I was there, back in 1977, at the Commodore Cinema in Strabane, to witness the beginning of new era in cinematic, cultural and commercial history when Star Wars arrived, transporting us through space and time to a galaxy far, far away and 'May the Force be with you' entered our language and even got its own day (May 4th for those who don't know). I fell in love with Luke, lusted after Han and wanted to be Princess Leia. I followed my heroes as Luke confronted the dark reality of his origins in the Empire Strikes Back (still the best movie in the entire franchise) and cheered when Luke, Leia and Han won the day, in Return of the Jedi and the evil Empire was finally beaten. Hurrah!
Then, the balance in the force was lost and a darker side took over (commercial interests) but out of loyalty, I stayed the course, suffered through the prequels, almost crying in despair when Jar Jar Binks arrived on screen (What was George Lucas thinking, what was he thinking????). But cheered again when good sense won out, as the back-lash from the fans saw him sidelined in episodes 2 and 3, even if the balance still wasn't quite right and there were huge plot holes. Then Lucas sold the franchise to Disney and I looked forward in anticipation to see what JJ Abrams would do with it, especially when he had done so well with the reboot of the Star Trek movies. How naive was I...
I watched The Force Awakens with some trepidation but thought there were some good things in it that could be developed only to have my hopes shattered by The Last Jedi and I felt so let down that I did not even go and see Solo, A Star Wars Story (there is only so much disappointment you can take in a certain time-frame although, I am assured it is a fairly decent film) but still haven't seen it.
Then, with the announcement that The Rise of Skywalker would be the final film in the series, and since I was there at the start, how could I not be there at the end, I decided to put all negative feelings aside and go see it. I had watched Rogue One again over Christmas (one of the better off-shoots from the Star Wars story) and The Force Awakens. So to fully prepare, I watched The Last Jedi again (just to see if it was as bad as I remembered - it was!) got bored before the end and went to bed.
So, with the end now in sight, Sunday evenings being what they are and with no better offers on the table, I decided to go to the cinema and watch The Rise of Skywalker. It was getting better reviews than The Last Jedi (which isn't really much of a recommendation) but gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, they had upped their game a bit and since it was the end of the story, hoped that they might have pushed the boat out and made a film in keeping with the spirit of the original trilogy - going out with a bang and not a whimper!
Unfortunately, they didn't! The Rise of Skywalker, or as I will now refer to it, the Lazarus Episode, (because the dead were being resurrected left, right and centre, although no one could resurrect a good script!) failed for the same reasons that most of the newer films in the franchise have failed. They are not character led, they are led by economics with an over- emphasis on special effects and cute characters, in a puerile attempt to flog us Star War's fans more tat, in thanks for our loyalty over the decades.
My biggest gripe apart from the hole-riven story(?) is with the main character (and I use that term in its lightest sense) Rey, this generation's new 'Luke' (because in the age of gender equality, the lead has to be female this time around). She has the acting/emotional range of a door, all jolly hockey sticks earnestness or jolly hockey sticks earnestness with tears which really starts to grate after a while. She is so bad, she actually makes Hayden Christensen look good.
John Boyega who played Finn was one of the good characters in this new series and I had an expectation/hope that his character would be developed into something more than he initially appeared. He could at least have had some Jedi training. However, he was badly under used again in this film and can only lead me to conclude that he was there as a 'token' character to check that 'all-inclusive' box that is so important in the world of political correctness today.
The script/story (if you could even call it that?!) revolves around the 'mysterious' return of the old emperor, Palpatine. However, this didn't really turn out to be much of a mystery at all, and it quickly became obvious that it was merely a plot device to cover up for the complete lack of originality and ideas by the scriptwriters on how to develop a story or make a decent film.
In the original Star Wars Trilogy, we had several great individual characters who bounced off each other and gave the film a sense of realism (even if it was set in a galaxy far, far way) and depth. There was no big convoluted plot, just goodies versus baddies in space, add a little sexual tension, some sharp humour and it worked!
In the new films, even the great characters from the original movies have been lobotomised into blandness. Leia, who was the feisty heroine leading the rebellion even before Luke and Han got on board, has been reduced into a benign, toothless granny. Same thing with Luke and Han, everyone now appears like a refugee from a Channel 5 Christmas movie, all bland sweetness and cloying com-patriotism.
I had such hopes but this poor excuse for a movie is just a mess of nothingness with neither rhyme nor reason, a sorry end to a cinematic era. If there was any reasoning behind it (which I seriously doubt it!) I think it went something like this - Well, we've made a total balls-up of the whole franchise so lets just bring whole sorry mess to an end asap and start over with something else. The fans will still come and see it because it is Star Wars so we'll at least make our money back, then hopefully, we can all forget about it and move on - or words to that effect. I will certainly be doing my best to forget it.
As a long time Star Wars fan, I cannot fully capture the depth of my disappointment. For me, there are really only 3 Star Wars films and those are the 3 originals. And I mean the originals, not the updated version Lucas did a few years ago with more special effects and 'cute characters'. Rogue One is the best of the others and Fan Boys is the fan's, Star Wars film - all worth a look. I will see Solo at some point in the not too distant future but if you are a fan and haven't seen The Rise of Skywalker yet, save yourself some time and money and give it a miss but I know if you're a Star Wars fan, you will still go and see it.
Ah, Obi Wan, the balance in the Force has been lost. I'm only glad they didn't resurrect you and Yoda to witness the trashing of your legacy. But, as bad as it feels at the moment, word has reached me from a distant galaxy (Ok, from number 3 son) that we are not entirely without hope. Apparently, The Mandalorian, another Star Wars offshoot set after episode 6, is getting very good reviews so for fans mourning the passing of our old friend Star Wars, it may not be RIP just yet. So, as we prepare to jet off again to a galaxy far, far away maybe the lesson to be learned here is that, if you can't do it better, especially when it comes to film classics, then leave it alone.
May the force be with you!