I never walked into a movie so cold in my life as I had tonight, only to be whisked away by the spectacle that was Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker, a truly captivating finish to the most famous saga in all of cinema. But before I get into specifics as to why the film actually does work (opposed to the majority of its most recent “professional” criticism) and places a near-perfect cap to the controversial — yet, ultimately, overall great sci-fi trilogy — let’s chat about the best part: catching all of Star Wars’ signatures bleeps, boops and pew-pew-pew’s in 4DX. At the very least it’s a far cheaper alternative to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland! And without having seen the film in IMAX or anything else, there’s no question that this space jam-tastic ride is the absolute best viewing format for this film…
Having viewed and reviewed many 4DX films in the past few years, it’s always hard to find something new in this specific format to detail. Avengers: Infinity War had Avenger uniform color-specific lighting effects, Detective Pikachu had stronger wind gusts than most, and Deadpool 2 had.. oh shit, just a lot more lower back pain. But here in The Rise of Skywalker entered the rise of weighty combat effects in 4DX. I spoke at length on how great lightsabers felt in the Jedi: Fallen Order video game, and, here, the thrums of the Jedi weapon of choice has never felt so powerful and realistic.
As Kylo and Rey have their climactic ocean battle that was first seen in the trailer, seats swerve to the feel of waves crashing into the stranded ship, with the moviegoers’ bottom consequently vibrating to the signature hums. More impressively, seats will shift and sway to every lightsaber swing, and when the electric weapons clash, I promise you will feel it! Weapons themselves never felt like much in the fourth dimension, just the results — the slicing damage of a sword, the impact of gunfire, etc.; but in SWTRoS, the moviegoer is immersed with the power of the actual weapon use.
LET IT SNOW
The next bit of effects that really stood out (in comparison to other 4DX experiences) was the use of the Millennium Falcon. So much wind! While Rey tries to manage to Jedi-will her way back onto the famed ship in one particular scene, we’re hit with heavy gusts that wipes out a sea of Stromtroopers and would most certainly have taken us out if we weren’t already planted in our seats. There’s nothing like the space battles in Star Wars, right? I mean.. it’s in the name. J.J. Abrams and friends brought on an onslaught of cool chase sequences and enjoyable TIE fighter v X-wing fights. Consequently, the 4DX manage these very well and do more than merely shift your seat around a bit. It’s clear that this post-post-production crew is insanely passionate about the franchise, and added plenty of seat-shifting nuances to coincide right along Star Wars’ usually impeccable sound design.
The only new effect that didn’t do anything for me was a.. snowflake machine? It sounded cool in theory, but would have worked far better had the fan not made so much noise and shot so little. The flakes obviously come during a snow scene, but do little to add to the effects already on-screen. My suggestion? Let those flakes land on us. Oh, and if you’ve ever experienced 4DX before and not a fan of the water spray, make sure you turn it off. The rain effects here are among the strongest (and best), and I actually had to wipe my hair from some of the water impact–especially when Rey decides to row, row, row her boat not-so-gently down a Death Star-sized stream. Merrily, merrily, it was quite the nerdy dream.
Throw in smoke, powerful fans, and mountain and crashed-vehicle specific scents — among the strongest and most pleasing to the nostrils, even the smell of burning fire — and The Rise of Skywalker is indeed the full package 4DX experience. If you’ve never caught a movie in this format and want to, or loved the movie as much as I do and want to see it again, do yourself a favor and take it in, mannnn. Now, will you even want to see this movie again? Even with critics despising it so much that they went so far as to praise Last Jedi in the process– yes! And I loved The Last Jedi.
I’m not so sure that Abrams went out to erase what Rian Johnson had sandwiched in between his two Star Wars flicks, as movie trilogies tend to alter slight thematic changes and twist and turn time — and their minds — in the process. It’s natural for scripts to get tighter, plot mechanics to shift, and characters to find their own path. Star Wars has always dealt with many of the same themes, all in slightly different locations, with slightly different character tropes and interpersonal relationships. It’s only natural for the third (or ninth) and final film to have J.J.’s sig all over it and attempt to tie everything up in a bow as convenient as possible.
THE RISE OF LIEFOCKERS
To the creators, Star Wars is magic; it can often be dark, very dark black magic.. it can go to places unseen or unheard of, and that can often ruffle the old guard. From Jar-Jar’s annoying speech to women villagers (blatantly) smooching each other in victory, not every moment in the Star Wars saga is going to please everyone. Star Wars has never been perfect, and over time, with Star Wars Celebration, those imperfect reflections and heavily debated histories have led to an almost perfect, natural discourse among viewers.
I’m real curious to see how we the geeks and general pub feels about Episode IX in its second weekend, a week after all of the excitable thought-giants did their damnedest behind a keyboard to slay the beast. “Now we know why we hated Rian’s Star Wars and we’re sorry! This one is the worst!” Uh, OK. Is this really the worst Star Wars film, or the one you went into wanting it to be the worst? Are we just going into things hating it now? Or should Disney have been smarter about The Mandalorian (and Baby Yoda, hence no merch of The Child until May) and released the show after the movie so nerds who love the TV series won’t go off comparing these two totally different mediums and.. picking sides. So, yes, now we’re choosing sides within the same franchise. Are you #TeamPoe or #TeamMando?
SEE THREE PEE, OH?
But before I go on and rant and rave about a movie you’ve already decided to hate (you just feel the power of the dark side, don’t you?), let’s talk about the bad, because there isn’t much. Scriptwriters Abrams and Chris Terrio‘s biggest flaw is trying to be too Star Wars. Odes, winks, and nods are definitely part of the package, wanted, needed and absolutely OK. This film had quite a few on-the-nose reprises of yesteryear and the talented writing team could have been a little more creative in the process.
That said, the majority of the dialogue is very fun, witty, and Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (Jon Boyega) have some funny quips alongside Chewie (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), BB-1 and pals. Throw Rey (Daisy Ridley) into the conversational mix and you have a sharp David Mamet/Brian Michael Bendis style pop quiz conversation going on. These moments only last briefly, perhaps even just for a couple scenes, so they provide a nice change of pace from the format we’ve witnessed in seven of the past eight films. The Last Jedi was more a “Fuck you, I’m Rian Johnson” movie than a insert-the-usual-Star-Warsian-format here thing and for that it excelled; ironic that this film tries hard to be too Star Wars and slightly suffers for it. To be more specific, we don’t need to hear three catchphrases from movies made over 35-years ago back in these films, do we? It’s cute, and by no means destroyed the movie for me either. I’m just sayin’.
RETURN OF THE JEDI
Blatant callbacks aside, The Rise of Skywalker is as good as — if not better than — The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, even if just a hair. And that’s thanks to everything other than the fair, tried-and-true story. We originally cherished Star Wars because it had a fine narrative, but was the story ever truly great? Or did we mostly cherish Star Wars for its aesthetics, its adorable and rich characters, its imaginative landscapes and set pieces, its mesmerizing soundtrack and its unparalleled sci-fi action? If you’re more focused/worried/easily appeased by the second option, then TRoS has everything you could ever want in a Star Wars film.
And this is why I can’t recommend enough to try and watch it with moving chairs. Rise has the most action of any recent Star Wars film, at least on par with Rogue One, and the already outstanding “star wars stuffs!” are only more enhanced by the additional sounds, smell, smoke, lighting, winds, water and seat movement. The score returns the rim-rocking John Williams’ classics, and the cinematography provides that same grainy late-70s/early-80s textures we were so accustomed to from the O.G. trilogy.
EMPEROR STRIKES BACK
Above all the pomp and circumstance is Ridley’s break-out performance. It’s one thing to be handed a lightsaber and one thing to actually master it. Daisy Ridley is simply phenomenal, and 80% of the film shines — or casts heavy shadows — on her. This was her “Empire Strikes Back”, a film filled with light, cartoony fair except for her every movement alone, or should I say alone with the Force, the Jedi, the Order, the Empire. Rey has a lot to think about in Rise and her scenes are surprisingly dark. Ridley’s countless conflicts are expressed all over her eyes, her stature a confident one following her battle-tested teachings from the Grandmaster Luke; yet, she has many moments of uncertainty and slight insecurity. Her heart is in the right place, but can her state of mind? The force is pulling her apart from all angles; can she handle the position she’s been thrown in?
The Rise of Skywalker undoubtedly answers those questions, but not before Rey is plummeted into a bevy of powerful, hair-on-arm raising scenes with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver is fantastic), complete with his Knights of “Ben”, and the returning Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid is god!). There’s something “funny” that happens at the end of all of this, but not before longtime Star Wars fans are thrown into every possible — and heavily — emotional hula hoop.
Of course, thanks to all of the middling reviews and preconditioned social media rips, I went into this film dead. I walked out very, very much alive (dude, watching those Sith Troopers kick ass and Keri Russell as that long lost Mass Effect/Destiny mercenary/spy, Zorrii Bliss, was rad AF), and have never been more proud to be a Star Wars fan. Between Mando and this, next year’s Celebration about to be lit, y’all! And, truth be told, I probably would have shed my normal nerd-tears had I saw this Tuesday, before the embargo, as originally intended. But at least I wrote this review with a clear mind and not one based on my initial excitement — or dark side hatred! — of one seeing a new Star Wars movie for the first time. Amiright, Rey?
Movie = 4.5/5
4DX = 5/5
Overall Package = 4.75/5 Disney Canon Star Wars Novels.
May the force be with you, and may the force be with GodHatesGeeks this Saturday when we join The Geekdom Fancast for a spoiler-heavy review discussion on The Rise of Skywalker. You will join us, won’t you?