Every week or so, Red Wing Cinema 8 Manager Jesse Stewart and RiverTown Multimedia Reporter Matthew Lambert talk about a new movie coming to area theaters. This week is "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the ninth film of the Skywalker series, which draws to an epic conclusion.
Jesse Stewart: Here’s how I see this movie: I feel this would’ve been a better sequel to "The Force Awakens." And not so much a final film, nostalgic, slap in the face, screw you to "The Last Jedi." That's what this was.
Matthew Lambert: Yes.
JS: I had this feeling after seeing "The Last Jedi," which again, I hold very high with "Empire Strikes Back," I think this trilogy totally carbon copied (the original trilogy). You had "A New Hope," broke all kinds of records and set the standard for sci-fi, bravo George Lucas. And then you have "Empire Strikes Back," which I feel was a monumental film. When it first came out, most people didn’t like it. They were very disappointed like they were with "The Last Jedi." Then you have "Return of the Jedi," which ended up being a very fun movie. I felt like it did the same kind of trend.
ML: So I rewatched "Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" this week. And when I watched "Force Awakens" that, more than ever, and I saw this movie in theaters multiple times when it came out, it was kind of blah. It’s a mediocre kind of I’ve seen this all before. For "The Last Jedi" there’s an actual tangible plot. There’s physical and emotional stakes. There’s a narrative structure present.
JS: Same with "Empire Strikes Back."
ML: Those things are not present in "Force Awakens" and they’re really not present in "Rise of Skywalker."
JS: Wasted characters.
ML: This movie takes off and it never comes down. It is let’s see how much fighting we can get into a two-and-a-half hour span. "The Last Jedi" had so many moments of, just take Rey and Kylo Rey, all those interactions.
ML: Setting up their relationship. And it’s so disappointedly paid off in this one that, again, the slap in the face to "The Last Jedi" Director Rian Johnson, who is still scheduled to make Star Wars-related content. I don’t know how he could be after this. They basically made a statement with this movie that what Johnson did was not gospel. What (Director) J.J. Abrams is is apparently gospel.
JS: It’s not. I disagree with that.
ML: From a storytelling standpoint, it’s very disappointing. From an action standpoint, and that’s what I would say to encourage people to go, if you want action, lightsaber fights, quippy jokes, if want C3PO to be as extra as possible, this is a great movie for you. If you’re like us, coming off the high from the "The Last Jedi," you’re going to have some serious problems with this movie. I don’t think this movie is as bad as the prequels though.
JS: No. This movie is a gem compared to the prequels. Absolutely.
ML: I’ve seen that as a narrative right now, that this is the worst one ever, oh my god, it is not.
JS: This is far better than the prequel trilogy.
ML: The characters are much better in these movies, even if they are mistreated to whatever degree.
JS: I think Abrams' heart was in the right place as far as "Force Awakens" and "Rise of Skywalker." I think he was going for nostalgia and there were a lot of fans that were disappointed in "The Last Jedi" and I just don’t get it.
ML: One of the things that I was worried about when the trailer came out for this movie that they were going to make Emperor Palpatine a massive part of this movie. And a sort of spoiler, but Billy Dee Williams is in this movie for a little bit, and I was hoping the Emperor Palpatine was going to have a similar role that Billy Dee Williams has where he drops in a little bit. But he’s really a part of the story. And that to me is tough from a logical standpoint.
His place in this movie seems totally wrong. And the problem is, "Force Awakens" sets up this mystery of who is Rey? "The Last Jedi" says it doesn’t matter. This movie says, just kidding to what we learned in "The Last Jedi," and says Rey is actually a part of this big familial structure. That’s clearly saying Abrams was not a part of the meetings for "The Last Jedi."
JS: I don’t think he was.
ML: Because they shouldn’t have made that abrupt of a change between this movie and that movie. Do you think the masses will turn on them now because of this movie?
JS: I do. I really do. I think with the Disney Plus service with “The Mandalorian” and whatever else they have up their sleeve, might work better as a series instead of big screen thing. It has more room to breath, which I felt this last film needed. I almost wish I would’ve seen a 10th film that was spread out and reorganized, because this felt rushed. There was so much going on. It was absolutely insane. I didn’t get a breather.
ML: It does feel like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” You were glad those things were separate from each other.
ML: Instead of having the hour-and-a-half version of “Avengers: Infinity War” and match it with the hour-and-a-half version of “Avengers: Endgame,” because no one will be sitting for longer than that. But Marvel, and you have to give them some serious credit for the way that they plan things and put things in a certain place even if feels like a cog in a machine, but their planning process is great. I don’t think the planning process for the Star Wars people is great.
JS: They definitely needed a better plan.
ML: So I was reading one of my favorite film reviewers from the New York Times Manohla Dargis. She wrote about "The Last Jedi" and she ended it -- and I’ll paraphrase here -- that "Force Awakens" felt like icing. Not a lot of substance there. And icing is good.
JS: Icing is good.
ML: "The Last Jedi" felt like the cake.
JS: Well said.
ML: And for "Rise of Skywalker," this is definitely icing. But icing that’s mashed down with a spoon and spread around a plate to make it look like a lot of icing.
JS: Very true.