Following any divergence such as was “The Last Jedi” there can be a sense of reckoning. In the first “Star Wars” trilogy not overseen by one person (i.e. Lucas) there is bound to be conflict of conception. Colin Trevorrow was originally supposed to do this segmentation and obvious a wisp of his story structure remains. But as Adam Driver alluded, this path was always the correct one and the point discussed from the beginning. The film here feels right. It is the best made of this trilogy of films mating some of the basic risks that Abrams might have avoided with “Force Awakens” which felt infinitely too safe but also keying into aspects of what fans would like to see.
“The Rise Of Skywalker” is dense and moving. And yet there are holes. Now granted in most movies of this scale, there is a certain level of disbelief allowed. But this is Star Wars. The reality is director JJ Abrams had a shorter time to make this, close up as many loose ends as he could and keep the release date Disney set. He did. And to make the film as entertaining as it is with some specific moments that needed to work while integrating Leia and giving a sense of closure, this one feels more steady.
Rian Johnson’s previous film which had a couple spots which were brilliant also drifted too much into the metaphors and politics, which of course is part of it but also what bogged down many elements of the prequel trilogy. There is no exact formula with these movies that make them work no matter what. These films are a huge undertaking. “Empire Strikes Back” didn’t look effortless. There are clunky elements in that too but time is the true test. The issue here is that you see the work but the bridges made to get there don’t have time to breathe and have a lack of connection. The dichotomy of what everybody feels and how they display it is very anachronistic almost making it seemed forced. Daisy Ridley as Rey is a perfect vessel but she always seems too pained though her voyage is not meant to be easy. When you see joy in her, it is mired in sadness which is part of the structure. The intention is there but it is all about plot. Rey wants to find balance. Every act she commits is towards this. But impulse is her enemy which is the entire progression. But balance is the key word.
In keeping the main three stars together most of the time in this installment, it creates a better dynamic considering how different all of them are. This is why the original film worked between Han, Luke & Leia. Chewie had a better part then. Here even that character is used more in the vein of nostalgia but Abrams uses that as much as he can. Poe as a character is still underdeveloped. He was never supposed to be a Han Solo and yet there is never a sense that he nor Finn is a general per se. They still have the same fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants mantra but their stakes never feel fully realized. “The Last Jedi” was better at doing this and for inherent iconic image. But again didn’t move like this. No Canto Bright to bog the trajectory down.
Adam Driver, comparatively as a character, is truly the only one that comes close to full realization as Kylo Ren but again his character needs to serve the plot as well. One scene in particular really makes it sing and it was inherent that it need to happen, despite it being more of a metaphor per se. But inherently that is what Star Wars is about. Without giving away spoilers, this scene offers the perspective which makes everything acceptable. Star Wars was and is about archetypes. The path could only truly be one way. The ideal it comes back to is that this is entertainment and the film thrills. Case closed.
By Tim Wassberg
Bringing new ideas within certain conventions becomes the challenge of originality versus a notion of comfort. Whether new perceptions of law-based inventiveness, a conspiracy-fueled mythic series, a remake or a good old fashioned spy romp, the catch becomes exciting the audience with fresh enough characters to give the series stamina.
Outlaw Within the ideal of a show revolving in the law, the concept, in its dexterious evolution, needs to involve a hidden motive. While this new Jimmy Smits-led ensemble places that in context, it does not give enough motivation to make it undeniable. The strength here lies in Smits not letting his character take himself too seriously (like a “House” structure to the law profession). What keeps his brevity moving is the throttling between his younger and more visceral underlings (specifically in the tension between Jesse Bradford’s straight laced Eddie and Carly Pope’s saucy Lucinda). The key becomes how far one can bend the rules without losing the structure of loyalty and decency within the moral foreground.
The Event Creating a mystery-throttled mythology series and calling it by a name like this is pretty forward. Considering the similarly based “Flash Forward” couldn’t maintain the status quo that “Lost” had undeniably filled is based purely on character. The set up of this series and its multi-episode narrative placement requires attention to detail despite the fact that the characters, though defined, suffer from a lack of depth. Jason Ritter’s character Sean provides the catalyst while Blair Underwood’s President Martinez gives the conflict a global platform. The key character which the series seems to most likely rest on gives it hope in the form of Ian Anthony Dale’s Simon Lee who holds the morality and intelligence-based key to the entire infrastructure in is hands. The question becomes how interesting can the intensity get and will the audience care?
Hawaii Five-O In resurrecting a perception of new blood within a Hawaiian tropic, the idea is to make it specific without being too broad. The integration tends to work because of the characters involved with some doing more than others as the episodes progress. The idea of different smuggling and different barrier-based operations speaks well, especially with the island chain being the first line of defense in the Pacific against attacks. The idea of insiders and outsiders within the first couple episodes seems to speak to a darker underworld without damaging the tourism angle of the show which definitely speaks through. Alex O’Loughlin plays McGarrett with a little more coldness than some of his previous characters but this tends to create decent machismo in respect to Scott Caan’s Danny. Caan brings street cred in terms of indie edge to the series. His lines are written fast and furious giving a sense of improv to the proceedings. Rounding out the team is Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both genre veterans with intensity and previous shows which allowed them to truly shine. Unfortunately so far, besides some texturing of past daliances, there hasn’t been a veracity of distinctive storylines to truly give the series edge while maintaining its stand-alone episode progression.
Undercovers Using the elements of “True Lies” within a structure of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” dynamics, “Undercovers” works because it is made with lush texture that dictates that its ideas are being portrayed seriously. In returning to this high octane personification (ala “My Own Worst Enemy”), the question becomes keeping the characters engaged enough that the mythology will work in tandem. While different backstories within the first four episodes reveal themselves, the balance relies on the fact of the two leads, who operate and live as a husband-and-wife catering team, have to be constantly jumping to conclusions to keep the audience on its feet. Saving the world and doing it as off-the-books black ops means restriction of identity and a need for progressive storytelling which seems unbalanced at best.