Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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This movie was always bound to be polarising and JJ Abrams had a monumental task ahead of him to create something that would appeal to more people following the backlash of the previous film.
I will start by saying I was a fan of The Last Jedi. An unpopular opinion, so I'm told, but I appreciated the creative swings it took and the desire to do something different. Many fans rejected this approach. Star Wars will always be a cherished franchise and people have very specific ideas about how they wanted the film to go. That film also had the difficulty of being in the awkward middle with plot points that would remain unresolved until this new instalment.
The difference with Rise of Skywalker is obvious from the moment of the opening crawl. A beloved villain is resurrected to add a sense of menace people felt were lacking in Snoke. This was a bit of a hit and miss for me. Personally, seeing Palpatine return was fantastic but I can't help but feel it was forced somewhat in order to appease die hard fans who were disappointed with Rian Johnson's film. Maybe if the hints of Palpatine's involvement were obvious from the earlier films then I'd feel differently. However, the pros outweigh the cons. Palpatine is a villain to be reckoned with and every scene with him was chilling to terrifying in a way that even the original films weren't. Seeing this darker side to Star Wars (excuse the pun) was a welcome aspect.
The scenes with Leia were beautifully placed within the story and it was amazing to see how these unused scenes for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi fit so well into a new narrative that worked wonderfully as Leia's swan song. A truly superb send off for Carrie Fisher.
Nostalgic fans will probably be most pleased with this finale. Beloved characters like Lando return and C3PO is given a whole lot more to do that is actually integral to the plot. Our three heroes are finally brought together but the sequels really could have benefitted from making this happen sooner because of course the only comparison will be with the original three heroes that were together throughout all three of those films. One of the most welcome returns for me was the fantastic Imperial March by John Williams.
One small criticism would be that the pandering to fans craving nostalgia and upset at the previous instalment occasionally went overboard. It was almost as if every fan theory or desire was addressed and tested before the film finally settled on where it wanted to go, as if to say "oh some fans wanted to see this happen, let's drop that in there for a moment". This occasionally had the effect of jarring the story to the point it felt like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
What I really enjoyed was the development of Finn and Rey's arcs and while I feel some of this served to deliberately undo what Rian Johnson did, I think the pay off is that a lot of fan criticisms can now be effectively answered with the plot points raised in this follow up. Questions about Rey are answered and the story is littered with moments of hope and character evolution, and I think this most prominently shows in Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren.
I think the debate to be raised from this film is whether it is better to challenge an audience or to accept that some franchises are too sacred and nostalgia will always encourage pandering to fans when it comes to Star Wars. Part of me would have loved to have seen where the franchise would have gone had there not been such a backlash to the previous film but I have nothing but respect for Abrams for pulling together a film that must have been a terrifying challenge and ensuring that it culminated in the climactic battle between good and evil that fans had been clamouring for. While we are all sometimes quick to judge things we don't like, we don't always give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the hard work and talent that went into not only making these films but trying to please as many people as possible. For this I commend the creatives and actors behind the film and I can say for sure that I will enjoy watching this again and again.
My final criticism is with the fans. There is too much hate within the Star Wars fanbase and too many people that think they know what's best. We are lucky to have had new Star Wars at all and the original films will always exist for anyone who didn't enjoy the new trilogy. I think we could all benefit by showing a little bit of appreciation and gratitude for a franchise so beloved by different generations.