By Sapna Khajuria
When the audience starts applauding, cheering and humming the bars of a soundtrack even before a movie begins, you can be sure you are either in for a much loved epic, or a Salman Khan blockbuster. Thankfully, it was not the latter when we watched the first day’s show of Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker, aka episode IX of the Star Wars saga, aka the third installment of the sequel trilogy. This is supposed to be goodbye to the saga that has been among the most popular stories of all time, and writing a spoiler-free review has been a tough task.
Action kicks off from the word go, with a mysterious broadcast – a warning from a spy in the evil First Order, that a formerly defeated enemy has seemingly risen from the dead, and is building a massive force for “the Final Order”. This super villain has been amassing a vast fleet of mega starships to eradicate the Resistance once and for all. General Leia (CGI has been used extensively to bring Carrie Fisher into multiple scenes, following her death) mobilises her forces and the star crew of the Resistance, led by Rey, the almost-Jedi; Poe, the ace pilot; and Finn, ex-Stormtrooper-turned-good-guy, plus of course, Chewbacca and C-3PO.
Three cheers – our favourite Resistance crew is back in action! To find the super villain, the crew has to locate a place called Exegol, for which they need a Sith Wayfinder (a small pyramid-shaped thingummyjig). Sounds easy, right? Not quite. To find the Wayfinder, they need the inscriptions off a special dagger. Goes without saying, to decipher the inscriptions, they need to find a mechanic who is hard to find. Phew! That’s quite a long list.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader, aka Kylo Ren is on a hunt for this phantom villain to destroy any threat to his supremacy. The villain promises to give Kylo Ren a new empire and all the might of the Final Order, provided he kills Rey and ends the Jedi. Kylo Ren’s character – ascended from both the dark, as Darth Vader’s grandson and the good, as Leia’s son – has been facing turmoil between both these sides for a while; and Adam Driver conveys this anguish and confusion only too well.
The pace quickens and the action moves to the land of Pasana and then Kajimi, and a spectacularly shot fight between Rey and Ren atop a vessel in the middle of giant waves. Many new characters are introduced – Babu Frik, Zorii, and a cute little droid; but the nicest bit was the comeback of a fun character from the original movies (more applause followed).
Rey and Ren can communicate with each other, from miles away. In response to being asked once again to join him, Rey tells Ren he is haunted by what he did to his father (for those who missed out on movies that preceded this one, Ren killed his father). Rey and Ren realise they are a dyad in the Force, and then comes the biggest shock reveal of the movie, which explains just why the two of them are connected. Explaining this would mean spoiling the movie for you, so let’s just say it will all make sense when you watch the scene, but it is going to be beyond your wildest imagination.
There are familiar themes of the victory of good over evil, but also about that shade of grey that exists between black and white; between the Sith and the Jedi. We know the Dark forces will lose in the end, but the fun is in watching the magnificent fight sequences that lead to it. Does this answer the question of what happens to the last known remaining Skywalker, i.e. Kylo Ren? Who makes the ultimate sacrifice? Who lives and returns to be a Skywalker; and is bloodline the only factor that decides on who deserves to really carry on a name?
In a nutshell, from a parent’s point of view:
Yay or nay: Whether you are a die-hard Star Wars fan or just in the mood for an engaging movie, go for it. The special effects are top notch, Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Ren portray their characters so well; their anguish is almost heart-breaking. The energy from the whistles and applause of people around will be the cherry on top. As a true tribute and fitting conclusion to an epic saga, there are enough seeti bajao / applause opportunities – be it John William’s tunes, the return of a favourite character from the initial films, or a well-loved catchphrase.
What does not work: Yes, it is a bit formulaic but this was to be expected after a long journey spanning decades. The CGI-powered inclusions of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia were a bit bizarrely paced. While the CGI works well by itself, she strangely disappears at points of the film you’d most expect her to show up in. Kelly Marie Tran’s character, Rose, much loved from The Last Jedi, has little to do in this movie, which is such a pity.
Swear-o-meter: None at all.
So, is this the end of all Star Wars movies? Not really. This is the end of a particular storyline, though. It’s hopefully not exactly a final goodbye to your favourite characters; there are two separate sets of trilogies in the making.
Humour quotient: Not quite the level of episodes 4-6 or even the dry wit of The Last Jedi, but lots of inside jokes from the Star Wars universe.
Positives to take away from the film /talk to your kids about:
There’s so much to take away from any epic tale, whether it is a traditional mythology or a tale like this one. For all of Rey’s doubts about her abilities, she realises that the Force was within herself, after all. Sometimes what we fear most is nothing but the idea of fear itself. Children, especially teenagers, go through their own doubts just the way adults do. Finding strength within oneself is such a positive message for everyone who watches the film. Then of course, there is the central theme of good versus evil; and how Rey manages to stay on the side of what was right, inspite of all sorts of temptations. Given recent events of turmoil and the struggle for what is right, perhaps we all need our own version of Rey.
My teens’ review: I had the most interesting movie watching companions for this one. My officially teenaged twin boys and 12 of their friends – basically, the toughest critics possible. Their verdict: they loved the movie. The shock reveal nearly made popcorn fly out of their hands! What they loved the most – for some, it was the mid-ocean fight sequence, for some it was the jokes, while all of them loved the return of characters from previous movies. My boys’ only grouse – no one said “May the force be with you”, and this for them, is unforgivable. Many theories about the possible plot of the next trilogy were discussed after the movie – Disney might just receive suggestions for the script of the new trilogy from this lot of teenagers.
Go for it: It still is about faraway deserts; spacecraft with cool names, droids, tie fighters and light sabres, but more than anything else, the whole series is a tribute to the unparalleled imagination of George Lucas who conjured a tale so rich and timeless.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you owe yourself this closure after having dedicated yourself to eight episodes of the saga (the good and the awful movies). If you aren’t a true blue fan, go for the story, the special effects, and to enjoy watching a movie in the midst of whistles and applause.
(The writer is a lawyer by training, who would rather be a full-time globetrotter, and mom to 12-year-old twin boys who share her love for all things filmy.)
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