Is Optical Opulence with Diverse Shots & Sets

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

The Rise Of Skywalker achieves something impressive over its franchise kin: spectacular cinematography. While many of the SW movies have been visually-fine by way of their gargantuan budgets exponentially-above anything else in the movie industry, TROS is the first to eye-catchingly pay attention to cinematographical flair as well. Dan Mindel’s crisp shot construction, intricate compositional placement, and diversity of eye-popping backdrops caught my eye and elicited auditory ‘wow’s’ several times in the theaters – as is evidenced by the positively-stunning shot above this paragraph. From desolate tree fields that make the red in Kylo’s lightsaber pop to lush green jungles of Dagobah-reminiscent Force-training to chilly arctic towns straight out the annals of Christmas movies of yesteryears (also playing up the series’ classism undertones) to desert canyons and underground tunnels to Icelandic seaside wave-crashing ships, there is not a flaw to be found visually in this masterful display of ocular detail that anchors the film in some classicism and sensory opulence (as well as gives it experiential value).

A Return To Roots

Character Development Arcs Saved By A Herculean Effort From Abrams & TFA Crew

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

The character development of TROS is surprisingly-fine as well – especially impressive given its wonky trajectory-change in TLJ that had to be retconned to get back on track to J.J. Abrams’ original vision from TFA back in 2015. Kylo is given the lion’s share of development – redeeming him all the way from vicious, bloodthirsty killer power-hungry to the point of eliminating any conceivable threat to his throne to realizing the errors of his ways and renouncing itall by film’s end (could’ve used a little more finely-tuned convincing more than Han’s vision & Leia’s fall, but nonetheless: the character trajectory works). Rey is also aligned back on a track that ends her arc well, finally learning the mystery of her lineage and parents’ disappearance before renouncing the evil in her blood to accept the way of Skywalker (again, wish the arc was a little more finely-tuned as I’ll discuss, but the arc works at far-glance). Poe is given a more fleshed-out backstory of his home planet he used to run spice in & even found pseudo-love in, none of the awful characters from TLJ are anywhere to be found, and tons of original canon characters are weaved in beautifully for a film that’s a bit chaotic, but works character-wise with somehow-achieved arcs that give the characters passability moving forward in canon.

A Violent, Thrilling Pace

A Visceral Speed In Breakneck Tone From The Opening Credits Roll; An Energy Wildly Jumpstarting Your Heartrate & Senses

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

The pace is simply striking. Viscerally-thrilling from its opening sequence of Ren in the forest taking out an entire army of challengers with his bare hands, TROS might be the quickest and most balls-to-the-wall Star Wars film I can remember. Its bludgeoning-fast swirl of a ride will have you at the edge of your seat almost the entire (brisk) 2.5 hour timeframe, and – while it even gets a bit chaotic at times by just how train-like it pushes full-steam-ahead – it’s a film whose entertainment-pace (that’s also balanced with soft character moments and build sequences at times, especially later-on in the screenplay) I appreciate and is anything-but-boring.

A Pure Star Wars Score

A Sweeping J.W. Orchestral Score That Feels Classically-Star Wars – & The Best Of Late

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

The score of TROS also deserves marked praise. If there’s something that Disney – for all other flaws, jokes, studio mandates, & interferences – usually delivers on, it’s orchestration – and this is no different. One of the most sweeping orchestral scores of the series, ranging from triumphant brass sequences to epic booming drumrolls and choir chants thunderously dotting the return of Palpatine to sweet, saccharine hope-driven flute and string serenades, John Williams has once again outdone himself with what might be the most rangeful and power-driven Star Wars score of at least the new trilogy.

Retconning Almost ALL of TLJ’s Sacrilege

A Love-Letter That Embraces Series Lore Instead Of (Pretentiously) Erasing It

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

Abrams is on a mission as well in TROS: retcon & obliterate any *malignant shred* of Last Jedi’s cancer from the sanctity of his original trilogy vision – and it’s brilliantly-savage how he does so. TROS is almost the *antithesis* of TLJ, and real fans could not be happier that it fixes almost everything R.J. broke. No Porgs screeching every other scene as consumerist product placement, no Rose Tico tokenism given a completely-pointless B-arc for no reason but #woke diversity-pandering (I’m Asian too and don’t want to be given roles off a checklist like chores and instead earn them), no Disney-isms in forced jokes and cringy one-liners they’re too focused on full-storytelling mode trying to right this ship here to worry about for once, and – best of all – no mindless subversion without purpose but its own (cheap) sake and to pad the ego of its director – or disrespecting original canon. Even Luke comes back just to completely flip and renounce his characterization and TLJ arc entirely, along with many characters coming back as a show of embracing series lore Ep. VIII tried to (pretentiously & condescendingly) shun. It feels like Star Wars is given an exorcism on screen right before our very eyes of all the demons Ep. VIII left, and the end result is a film that deserves praise for so swiftly listening to fans and purifying the series and lore again.

A Thank You To The Fans

*Tons* Of Easter Eggs & Fan Service From The Entire Skywalker Saga – An Experience Lifelong Fans Will Feel Excited By Again

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

The amount of fan service in the film is *unreal.* TROS really does feel like a final celebration of what we’ve come to know as Star Wars history – bringing back everything from Easter Egg creature-homages to a whirlwind of surprise cameo’s enough to make any fan go nuts. Lando, Luke, Han, Leia, C3PO, R2D2, Palpatine, & everyone in between is back in this canvas of fan appreciation that feels like a celebration instead of masochism festival – once again embracing & respecting series heritage & lore instead of disrespectfully shunning it, even to the point of ending on a shot bringing the series back full circle to where it started over 40 years ago with a graphic-match desert sequence that looks exactly like where Luke first started his journey. TROS is a compelte-180 anyone who claims to be a SW-diehard will adore & find long-awaited solace in once again.

The Big Surprise Of The Holidays

The Return Of The Dark God Of Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine; A Reveal Steeped In [Literal] Shock-Value That Electrifies TROS

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

Finally, going hand-in-hand with this fan-servicing return to roots, the dark god of Star Wars is back and better than ever: Emperor Palpatine. From that viral first laugh at the end of trailer 1, I knew this was going to be special and just the right amount of kick and shock value (literally) to jumpstart this broken-down car back to reach the finish line. Ian McDiarmid’s dark lord is *unconscionably* evil in every remote sense of the word – whose demonic voice and appearance alone was enough to send chills up society’s spine since he first appeared decades ago. Comparatively though, his TROS appearance is next-level evil – exponentially more powerful enough to cause lightning storms with his bare hands (left the crowd speechless in my theater), ruling from the shadows and an underground labyrinth that feels like the pit of Hell by even the broken chants of his legions of foolish followers screaming out for bloodthirsty salvage from this pain, and a zombified appearance with rotting skin, black extremities half-fallen off, and eyes that glow in the deadest night for a look that will haunt your nightmares. One of the epitome characters of Star Wars magic is given an epic sendoff and utilized for peak villainous opposition to take the pressure off Kylo & his knights – to fantastic antagonistic results.

The Flaws

An Overstuffed, Messy Storyline That Needed Better Plans & A 2020 Release Delay

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

Now, the flaws. And there is a massive one. While the storyline is okay at far-glance, it’s *incredibly* messy and overstuffed – really neeeding to be pushed back to 2020 for a cleaner product. You can just feel how rushed and not well-storyboarded the script & plot was from inception – a chaotic array that does deserving leeway for its impossible position having to retcon its entire predecessor film’s sacrilege before moving forward with its own storyline, but is fatty enough to shock you coming from Abrams’ usual reservoir/portfolio. Kylo’s arc needed far more exposition and convincing to give up entirely on his callous villain pursuits before going redemptive-good guy in the finale (even though I like the character development and trying something different than Vader), Rey’s arc is great but I wish they explored the Sith visions angle and explained her parents’ backstory more, Palpatine’s involvement needed more clarification, and Finn.. well, he’s just still a pretty awful, uninteresting character (by no fault of John Boyega).

What Ends Up Fine..

Could Have Been SO Much More

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

What results then is a fine ending, but one you can’t help but wish was SO much more – especially when seeing the strong intangibles of its sensory accompaniments. I thoroughly don’t understand why they couldn’t have pushed back release date to Christmas 2020 or even Summer 2020 if you wanted to save 6 months, fine-tune the story, double or triple-check its sanctity, and not be competing with a free alternative by your OWN hands in Mandalorian shaving away ticket purchases from theatrical releases. While TROS ends one of the most storied and influential sagas in movie & blockbuster history passably, it’s disappointingly less than the Endgame-level sendoff it deserved & could’ve been with cleaner planning.


A Decent End To The Skywalker Saga

A Course-Correction After TLJ That’s Better In Almost Every Way & Closes The Original Saga On An Adequate (But Irresolute) Note

Photograph Courtesy Of: Lucasfilm

Overall, The Rise Of Skywalker does enough to serviceably (albeit ~disappointingly in that it could’ve been so much more) end one of the most famous – and difficult – series in moviemaking. A course-correction after the trainwreck of Last Jedi that retcons almost all its sacrilege, embracing series lore instead of erasing it – with fan service & Easter Eggs galore, viscerality in pace, a return to hope-driven tonal mixes, & the best cinematography of any SW movie – despite an overstuffed, rushed narrative that needed a 2020 release delay, TROS is a passably-adequate (albeit somewhat irresolute) end to what we knew as Star Wars going forward.

Official CLC Score: 7.5/10