Episodes II and III (2002, 2005) don’t get a lot of respect. But they are solid Star Wars movies.
Writer/director George Lucas had something that JJ Abrams never will: artistic focus and intellectual purpose.
Mr. Lucas cared about selling tickets and becoming a billionaire, but he cared about his timeless political observations just as much. Episode II is an elegant takedown of people who consider themselves war heroes. A war that you are a winning is a seductive prize for a man’s ego, but Yoda has a different perspective. “Victory? Victory you say?! Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun the Clone War has.”
Episode III was Lucas’s final film. And to his eternal credit as an artist, the legend spent his last months as a director making sophisticated political warnings to humanity.
As III begins, power has made even the Jedi arrogant and blind to their own hubris. Republicanism and bad leadership has led to war and disorder, Chancellor Palpatine observes to Anakin. The Chancellor seductively presents an alternative where the current bad rulers are swept away and replaced by order and peace and enlightened tyranny. This is how democracy dies; with the best of intentions.
If JJ Abrams read this, I don’t think he’d even understand what I’m talking about. He only knows how to make pointless popcorn movies. His “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was the most unoriginal and unwatchable Star Wars movie to date. “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is not that terrible.
It is bad, though. It begins with a “light speed skipping” chase scene that is scientifically improbable at best. There is another lousy action scene where Stormtroopers suddenly start flying with jetpacks. That’s plausible, but JJ Abrams films the chase with so many close-ups and frenetic quick-edits that we can barely follow it.
The finale is laughably nonsensical. Throughout the movie, we are told that finding the bad guys in the Unknown Regions is incredibly difficult. Luke Skywalker himself died without reaching them. Now, suddenly, every average dude with a spaceship shows up to the fight at the exact same time. Completely idiotic.
The biggest problem with “The Rise of Skywalker” is that death doesn’t matter to JJ Abrams. When a character – or even a droid – dies on screen, it doesn’t feel important because you can be sure that he’ll be back in 15 minutes or so.
When even death is just a cynical plot device, events don’t matter and drama is muted. I feel more suspense and concern about the cliffhanger in Mandalorian episode 7 – where Baby Yoda gets kidnapped – than anything in “The Rise of Skywalker.”
“Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is an average, entertaining, amusing little action flick. And we have to be satisfied with that because JJ Abrams is such an untalented filmmaker that this is the best he is capable of. Episode IX a pointless, pathetic end to the great Skywalker saga. At least Star Wars fans still have The Mandalorian.