There is a scene early in the Joel Schumacher film Batman and Robin where Comissioner Gordon appears on the batmobile’s mini computer and announces to batman, verbatim: “There’s a new Villain in Gotham, Batman. His name is Mr. Freeze.” There’s an almost identical scene in Rise of Skywalker. After an incredibly sloppy, distractingly brief escape sequence, Poe and Finn announce “It appears that the Sith Lord Palpatine has returned, and he has created an army. The first order has become the Final Order.” Then C3PO must on top of that, explain in excruciating detail that thye have to find the Sith Planet, which is hidden and not on any star charts, because on top of everything else, this movie must beat you over the head with a million new fake space trivia because the dipshit basement dwellers whom this movie was designed for must have their trivia to gatekeep with.
The difference is that Batman and Robin’s sloppy villain introduction has the courtesy to be 1) Much shorter and less wordy and 2) in a movie that is purposefully cartoonish, wacky and absurd. Rise of Skywalker is a serious movie that above all else wants you to feel its weight, epicness and importance. The fact this movie compares unfavorably to Batman and Robin is all the indictment that’s really needed.
It’s actually a different batman movie that I’m reminded of when watching this movie. When trying to think of another movie that so haphazardly tried to smash together the convolutions of its own plot, Rise’s only peer is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first two thirds of Episode 9 feel like it was spliced together on cocaine. About thirty minutes into the movie, our heroes get trapped in quicksand. I checked my phone for the time thinking surely this movie must almost be over, only to find I had only been sitting there for thirty minutes. My perception of time had been utterly obliterated because all of the following had already happened (Don’t worry, still keeping it spoiler free):
Kylo Ren discovers Palpatine is alive > Poe/Finn discover he’s still alive and he has an unexplained Star Forge-esque armada of ships > Escape sequence for said discovery > Rey’s Rocky training montage > C3PO explaining the first objective of the movie like a video game NPC > they meet Lando Calrissian and immediately have a heartfelt goodbye > They complete the first objective just to get Mario’d (your princess is in another castle)
By this point, we’ve already been in about five new planets plus a few brief scenes on Kylo Ren’s star destroyer. If that sounds like I just described almost an entire movie, congratulations, you have more common sense than whatever corporate goon was in charge of the studio notes for this film.
This is ultimately why I described the movie as “Shockingly” bad. Before we get into the insulting and the indefensible, we as an audience have already been subjected to such a poor level of basic filmmaking craftsmanship that even your goes to one movie a year basic suburban family will surely feel like they’ve been afflicted with a concussion by hour one. The movie has deteriorated at every level compared to its predecessor. The shot composition and cinematography have gone from bold, striking and distinct to almost every shot in the film being a medium tripod shot that looks like wet concrete.
Adam Driver, who is having the 2015 Steph Curry breakout MVP season of hollywood actors, gives a weirdly mediocre performance. It is truly bizarre that the man whose performance single handedly elevated The Force Awakens above typical soft reboot mediocrity often misses the mark in the conclusion directed by the same man. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of brilliance from him, but that he spends most of the movie in a constant state of zonked out dopey angst. It speaks to their being more fundamental flaws with the construction of this movie that go beyond director JJ Abrams.
All this first level of badness is slapped on top a deeper level of badness. Even if there was baseline competence in all of the above, it would be impossible to get anything more than a surface level brain-off level enjoyment from the movie because of the plethora of story decisions which are morally and creatively bankrupt. From the moment the teaser trailer revealed that Palaptine would be returning for a 7th(!!!!) installment, fears or such decisions have swirled around the head of anyone with good taste. The creative decisions are in fact more or less identical the worst case scenario anyone with an inkling of appreciation for The Last Jedi thought it would be. The movie has only one creative goal, which is to get alt-right goons and basement dwelling trivia obsessed Neanderthals back on board with the franchise, because ultimately these are the losers who purchase the merch and fuck anyone who wants to see even an ounce of creativity or has even a dash of taste for things outside of the toxic manchild bubble that has become the collective mainstream nerd culture.
Rise of Skywalker is the real life conclusion of a Shakespearian tragedy where the passion project of George Lucas – an anti-consumerist auteur who was described as the “weird one” in a generation of filmmakers that included Bryan De Palma – got sold and pimped until it became just another IP to get stripped for parts like a corporate raider hedge fund purchasing a chain of newspapers. In the process, they made one of the finest films of this decade and then took a diarrhea shart all over it, as if there was some devious plot to intentionally make us submit to our corporate Disney overlords via pop cultural torture.
The reality is much more mundane. A boring, conventional director who was completely out of good or original ideas got his below average movie massacred by a bunch of gutless cowards in suits.