Latest Stars Wars Movie
Is Good, But Not Great

Rise of Skywalker’ closes up loose ends, but lacks story development

By Eric G. Stark

With the credits still rolling, the theater still dark, except for the light from the big screen, I stood up and walked two seats closer to my friend, Matt.
I stood over him and another friend, Randy, and for dramatic effect, paused.

I waited until Matt started to grin. He knew I was about to give my analysis on “Star Wars Episode IX: Rise Of Skywalker,” but, not wanting ruin the experience for him, I wanted to gauge his satisfaction in the movie.

In the past I’ve blurted out my reaction and may have been a bit insensitive to others, and in this case, like a few of those insensitive times, Matt bought our tickets two months in advance and reserved nearly the entire back row of Manor Regal Cinema for his friends and family to watch.

There were times he offered the ticket as a Christmas gift or, like this time, at a reduced price, so I didn’t want to come across too harsh on the movie, at least until I heard his review.

“So what did you think?” I asked him.

“It was good,” he said, but he could hear it in his voice, the tone dropped off, like that great meal you tasted last time just wasn’t as good this time around. The reality didn’t live up to the expectation.

“Good, but not great,” I asked. He said, “Yes. It was good.”

I let out a big sigh, and said, “Well, at least I don’t want the director dead after this one.”

It is not a great rating when your best compliment is to say, “Well, at least is wasn’t as bad as the last film.” That was my first reaction, though – “I didn’t hate it as much as the last one.”

And truth be told, after the Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” I stood up and turned to Matt and said,” I want Rian Johnson dead.”

Matt laughed, which allowed me to get the reaction I was striving to obtain.

I meant this figuratively, of course, and in a sense, I got my wish, as fans and critics murdered Johnson’s writing and directing of Last Jedi, the second installment of the Stars Wars sequel trilogy and the eighth in the nine-part saga.

I was mad because I didn’t like the direction Johnson took the saga.

I didn’t like the storytelling in Last Jedi, and I hated how Johnson handled Luke Skywalker’s role in the movie. Oh, the plot was ridiculous – as second Death Star – and I didn’t enjoy the forced romances, either. It felt the lyrics of a J. Giles Band song — “Love Stinks” –
“You love her
But she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can’t win.”

And the fans of the Star Wars series couldn’t win, either, because Last Jedi stunk.

J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio must have agreed, as their writing for “’Rise of Skywalker” appeared to clean up a lot of Johnson’s wrong doings from the previous movie.

Gone in the latest installment was all the love triangle romances — the somewhat annoying character Rose (who out of no where liked Finn) was an non-factor in ROS. In its place were a few subtle hints of romance like Finn saying he never told Rey something.

It let the audience imagine what he wanted to say.

Some reviews say “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” is the best of the recent trilogy, despite the awkward “Last Jedi” corrections (I disagree, believing “The Force Awakens” (2015) is the best of the three – by a long shot), but all these fixes in ROS – like Luke’s role as a kick butt Jedi Master seemed more believable — took too much time away from the movie.

They spent too much time dwelling on the past and not enough on developing the future. It seemed like the film was under a time constraint.

Early on it felt incoherent. It was too chopping. At first I thought it was bad acting, but later thought the writing was weak. It got better as the movie progressed, but a few of the edits were odd.

Like a transporter ship is blown up when Rey and Klyo Ren are exchanging a will of power, so to say, and a beloved character (I won’t reveal in case you haven’t seen the movie yet) appears to die. But moments later we see the character again and were told there two transporters.

I know what I saw. There was one transporter in the scene and it blew up.

There is another scene where I have no idea how the characters get on the ship, get out into space and are waiting for Rey to jump on.

It felt like the storyline could have been developed better. In fact, die-hard Star Wars fans wouldn’t have minded if developing the story better meant stretching the series’ final installment into two movies. This may have eliminated some of the choppiness and made a better story also.

As I said, though, ROS got better as it went along, but by the time it got better, it was almost over. I enjoyed the special effects and the fight scenes – I believe their should have been more – and I liked how Klyo Ren (Ben) went full circle, just like his grandfather, Darth Vader, going from good to bad to good again.

I liked hearing all the jedi voices, though I belive Yoda’s should have stood out more, or as the Jedi Master would say, “Stand out, does he.”

I liked the ending scene with the two suns, as it took me back to first movie, Star Wars Episode IV: “A New Hope.”

Sometimes I wonder if that is not my problem with the Star Wars series. I go back to my youth and compare too much. New Hope came out in 1977 and was so ahead of its time with special effects and the concept. Think about how far we’ve come with special effects and action movies.

That ’77 movie came out when I was five years old, and it was one of the first movies I saw on a big screen, and the only movie my father ever took me to see with just the two of us.

We saw the “Return of the Jedi” — the third movie to come out – in 1983 as a family with my two brothers and mother along.

I thought “Rogue One,” a spinoff movie that came out in 2016, was the closet movie in terms of story, action and editing to the original three movies.

In the late 1970 and early 1980s, these Star Wars action figure dolls were popular for young children (Okay I had them as a kid.)

I wonder if I don’t dwell on the past too much, wanting things like they were –Luke to stay a cool Jedi Master, Leia to stay sexy (and not have her voice so deep and raspy) and Han to get a haircut.

I wonder why George Lucas – the creator, writer and director for Star Wars – sold to Disney and allowed others to write and direct his baby (I guess that was part of the deal when he sold the franchise).

There is just something special about the first three movies that appeared on the big screen. Luke goes from dork to cool. Princess Leia was sexy and Han Solo was this slick, smart-ass cowboy in space. It has humor, but it was subtle, not like in “Last Jedi” where they tried too hard to be funny.

In a way, I’m relieved the series is over. There are no more opportunities for disappointment.

But I wonder what the series would been like if Lucas wrote and directed these last three movies.

How different would he tell the story?

What would my reaction have of been when I stood up and walked to Matt’s theater chair?

Would I have still be forced to settled for good (better than the last one), but not great?