Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: #2: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

We’re nearly at the bottom, and my pick for this week—2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—probably is a bit of a giveaway as to my Number 1 pick.

The Rise of Skywalker is the final film in the Star Warssequel trilogy,” itself a bloated mess of plot holes, Mary Sues, wooden characters, and destroyed legacies.  It’s not the worst film in the trilogy, but it’s pretty dang close.

Unfortunately, J. J. Abrams did not have a lot to work with here.  Rian Johnson took an entertaining retread of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), 2015’s The Force Awakens, and totally ruined it in 2017’s The Last Jedi, a film with an unlikable, purple-haired admiral; an unlikable, SJW mechanic; and a somewhat likeable but ridiculous flying Princess Leia.  Abrams had to salvage that utter disaster of a film to cobble together the loose strands and inconsistences of the wrecked trilogy into something vaguely cohesive.

When I first saw The Rise of Skywalker in the theater, I had two sensations.  The first sensation was going into the theater:  I had no joy.  I felt like I was watching a Star Wars film out of a sense of obligation.  Coming from a lifelong fan of Star Wars, that would have been inconceivable to me just a few years earlier.  I even lived through the prequels, and I was still excited to see each of those films!

The second sensation was a sense of grim satisfaction that Abrams undid everything ridiculous that Johnson had done in the previous film.  I actually left thinking it was pretty good compared to The Last Jedi, which is saying eating Grape-Nuts is good compared to eating a dog turd.

Upon further reflection, however, I realized that Grape-Nuts and The Rise of Skywalker are both still pretty bad, even if they aren’t as bad as their inferior counterparts.

The Rise of Skywalker, as I recall from seeing it in the theater, is basically Daisy Ridley and her soyboy hangers-on running around looking for a Sith wayfinder so they can get to the planet where Emperor Palpatine—yes, he’s back!—is hiding out.

The whole thing is a ridiculous treasure hunt.  At one point, Rey/Daisy Ridley holds up a Sith dagger whose outline perfectly fits the sea-tossed wreckage of the second Death Star, which would require her being in that exact spot from that exact angle, and assuming that the Death Star didn’t lose any of its shape or components amid a storm-tossed sea.

Anyway, they finally get to the Sith planet, Exogol, and Emperor Palpatine reveals (spoiler alert) that he’s Rey’s grandfather (reversing Rian Johnson’s claim that Rey is a nobody, which actually was a somewhat interesting take on the character).  Naturally, Rey barely struggles against the reincarnated Sith Lord, and the good guys win against a massive fleet of Star Destroyers that Palpatine apparently was conjuring up out of thin air.

Yeesh.  Where to begin?  Sure, when I first saw it, it was kind of cool to find out that Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter.  It would explain her massive powers and abilities with virtually no training, and the ease with which she skated through these films, never enduring any real or lasting hardship.

Then I realize it was just a lazy copout to justify this character’s abilities, and to echo the major theme of the original trilogy—Luke Skywalker’s own dark parentage, with a chance at redemption (Kylo Ren, the sequel trilogy’s cut-rate Darth Vader, reforms in this film to become Ben Solo).  Except in the original trilogy, Luke sincerely had to grow and evolve over the course of three films, often making a lot of stupid or hasty mistakes on the way.

Rey, on the other hand, never doubts herself or her intentions, and Daisy Ridley just stoically squints through three films.

Like 2019’s Captain MarvelThe Rise of Skywalker is another example of Hollywood’s belief that a “strong female character” means a “flawless female character.”  Female characters can be strong and have to struggle—just look at Princess Leia!  Things don’t go so well for her in The Empire Strikes Back (1981), but the setbacks of those films force her to grow as a character.  Everyone loves Princess Leia because she has to overcome.

Now, we just get these overpowered female characters that, at ninety pounds, improbably flip around men twice their size.

Meanwhile, the male characters in these films go from being kind of cool to being dopes, all just hanging on Rey’s every word.  The character of Finn really suffers—he could have been an interesting character as a former Stormtrooper and potential love interest for Rey.  Instead, he just becomes a buffoon by the third film.

I could go on and on—much like The Rise of Skywalker itself.  But I think I’ll leave it here.

Rest in Peace, Star Wars.

17 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: #2: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

  1. I’ve never been a Star Wars fan. I’ve been a long time sci-fi fan, both written format and movie, but seeing the first movie one time was more than enough for me. But maybe that whole ‘franchise’ is really a guy thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve watched the originals and they’re okay; watchable, sort of enjoyable but not as groundbreaking as Star Wars fans seem to think it was. Compared with the tripe that’s come out since, the originals are masterpieces. At least we had a journey to follow from A New Hope to Jedi. In the new films, there is no journey – the Jedi heroine apparently has learned everything there is to know and more, with no training necessary. It’s a bizarre way to make a film but we’re living in the age of neo feminism; the woman doesn’t need to be mansplained to, as they see it, so the journey becomes moot. I don’t know why anyone would be interested in watching a film that omits the key parts/the aspects that make a film enjoyable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for your comment – it’s a shame that so many studios feel the need to patronise women by depicting them so unrealistically. Apparently, the latest Predator spin-off continues the woke trend – a slip of a native American girl out-performing her tribe’s warriors and also managing to outfight much bigger opponents (including a predator, itself!).

        Liked by 2 people

    • I always felt that Star Wars was over-rated – it has plot holes and too much poor dialogue. I hadn’t seen it at the cinema, and so when it was re-released in 1996, I went to watch it, hoping that the big screen would would make it more enjoyable. Nope.
      The Empire Strikes Back, however, is a very enjoyable movie indeed, but the Return of the Jedi was very disappointing (it failed to remain consistent to what had gone before – Luke’s powers at the end of TESB had suddenly been much reduced) and was full of improbable scenes (and the poor dialogue was back!). That was it for me and I haven’t watched any of the other movies.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re not missing anything, Miles. If you’re not a fan of the original films, you’d find (if you took the step to watch the prequels and sequels) that they’re brilliant compared to what came after. At least the originals took you on a journey. The prequels did that but with very poor acting and from what I understand of the new versions, there is no journey to be had at all. It’s like being given a book with only the ending.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your assessment is correct, Ponty: the original trilogy told a compelling story with lots of character development. The prequels told a story with _some_ development, but lots of bad acting. The sequels just feature a bunch of characters who always win because they’re good guys.

        Liked by 1 person

    • There is definitely much better science fiction out there than _Star Wars_, but I still like the original films immensely. The first film—_A New Hope_—really is an excellent, standalone adventure. _The Empire Strikes Back_ is even better.

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  2. Star Wars, for me, should have ended after the first 3 films. It didn’t need prequels or sequels but like every franchise, producers think they can continue to milk it for every last dollar, regardless of the weak content put out.

    I only found out recently that Johnson was involved in the debasement of the Star Wars legacy; Johnson, in case you don’t know, wrote and directed the superb Knives Out so until recently, I had no idea why the vitriol heading his way. Like a lot of directors, maybe he should have remained doing that type of film rather than taking the big pay cheque and the grand franchise, ruining his own career in the process. Jean Pierre Jeunet did the same when he skipped from quirky French movies to Alien Resurrection as did Guillermo Del Toro when he moved from masterpieces like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth to Hellboy. Stick to what you’re good and leave the tempting 6/7 figure offer on the table. Some things aren’t worth it.

    By the way, I despised the prequels, with the terrible acting, characters and special effects and the only one of the new films I’ve seen (because there was nothing on the box) was the one where Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. That was enough for me to stay the hell away from the rest of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There was such a rich expanded universe, too, in the forms of books, comics, etc., that Disney completely threw out in favor of the dismal sequel trilogy. Sure, some of that stuff was going to have to be tossed, but ALL of it?

      I love _Knives Out_, and I think Rian Johnson can do quite well with “subverting expectations,” but he should not have been let near the Star Wars flicks. In his zeal to “subvert expectations,” he ruined the franchise (although Abrams had already done some damage with the first flick in the sequel trilogy).

      I hear you re: the prequels. I’m not saying they were good—they were not—but they somehow managed to be better, at least from a story perspective, than the sequels.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Then you’ll love this!

        It seems Disney books have done a Star Wars spin off called Padowan where Obi-Wan Kenobi is, wait for it, bisexual.

        Disney are ensuring the almost total destruction of Star Wars as we know it.

        Liked by 1 person

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