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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Title: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Describe This Move Using One Watchmen Quote:

LAURIE BLAKE: You’re not supposed to take someone else’s Nostalgia.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Guess who's back. Back again. Sheevy's back. Tell a friend.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Chef Gormaandas out of 5.

Tagline: "The Saga Concludes."

Better Tagline: "We waited nine movies for this?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Resistance is useless. Or that's how it seems to the remainders of the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and her second-in-command Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Their battles against the First Order have taken on a new urgency with the apparent reappearance of Emperor Palpatine, spurring new Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and ascendant Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) to greater urgency.

"Critical" Analysis: Looks like we can include J.J. Abrams among those who weren't fond of The Last Jedi.

There were always rumblings to this effect. Abrams set certain expectations about young Rey's lineage and the eventual role of Jedi legend Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, only to have Rian Johnson throw a giant alien teat into the works. Reaction to these narrative choices were, to put it charitably, divisive among Star Wars fans, and hosed presumptive director Colin Treverrow's plans for Episode IX so thoroughly that he dropped out.

And instead of thanking Johnson for ridding us of Treverrow, fans complained about Johnson.

For those incensed at the directions taken in TLJ, your whiny asses are in luck: Abrams has course-corrected the story in Rise of Skywalker to the point many of the events of the last movie may seem like a fever dream (Kylo Ren reassures Rey her parents did matter) when not dismissed out of hand (the so-called "Holdo Maneuver" is more or less laughd off).

Instead, Abrams chucks us immediately into the return of Emperor Palpatine (it's in the opening crawl, calm down) and Rey and Kylo's attempts to discover the secret planet where the Sith lord is assembling an armada (the "Final Order," [evil laugh]) to establish dominion over the galaxy. For serious this time.

Along for the ride are Poe, Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca, and faithful droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. In other words, everybody from the last movie except Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who was evidently so polarizing she spends most of the movie back at the Resistance base analyzing star destroyer schematics or some shit.

Otherwise, everything old is new again. Besides Palpatine, there's another Scooby-Doo run through an Imperial (sorry, First Order) vessel, another(!) "cantina" scene, and a return to not one, but two planets from the original trilogy. At the same time, Abrams has apparently decided the last movie in a series is a good time to reinvent fundamentally accepted principles of how the Force operates.

But don't worry. The ability of spaceships to start up instantly after decades of exposure to the elements remains consistent in a galaxy far, far away.

It isn't so much that Rise of Skywalker isn't good. There will be plenty here to appease fans, and there's even some sops thrown to the chldren ("they're kids movies" being the go-to defense against any criticism of the Saga). But it's unchallenging. Cinematic comfort food. There are some interesting moments, the lightsaber duels continue to get better with every movie, and it's admittedly gratifying to see Kylo Ren assume the role of the saga's John McLane; getting the ever-loving shit beat out of him for 2.5 hours.

But it's hard to believe, at the culmination of 42 years and nine movies in this series, that the last three would be essentially improvisational exercises by all directors concerned. Abrams and Johnson couldn't sit down with a PowerPoint presentation and maintain some common threads? Say what you want about the prequels, they may have been bad, but they were consistently so.

To step out of the third-person for a second ... I grew up with this franchise. My mom got me out of school early one day in second grade to take me to see Star Wars in 1977, two of a dozen or so people in the theater (when we left, the line was three blocks long). I stood in line for Empire and Return of the Jedi (second to last day of 8th grade for that one). I've lost or given away more action figures and playsets than you can ever know.

All this is to say it's time for some non-Skywalker stories. Maybe the reason more kids aren't into these flicks is how much they leverage 40-year old memories. Because as visceral a thrill watching a Sith battle a Jedi, or an unexpected Dark Side moment (you'll know it when you see it), I know when I'm being manipulated. At least The Last Jedi didn't always play it safe.

And from what we've seen of Disney's plans for the Star Wars Universe, safe is about all we can count on from now on.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar