A whole lot has been made of Rise of Skywalker, Episode IX in the Skywalker Saga of films that began the Star Wars franchise in 1977. Its been 42 years since that movie came out, and the level of fan craziness has perhaps never been more high than it is now. It says a lot about a franchise that it incites fans to near riot levels of outrage when a film comes out. Star Wars fans are very…passionate. They love this universe possibly more than any other modern fictional franchise in existence. Many of us have, myself included, literally grown up with it being our form of mythological content to fantasize about. But despite our best wishes, the endless tomes of fanfiction fueled by our fantasies, or hours of YouTube videos publishing our fan theories, we do not own the franchise, nor do we get to make the stories within them canon to the lore its built upon. We can only sit back, watch, and hopefully enjoy what we are presented with. That fact won’t stop people from being displeased with the results however and unfortunately, Rise of Skywalker will also, like with The Last Jedi, not please everyone. It did make the fan in me very satisfied, even though I acknowledge it isn’t perfect.
The film takes place well after The Last Jedi, with the Resistance on the run constantly from Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader of The First Order, successor to the Galactic Empire brought to power by Emperor Palpatine. They are running out of hope for a way to win the war and finally end the oppressive forces against them. Rey, (Daisy Ridley) no longer obsessed with finding out her lineage, is honing her skills within The Force, under the tutelage of General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) herself, and she is shown to have incredible control over The Force so far. Despite all this, she still seeks a connection to SOMETHING, some greater destiny she has yet to discover.
Finn has fully grown into his role as a leader of the Resistance along with Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and they follow up on a lead that a spy within The First Order may provide them with the lead they need to turn the tide once and for all, and following up that lead has confirmed their very worst fears…Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned and has a fleet with Starkiller Weapons mounted on hundreds of Star Destroyers waiting to wipe out any resistance to his ambition to resume power over the Galaxy. Finding that the old Jedi Texts that Rey took from Ahch-To knew they way to find where Palpatine has hidden himself, Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca along with C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) embark on the quest to get to Palpatine first and end him once and for all.
Now this seems of course like the most Star Wars cookie-cutter plot ever, and of course it is. The only controversy here is that many of the plot threads from The Last Jedi seemingly have been ignored, reversed or brushed aside. No one in the film got the shaft bigger than Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico who was controversially thrust into prominence in The Last Jedi as Finn’s love interest. Rose is relegated to the biggest afterthought in the film and it’s quite jarring, even if one can reasonably understand that the character had very little to do given her background. Still, it would have been nice to find a way for them to explore Rose Tico in more depth. This might be the most egregious transgression Disney and director J.J. Abrams could commit, as it appears on the surface that they caved to fan outrage over her character being forced upon them in some measure of diversity ploy. The optics behind her demotion seem very bad, there’s no way to sugarcoat that.
The film could be viewed in a way as a vehicle to redeem Kylo Ren as well as reveal the still hidden secrets behind Rey herself, as these elements take precedent over everything else in the film. Ren is easily manipulated by the notion of killing Palpatine himself and ascending to the levels of power that his grandfather Darth Vader never did. Rey, for her part is once again presented with the temptation of discovering who her family was, and the obsession grows even stronger endangering her friends in the process. The two are, as evidenced in The Last Jedi, tied together in some way, that is conveniently explained in the only way Star Wars knows, very vaguely.
The film takes you on a very wild ride, rushing through some plotlines with blunt force, but it never stops being entertaining especially the third act which has the awaited showdown between Rey and Palpatine. Kylo Ren’s storyline wraps in a fashion that will leave many feeling unsatisfied in the journey to get there, but the end is one we could all live with. The revelation that Rey is in actuality the granddaughter of Emporer Palpatine will also make many fans angry for one reason or another, but that isn’t enough to stunt the story’s epic finale, it only increases it in my view. The end of the film ties up the end of the Skywalker saga in a somewhat messy bow, but I myself found very little to actually dislike about the film, even with the drawbacks listed in this review. The treats for fans of the series were plentiful. Seeing old faces (WEDGE ANTILLIES! Wicket!) and even old voices (Hayden Christiansen as Anakin, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu) and new ones (Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus and Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano) were some real treats, and it was so awesome for them to find a way to immortalize legendary music composer John Williams as well.
While it could certainly be said that perhaps the entire sequel trilogy of films leading up to this one, has fallen victim to curious choices by the many hands in the kitchen. It’s certainly not as bad as the critics are making it seem in my eyes, and oddly the ones who hated The Last Jedi love it, and conversely some who loved Last Jedi don’t like this one. I would absolutely recommend every person who has been a fan of Star Wars to watch the end of the saga, and form your own opinion on what makes the film good or bad. One thing can be said for certain, the galaxy far, far away now has a clean slate to which to work from.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The epic, convoluted finale to the Skywalker Saga shows us that despite the rantings of entitled fans who don't get their way, the Disney-led Star Wars franchise can still thrill us in ways we haven't seen, providing us with a satisfying end to a story that began 40 years ago.
- An epic third act
- Easter Eggs galore for longtime fans
- Rushed plot leaves us with bad tastes.
- Undoes a lot of things that The Last Jedi put in place.