STAR WARS: RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019) — first thoughts.

Rise of Skywalker is the first film in the ‘sequel trilogy’ that doesn’t seem worth writing about.

Its tokenism isn’t new, nor its empty gestures toward ‘comedy,’ nor Abrams’s offensively casual attitude toward genocide (as in his Star Trek bullshit and The Force Awakens, the only important fact about Keri Russell’s planet being blown up, for Abrams, is that she and the cute engineer-alien got out first).

Daisy Ridley didn’t suddenly become a great actress in 2019. But the look on her face as she returned to one of the first film’s iconic locations, along with her joy at the simple act of sliding down a sand hill on a piece of metal, brought me to grateful tears…as did John Williams’s autumnal tempos, and his decision to include a restatement of the saga’s opening theme (felt in 2, as against the jubilant 6 of the traditional closer) during the end-credits medley.

CGI still hasn’t advanced to the point where ‘de-aged’ Luke and Leia aren’t repulsive.

Mark Hamill’s comic gifts are wasted. (He was quite good in The Last Jedi; whatever his disagreements with Rian Johnson, he stepped up and did the work in that film.) For the first time in the series, the marvelous John Boyega is wasted, and his lines about The Force seem airlifted in from another series where they presumably made sense.

The plot is incoherent and misshapen — it feels like, and to an extent is, two films squeezed into one.

Adam Driver is one of the best actors we have. His transformation from Kylo Ren to Ben Solo is accomplished with nothing more than a bit of makeup, and a subtle shift in physicality; his almost resigned ‘Come on then’ gesture to the Knights of Ren is one of the only moments of physical ease in the entire series. From the start, the four young leads have been the best thing about the series, the three men in particular, and that’s true of Rise of Skywalker as well.

Despite my lack of effort in seeing the film, for a minute there I wanted something from Rise of Skywalker that I knew JJ Abrams and his corporate collaborators could never deliver. Their work would be 150 minutes of compromise and nonsense even if I came in with no expectations at all… Yet I do wonder at my own longing. I’m grateful for it. That was the (perhaps cynical) point of the exercise, in a way: to remind me that I’m not alone in dreaming, as I’ve dreamt for 40 years, of being a Skywalker.

It’s not a good movie. I had a good time, and was disappointed. My son came away smiling. Happy new year.

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