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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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After the repackaging of A New Hope that was The Force Awakens and the flawed but adventurous The Last Jedi, JJ Abrams returns with the least innovative Star Wars film since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. The set up from the previous instalments, not to mention the talent involved, carry plenty of potential, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks to further his power, and the Resistance builds its defences against the First Order. It is therefore frustrating that much of what has been set up previously is not explored, especially the egalitarian tropes of The Last Jedi and the creative courage to strike out the territory of this new sequel trilogy. Narrative threads are forcibly rather than organically connected; dramatic stakes are established then abandoned; certain characters appear (aside from the obvious returning stars, what the hell is Dominic Monaghan doing here?) for scant purpose while more interesting figures are side-lined. On the plus side, the central four characters – Rey and Kylo along with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are well drawn and their arc is highly engaging. Abrams also delivers some great set pieces including several lightsaber battles between Rey and Kylo that are both gorgeously choreographed and emotionally weighty. Across the sequel trilogy, these two characters have been the tortured heart, their strange love/hate relationship providing the human clash within the grand scale conflict. Star Wars has long been interested in issues of power, identity, redemption and legacy, and it is pleasing that these receive due attention here. It’s just a shame that the surrounding narrative is such a mess.

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