The ninth and final film of the now rebranded “Skywalker Saga” is the weakest of the the final films, I think, though I haven’t seen the other two in some time. Like the first two, it’s too long. But the real problems centre around how similar it ends up being to previous films in the series and how much fan service there is.
The movie gets off to a rocky start, with us jumping around from thread to thread rapidly with little time to breathe. The sequence involving Finn and Poe feels particularly rushed, like they are trying to cram a lot of plot into very little time. A similar set of sequences would have unfolded much slower in the original films. (Of course, those films didn’t have this much plot.) Once Finn and Poe returned to base and the dumb fantasy dialogue started spewing out of everyone’s moths I actually said out loud “This is pretty bad.”
It did get better, but not way better. Like so many films with big budgets and good casts, the film wants to coast by on spectacle and decent acting but the story here feels like it’s been stolen from a comic book or from The Lord of the Rings and does not actually feel like it belongs in the Star Wars universe. (Keep in mind my engagement with the universe ended decades ago. It’s definitely possible that having a quest to find a stone that will lead our heroes to a place where they will confront ultimate evil is something that happens in some of the books or games or spinoffs.)
But the bigger issue is how that plot eventually comes to echo so many of the previous films.
- There is the infiltration of a Star Destroyer which feels like a deliberate homage to A New Hope
- They go to the Endor system and literally visit the second Death Star
- When the final battle comes, it unfolds remarkably similarly to the end of Return of the Jedi – a “Skywalker” fighting the Emperor with unexpected help from someone we thought was evil, a battle in space seeking to take out a key physical weakness, troops on the “ground” helping to make that happen (there are even Ewoks! briefly), with only a slight spin on that climax.
And, to top it off, there appearances by Leia and Chewbacca (already in this part of the series), plus Han and Luke (who have both died previously) and the Emperor (who both died at the end of Return of the Jedi and who is, somehow, the villain here). This feels like fan service to a degree that I feel like the first two films didn’t indulge in. Yes, all these characters save the Emperor were in the earlier films but their appearances served the plot. (Particularly in that first film.) Here, they just feel like stunts, an attempt to ensure that the cast of the first three films (now middle films) are in the final film.
I also felt like the dialogue was particularly weak compared to the previous two films. Maybe this is just my age – I have less tolerance than ever for serious fantasy that adheres to old genre conventions – but it felt like the dialogue was pretty dumb.
Anyway, I know this is not for me, but I liked this less than the last two films.