The angry girl from planet Jakku whom you met two movies ago is carrying the rebellion forward. Rey, the girl with no family name is working with General Leia Morgana (Princess Leia for us fans), still training to be Jedi. The evil emperor Palpatine may have died in the explosion when Darth Vader pushed him into the reactor shaft, but the dark side of the force is waiting in the shadows, ready to break up the fragile alliance. This time the leader of the First Order is Kylo Ren in that awful broken gold and black helmet, he’s as mean as he is powerful.
What is it that keeps the evil going? Why is he chasing Rey? You remember the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey and you feel that familiar frisson of fear. What is Rey’s quest this time?
Before you wonder about that, a quick recap. We met Rey in 2015, in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Poe and the cute droid BB-8 find a clue to seek the missing Luke Skywalker on Jakku. We learn how Stormtroopers are kids who have grown up in captivity, we meet ex-stormtrooper Finn and we also see how evil Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber are. Kylo has powers that are scarier. Meanwhile, Poe and BB-8 have to deliver Rey and map to Luke to the Resistance.
In the next film Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, you watch in awe as Rey discovers the dark side within and requests Luke to teach her wild heart to calm down. The Mirror room scene is imprinted in my head and I still consider it as one of the finest scenes in the Star Wars saga. The idea of self-examination is not new. You have seen everyone from Luke to Anakin struggle to deal with the force. And young padawans learning to channel the force make for memorable scenes.
In Rise of Skywalker, the last of the Star Wars films, you will see plenty of action. In fact, the action is relentless. And the 3D, which I often complain about is practically marvellous. Human beings are not rendered to look puny like in other 3D films and neither do we lose out on the light. I found myself ducking when things came at me from the IMAX screen. It is cinematically an immersive experience. Especially magical is when Rey rides the catamaran on the rough seas. You will find yourself regretting gorging on the popcorn if you are not already ready for the action.
Rey’s quick, incandescent anger is never explained. But we all know how powerful she is from the last film. Here, General Leia takes Rey under her wing and she tries hard to work on her Jedi skills even though she is distracted. There’s stuff in her head which is mind-blowing. Her visions are scary and General Leia knows how to handle her. But the evil Kylo Ren is now so powerful he can get inside of her head.
‘I have you my hand, you should have taken it.’
At the end of the last film The Last Jedi you heard the all familiar creepiest, the most threatening laugh in all of the galaxies again. Could Palpatine be alive? And you get flashbacks of Voldemort and other evil ones living through his followers from all the movies you have seen. Darth Vader is dead, but how can Palpatine…
And a true fan will remember that the force does not die, it just takes on new shapes. Are we ready to see this evil? I watch the scene where Kylo Ren touches Darth Vader’s broken mask. I want to reach out to the man and pull his hand away, the 3D is so good. And then imagine how the fear that the man in that mask instilled and I close my eyes for just that one second.
The action is so good, you marvel at how Kylo Ren can duel Rey even though he’s not present. The laser from the lightsabers still has the power to make you quake. Kylo has been ordered to present the girl and he pursues her… Without pause. This means you travel from planet to planet experiencing lots of intergalactic fun.
Now as Indians, the ‘mela’ like celebrations were meh to watch, but the film has not been made for us, so you let it pass. Because, Lando! He’s a changed man, now retired, who saves the good guys from the Stormtroopers. They’re now wickeder! I wish they had thought of these capabilities a film or two before, because now I want to know what Rey has been seeking. All these gimmicks seem like… distractions.
And there are plenty. You discover aliens, you don’t know whether they are friendly or no, you find another droid, there’s R2D2 and his usual possibilities and Poe getting ragged, and yes, there’s Chewbacca and his familiar muted complaint of a roar... You enjoy the familiarity and wonder what this quest is going to be about, and the quest is daunting. I was instantly transported to the visual of Pink Floyd’s The Wall when I saw the fleet of Destroyers in the sky, waiting to be activated. Before you say why, how, or what… I want to remind you that the Siths had cloning technology when we met the ghastly Jar Jar Binks… let me not give the game away. But of course, there will be an epic battle and Rey will ride Luke Skywalker’s X-wing (wearing that same old helmet too!)... And you will sense a deja vu when help arrives like Yoda did once…Yes, there is plenty of humour in the film and John Willaims score is magnificent.
It was amazing seeing Adam Driver as the very evil Kylo Ren and his struggle to be Ben Solo is very well crafted. With baby Yoda breaking the Net already from another show, I was happy with just seeing Luke and Leia and General Pryde and… Saying any more would be giving away too much...
Some may call it Star Wars masala ending, but what’s a Star Wars climax if you cannot cheer the destroyers being taken down by rebels? In the rush to cater to fans, they have really lame dialogue, as in one scene, the guy says, ‘I’m the spy!’
I groaned in my coffee then, but was immediately taken by the action on the screen. The secret to Rey’s family is revealed earlier in the film but you see her power increase with every moment. The final battle for Rey and Kylo Ren is a visual treat. You do get Hindi masala film feeling in the final kiss but it’s worth every bit. The tropes created by the very first Star Wars film continue marvellously in this film, but it does not seem to end right for me. There are too many arcs that are rapidly and hastily joined because this is the last film. There are some questions that remain unanswered. And when evil is gone, what do you do with someone who has so much power to manipulate the force? The last film of the Avengers gave us a sense of despair and we found solace even in their doomed ending, but this one seems to just hang there suspended like the twin suns of Tatooine.
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. Read her columns here.
First Published: IST