When Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), long thought dead, calls out to the galaxy, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) each go on a quest to find him. Meanwhile, the surviving Resistance forces get ready for a final confrontation against the First Order.
I want to start this review by saying that I am not one of those Star Wars fans who rants and rages because things are not how I expect them to be. However, I am also used to going against the majority when it comes to this franchise. I am not blind to the problems of the Prequel Trilogy but I will defend them on what they did right and the potential they had that could have been mined better if George Lucas wasn’t left to write and direct them on his own. Also, I wasn’t impressed with the first two entries of the Sequel Trilogy, feeling that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was too derivative but still contained a lot of positives and Star Wars: The Last Jedi made some missteps with major characters and did not moving the overall plot along very far, but I appreciate it for the story and the risks it took. Going into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially with JJ Abrams back at the helm to conclude the story he started with The Force Awakens. Coming out of The Rise of Skywalker, I’m left with very mixed feelings.
One thing any Star Wars movie hasn’t been short of is action and excitement. The Rise of Skywalker is no exception. In fact, it might have some of the best action pieces of the franchise. One scene sees Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) battling it out aboard wreckage out in a raging ocean. Another scene has the Resistance fleet going up against the First Order fleet that makes any aerial fight sequence from the rest of the saga pale in comparison. Additionally, there are no shortage of lightsaber duels or chases sequences. There is always something commanding your attention. For the final entry of a nine-part saga, The Rise of Skywalker has all the spectacle it deserves.
Throughout The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the new main trio of Rey, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) were never all together despite proving they had fantastic chemistry together. They spend much more time together in this film. This made me extremely happy because seriously, these three are fantastic together and play together so well. They truly bring back the chemistry of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford from the Original Trilogy. It’s only too bad it took us three movies to finally get them all together.
Despite being mainstays of the Original Trilogy, or the entire Skywalker Saga in the case of C-3PO, Chewbacca and C-3PO have never had their stand out moments, always being relegated to support characters. Well their due has finally come as both of these characters are given important things to do for the story. Discussing what those things are is going into spoilers so I won’t go into them here but longtime fans should be happy that these characters who have been around for so long are finally getting their chances to make a significant impact on this movies story.
Shortly after The Last Jedi was released, Carrie Fisher passed away. This left the fate of her character, General Leia, up in the air. Abrams and company were able to find archive footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to have her be a part of the movie. These scenes can seem a bit awkward at times, given the script had to be worked around what footage already existed, but I think for the most part they were integrated well and eventually give Fisher a proper send off our princess deserved.
Much like Abram’s The Force Awakens felt like it was played safe to appease the fan backlash of the prequels, his The Rise of Skywalker felt like he played it safe to appease the fans who outraged over The Last Jedi. Except for it feels too safe. It seemingly ignored most of what happened in Rian Johnson’s film. Many revelations, or revelations to be made in The Rise of Skywalker, were flipped or brushed away just as Johnson had done to The Force Awakens. Perhaps this was meant a course-correct from fan outrage or maybe it was because The Last Jedi veered too far from Abrams’ Star Wars plans. In either case, it makes the entire Sequel Trilogy feel more disjointed than ever.
The opening crawl immediately sets up that Emperor Palpatine has returned and that both the Resistance and Kylo Ren is searching for him. Because of this set up, the film starts at break-neck speeds. Kylo races from planet to planet in search of a McGuffin. Then Rey, Finn, and Poe are racing from planet to planet looking for a McGuffin. From there the pace rarely ever lets up. Despite the long run time, it still feels rushed because of all the threads it is trying to resolve in that time. Part of this might be because this film is trying to tie up two films of set up. Abrams had his vision of the trilogy and planted seeds in The Force Awakens then Johnson came in with The Last Jedi and was like “nah,” and set up new threads to be resolved in the final installment of the Sequel Trilogy. As a result, it throws a lot of stuff at you throughout its two and a half hour run time as Abrams does to The Last Jedi what The Last Jedi did to The Force Awakens.
This is particularly frustrating because it leaves many threads either still hanging or barely explored. Most notably, the relationship between Rey and Kylo gets an intriguing development that I would have enjoyed seeing developed more. Instead, it is mentioned just enough for the story to move forward but ends up leaving so much more unfulfilled. That is just one example and there are more that I will not go into for wanting to avoid spoiler territory. It makes me wonder why they didn’t create a vision for this new trilogy from the beginning, whether that is one person leading the creative side akin to Kevin Fiege driving the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or one director for every installment.
As I said before, and as you might have seen in the trailer, Emperor Palpatine has returned from his descent into the depths of the second Death Star by Darth Vader’s hands. For me, his return is not unwelcomed. Just like the Skywalkers have been a pillar of the Star Wars Saga, so has Palpatine. However, it does feel… unearned. There was no lead up, no foreshadowing; he just shows up. As it stands, it appears he was thrown in for nostalgia’s sake, because they needed a villain since Snoke of offed in The Last Jedi.
I thought Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker was GOOD 🙂 After my first viewing I would have called this simply “OK” but after another viewing, some of the problems that I thought were major problems became minor problems, or at least not as major as I initially thought. Maybe “Not Bad” or “Decent” would be a better way to rate this film. There are still plenty of issues, most of which stem from poor planning from Lucasfilm on the offset of planning the Sequel Trilogy, but there is also plenty to enjoy. Where you fall on the spectrum will probably depend on where you stand on the other two Sequel Trilogy films. Now that the “Skywalker Saga” is finished, maybe Disney will have a moment, take a step back, and approach the Star Wars universe more prepared the next time they dive into the galaxy far, far away.
Cast & Crew
JJ Abrams – Director / Screenplay / Story
Chris Terrio – Screenplay / Story
Derek Connolly – Story
Colin Trevorrow – Story
John Williams – Composer
Daisy Ridley – Rey
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
John Boyega – Fin
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian
Greg Grunberg – Snap Wexley
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Billie Lourd – Lieutenant Connix
Lupita Nyong’o – Maz Kanata
Keri Russell – Zorii Bliss
Shirley Henderson – Babu Frik
Naomi Ackie – Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Richard E. Grant – General Pryde
Ian McDiarmid – Emperor Palpatine