✰✰✰ (out of five)
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.
Review: Just so we're clear, I am not one of THOSE "Star Wars" fans. You know, the ones who dumped on "The Last Jedi" from the comfort of their keyboards and Twitter handles. I knew "Last Jedi" was going to be turning the Force on its head--that is Rian Johnson's MO. He toys with the cliches of a genre--time travel in the phenomenal "Looper" and currently twisting murder mystery in "Knives Out"--and turns it on itself.
"The Force Awakens" was the nostalgia to suck those prequel haters back into the fold. And I liked that, too. Once they were hooked on again, Johnson's could really explore and try something new. So I knew what I was going to get, wanting to be open-minded to the possibilities. I did not feel let down in the least. The dynamic shift to "let the past die," to quote dark side guy Kylo Ren, was extraordinary. It's basis of moving beyond the three bowls of comfort food--the galaxy is massive and part of a larger universe, so why just focus on the three? Well, that's what fans whined, and they made a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company bow to them.
"The Rise of Skywalker" is a copout to the foundation Johnson laid out, a knee-jerk reaction to retcon fans' displeasures and provide them with the lip service they wanted, not what they needed. Disney gave in to trolls, essentially. Sure, they don't outright undo everything "Last Jedi" did, but to say "Yeah, I know we said that, and its true... sorta. But let me explain" is extreme stretching of what was established. Director JJ Abrams loves his time travel, something I consider retcon to be a form of.
It's like Obi-Wan said to an annoyed Luke in "Return of the Jedi"--"So what I said was true... from a certain point of view."
A prime example relates to Ren's other awesomely dramatic point in "Last Jedi" directed at Rey, revealing her parentage to be a moot point, not questioning but stating, in a nutshell, she has not part in this story and yet she is still here. What does Abrams do? Kylo talks to Rey via Force-time (trademark!), "Yeah, what I said was true... BUT... that's because of THIS!" Seriously? When that scene came up on opening night, a man a row or two behind me said, "Damn." Not an enthusiastic, mind-is-blown exclamation, but one out of exhausted, exacerbated, ho-hum whatever.
I'm with you, pal.
And yet, despite all of that, my love for the franchise comes through. I did not entirely hate "Rise of Skywalker." Lando is back! Keri Russell plays a badass bounty hunter! And we meet Babu Frik, the cool, cute and cuddly successor to Baby Yoda. We have some genuine moments of fun and excitement. But with its nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime, it grows long in the tooth and loses me before the fact.
At times, I felt like I wasn't even watching a "Star Wars" movie. It's technical aspects, especially the cinematography, don't settle in to what I am used to when it comes these pictures, leaving an asterisk next to it's title in my catalog. I suppose those angered at Johnson will be satisfied regardless of that, especially since it satisfies them and not the narrative. And maybe I'm not being as open-minded as I was with "Last Jedi." But that's how I see it.
From a certain point of view.