Movies

Movie review: ‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’

Decades-long saga draws to a close with just a slight letdown

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 12/22/19

Just what is the "Star Wars" universe trying to teach us? Is it that Wookiees are incredibly loyal, fierce and loveable friends? Or, that brave freedom fighters will always give their lives for a just cause? Or, that evil will never die and that a gigantic armada of Imperial Star Destroyers can be built in secret by a cranky old relative?

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Movies

Movie review: ‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’

Decades-long saga draws to a close with just a slight letdown

Posted

Just what is the "Star Wars" universe trying to teach us? Is it that Wookiees are incredibly loyal, fierce and loveable friends? Or, that brave freedom fighters will always give their lives for a just cause? Or, that evil will never die and that a gigantic armada of Imperial Star Destroyers can be built in secret by a cranky old relative?

In truth, the only real lesson to be learned is that no one has the courage to defy the great and powerful George Lucas to concoct a better plot than the one he developed on the fly with his first space opera trilogy back in the 1970s.

It would be truly epic to think that Lucas had a grand plan for “Star Wars” that followed a family of space warriors with royal and religious connections across generations and alliances that would take more than 40 years to complete. But, he didn’t. Why else would he start all this with “Episode IV”?

What began as an homage to old sci-fi serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers mixed-in with a bit of 1950s movie westerns quickly became a cinematic behemoth when it was deemed a success and demands for more filled this universe “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” But, when it came to fulfilling those demands, Lucas and, later, others who followed in his footsteps, seemed stuck to the same playbook in terms of story.

Now, with J.J. Abrams directing “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker,” the final chapter is upon us and, while the action is ramped up as a result of huge advances in digital animation there are still the same kinds of familial revelations and loose ends that needed closing, so much so it feels less like the closing pages of “War and Peace” than a top-heavy comic book.

This should make those who excitedly stood in line that hot summer of 1977 feel some sense of closure and not just … well, ok, it’s done. Lucas made his zillions. Now, lets see if he goes back and forces the new generation of filmmakers to tinker with director’s cuts and expanded editions.

For me, the first trilogy said it all and felt as complete as it should. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was the perfect naïve youth thrust into greatness with pals like Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca the Wookiee (Peter Mayhew) fighting the evil Empire led by Darth Vader (voiced by the great James Earl Jones). Then, the completists had their way and somebody had to do the first three episodes followed by the inauguration of the final three. At least, Lucas had less to do with the latter, which made the creation of new characters more interesting. But, the plots were the same.

Leading this new generation was the female rebel Rey (Daisy Ridley), accompanied by Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), plus the robots C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2, and even Chewbacca. Rey’s role in this has to do with innate powers rooted in The Force, and how she is somehow psychically linked to the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his devotion to a new Dark Side overseer who rules The First Order even more fiercely than the old Empire. Offering their sage advice are Leia (who appears here as a digitally animated creation because of Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016) and Han Solo.

Abrams keeps the action taut and even thrilling, taking us through this final adventure with the skill level that one expects. But, the drama is rote and, for those who have been through this series since 1977, it is a bit too familiar. This new movie, though, isn’t for that generation of movie goer. It’s for those who have discovered it anew and slavishly pore over details for Easter eggs raged over in internet chat rooms and social media.

At nearly two and a half hours long, there’s a lot to pick apart. But, like Ford said in a totally different movie, “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”

Tempo grade: A-

“Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Cats

MPAA rating: PG for some rude and suggestive humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

“Cats” is a most-unexpected film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's beloved smash musical "Cats" and the poems from "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," by T.S. Eliot.

Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper brings new technology to transform his cast members. One of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, "Cats" received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981-where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances.

In the streets of London, a car stops near a building long enough to drop off a bag in the garbage. This is seen by a number of cats, who examine the bag. It contains a white cat named Victoria (Francesca Hayward), who had been abandoned. As the tale unfolds we discover that this tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.

Cast includes Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellan, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson and many more.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Jojo Rabbit

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language.

Taos Community Auditorium

Writer-director Taika Waititi brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

This film will be screened at 7 p.m. Monday (Dec. 23) and Thursday and Friday (Dec. 26-27) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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