Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Overwrought and middling

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, which is belatedly released in South Korea this week, is an overwrought and middling finale to what has excited and entertained us during last four years. After “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017), I and many other audiences were eager to see where our beloved franchise would go next, but, alas, the people behind “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” choose only safe options as discarding all those new interesting possibilities shown from its two predecessors, and that is really dissatisfying for us.

As many of you remember, the Resistance led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) managed to evade the pursuit of the First Order at the end of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, but it subsequently turns out that there is a far bigger threat to the Resistance. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the dark lord of the Sith who has been presumed to be dead since the climax of “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (1983), returns, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who recently became the Supreme Leader of the First Order after killing his mentor/predecessor, comes to ally himself with Palpatine after locating where Palpatine and his vast army, which is called the Final Order, have been hiding for many years.

Discerning that they must act quickly before it is too late for them and other members of the Resistance as well as the whole galaxy, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) embark on their risky journey across the galaxy to find a certain important object which can lead them directly to a hidden planet where Palpatine and the Final Order lurk. As hopping from one planet to another, our main characters are relentlessly pursued by Kylo Ren and his army as expected, but, fortunately, they find a clue which may help them finding that important object, though they have to ask for some assistance from an old associate of Poe.

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In the meantime, Rey cannot help but feel more troubled as remembering not only the childhood years she vaguely remembers but also what was previously exchanged between her and Ren via, yes, the Force. Although they are still opposing against each other before, Rey is reminded again of how much she and Ren are spiritually connected with each other, and Ren, who is drawn to Rey as much as she is attracted to him, is ready to persuade her to join the dark side of the Force, especially after learning something crucial about her past from Palpatine.

After the narrative point where Rey and Ren’s strained relationship culminates to an action sequence unfolded at a spot associated with “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”, the movie goes all the way for the following climactic part strewn with nostalgic parts here and there, and director/co-writer J.J. Abrams, who previously directed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, busily delivers one big spectacle moment after another. Although often reaching to the level of overkill in my humble opinion, the action sequences in the film are mostly skillfully handled on the whole, and you may enjoy some small details glimpsed during the climatic part if you are a big fan of Star Wars movies.

However, unfortunately, the movie is also frequently hampered by its overwrought and artificial plot as well as its superficial handling of characters. While I was particularly disappointed with the contrived aspects of Rey’s emotional journey along the story, I was dissatisfied with the eventual moment of resolution between Rey and Ren around the end of the film (Is this a spoiler?), and I also did not like the under-utilization of several notable supporting characters in the movie including Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a plucky young mechanic who does not have much to do here compared to her compelling adventure with Finn in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”.

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Nevertheless, the lead performers of the movie remain strong as before. While Daisy Ridley ably holds the center with her solid performance, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver are also effective in their respective roles, and Carrie Fisher, whose appearance in the film is based on CGI due to her untimely death in late 2016, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and Ian McDiarmid comfortably fill their expected spots. In contrast, several notable supporting performers in the film including Domhnall Gleeson, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Ackie, and Kelly Marie Tran are mostly stuck in their functional roles, and that is another disappointing aspect of the film.

Although I was not as enthusiastic about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as many other audiences mainly because it follows the footsteps of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977) a bit too much, I came to have some expectation in the end at least, and that was why I was so surprised and delighted by “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, which, as breaking boundaries just like “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), boldly opened the door which might lead us to more new and fresh things to come. Sadly, Abrams, who is a fairly competent filmmaker but, as shown from his recent Star Trek films, usually stays and plays safe inside his genre playground without really trying hard to expand it like Ryan Johnson did in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, merely doubles or triples what we already saw before, and that is all we can get here.

Anyway, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is not entirely without entertainment despite being quite disappointing compared to its two predecessors, and I was not bored much during its 142-minute running time because of a number of good elements including John Williams’s epic score. Considering its current worldwide box office success, I think we may get another Star Wars trilogy 10 or 20 years later, and I really hope that they will serve us a finale better than this misfire.

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