Thank goodness Star Wars is over

My company has this cool tradition - when a new Star Wars movie comes out, they buy everybody a ticket to it.  In fact, for the larger offices, they even buy out a theater, which is really cool.  So, naturally, this year they sent us all to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  And you know what?  I kinda wish they hadn't.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

I give that spoiler warning even though I don't think it's actually possible to spoil the movie.  Seriously, it's that bad.  If you haven't seen it, don't bother.  It's so bad I think it actually made Revenge of the Sith look good.

Lest I be accused of unfairness, let me clarify that I did not go into this movie expecting to hate it.  I hadn't read any reviews or rumors about it, so I really didn't know what to expect.  I like the previous movies well enough and expected the same from this one.  I thought The Force Awakens was good and while The Last Jedi had some issues, I still enjoyed it.  I didn't see Solo, but I liked Rogue One a lot (in my opinion, it was the best of the new movies by far) and have been thoroughly enamored The Mandalorian.  So I like Star Wars.  But I'm not a die-hard fanboy.  I'm not really familiar with the books, comics, games, or any of the other extended universe stuff - just the movies.  So I'm not looking to pick this apart in light of other sources.  All I'm really expecting is a good movie.  If not a great cinematic masterpiece, at least an entertaining action film.

I did not get what I was expecting.

On the up side, the special effects were top-notch, and the acting was generally fine given what the actors had to work with.  On the down side, everything else about the movie was awful!  The dialog was bad, but that's forgivable - this is Star Wars, not Citizen Kane, so you have to temper your expectations; the pacing was a mess, with suspenseful plot points that were resolved ten seconds later in the very next scene, like when you think Chewbacca is dead for maybe 30 seconds; the action scenes were a mixed bag, with some that were decent and others that were underwhelming, such as the big lightsaber duel on the ruins of the Death Star that actually inducing me to yawn.  But my main complaint was the story.

The plot of this film was just...impossibly bad.  And when I say that, I mean I actually find it hard to believe that it was written and approved by highly paid professionals working for a major studio with a huge budget.  It's the kind of story I would expect from a not-very-talented 13-year-old fan-fiction writer.  It's trite and uninteresting, full of holes and poorly motivated twists, loaded with plot points that don't really make sense, and littered with distracting and pointless "fan service" call-outs. 

Shadiversity has a good break-down of the plethora of problems with the plot, but I'll give a a short list of a few of my complaints.

  1. Palpatine?  Really?  Yes, the opening story roll, in the first 30 seconds of the film, reveals the twist that Emperor Palpatine is still alive and is planning to take his revenge on the galaxy.  It's never explained how he survived the Death Star or why he's been in hiding for however many years.  It wasn't alluded to in the previous movies, as far as I can tell.  But sure, why not?  Apparently they've just run out of original ideas.
  2. Another armada from nowhere?  The previous movies showed us the First Order, which apparently built a huge armada in the outer reaches of the galaxy and then started taking it over.  Well, apparently Palpatine did the same thing.  So now he has a gigantic fleet of Star Destroyers that also all have planet-killing lasers a la the Death Star.  Because...why not?  Apparently those are a dime a dozen now.
  3. Is it really that secret?  Palpatine built this fleet on the Sith home-world.  Much of the first half of the movie is spent trying to find the special navigation unit which will take the heroes to that planet so they can confront Palpatine.  Apparently only two of those units were ever made and they're the only way to get to the planet.  Kylo Ren has one of them and when he finds the planet, it's shown as being pretty much a barren wasteland with one big building (which for some reason seems to be floating about eight feet off the ground).  And yet they managed to build hundreds, if not thousands, of Star Destroyers here.  How?  Where did they get the resources?  And the crew?  So nobody can get there except for the tens of thousands of people who are responsible for those Star Destroyers?
  4. What's with the dagger?  The heroes find the coordinates at which to locate the above mentioned navigation unit inscribed on a dagger.  It must be an ancient Sith relic which will lead them to a long-forgotten temple or something, right?  Wrong.  It leads them to Endor and the wreckage of the Death Star.  So...that means that like 30 years ago, somebody knew that unit was in the Death Star and decided to...carve the coordinates on a dagger?  Why would you do that?  And then it turned out the dagger has some sort of pull-out thing in the hilt that allows Rey to match up exactly where in the Death Star the unit was.  No instructions on how to use that or where to stand to make it line up right - Rey just notices it's there and uses it at a random place.  The entire thing just makes no sense at all.
  5. What about that thing with Finn?  Two or three times they raised a point about Finn wanting to tell Rey about his feelings for her or something.  At least, I assume that's what it was.  It was one of those "he wants to say something, but never gets a good chance" things.  It comes up a few times and then they never do anything with it.  They just drop it and the movie ends without any attempt at a resolution.
  6. What happened to the Force?  The Force was always powerful and mysterious, but the previous eight movies established some precedents for the type of things the Force can do.  And that list did not include healing wounds, teleporting physical objects, or generating enough Force lightning to simultaneously attack an entire fleet of starships!  I'm not saying that new movies can't introduce new Force powers, it's just that this movie really piles them on.  It seems like at this point the Force has become "magic".  It can just do anything, for no reason, without explanation of how or why it's possible.

That's enough for now, but I could go on.  The entire movie is like this.  The characters are constantly doing things that don't make sense, seemingly at random, either to drive this ridiculous plot or as an excuse for some special effect.  And this goes on for over two hours!  There's no character development to speak of and the plot doesn't seem to develop so much as jump around.  It's as if they had a long list of things they were required to include in the movie and just tried to cram everything in without taking the time to make it work.  If it doesn't make sense, well, we'll distract them with this shiny new thing!  After a while, it becomes difficult to actually care about any of the characters or the story at all .  They just don't feel real enough to be interesting.

Overall, I regard this film as a disaster.  It's the first Star Wars film I can remember watching and not enjoying.  It has caused me to officially lose all respect for J. J. Abrams.  There were actually several sections where I actually started getting bored and wished it would just end.  If you haven't seen it, then don't.  It was a waste of two and a half hours.

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