You know? There was a time where being a Star Wars fan was fun. For four decades, this series of goofy, but fun film series of space adventures brought joy to millions of people worldwide and they proudly shared their enthusiasm of the franchise with others. Then, as if the Dark Side of the Force struck, that changed this decade. Let’s look at a little history. In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced a new trilogy of films, starting with The Force Awakens in 2015, directed by J.J. Abrams. Though the film has garnered criticisms that ranged from perfectly valid (like taking a lot from A New Hope) to completely idiotic (like every “Rey is a Mary Sue” argument), The Force Awakens revitalized the franchise and made the majority of fans excited about Star Wars again after how underwhelming the prequels were. A year later, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released as the first of what was planned to be an anthology series of films outside of the main series and most people like that film as well. Then, in 2017, there was The Last Jedi. Ooh, boy, The Last Jedi. This movie broke the Star Wars fandom. There were people who didn’t like the creative choices director Rian Johnson made that took the franchise to a new direction that didn’t cater to any fan theories and there’s people like me who liked all of that and feel that it’s one of the better films in the franchise. There was always a sub-section of people who hate the more recent Star Wars films because they believe Disney is Satan reincarnated or for some culture war BS that I won’t go into, but those individuals were (and still are) in the minority. This movie made them even more vocal and they still complain about it two years later. A year later, Solo: A Star Wars Story is released and it bombed due to poor marketing and the fact that it was an average-at-best film that had no narrative reason to exist and killed the anthology series dead on its tracks. Flash forward to 2019, we got a new Star Wars film that’ll conclude not just the sequel trilogy, but the entire Skywalker saga, and it’s directed by J.J. Abrams after Colin Trevorrow originally left due to creative differences. I saw the reviews and was like, “OOF.” But I didn’t let that sway my opinions and went in with no expectations. So how is the new Star Wars film? Well, let’s find out. This is Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
The Resistance is at its last legs as they prepare for one last stand against the First Order. Making things worse is the return of Emperor Palpatine, whose schemes could change the course of the conflict. Holy shit, the story in this film is a mess. First off, the pacing in this film is super wonky. This is especially true in the first third, which is just a wild goose chase for a few MacGuffins that doesn’t give you enough room to breathe and take in the character moments. If you’re someone who liked The Last Jedi, you’ll be disappointed in The Rise Of Skywalker as they either don’t follow up elements that were established or just straight-up retcons them. It’s like either J.J. Abrams wanted to do his own thing that was completely different from what Rian Johnson did. On another note, the writer of this film is Chris Terrio, who wrote Batman v. Superman and Justice League. That explains a lot. Yeah, he wrote Argo, which won a bunch of Oscars, but that’s different.
I will say this: the acting in this movie for the most part is pretty good. I like the interactions between Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). I wished we had more moments of these three together in the entire sequel trilogy. I didn’t like the way their arcs concluded, though, and there are a lot of missed opportunities. A lot of fans were hoping that Finn and Poe would become a couple and I support that idea. The foundation was set up in The Force Awakens with how they interacted and it would be a big deal for this huge franchise to have an LGBT+ couple that are main characters. But because Disney are cowards who bow to China, that isn’t happening and the only LGBT+ representation you get in this film happens in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kiss between two unnamed background characters at the end. Of course, you’ll have the basement-dwelling hobgoblins who’ll whine about “forced diversity” and “keep your politics out of my space wizard movies with space Nazis,” but they’re in the minority. Anyways, another disappointment is how the film handled Finn. He has an interesting backstory as a stormtrooper who defected from the First Order and eventually joined the Resistance. He comes across another former stormtrooper Jannah (Naomi Ackie). Wouldn’t it be cool if he and Jannah convinced a bunch of stormtroopers to break away from the First Order? Instead, Finn just bickers with Poe and is constantly calling out Rey’s name. There’s also a scene where the gang are sinking into quicksand and Finn wants to tell Rey something, but it never comes to fruition. Most of us thought that he was gonna confess his love to her, but J.J. Abrams revealed in a Q+A that Finn was trying to tell her he was Force sensitive. Okay. Poe is the same hotheaded jackass that he was in the beginning of The Last Jedi, rendering the development he had in that movie completely pointless. Plus, we learn more about his past and how he used to be a spice runner. Rey continues her Jedi training under Leia and she learns how to use the Force to heal, which I am fine with since it goes along with the Jedi philosophy of pacifism. Speaking of Leia, I think they handled all of the Leia stuff pretty tastefully, which is difficult to do since they planned a bigger role for her that’s been sidelined due to Carrie Fisher’s passing. I liked Chewbacca (though I didn’t like the fakeout they pulled by making us believe that he died) and I liked C-3PO. It’s also good to see Billy Dee Williams as Lando again, even though he didn’t have much to do. Speaking of people who didn’t have much to do, they did Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) dirty in this film. She was a major part of The Last Jedi thanks to the Canto Bight subplot which people didn’t like, but I, personally, thought it was good development for Finn, but they turned her into another background character. That is a crime that shows why caving to all the people who complained nonstop about The Last Jedi is a bad idea.
Kylo Ren is one of the best parts of the sequel trilogy and Adam Driver kills it every time. His scenes with Rey are excellent and shows great chemistry. Despite that, I didn’t like how they concluded his story. They pulled a redemption arc for Kylo despite subverting that in the previous two films. They shouldn’t have done that because that just makes him another Darth Vader and we’ve already seen that story before. It’d be more unique if Kylo stayed a villain throughout because that would show that not everyone can be saved. You should try to save as many people as you can, but people can only be saved if they want to be saved and Kylo Ren did not want to be saved. He only became good when Leia died and he becomes Ben Solo again. He dies saving Rey’s life at the end, but before that, they share a kiss and I hated it. They should not be a couple and all of the ReyLo shippers can fight me on that. General Hux gets the short end of the stick as he’s revealed to be a spy giving information to the Resistance before getting shot, not because he’s a good guy, but because he wanted to stick it to Kylo Ren. It comes out of nowhere, but you gotta love self-destructive infighting within Nazis, real or fictional. Oh, and Emperor Palpatine is back. Ian McDarmid does a pretty good job portraying the Sith Lord, but his inclusion feels like a last-minute addition and it’s used for one of the dumbest plot twists in Star Wars history.
I’m going to start off positive before getting into the nitty-gritty. The action sequences are engaging and exciting despite the uneven pace, the visuals are top-notch, and John Williams’ score is always a joy to hear, complimenting every scene and adding to the mood. Okay, time for some more bitching and complaining. First off, Palpatine’s return. The first paragraph in the text crawl basically says that Palpatine has returned from the dead off-screen. They don’t really explain how he came back to life, they just used the Dark Side as an excuse. That’s lazy writing right there. They also revealed that he’s been behind everything that’s happened in this trilogy, that he somehow built a MASSIVE fleet of Star Destroyers with Death Star cannons (seriously, the space Nazis have a fetish for planet-killing weapons), and that Snoke was just a clone and there’s many other Snoke clones. Then there’s the big twist surrounding Rey’s heritage. She’s the granddaughter of Palpatine.
Think about it: Palpatine was clapping cheeks, his offspring was clapping cheeks, and thus created the main protagonist of this trilogy. Fucking eww. When they did that reveal, I said out loud in the theater, “WHAT?!” So Kylo was full of shit when he said that Rey’s parents were nobody. Apparently not, since one of her parents is the child of the friggin’ Sith Lord himself. This reveal does explain why Rey is so powerful with the Force, but it undermines something that could have been unique, that you can be someone special without coming from a famous bloodline. I was hoping that Rey wouldn’t be a Skywalker or a Kenobi, but her being a Palpatine is just as dumb. I expect this from bad fan-fiction, not the official movies continuing the story. A big theme of this trilogy is that of legacy, of looking at the past and seeing how it affects the present and the future. Well, it’s clear that J.J. is leaning heavily towards the past when it comes to making this movie with recalls and references to other films and recreating certain scenes, especially Return Of The Jedi. The final scene of the film is Rey visiting Luke’s home in Tatooine when a local asks what her name is and she replies, “Rey Skywalker.” Yeah, I found that real corny and I knew it was coming.
I give Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker a 6/10. I don’t hate this movie. It’s not the worst Star Wars movie ever, especially when Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones exist. It’s an entertaining ride that I wish was better. I think the performances, action scenes, cinematography, and score are good, but they’re let down by the pacing and, ultimately, the story. This movie has the task of wrapping up a trilogy and a 9-movie saga and it ended up being a detriment to the overall story, more focused on nostalgia and fan-service rather than bringing new elements that push the Star Wars lore forward. Say what you will about The Last Jedi, it took risks and it built a bridge to a possible new experience with Star Wars. With Rise Of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams looked at that bridge, blew it up, and gave us more of the same, unoriginal safeness that’s derivative of the other films. There’s been worse conclusions to big franchises this year (hello, Game Of Thrones), but Rise Of Skywalker is still an underwhelming film that reflects badly on the sequel trilogy as a whole. Thanks to this movie, it’s clear to a lot of people that Lucasfilm had no roadmap to how this series was gonna go and there’s no clear consistency with these films. As bad as the prequels are, there was at least a vision. Who knows what the future of Star Wars is going to be like? All I can say is that if Lucasfilm wants to keep making more Star Wars films (which they will), they’re gonna need to change their strategy. Otherwise, it’ll be just another franchise that’s run out of steam. On the bright side of things, at least The Mandalorian is good, so there’s that. Here’s my final definitive ranking of all the Star Wars films.
- THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
- THE LAST JEDI
- A NEW HOPE
- THE FORCE AWAKENS
- RETURN OF THE JEDI
- ROGUE ONE
- REVENGE OF THE SITH
- THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
- THE PHANTOM MENACE
- ATTACK OF THE CLONES