Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Spoiler Free Review

sw rise

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes with so much baggage it actually feels difficult to write a full review after my initial viewing.

I came out with some hugely conflicting feelings, so rather than a fully considered review, this might best be considered a collection of immediate, post-screening thoughts.

The film, of course, is the conclusion not only to this most-recent Disney backed trilogy (comprising The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), but it also concludes the entire Skywalker saga (preceded by the films in the Prequel and Original trilogies).

Many fans will, I suspect, find The Rise of Skywalker to be a hugely satisfying ending to the nine film cycle, as returning director J.J. Abrams and his team play far safer than The Last Jedi’s controversial Rian Johnson and pack the film to the rafters with many fan-pleasing elements. Perhaps too many.

And this seems to have been done to the detriment of a cohesive movie, as Rise lacks a certain elegance in narrative to play very episodically, with MacGuffins galore leading our heroes from one set piece to the next.

While Johnson seemed determined to use his film to kill off certain elements of past Star Wars films to suggest a new future path, Abrams and co have apparently paid careful attention to the howls of outrage over this approach from the hordes of man babies and over-entitled toxic fans and dialed back on this by making a film about resurrecting the dead. And boy, do the dead rise up in this film. Literally and figuratively.

There are tantalising glimpses of a thematic element, present in all three films of the Disney trilogy, of the Rebellion against the evil Empire spreading out beyond the usual resistance fighters and causing “the people” to find the will to rise up against their oppressors, but it’s almost too casually thrown away here, and not developed strongly enough to add depth to the narrative. A definite missed opportunity which could have given these films a far greater resonance.

It’s also difficult to see that these films were created with a firm road map, rather each feels like a reaction to the previous film, and so this might just be the least satisfying trilogy, thematically and in terms of overall arcs.

The trilogy leads (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac and Adam Driver) all do excellent work, even when their roles are not developed as well as we might have hoped – yes Finn, I’m looking at you. Personally, I’d like to have seen more emphasis on Boyega, who the camera loves, than on time spent with the introduction of a pointless droid or even (sorry, Bill Dee Williams), the largely irrelevant Lando Calrissian.

The film deals pretty sensitively with the death of Carrie Fisher and just about manages to give Princess Leia/General Organa a useful role and an emotional send-off. No mean feat, under the sad circumstances.

And, as mentioned previously, there are (many) nods to fans of all three trilogies (and event offshoots like Star Wars: Rebels), familiar faces and voices and callbacks, visually and thematically, that this mostly works as a wrap-up of the saga with a big bow on it. And of course, much of this may play well on repeated viewings, but it might have been a stronger film had it concentrated on finding its own identity instead. In fact, I’m not sure I could see the film working for newcomers to the saga, and those resistant to the charms of George Lucas’ creation will find nothing to persuade.

Now all this sounds as if I didn’t have a good time. I did, and will almost certainly enjoy revisiting The Rise of Skywalker. As a fan, I can say it certainly leaves the characters where I might have expected them to end up. And, as with all Abrams films, it moves like a bullet and looks beautiful. There’s also a rather nice coda which plays against the expectations of a vocal area of fandom with a central character, and leaves us with a touching return to the saga’s beginning.

Perhaps the film simply had too much baggage to be the conclusion of over forty years of filmmaking, or perhaps my own baggage won’t allow me to enjoy it for what it is.

Right now, however, I’m satisfied but lacking that triumphant, gleeful feeling something with less reliance on its own past might have left me with.

The Final Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Trailer

sw rise crop

Okay, I know what you’re here for, so here’s the final Star Wars trailer ever…

Yeah, well, I lied, obviously. This isn’t the final Star Wars trailer ever, Disney have way too much invested into George Lucas’s baby for that, but it is the final trailer for the nine films which will comprise the Skywalker saga.

And in customary J J Abrams style, it looks beautiful, with some really stunning ‘trailer moments’. Let’s just hope he and the crew are able to pull this together for a satisfying film – it comes with rather a lot of baggage, of course, not least the ire of a lot of entitled man-babies who shed copious fanboy blood and fury blood over Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi.

Personally, I’m rather excited to see how this all wraps up, and now we’ll find out – after forty two years and eight previous movies. I guess I’ll see you in the queue for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on December 20th…

The Skywalker Saga Ends – Rise of Skywalker Trailer

rise

Okay, moving swiftly over that lackluster poster released at the D23 expo this weekend, let’s cheer instead for the minute or so of new footage revealed in this “special look” at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

..well, it certainly looks lovely, but there are a lot of folks out in internet-land worried that J J Abrams will not bring this nine film saga to anything remotely resembling a satisfying end. Of course it’s internet-land and that’s what internet-land folks do, but still, there’s some substance in those worries.

Love it or hate it, Rian Johnson took some intriguing chances with The Last Jedi (chances I mostly loved, by the way) and many feel that Abrams is more likely to play things safe, as he did with The Force Awakens.

We’ll all find out soon enough, as this final film in the Skywalker saga is due to hit our screens in December. Are you excited, scared or just plain bored? Sound off in the usual places for comments.

The Rise of Skywalker Trailer Is Here!

sw9

If ever there was an instance of me not needing to write a single thing for a piece, I guess this is it – the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker…

Just launched at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, this teaser will be sure to have us all speculating like crazy, I know I already am.

We’ll discuss the film in more detail when a fuller trailer hits, but for now let’s just gear ourselves up for December and the end of the nine film Skywalker saga.  But hey, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS AS LANDO CALRISSIAN, EVERYBODY!

Star Wars opens on December 19th.

First Photo From Star Wars Episode IX

sw ix logo

The as-yet untitled (publicly, at least) Star Wars Episode IX director, J J Abrams, has celebrated the first day of filming by dropping the first production photo from the film on his Twitter feed.

Feast your no-doubt eager eyes on this and we’ll talk after the break:

star wars ep 9.jpg

Along with the photo, dominated by the camera but carefully showing John Boyega’s Finn in conversation with someone in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, Abrams left the following touching message:

Bittersweet starting this next chapter without Carrie, but thanks to an extraordinary cast and crew, we are ready to go. Grateful for @rianjohnson and special thanks to George Lucas for creating this incredible world and beginning a story of which we are lucky to be a part. #IX

Star Wars Episode IX will see newcomers Richard E. Grant, Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell join series regulars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo and Billie Lourd, alongside Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian and the final appearance for Princess/General Leia Organa, using unseen footage (originally shot for The Force Awakens) of the late Carrie Fisher.

Expect to start seeing a lot more information creeping out (which I’ll be happy to bring you) as we reach the home stretch for the final film in the current Star Wars trilogy.

The film will open around December 18, 2019.

Castle Rock – “This Place” Trailer Unnerves…

castle-rock

The Stephen King screen renaissance seems set to continue (we’ll conveniently ignore The Dark Tower) with a new series, coming from Hulu this summer.

The network has the very welcome team of King and producer J.J. Abrams working on Castle Rock, from Warner Bros. TV and Abrams’ Bad Robot, and here’s the latest trailer to unnerve you…

The official synopsis for the show reads:

“A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: CujoThe Dark HalfIT, and Needful Things, as well as novella “The Body” and numerous short stories such as “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.”

If that sets your pulse racing as much as it does mine then we can all settle down together on the sofa when the show drops on July 25th. I just recently revisited the 1994 TV mini-series of The Stand, and despite having a screenplay from King himself that sorry production left me seriously jonesing for a genuinely great small screen take on the novelist’s work (short take: King & co pretty much ballsed-up one of his greatest works).

Will Castle Rock float with Andy Muschietti’s It, or will it linger with the undead stench of Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower? We’ll know soon enough…