Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver face off one another in another duel of the fates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Release Date: December 20, 2019

Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver

Rating: 3/4


[The following review is spoiler-free.]

“No one is ever really gone” is truly a phrase that must have been the through line for this latest (and promised final) entry in the aptly titled Skywalker Saga. If you haven’t seen the film already, you’ll have an idea as to why once end credits roll. Despite its lukewarm reception from both critics and audiences alike, the film has gone on to be another billion-dollar hit ensuring more to come in the popular space epic franchise. Since 2017’s critically acclaimed and incredibly divisive The Last Jedi, much remained to be accounted for and resolved in this final film of Disney’s Sequel Trilogy. With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it’s best to say there’s much that is had and more to be wanted.

Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Oscar Issac (Poe Dameron), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Finn (John Boyega) travel across the stars in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Roughly a year after the events of The Last Jedi, the film starts off with an enraged Kylo Ren seeking to confront a revived (and unexplained) Emperor Palpatine who threatens to once again rule the galaxy with a cruel and unforgiving fist. Meanwhile, Rey continues her Jedi training under the guidance of General Leia Organa, and the rest of the gang (Poe, Finn, and Rose included) work to stay one step ahead of the First Order’s plan to wipe out the Resistance. As Palpatine’s Final Order is unveiled, Rey and the rest of the gang must band together in an effort to thwart utter defeat along an interplanetary quest that challenges everyone involved with revelations brought to life in true Star Wars fashion.

Adam Driver as Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

New characters involved are mostly welcome due in part to design and utility: there’s the new and cute droid with a finicky sensibility, a no-nonsense spice runner donning a cool and sleek costume, a defected stormtrooper searching for home and identity, and a witty/entertainingly endearing droidsmith whose height is no more than a foot tall. Regarding characters we know and have followed thus far, it is a nice change in pace to finally see the main crew working together as a cohesive unit with performances from all actors involved balancing both drama and levity well. While the time allotted for key players to punctuate their imprint and impact in the story is satisfying and appropriate for some, it can’t be said for several others that proves to be disappointing if not downright unfortunate.

Babu Frik! Crafty droidsmith and scene-stealing Anzellan is a welcome addition to the epic space saga in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Everything technical about the film is as superb as you’d expect with familiarity to other Star Wars features from decades past: John Williams’s orchestral score consisting of well-regarded themes remains as thrilling and emotional as ever; production design and camera work succeeds in capturing a fully lived-in universe with sweeping action and grand spectacle sparing little expense; and easter eggs scattered throughout nod and wink in fun and amusing ways to keep both casual and diehard fans alert and engaged in near lengthy runtime. On the downside, pacing between acts can feel disjointed at times, and keeping up with the details in narrative and implications revealed requires some of the more serious suspensions of disbelief and logic in any of the Star Wars film to date.

That being said, while The Rise of Skywalker is nowhere near some of my favorite films in the saga (that group of films primarily belongs to those composing the Original Trilogy), it’s nowhere near my least favorite. As with most things, metaphors and anecdotes may prove better to convey my overall opinion of the film with food to be a prime example. Personally, I like my Star Wars like I like my steak: medium-rare. With a total of 11 live-action feature films (or steaks) in the can already, there are many offerings and flavors to choose and savor from the pack.

Who is Rey, and what will become of her? Daisy Ridley journeys the answers in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Despite having all the ingredients there, The Rise of Skywalker is just a bit overcooked and tepid for my taste. It’s passable and enough to finish without feeling completely dissatisfied, but it just doesn’t compare to the best I’ve had this side of the galaxy. Do I think you have to eat your steak like mine to be fully satisfied? Of course not. For me, and for what it’s worth, I like my Star Wars to satiate a certain a level of satisfaction that can only be enjoyed with meticulous care and attention to form and detail all around. The Rise of Skywalker is enough to get me by until the next course is to come. To the cooks in the kitchen, I say to you: take your time. I’ll be ready—waiting with fork and knife in hand.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, and is now available on digital and physical platforms.

A Tale of Two Twins – A Star Wars Theory

Daisy Ridley as “Drey” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The following is a break down regarding the surrounding intrigue and ensuing theories as to who Dark Rey is. For the purposes of shorthand, I shall be referring to Dark Rey as Drey. Who is this Drey and where did she come from, and where has she been this whole time? Find out below with the following theories considered in my opinion from least likely to most likely to happen.

1. It’s All a Red Herring

It’s not uncommon for footage in trailers (or special looks) to include some interesting shots not in the theatrical cut come release time, but perhaps the biggest mistake Lucasfilm and Co. could make is including something as big as this and pulling it away from us entirely. To do this would be insane. For those who believe this may be the case, arguments suggest that this may perhaps be a marketing ploy to rouse the attention of both casual and hardcore fans to build intrigue and further discussion and speculation. Considering the sharp divisiveness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the question follows: how does one bring Star Wars back to the forefront of the conversation? How about dropping something as wild and unexpected as a red-lightsaber wielding Rey in Sith dark cloaks. If one light saber is not enough—then two! Hot damn! Seriously though, as possible as this may be–albeit slim, let’s hope this is not the case.

2. Drey is Rey

Talk about being catfished this whole time. I really don’t know how to explain this other than two things: 1) Rey is possessed, and 2) utter reckless abandonment of all previously held compassion and conviction. Ballsy? Yes. But revealing it so soon in the game? Just might be as bad as prematurely ejaculating in your pants.

3. Drey is a Force Vision

Force visions are a staple of the Star Wars universe heading warnings and laying mysteries yet to be resolved for our main characters. While the image of Rey as a Dark Sith Lord is as surprising as it is insane, the fact that this could be a force vision in disguise is highly plausible. Despite that, it all seems too obvious. While the former theory remains as wasteful and incredibly insulting as a false promise, this one seems all too plain and leaves little to be surprised upon seeing in a darkened movie theater. Big whoop.

4. Drey is a Clone

Bonkers? Yes. Out of the realm of possibility? No. Surprising? Yes and no. Depending on your knowledge of currently approved canon and previously expanded universe lore, clones are not unfamiliar to the Star Wars universe. Clones have been used to build armies a la the Grand Army of the Republic displayed in Attack of the Clones, and they have been previously made known to yield dark apprentices as in The Force Unleashed video game series. Would it behoof us to think that Drey is a clone? No, but like the dark force vision aforementioned, it would feel trite and simply set up another baddie with little to no personal stakes for Rey considering lack of investment or personal history. Unless, there’s much more to the story. If Drey is not Rey, not a mere copy cloned off of Rey, not the component of a dark vision, and not a fake creation for marketing and merchandising purposes, then who the hell is she?

5. Rey and Drey are Twins (Clone or Not)

Drey is Rey’s long-lost twin sister separated at a young age and kept hidden from sight until now. Let’s consider a few things first: it’s not a stretch to say that twins are no stranger to the Star Wars universe. Consider Luke and Leia, the two most famous twins at the center of the Star Wars saga. At the core, Star Wars has always been about characters embarking on a journey leading them through adventure and trial and revealing bits about self and their place among the stars. It’s also about family, and for Rey, that question has lingered with us all. The Last Jedi will make you think that she doesn’t belong to anyone worthy to note; and if she does, it is yet to be revealed.

As has been established in current canon, we now understand that the nefarious Sheev Palpatine conceived Anakin with the dark powers of the force in the virgin, Shmi. With Palpatine having alluded to his understanding of transcending death, it’s not hard to believe that Palpatine may be up for another repeat. And with what results? A pair of female twins: one groomed as an apprentice to an evil master while the other forced into exile and hidden from the Emperor by saving grace. This would not only call back upon themes of family, but it would be just as surprising. It would markedly add dramatic depth and complexity to her current struggle, and it would justify and satisfy those calling into question her most extraordinarily quick and powerful understanding and use of the force. If she is indeed a consequence of cloning, it could also play into further questions of family and what it means to be human. I think either of these is likely, and come December, I think it will be revealed as so.

What are your thoughts, and where do you side on the origin of Drey? Comment below and let me know! Make sure to follow or subscribe for more reviews and bits into movie hits.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is expected to arrive at a theater near you December 20, 2019.

My Most Anticipated Films for the Rest of 2019

Bill Skarsgard in IT Chapter Two (2019)

As we come to the end of one of Hollywood’s more epic and memorable box-office summers, I’d like to take some time to consider some of the many films coming out later this year. Here is a list of my most anticipated films for the rest of 2019 with reviews to follow as each rolls out in their wide release. Afterwards, be sure to comment and let me know what your most anticipated films are for the rest of the year. Are there films I missed, or others I should consider? What films are you most excited for, and what are your lists? Let me know and comment below. Without further ado, here are nine of my most anticipated films to look out for in the coming months ahead.


IT Chapter Two

Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy et al. as The Loser Club in IT Chapter Two (2019)

Release Date: September 6, 2019

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader

Final Rating: 3/4 Stars

Hot off the heals of 2017’s immensely popular hit IT (now added with a much more suitable subtitle of Chapter One in honor of its source material), one of Stephen King’s most popular and enduring horror works to date continues to account the remaining story of now adult Loser Club members coming face-to-face once again with a most terrifying and timeless evil in Pennywise the Clown. Based on footage released thus far in trailers and with King’s personal stamp of approval, the hype and anticipation for this film is as white hot as it can get. Mind your yellow rain slickers, and keep your red balloons at bay, It: Chapter 2 looks to be a hellish tale here to stay.


Joker

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

Release Date: October 4, 2019

Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert DeNiro

Final Rating: 4/4 Stars

What is it about clowns that is so damn terrifying? With arguably the most famous clown of all time, Joker promises to give us a closer and more intimate look at the infamous Clown Prince with an origin-story set outside the realm of the current DCEU timeline. Considering the perfect casting of Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role, and the talent both on and off-screen, many are excited to see the birth of an iconic character come to life like never before. Let’s just hope we don’t get anything near as disappointing as the level of 2007’s Hannibal Rising.


The Lighthouse

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse (2019)

Release Date: October 18, 2019

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson

Final Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

Batman and Green Goblin in what appears to be a trippy, claustrophobic, and wild descent into madness from filmmaker/writer, Robert Eggers, of The Witch (2015). What more can you want? With wide unanimous praise from critical circles and with one of the more visual-striking and haunting trailers in recent memory, The Lighthouse is looking to be a powerhouse experience.


Terminator: Dark Fate

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Release Date: November 1, 2019

Director: Tim Miller

Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Final Rating: 1/4 Stars

Is this real life? Promised to be a true [and tried] sequel following the events of James Cameron’s first two Terminator films is the prevailing message we’re getting from everyone involved. Reservations considered [and more than valid in the wake of three godawful or-at best-mediocre entries], let’s hope this is the sequel Terminator fans have either been curious to see or clamoring for since 1991. Please, James. For the love of God, let this be true.


Doctor Sleep

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep (2019)

Release Date: November 8, 2019

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyleigh Curran

Final Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

An adaptation to both Stephen King’s source material and Kubrick’s well-revered classic, The Shining, Doctor Sleep is looking to be something special aiming to honor the legacy of both master story-tellers. Considering Mike Flanagan’s more recent work including Gerald’s Game and The Haunting of Hill House (2018), we can expect a most chilling experience come this November.


Honey Boy

Noah Jupe in Honey Boy (2019)

Release Date: November 8, 2019

Director: Alma Har’el

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe

For those of you looking for the official biographical account of former Even Stevens star, Shia LaBeouf, look no further. This may be the closest thing you will ever get. Written by Shia LaBeouf himself, Honey Boy looks to be an introspective and uniquely meta tale of a young Hollywood kid, Otis, trying to cope with and make sense of the world around him as he matures into adulthood under and in the shadows of the spotlight. With LaBeouf acting in what could be one of his most challenging and cathartic roles to date as Otis’s struggling father, Honey Boy will no doubt shed insight into the actor’s own personal experiences of reconciliation to himself, his father, and everything else around him.


Knives Out

Chris Evans in Knives Out (2019)

Release Date: November 27, 2019

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette

Final Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

After coming off both the critical and financial success (ahem, and much divided fan response) to 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson assembles one of the more memorable ensembles in recent ages in what appears to be a slick, fun-fueled and witty whodunit set within modern times. With a first trailer cut and edited with enough energy to wake you up from that second serving of turkey come Thanksgiving time, Knives Out looks to be a promising dive into thrills and intrigue behind the mystery of who killed patriarch Harlan Thrombey. What better way is there to bring families and loved ones together come this holiday season other than a good ole fashion murder mystery? Double down on those mashed potatoes and that green bean casserole because Knives Out looks to feather your feasts come Thanksgiving Day.


The Irishman

Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro in The Irishman (2019)

Release Date: TBA

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino

Mean Streets. Goodfellas. Casino. The Departed. Now, The Irishman. Anticipated, you say? Considering the ensemble cast of legendary actors, and a narrative/subject matter Scorsese has proven time and time again to succeed in telling, sign me up. With the premiere set to take place at the New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019, enthusiasts await for a most special union of actors and director coming together for the very first time.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Release Date: December 20, 2019

Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

The decade-spanning space opera and cultural phenomena that is Star Wars wraps up the Skywalker saga in what is promised to be one of the most satisfying and exciting entries yet. Coming off the more divisive response to The Last Jedi, one can hope that J.J. Abrams and crew will deliver on what was established in The Force Awakens. The amount of pressure riding on J.J. Abrams and Co. to bring the saga to a satisfying conclusion is incredibly heavy as fans both old and new alike await to revisit a galaxy far, far away.


Honorable Mentions: Ford v Ferrari, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Gemini Man, Jumanji: The Next Level, 1917

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Why it’s All Going To Be Fine

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac embrace on the set of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) expected to hit theaters everywhere December 20, 2019

My brother and I have been continuously discussing with one another our thoughts and hopes for the latest (and final) entry in the main Skywalker saga. We both share a fond admiration for Star Wars, and since our last trek together in December 2017, we maintain that fondness with a shred of skepticism. I’m not going to spend much time going over my thoughts on The Last Jedi, but I will admit I didn’t like the film as much as I wanted, especially in light of its presentation and handling of certain characters. Both low and high marks aside, I walked away from that experience with one question in mind: what now? Little did I know that a few moments later my brother would be asking me the same question. Where do we go from here?

The question is two-fold: narratively, where do you go with these characters, and more personally, how do you go forward as a fan? I have my own personal thoughts and opinions regarding how it should or should not happen, and it will no doubt differ from one person to the next. I have to be prepared to go along a journey completely out of my control. I may be disappointed or I may be pleasantly surprised. For now, I hold onto hope.

Call me an optimist, but I’m rooting for Star Wars. I’m rooting for the creatives and powers at be to bring the saga back home. Like a prodigal child, going back home is not as bad as it seems during times of unrest. Give me home. Give me that warm fuzzy feeling I once had when I was a kid. If the teaser, images, and reports coming out have anything to say and show, it’s looking to be a return in a way that both feels familiar and fresh going forward. Knights of Ren, you say? Let’s go. New worlds and terrains? Sounds good. Cackling Palpatine? Interesting, for sure. To quote another: “you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.”

Not everyone will be pleased, and that is to be expected. In the end, all will be fine. Star Wars will live on and thrive as long as we maintain a fervent spirit.