Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and is the conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy started by J.J. Abrams with ‘The Force Awakens’, and followed with Rian Johnsons controversial ‘The Last Jedi’. This film continues the story of Rey, Finn, and Poe against the First Order, now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. From what the trailers have revealed, none other than Emperor Palpatine has returned in this story. We’ve also been told that this is the conclusion to the Skywalker saga, as well as the sequel trilogy which, that alone was a tall order to fill with the passing of the late Carrie Fisher. To say that Abrams had his work cut out for him when returning to the franchise was a galactic understatement.
This isn’t to soften the critiques I have with The Rise of Skywalker or to say that this film gets passes due to unknowable circumstances, but to illustrate that the odds were never really good for the final conclusion of Rey’s story, let alone all of the Skywalker saga.
This new sequel trilogy has been a bumpy road, to say the least. “The Force Awakens” was a good, albeit repetitive start to the franchise. “The Last Jedi” split the fandom down the middle by subverting expectations, choosing to leave behind certain plot points from the previous film, but nevertheless made bold choices that left our characters on a trajectory that could lead to an infinite number of possibilities. What really perplexes me about “The Rise of Skywalker” is that with the number of possibilities and directions you can go, it chooses to spend most of its time in service to winning back dissatisfied fans with out of nowhere plot reveals and a visually appealing yet empty conclusion.
The movie is an action-packed, fast-paced mess, but let’s start with the positives. The main cast of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac are all great and finally get to have some moments on screen together. Anthony Daniels gets to have more moments in this as C-3PO and was better than he’s been in these films since the original trilogy. The acting overall is extremely well done with Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. I feel like fans of Kylo Ren are going to be very satisfied with this character as he and Rey both have leveled up in their powers. Seeing them fight really is some of the best moments of the movie and seeing them test those limits.
Also not knowing what they would do with Leia as a character with the passing of Carrie Fisher and J.J. Abrams deciding to use old footage from Carrie Fisher in “The Force Awakens”, it really blended onto this film fairly well. Sometimes the dialogue felt a little forced but it was lifted from another film so it’s amazing it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The movie has a heart no doubt. It was made by someone who loves and cares about Star Wars and it shows in every scene.
At this point of only seeing the film once, I don’t know if I will change my opinions about certain points of the movie. The film toes the line from being fan service done right to forced, seemingly completely contradictory reveals that not only weaken the movie’s stakes but also takes away from previous installments.
It’s clear that from “The Force Awakens” to where we are now there just was no clear creative vision to guide the storytellers from beginning to end. This isn’t the worst of the franchise by a long shot, but it’s also not a perfect fit to tie up the saga. I’m sure there will be spirited debates for years about what could have been. But for me, I’m going to look on the light side of the force and say this is still worth checking out to see the conclusion on the sequel trilogy.
I’m giving Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a 6/10