Comment The Register attended a midnight showing of the latest entry in Disney's cash-cow franchise, hoping for a satisfying conclusion to 42 years of cinema trips. Did we throw our popcorn in the air with joy or stamp our feet like petulant toddlers?
The easiest way to sum up The Rise Of Skywalker is the audience reaction. There was little of the excitement at the midnight showing that greeted The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. Instead, the crowd was subdued, with only a smattering of hand-clapping as the Lucasfilm logo twinkled.
Aside from a muted exclamation when a beloved artefact and call-sign put in an appearance, and a few groans at the bit when Rey and Kylo did that, there was little more than the sound of popcorn crunching as special effects and exposition were frantically flung at the screen. At the end, the audience trudged out into the dawn, more relieved that it was over than applauding the end of an epic saga.
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn in the Danube-class runabout spacecraft utilised by Starfleet in the late 24th century. Pic: (c) Lucasfilm Ltd
Which sums up the film. It is OK. It isn't terrible, but it really needed to be great and it simply wasn't.
Disney has spent a lot of cash on the Star Wars franchise in recent years. The parks feature themed Star Wars areas on which the House of Mouse has lavished resource. Certainly, Galaxy's Edge in the Orlando park is a thing to behold, and eight-year-old me shed a tear when confronted with a full size Millennium Falcon.
It's a well-timed reminder, perhaps, that Star Wars films are aimed at children, when adults start squabbling about the meaning of the things. And goodness me, the film does have something of the theme park ride about it. The first third sees plot vomited over the audience at a cracking pace, with a breathless opening few minutes and the director unpicking an awful lot of what happened in the previous instalment.
And like the Ghost of Christmas Past, The Last Jedi, and the reaction to it, looms large over the final chapter in the Skywalker saga. So much is rolled back that one could almost (almost) skip over the previous film entirely.
The cast continues to be a likeable group, delivering the sometimes-cheesy dialog (some things never change in the Star Wars universe) with gusto. The gang stays together for much of the film this time around, niggling away at each other and chasing various MacGuffins around the galaxy and the overall tone of these elements, at least, is a good deal lighter this time around. Heck, even the veteran droid, C3PO, gets a subplot that is surprisingly heavy on pathos. Although, as with other significant events, the film quickly steps back from fully committing to it.
And with the breakneck speed at which the plot is unloaded, there are inevitably some gaping holes through which criticism can blow through: just how did that character escape from that? and, naturally, all the greatest hits of the original trilogy are present and correct. Impossible mission to hit a tiny flaw in a colossal Imperial plan? Check! Lightsaber thwacking? Plenty of that! Redemption? Of course!
The irony of a saga that is all about choosing your own destiny ending up treading a highly predictable path will not be lost on the viewer. While The Last Jedi was not to everyone's taste, a viewer would be hard pressed to describe it as just like every other Star Wars film.
Ultimately, if you've seen the rest, you'll see this one too. Like the annual dental check-up, it's an appointment you can't avoid. And don't worry - it isn't terrible. But lacking the joy of rediscovery of The Force Awakens, it just isn't very good either.
I'll leave the last word to a fellow audience member: "I can't wait to see what Robot Chicken does with that." ®
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