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You don’t need a reason to see The Rise of Skywalker, but if you did, it would be Daisy Ridley. Her fierce commitment to playing Rey with integrity, intelligence and a total understanding of the kind of film she’s in lifts every scene she’s in; perhaps knowing that she was their best asset, the Star Wars gatekeepers and J.J. Abrams, this film’s director, have given her plenty. This is resolutely Rey’s film, and Ridley steers us through it, holding it together even as some of the other moving parts came very, very close to completely derailing it.
The first two acts particularly hold together and are pretty fun, as they present us with the best version of Star Wars, which is three people, a droid and a wookie in a cockpit or skulking around an alien landscape, bantering. Those three are Rey, Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega), and their scenes are fun, harking back to those moments on the Falcon between Luke, Leia and Han. And, again relying on proven players, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels, who’s now 73) is given a lot to say. As usual, he’s the funniest character.
But the third act is not good, getting into the worst elements of Star Wars: endless mumbo-jumbo about the force, family lineage, bloodlines, destiny and so many versions of The Empire it will make your head spin. The Big Final Conflict is a cinematic disaster; suffice to say that it all comes down to white lines spizzing out of the Emperor’s fingertips, and that, frankly, is bullshit.
Among the good and the bad, Adam Driver does his best with Kylo Ren, but the material is weak; unlike Rey, the screenwriters simply haven’t known what to do with poor Kylo, and his journey is muddy and ultimately inconsequential. And that’s the problem with the movie as a whole: except for Rey, no-one’s really got anything to do of any consequence. The script chases itself in circles trying to give us an ‘ending’ where the actual story – the story of Luke Skywalker – ended ages ago, among the Ewoks, at the conclusion of Return Of The Jedi. That film’s climax, by the way, is shamelessly ripped off (riffed on?) here, and badly.
Abrams, as he did with The Force Awakens, bends over backwards to service the fans (try that at home), resulting in some very awkward cameos. Besides the original triumvirate – Carrie Fisher here being played by, it seems, a digital version of her dead self – Billy Dee Williams’ Lando returns to actually play a part, but he’s terrible. While Ridley is in a Star Wars film, Williams acts like he’s at a Star Wars convention.
Ultimately the third act problems of this film are a big problem. They end the whole shebang on a bummer note. When the film gets replayed at home in years to come, I reckon it will more often than not get stopped at a particular point, leaving the cartoonish Emperor to endlessly await his destiny, stuck in a cosmic limbo of bad make-up and itchy fingers.