Thirteen ways of looking at ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Readers know I don’t post traditional reviews of Star Wars flicks. Why expend energy on paragraph lengths and introductory clauses? But I’ve few remarks to share about The Rise of Skywalker, a film that reunites the unfortunately named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), the easily startled Finn (John Boyega), and the increasingly callow Rey (Daisy Ridley) against the First Order, helmed by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, eyes haunted by the thought of Marriage Story publicity tours). As if chastened by fan reaction to 2017’s The Last Jedi, the first entry not to give a toss about tradition, Disney has brought back J.J. Abrams to direct. My readers can glean what I think. If not, I can post Keith Harris’ marvelous dismissal.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

1. The Star Wars universe is an infinitely recyclable thing. Lando Calrissian and Chewie can hover the Millennium Falcon under Rey so she can tumble onto its hull like Luke did long ago and far away. We learn Poe was a spice runner and smuggler like Han Solo. The Ghost of Luke can use the Force to raise his X-wing fighter from murky depths as John Williams’ score sets fire to the scenery (when did ghosts get involved in this universe? In Empire, Obi-Wan tartly reminds Luke that he “cannot interfere”?).

2. The mostly silent audience emitted a repulsed groan when Lando hit on Nasty Canasta, or whatever Lupita Nyong’o called her character.

3. Taking a cue from Woody Allen’s loathsome habit, Star Wars handlers have become expert at casting big names who recite the wretched dialogue as if by knife point. I mentioned Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. Take your bows, Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde. Accept your flowers, Keri Russell, doomed to play the helmeted Zorii Bliss as a hood ornament. Squint and you’ll spot Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Resistance trooper. How’s the Shire, Dominic Monaghan?

4. Palpatine had sex? If so, could he come without squealing, GOOOOOD I CAN FEEEEL YO AN-GAAAH!

5. If Rey impressed fans in the first two sequels as a nobody from nowhere who stumbled on her Force-sensitivity, changing her into a hereditary scion strikes me as a vaporizing of what made her interesting. The Skywalkers vs the Palpatines consumes the Star Wars universe like the Bushes vs the Clintons in ours.

6. The Poe-Finn man-love reaches peak hotness just as Disney decides audiences can’t handle it, much to Oscar Isaac and John Boyega’s chagrin.

7. However, we do get an insert of two women kissing during the celebratory finale — a reminder that a straight white male directed and co-wrote this enterprise.

8. If a green and blue lightsaber can mate and produce a yellow one, surely Poe and Finn can do more than squeeze each other’s padded shoulders?

9. The audience is so primed for Beloved Canon Character Makes Appearance that Han and Leia’s washed right over them. It’s particularly embarrassing in Harrison Ford’s case: Abrams looks like he timed the ten-second delay between his first and second lines of dialogue as an applause moment. I could also sense the audience’s exhaustion as a character repeated for the six thousandth time in a Star Wars movie a variation on IF WE LOSE THIS BATTLE, WE WILL HAVE LOST EVERYTHING WE’VE FOUGHT FOR SINCE THE OIL EMBARGO. Nothing is at stake because everything is at stake (see below).

10. It has not gone unnoticed that Abrams, in another capitulation, has shriveled Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico to barely a walk-on (Finn ignores her in a pointed scene). This goes double for Finn, reduced to playing the guy who yells REY! DON’T! and REY, COME BACK! when it’s obvious she’s fighting for her life or something.

11. Grant Adam Driver this: when he returns as Ben Solo, he does subtle facial acting suggesting he has seen the light.

12. Movie theater popcorn is terrible and terrible for you.

13. Return to the first point. Return to Point #9. On Tatooine Rey can live in Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s Museum & Gift Shoppe as a Skywalker squatter, waiting until Disney examines The Rise‘s grosses before it approves a reboot. Because impermanence is the way of the Star Wars universe, nothing feels at stake. How can you care about a character if the possibility of his or her resurrection exists? Mark my words Disney/Abrams will begin the first new trilogy chapter with a shot of a sleep-rumpled Poe, yawning and scratching his ribs, as he brews coffee for a dozing Chewbacca.

GRADE: C+

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