It’s hard to know where to begin discussing the latest instalment of the nine-part series which has popularly come to be known as the “Skywalker Saga”. One of the greatest rides across galaxies, this is a journey that has lasted 42 years. Director J J Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hit theatres this week and in all likelihood will mark the end of the saga.
For those who’ve managed to evade the cultish magnetic pull of the series, Star Wars
is a space opera epic (do not, please, confuse it with Star Trek — that’s a piece of science fiction based in space in front of a fan). First seen in 1977 in theatres, the series began with Episode IV — A New Hope and the visual effects were breathtaking for its time. The latest 3D instalment does justice to its visual effects team as well, as we travel across desert plains, forested lands and watery planets enveloping the remains of old wars.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker begins with the ascension of Kylo Ren, a conflicted character portrayed by Adam Driver. Kylo Ren, who previously went by the name of Ben before going over to the dark side, has found himself a Wayfinder, an otherworldly compass of sorts. This helps him get to Exegol, a planet that no one knows how to get to. It is here that he finds himself looking at the cloaked and enfeebled figure of Emperor Palpatine who buys his loyalty with promises of a new empire. Palpatine has only two demands of Ren, the harder of which requires him to “kill the girl”.
The girl in question is Rey. Abandoned by her parents as a child and brought up as a scavenger on the planet of Jakku, Rey is now among the best fighters who’ve pledged loyalty to the Resistance, the sole force working to fend off Palpatine’s empire.
At the core of this series is essentially a battle as old as time itself — good versus evil, light versus darkness. While Palpatine represents darkness, or the Sith in Star Wars
lingo, Rey represents the light, the Jedi. As if an entire army wasn’t adequate to create conflict, the fact that Ren is herself fighting darkness within herself forms a significant part of the movie. On the plus side, this movie will finally answer the question of Rey’s origins, and we get scenes such as a stormtrooper (a bad guy’s minion in a space suit) flying around in the air in concentric circles like a pierced balloon. And there’s lots of lightsaber-wielding and gravity-defying stunts too. (Lightsabers are fictional Star Wars
swords made of energy.)
Rather unfortunately, characters in the film have to continuously remind themselves that what they are doing to fight the forces of evil has to work, else whatever they’ve fought for so long and all the resistance that has been put up before will be in vain. It can work as a clarion call, sure, but not when it is repeated over and over again. Then it’s just lazy writing and ineffectual brainstorming.
A Stars Wars film is not complete without the droids who’ve proved time and again that they should never be underestimated, as well as Chewbacca (a Wookie, a fictional being), as well as a bunch of other human and non-human new characters who play their parts diligently. The camaraderie between the characters is lovely, but it suffers from not being given a moment more for it to blossom. The movie is set at an almost breathless pace that seems to be a continuation of a chase that started many movies ago.
Yes, the villain to beat all villains, Palpatine, is readying for an attack that could destroy all worlds, but the loss of pause is drearily felt. In fact, the whole film feels rushed, as if director Abrams was forced to cramp a two-part movie into 142 minutes. Those unfamiliar with the series can take a stab at it and are likely to follow the film without any homework; there’s no keeping fans away, of course. Ending the series is perhaps for the best, even if it was an unsatisfying one over all. The exuberance slips away as you leave the theatre.