I’d ordinarily start off a review of a Star Wars movie by lambasting the retarded fanboys who keep lining up like cattle on a slaughterhouse conveyor belt every time a new film comes out, despite every installment since 1983 being trash. I can’t do that any more for two reasons.

The first is that I willingly paid money to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I saw the previous two films because I got paid to review them for the now-defunct sites Right On and Return of Kings, so I could justify it because it was technically work. I’m not getting a dime for this review unless someone gives me a pity donation, so joke’s on me this time. My rationalization for spending $5 to see The Rise of Skywalker is that having endured the previous two installments, I felt honor-bound to see this shit parade through to the end. Skipping out on the last flick felt like pulling out of a fat single mother 30 seconds before cumming.

The second is that even the goldfish-brained nerdoids of Star Wars fandom have started turning their back on the galaxy far, far away. I’ve watched the decline with my own eyes. When I saw The Force Awakens four years ago in Chicago, there were lines out the door that were so long I ended up going to a matinee screening the next day. When I saw The Last Jedi in Budapest two years ago, there was no line and the theater had a few empty seats. And when I saw The Rise of Skywalker last night in Yerevan—at an 8PM screening, no less—the theater was half-empty and I had an entire row to myself.

Star Wars fans have had enough. The disastrous audience reaction to The Last Jedi and the box office nuke that was Solo are proof of that. Disney knows this, which is why they didn’t even bother bribing mainstream reviewers to fellate The Rise of Skywalker like they did with the last two films. This movie is going to kill Star Wars in the same way that Nemesis killed Star Trek and Batman and Robin killed the original Batman movies. Rian Johnson better start cold-calling for new gigs, because that three-picture contract he signed with Disney will soon be worth more as single-ply.

This is a bit of a tragedy, because The Rise of Skywalker is not the atrocity I expected it would be. It’s a bad flick to be sure, muddled fanfic with a Hollywood budget. But it’s an anodyne blend of bad that numbs your critical faculties and saps your will to bitch about it. It’s on the same level as The Force Awakens in that it inspires dispassionate loathing, as opposed to the gut-level hatred inculcated by The Last Jedi.

The story kinda sorta picks up where the last film left off, with Mary Sue protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley), affirmative action hire Finn (John Boyega), and ethnically confused fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) working with the Rebels Resistance to defeat the Empire First Order. Antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) discovers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still alive despite having been yeeted back in Return of the Jedi, and even worse, Palpatine has managed to pull an entire fleet of Star Destroyers out of his ass, each equipped with Death Star lasers. It’s up to our intrepid heroes to stop this armada of deus ex machinas before the galaxy is overrun.

In a shocking bit of inspiration from Disney, The Rise of Skywalker is the first film of the new trilogy that doesn’t attempt to copy the original trilogy frame-by-frame. Oh sure, there are plenty of allusions to Return of the Jedi—a battle between the Rebels and a far larger Imperial fleet, a confrontation between Palpatine and a younger Jedi, and even a direct rip-off of the scene where the Super Star Destroyer crashes into the Death Star—but overall, the movie’s plot arc is far more original than the previous two entries.

The relationship between J.J. Abrams (who directed this film and The Force Awakens) and Rian Johnson (director of The Last Jedi) can be likened to two effete 18th century English aristocrats who hate each others’ guts but don’t have the balls to sue for libel or face off in a duel. Johnson spent most of The Last Jedi deliberately crushing all the subplots Abrams set up in The Force Awakens, and Abrams spends most of The Rise of Skywalker retconning Johnson’s entire film. You can practically visualize them brawling like Rick Sanchez from the “microverse” episode: “Your movie sucks! And your plot arc is the shape of a fucking Peano curve! It’s wack!”

This bugman dick-measuring contest is likely the main reason why The Rise of Skywalker dials back on the wokeness levels. Abrams’ film has no purple-haired HR ladies chewing out their male underlings or illiterate slave brats using the Force to levitate spoons. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), the obese Vietcong accountant who was clearly being set up as Finn’s love interest in The Last Jedi, is given three lines of dialogue in the whole movie. The ambiguously gay overtones between Finn and Poe are defused by giving them each a new female love interest…who promptly cuck them. Well, they tried.

Unfortunately, Abrams is still clueless when it comes to crafting plots that don’t have the consistency of moldy Swiss. Palpatine’s ridiculous fleet of Death Stars is just the tip of the iceberg. In the subsequent scene, we get to watch the Millennium Falcon hyperspace jumping from planet to planet with the consistency of Rick’s portal gun. I guess Abrams thought that if Johnson could take a big shit all over the rules of hyperspace in the last movie, he might as well do it, too. Rey and Kylo’s telepathic phone sex sessions also make a return, but instead of merely talking to each other, they can now snatch things from each other’s bodies, an unexplained plot point used to smooth over plot holes with the subtlety of using sidewalk concrete to fix tooth cavities.

Abrams’ and Johnson’s obsession with screwing with each others’ continuity also undermines any consistent themes the trilogy might otherwise have. For example, in The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren’s emo moping about “let[ting] the past die” in The Last Jedi is now replaced with halfwit genetic determinism; he justifies his embrace of the dark side by claiming it runs in his family. Then there’s the matter of Palpatine being shoehorned into the movie with zero foreshadowing or explanation. Each film’s script reads like it was written according to Robert’s Rules of Order, creating a Frankenstein of a trilogy that is unappealing to watch.

A problem specific to The Rise of Skywalker is its overuse of the original trilogy’s stars, who sap vital oxygen that needs to go to the protagonists. Carrie Fisher’s death by misadventure didn’t stop Abrams from reusing old footage of her in awkward, disconnected scenes, a cinematic rape that rivals John Candy’s posthumous “performance” in Wagons East! Luke Skywalker shows up as a Force ghost in an obvious allusion to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s appearance in Return of the Jedi, but without Alec Guinness’ talent and the superior writing in that film, Mark Hamill comes off like a enuresis-afflicted kindergartner cast as Macbeth in a school play. Even Harrison Ford shows up at one point to slur through his lines and dash off to cash his check.

Mainstream critics have been blaming Star Wars enthusiasts and their dislike of The Last Jedi for all this awkward fan service, and while I’m loathe to agree with those whores on anything, they have a point. Yeah, it’s great to see familiar faces from the old films, but shoving them in in an attempt to please fanboys kneecaps the main actors and keeps them from shining. Abrams’ own Star Trek reboot, for all its many flaws, did this far more artfully, only grabbing one actor from the original series and limiting his screen time. The Rise of Skywalker is so ham-fisted in comparison that the scene of Lando Calrissian cucking Finn out of his Bantu waifu symbolizes the film as a whole.

The core issue is that trying to do a new Star Wars trilogy with modern actors, directors, and writers is like hiring Jackson Pollack to paint a new version of The Garden of Earthly Delights. The original Star Wars films were written in a cultural language that Americans no longer understand. George Lucas’ creation is as steeped in the 1970’s as punk rock, leisure suits, and stagflation. To someone who didn’t grow up in that milieu, the central elements of Star Wars are incomprehensible, and any attempt to recreate it will have an underlying sense of falseness, an uncanny valley of fight choreography and thot snark.

In particular, the original Star Wars trilogy was infused with a gravitas that modern filmmakers have no ability to recreate. While the movies had their lighthearted moments, they were laced with an earnestness that is utterly foreign to our postmodern, post-ironic, post-sincerity world. Even the prequels, as inept as they were, had a seriousness to them that this new trilogy lacks. This hit me early on in the film, during a scene in which Finn and Poe return from a dangerous mission only for Rey—who should be grateful that they’re still alive and eager to hear what they’ve learned—snarking at them like a feminist telling her critics to get in the WAAAHHHMBULANCE. People don’t act like this, and people in life or death situations definitely don’t act like this.

The sad thing is that there’s a lot of territory in the Star Wars universe that a competent filmmaker could use to make movies that are both true to its core themes and intelligently deconstruct its more questionable elements. Perhaps the most masterful example of this is the Knights of the Old Republic games from the early 2000’s. The first game is in many ways a remake of A New Hope, but quality writing and acting elevated it to greatness; however, the sequel, The Sith Lords, is probably the best Star Wars work outside of the core trilogy.

The Sith Lords revolves around an antagonist who despises the Force and wants to kill it, viewing it as a malevolent god who manipulates human beings into wars and chaos for its own amusement, an interesting twist on the atheist idea that if God is real, he’s a massive asshole for allowing human suffering. Think about it: everyone thinks being a Jedi is cool, but in Star Wars’ own mythology, half the people who learn to use the Force fall to the dark side and become murderous psychopaths. If the Force existed in real life, governments would outlaw using it and people would ostracize Jedi from society the first time a Sith lord popped up and started killing people, like how the U.S. government banned masked vigilantism in Watchmen.

That’s how you deconstruct a work of fiction, not by creating an elderly, purple-haired Tumblrista general whose sole purpose is to dress down her male subordinates for doing their jobs. The fake news media flacks whining about how the evil, evil fans ruined The Rise of Skywalker don’t get this, nor do they understand that Mary Sue protagonists are uninteresting because without character flaws or weaknesses, there’s no tension and no audience investment. Both Rey and her Sith enemies are so overpowered in the movie that it’s impossible to relate to them, as action scenes turn into glorified video game battles to see who can mash on their special attack buttons the fastest.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t trigger the disgust reflexes in the same way that The Last Jedi did, but that’s not an endorsement. It’s cinematic pruno: every ingredient on hand dumped into a bag in the hope that it’ll create a buzz, but it’s a dirty high at best and it smells like shit. And if the reviews and box office returns are any indication, people have finally decided to dump Star Wars in the trash and move on.