Re: Rise of Skywalker [HERE THERE BE SPOILERS]
Got dragged to see this a second time by family, and one little detail upset me so much that I ended up writing a longish thing about it. So, breaking my word from above and posting it here.
Remember how in The Last Jedi, when brother and sister are finally reunited, Luke and Leia's theme plays and it's beautiful and touching and meaningful? In The Rise of Skywalker it plays over Lando talking to Jannah, a character he's never met before, because they needed something to fill the space.
This little moment--the movie doing all it can to induce meaning through the brute force of nostalgia without context--is repeated again and again throughout the film's runtime. In The Last Jedi, Kylo smashing his mask symbolizes his rejection of his legacy as a crutch; when he reconstructs the mask in The Rise of Skywalker, it's because JJ Abrams liked the prop. In The Force Awakens, the wreckage of Star Destroyers symbolizes the failures of postwar liberalism to dispel the ghosts of fascism, and the Skywalker saber the burden of the past that the younger generation must carry; in The Rise of Skywalker, the wreckage of the Death Star is a pit stop on an unending series of fetch quests and the Skywalker saber is reassembled for the trailer shots. In The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Han and Luke's deaths are sacrifices to reach humanity in those who have none, to save friends and family, to spark hope in the galaxy; in The Rise of Skywalker, Leia dies because the real-life circumstances of the shoot required it.
This is a movie composed entirely of gesture and reference and shades of iconography without any deeper sense of what these building blocks mean or why they matter. It's a desperate plea for these things to be loved because you loved them once upon a time, not because of what they represent or what resonance new context could give them. And even that kind of feeble parody is beyond its grasp--the imagery is slathered so thick it becones ridiculous and ugly, the score strains to thrill but is only a tired ghost of what it was, the plotlines that reach into the past take all the things about this trilogy that were genuinely new and vital and stamp them into the ground. Its appeal to past joys is so overwhelming that it kills anything that made us love these new characters--there is no interiority here, no inner lives or motivations, just puppets hurtling from beat to beat to serve a pyramid of retcons and reversals because "it's what the fans want."
"You may find," says a certain alien in a certain other space franchise, "that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting." And after all their entitled, witless, screaming wanting, this--this clumsy, cowardly, shambling reanimated corpse--is all the fans will have.