What if it had been a “movie”? What if it had been good?
I woke with an odd stomach flu the morning that “Star Wars IX: The Rise Of Skywalker” was previewed for the press, consumed with pain and sensations that kept me on my back the rest of the day. Watching J. J. Abrams’ film on opening night a few days later at a smaller, distant theater, I felt almost nothing. Numbness announced itself and set in for the duration: many characters and much action and truncated storylines and storylines flung to flinders (goodbye, Rose Tico, we hardly knew ye) and thematic stuff that may have soothed the most committed and devoted of consumers of corporate canon. (“Rise,” at too many moments, is a sustained subtweet of “The Last Jedi,” needing the label “Previously… on Reddit.”)
The Last Jedi was good because “People do things for selfish, altruistic, ideological and emotional reasons” is more interesting than “people are inherently good or evil and that’s it”
— Adam Serwer (@AdamSerwer) December 17, 2019
Stranded amid vast dunes of clever callbacks and miniaturization of stakes and lessening of fates, Abrams has made his “Godfather III”: he’s shrunk what could have been a tapestry into an LED billboard. The lore’s a bore and the exposition’s a chore: all that shiny metal, all those piles of scrap, the stars above, and beneath, the fiery eyes of Daisy Ridley, the sole beacon, with promise of a story with emotional investment and volcanic result. J. J. Abrams betrays Daisy Ridley’s eyes.
After the unsatisfying conclusion, the sound from the crowd was mostly shuffling feet. I could only wonder if the same sound were heard elsewhere, if not everywhere, of millions of voices suddenly silenced. Obi-Wan said it first in “Star Wars”: “I fear something terrible has happened.”
With Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams. 142m. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.