No ones ever really gone in this franchise, are they? Emperor Palpatine has returned in terrifying (and weird) fashion. The resistance is struggling to court new allies in the battle against the First Order. General Leia Organa has become Rey’s Jedi master as it is revealed she received and completed Jedi training under the guidance of her brother Luke Skywalker. Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca are now in command of the Millennium Falcon as they seek out information. There’s a mole in the First Order. And, the issue of Rey’s parents has now been re-opened, and there are a host of new force abilities.
Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is in search of ancient sith artifacts to track down the mysterious signal sent from the now alive Emperor Palpatine. In the midst of all of this, Rey and her friends must find a way to end the First Order, kill Palpatine, restore balance to the force, and either turn or defeat Kylo Ren.
Phew, there’s so much happening in this film, if it sounds like too much, its because it is. I’m saying it now if you have not seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stop reading now as there is no good way to review this film without going heavy into spoilers.
Consider this your warning.
Before I get into what didn’t work for me, let me talk about what did.
- The character moments between Finn, Poe, and Rey were fantastic. It’s a shame we didn’t get more interaction between the three of them in the trilogy because their dynamic makes for a more enjoyable film.
- C-3PO is given more to do in this final film, and he is as funny and helpful as ever. Many of his lines brought a certain nostalgic warmth to my heart.
- New character Babu Frik is one of the best new supporting characters of the franchise. He’s a wonderful practical effect and beyond adorable in this film.
- Rey* and Kylo, I’ll explain the asterisk below, but overall, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley nail their performances of Rey and Kylo Ren. They both bring a certain weight to these characters, with Adam Driver capturing Kylo’s conflictions incredibly well.
- The action set-pieces (while non-stop) are some of the best in any trilogy of Star Wars films. The lightsaber duel on one of Endor’s moons between Kylo and Rey is one of the most stunning and iconic moments in the franchise. Likewise, watching Ben Solo take Luke’s lightsaber via force FaceTime from Rey and cut down the Knights of Ren was a badass moment.
Alright, so now that’s over, let’s get to what didn’t work for me. Essentially, Emperor Palpatine’s return and the handling of Rey’s lineage both story-wise and thematically didn’t work. First and foremost, Rey’s arc and her parents. Kylo Ren reveals that her parents were nobodies because they chose to be and that she is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. Lazily retconning what came before in The Last Jedi and fundamentally changing aspects of it. In the previous film, Rian Johnson reveal works because it is the last thing Rey (and the audience) wants to hear. It allows the franchise to move forward with the idea that anybody can save the galaxy. The force surrounds everyone and doesn’t belong to any one person or family. To make it worse, Abrams’s execution of these changes makes The Rise of Skywalker feel incoherent and disconnected from what came before it. And, frankly, the reveal falls flat as it is nonsensical and brings up more questions than it answers.
It is no secret there was a subgroup of fans that were displeased with the choices made in The Last Jedi. After watching this film, it’s painfully clear that many of the story decisions made were reactionary to just that. This speaks to my biggest issue with the film and the franchise since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, there’s no overarching plan.
Moreover, I feel another filmmaker would have been better suited to bring everything to an end. Abrams crafts his stories around nostalgic moments and mystery boxes instead of focusing on a coherent story. There’s evidence of this in films like Super 8, Star Trek, and Mission Impossible. It’s what makes him an attractive filmmaker to big studios. However, in terms of innovative storytelling, Abrams leaves much to be desired.
The Rise of Skywalker had a tall order in completing not only this trilogy but also the overarching Skywalker Saga. In the context of these three films, The Rise Of Skywalker feels so loosely connected to The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens it’s jarring. Abram’s pacing is so fast and furious; he never allows any of the film’s big moments to sink in. Ultimately resulting in a messy, convoluted, albeit somewhat satisfying ending. Though, in regards to the entire saga itself, it is disappointing.
Thank you all for reading my thoughts on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As I’ve written before, Star Wars is a franchise I hold near and dear to my heart, and I hope Disney learns from these sets of films. In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Mandalorian and the Clone Wars TV series. If you’re interested in reading my ranking of all the Star Wars films, check it out here.