Mon. Mar 30th, 2020

Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ – The Force Ghost of Banality, Now and Forever

Incestuous family.  Those are the words that come to mind here for a variety of reasons.  What started as a running joke about the lack of continuity turned into a kind of Huxleyan nightmare.  This metaphor works on all kinds of levels.  Luke/Leia, Rey/Ren, Fox/Disney… As one young rebel once said, “I can do this all day.”

Well, he did, until he put on grandpa pants and teleported back to the pre-Civil Rights era to forget everything he spent his life fighting.  STAR WARS is a bit like that.  Invested in the point of no return, Disney and its army of throwaway writers, directors, plots, march off the cliff of sound judgment into the abyss.

THE DEAD SPEAK! THE GALAXY HAS HEARD A THREAT OF REVENGE… shouts the opening crawl.  Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the menace son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess/General Leia (Carrie Fisher),  rage-kills a bunch of creatures on an unnamed planet, looking for a kind of compass to point him to another planet called–  I should know what the name is.  They said it at least a hundred times more than they needed to.  It’s fiery, and red, and black, and its name sounds like a portmanteau of Exxon and Texaco.

The device that guides Ren to this planet is, would you believe it, called a “wayfinder”.  That’s clever.  Light-saber.  Way-finder.  Mind-number.  We’ve no idea why or how Ren comes to discover the existence of this marker.  But I suspect if they felt it was necessary they’d tack on a third hour just to explain it.   But, never mind.  No, really.  Please.

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is two hours and twenty-one minutes of exposition—dialogues explain, in excruciating detail, everything someone or some group does just before they do it—with lots and lots of close ups of individual actors reacting to, presumably, phosphor dots on a green screen stage.  Somewhere in the third act, the last vestiges of the rebellion work themselves up with one of those rousing speeches that should’ve the import of Patton but instead comes across with the jingoistic banality of Pullman (Bill), in Roland Emmerich’s INDEPENDENCE DAY.  Here a wide shot would stress the importance of family, but in director J.J. Abrams’ idea of STAR WARS, every man, woman, and child, is an island—or two if you count an odd jump cut marrying two different close-ups of Oscar Isaac.  It’s as if the filmmakers worried they might bore the audience if any one shot held their gaze for more than two seconds.  How do you make a movie that feels more like a video game than the one-take war film everyone’s talking about?

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