Section: Arts

The Rise of Skywalker disappoints viewers with plot holes

When J.J. Abrams set about revitalizing the Star Wars franchise, he filled 2015’s The Force Awakens to the brim with mysteries and secrets. In some ways, the entire “Sequel Trilogy” was built less on characters and more on questions for fans to discuss, ponder and debate. Who are the parents of the mysterious protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley)? How did the First Order rise to prominence? Will Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) be turned back to the light? Abrams returns four years later with The Rise of Skywalker to deliver answers. Unfortunately, these answers, like the rest of this disappointing final chapter, do not make much sense.

The Rise of Skywalker proves that a good story can’t be built upon mysteries alone. Abrams attempts to use nostalgia, with familiar characters and locations trotted out to make fans swoon, in order to cover for an absence of meaningful answers. While this kind of nostalgia-bait helped The Force Awakens recapture the feeling of the original trilogy, it feels distinctly lackluster after 2017’s The Last Jedi and its artful desire to push Star Wars’ boundaries.

The film begins by informing us that the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned, with an army of Star Destroyers capable of wiping out the Resistance once and for all. It’s always fun to see McDiarmid ham it up as the Emperor, but here his return feels entirely out of place, forcing the fascinating Kylo Ren to play second fiddle to a villain who doesn’t belong to this trilogy. It’s a plot point that exemplifies one of the major issues with this film.

Abrams’ desire to pay homage to the first six Star Wars films constantly conflicts with the narratives of the Sequel Trilogy’s new characters and, as a result, the pacing of Rise of Skywalker suffers greatly. The film doesn’t even have a proper opening scene, instead opting for a compilation of quick, confusing moments. New characters with interesting potential are introduced and then whisked away before we are able to become attached to them. Returning characters, like Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), are relegated to the sidelines — a choice which feels especially disrespectful considering the vehement hatred she received for her performance in The Last Jedi. Certain scenes feel like they should contain the majesty and emotion expected from Star Wars, but almost all of them are bafflingly rushed because the film is overstuffed.

There are certainly highlights within the mess — Rey and Kylo’s chemistry and conflict still shines, and Poe’s (Oscar Isaac) quest to become a true leader is compelling when the film has time for it. The creature and world design is, as always, top notch, and it’s fun to see these likable heroes working together after being separated in previous installments. But at the heart of this film lie the payoffs to The Force Awakens’ secrets: the contents of Abrams’ mystery boxes. These answers range from disappointing to utterly nonsensical, and instead of causing eyes to widen, will probably cause them to roll. In his love of mysteries and speculation, Abrams has forgotten that secrets are tools of the Dark Side.

When J.J. Abrams set about revitalizing the Star Wars franchise, he filled 2015’s The Force Awakens to the brim with mysteries and secrets. In some ways, the entire “Sequel Trilogy” was built less on characters and more on questions for fans to discuss, ponder and debate. Who are the parents of the mysterious protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley)? How did the First Order rise to prominence? Will Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) be turned back to the light? Abrams returns four years later with The Rise of Skywalker to deliver answers. Unfortunately, these answers, like the rest of this disappointing final chapter, do not make much sense.

The Rise of Skywalker proves that a good story can’t be built upon mysteries alone. Abrams attempts to use nostalgia, with familiar characters and locations trotted out to make fans swoon, in order to cover for an absence of meaningful answers. While this kind of nostalgia-bait helped The Force Awakens recapture the feeling of the original trilogy, it feels distinctly lackluster after 2017’s The Last Jedi and its artful desire to push Star Wars’ boundaries.

The film begins by informing us that the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned, with an army of Star Destroyers capable of wiping out the Resistance once and for all. It’s always fun to see McDiarmid ham it up as the Emperor, but here his return feels entirely out of place, forcing the fascinating Kylo Ren to play second fiddle to a villain who doesn’t belong to this trilogy. It’s a plot point that exemplifies one of the major issues with this film.

Abrams’ desire to pay homage to the first six Star Wars films constantly conflicts with the narratives of the Sequel Trilogy’s new characters and, as a result, the pacing of Rise of Skywalker suffers greatly. The film doesn’t even have a proper opening scene, instead opting for a compilation of quick, confusing moments. New characters with interesting potential are introduced and then whisked away before we are able to become attached to them. Returning characters, like Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), are relegated to the sidelines — a choice which feels especially disrespectful considering the vehement hatred she received for her performance in The Last Jedi. Certain scenes feel like they should contain the majesty and emotion expected from Star Wars, but almost all of them are bafflingly rushed because the film is overstuffed.

There are certainly highlights within the mess — Rey and Kylo’s chemistry and conflict still shines, and Poe’s (Oscar Isaac) quest to become a true leader is compelling when the film has time for it. The creature and world design is, as always, top notch, and it’s fun to see these likable heroes working together after being separated in previous installments. But at the heart of this film lie the payoffs to The Force Awakens’ secrets: the contents of Abrams’ mystery boxes. These answers range from disappointing to utterly nonsensical, and instead of causing eyes to widen, will probably cause them to roll. In his love of mysteries and speculation, Abrams has forgotten that secrets are tools of the Dark Side.

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