In 2019, three highly beloved series came to an end. First, it was Game of Thrones. The last season of the Tv show dropped in April, and it was everything we hoped it would not be. It was rushed and did a disservice to every beloved and interesting character the series took almost a decade to build.

Then came Avengers: Endgame which ended a saga started back in 2008 with Iron Man to the best conceivable satisfying end a formulaic superhero mega-franchise could have ever had. It was all that was expected of it and more and even audiences on the fence about comic book movies such as me could attest that Endgame had a certain defining cinematic grandiloquence to it.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is somewhere in between. Given that this trilogy alone was never as sweepingly awesome as the first few seasons of Game of Thrones, it does not feel like that much of a letdown given what we have come to expect from it. But in trying to wrap up a storyline that had been started by the first trilogy some four decades ago, it seems sad for the Skywalker saga to end not on a note of Endgame-esque boom but a whimper.

It would be hard to give even very broad brushstrokes of the plot of the film without mentioning some spoilers. But then again it seemed very unfair to keep from audiences a plot point the filmmakers should have been slowly building up over the years instead of sneaking it into the last movie.

For this reason, I will not do any favours to Disney from keeping this plot element from readers –  Sheev Palatine (Iam McDiarmid), aka Darth Sidious, is not dead. He is not just alive, he also possesses dark secrets to cloning super villains, such as Snoke, and has a massive army well-equipped with star destroyers to take back control of the galaxy.

The filmmakers do not bother to show how Palpatine survived after Darth Vader threw him down a reactor shaft of a Death Star in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Nor do they say how Palpatine came to acquire such awesome powers never heard of in the entire Star Wars film franchise or how he was able to build such a massive fleet of Star Destroyers without anyone in the galaxy, neither the Resistance nor the Final Order, being the wiser. Palpatine is just there, and we are expected to quietly swallow it.

Kylo Ren, the discount Darth Vader of this trilogy, finds Palpatine in his super-secret hideout, Exegol, and strikes a deal with the powerful lord of the Sith to kill Rey in return for the fleets.

Rey too sets out on a mission to seek out Palpatine after it is confirmed that he is still alive. She is joined by Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Issac), Chewbacca, BB-8 and C-3PO, while R2D2 and Rose Tico (Kelly Merie Tran) stay behind for no believable reason.

Leia Organa does not get much to do in the movie, mostly as a result of Carrie Fisher’s untimely death and the filmmakers’ refusal to use computer-generated images of the actor, but every single fan pleaser is brought back to assist the characters in their quest to defeat Palpatine and help the film get good box office numbers.

What is astounding is the number of powers force-sensitive characters suddenly gain in this movie. Users of the Force can now heal wounds, bring back the dead, teleport matter and drain the Force out of other users. Perhaps die-hard Star Wars fans familiar with the non-canonical books, comic books and television series of the franchise’s cinematic universe are familiar with some of these. To me, it was a little jarring and significantly reduced the stakes in the movie.

With The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams proves that the terrible handling of the ending of Lost was not a fluke. He may be fantastic at setting up a plot, but he is awful at wrapping them up. Co-writing this movie with Chris Terrio, who also penned Justice League, efforts are put into pandering to the lowest denominator instead of taking risks, raising the stakes and maintaining consistency.

Most importantly, this movie tries to be anything but The Last Jedi, the prequel of the trilogy that fans really hated. Rise of Skywalker was instead envisioned to be a return to the nostalgia of The Force Awakens.

Therein lies the biggest mistake. The Force Awakens was never that good a movie. Abrams simply repurposed the plot from A New Hope. The Last Jedi, though far from flawless because of a number of plot holes that were hard to overlook, instead tried to bring Star Wars into an age of pessimism. It did not give easy answers to the questions it raises and tried its best to redefine Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn and Poe as more than just the new generation’s Luke, Darth Vader, Leia and Han Solo. It tried to give them a new legacy.

But the fans were mad so now we have Rise of Skywalker, a film reminiscent of the prequel trilogy.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 28,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1026]

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