The movie has been, as expected, polarizing. I think that’s a requirement for any Star Wars movie now – they can’t be overwhelmingly hated or loved, only overwhelmingly argued over.
Here’s a spoiler free review in case you didn’t heed the title…
It’s a serviceable movie. It had the ILM pretty that I was expecting, the cast was on point, and I think they handled Carrie Fisher’s death as well as they could. I’m very glad they opted to use only the footage they had and not try to resurrect her with CG. Abrams ignored the majority of The Last Jedi, which was wise, and it felt like some folks in the writers’ room took cues from Rogue One. But it has glaring issues.
The albatross I don’t have a complaint about: I’m ok with (note I am a casual Star Wars fan, like many folks out there) the big arc and Rey being a Palpatine. This 9 movie series is a story of lineage, both in the force and families – continuing to use that as a major plot device is to be expected. She had to come from some prominent force endowed family. It would have been nice to have more of her parents’ story included, but there was a lot to cover. Maybe in a later movie or Disney+ series.
The movie is super crowded. Abrams having to manage finishing out the trilogy without the footing of a second movie made for some rushed, cluttered storytelling. It made sense, mind you, it was just a lot. I imagine that if TLJ was more solid or if Abrams had directed it, Rise of Skywalker would have better pacing and be able to spend a little more time on scenes and ideas. As is, it felt crammed into the allotted two hours and twenty-two minutes.
I have a few nitpicks. The Kylo/Ren force moments should have felt more integrated into the plot, but given how much stuff there was they just stood out and were extra weird. Kerri Russel was wasted, but that seems to be a habit in this set of movies (Laura Dern’s role in TLJ is criminal). The pacing made it hard to care about most of it. And finally, it was predictable, which is hard to escape in franchise movies but it can be done.
I walked out of the theater wondering what the trilogy would have been like if Abrams had seen it all the way through. The major story arcs likely would not change, but the tone of TLJ would be different and it would have been a tighter film with fewer wtf scenes (blue milk and shirtless Kylo) and more exposition for what was to follow. Maybe we could have gotten a real story in The Rise of Skywalker rather than a plotline created around a checklist for the last installment.
This trilogy needed better management.
Kathleen Kennedy has already confirmed that the studio is stepping away from multi-film projects for a while after this. LucasArts will be making series for Disney+ and one-off movies (some of which will likey focus on the characters from this trilogy), which is the right move at this point. The next Star Wars related movie is scheduled for 2022, though no details are known.