WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. Read at your own risk.
Words can’t express how badly I wanted to like this movie. Like, really, really, wanted to like it.
I liked The Force Awakens and loved The Last Jedi. I thought about the conclusion to the Skywalker saga probably more than is healthy over the last two years while I awaited the release.
I don’t think my expectations were too high. I knew I wasn’t likely to get everything I wanted in the movie.
For those of you that liked it, know that I do not want to change your mind or oppose what you liked about it. What I feel towards you is actually envy. I wish I could replace the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach with your satisfied joy.
But honestly, JJ really missed the mark on this one.
I will echo what many critics have already said – there was way too much stuffed into this movie. The breakneck pacing was too jarring for me. Moments I wanted to savor were already over in the blink of an eye.
It felt like Abrams was trying to put his vision for Episode VIII and IX in one movie, rushing to introduce new ideas for his conclusions while simultaneously ignoring what Johnson actually did in VIII.
A Rocky Start
In the opening scenes, Kylo Ren is killing his way to the never-before-mentioned Wayfinder. This allows him to reach the planet Exogol, where Palpatine hurriedly explains he was behind Snoke all along, Rey isn’t who he thinks she is, and now he must kill her.
His parroting of Darth Vader’s voice also heavily implies he is who Kylo was actually talking to when he presumably thought he was talking to Darth Vader through the mask.
These are some big revelations with major plot and character implications, which we have no time to digest because the next thing you know we’re on a high speed chase with Poe and Finn on the Falcon.
Ben’s entire journey to the Dark Side is revealed to have been engineered by Palpatine, but we move on so quickly that he, and the viewer, can’t even fully take it in.
Rey, Poe, and Finn finally team up for an adventure to find another Wayfinder, and therefore Palpatine. This, I was good with. I liked seeing our heroes together and was able to enjoy their silly banter.
The rest of the first half of the movie get’s really tedious though. Arrive on new planet, watch Rey wander off suddenly to have a confrontation with Kylo Ren, escape, repeat. There’s the introduction of new, characters (Zorii, Babu Frik), the revelation that Rey can use the Force to heal, and the revelation that Lando is still around.
All of these things would have been okay in themselves, but they happen so quickly and at the expense of other plot lines that it just starts to feel so hyperbolic.
Some of the individual moments between Rey and Kylo Ren are good and do an adequate job of building up their narrative towards the conclusion. But they’re not as poignant as the moments in The Last Jedi.
A Strange Middle
At this mid-point in the movie, there are not one, but two emotional plot points that immediately get undone.
First we realize that C-3PO needs to have his memory wiped in order to translate the Sith language written on a dagger, which will lead our heroes to the Wayfinder.
Despite an emotional moment where C-3PO has “one last look” at his friends, the rest of the characters seem to think his memory wipe is humorous, and the action turns out to be undo-able by R2-D2’s backup memory 30 minutes later.
So not only do the other characters seem to make light of C-3PO’s sacrifice, but it also is rendered pointless by the fact that it’s reversible.
Also, Chewbacca gets captured by the First Order while Rey is battling Kylo Ren. In her anger, Rey accidentally blows up a transport ship. Everyone mourns that Rey killed Chewie. Then we find out Chewie was actually on a different transport all along.
It’s like JJ wanted the movie to have emotional moments without actually having to deal with the impact of those emotions in fans, so he just pretends to kill off characters for like five minutes. Barf.
The movie improves in the second half where the plot get’s a little more focused.
Rey and Kylo’s Death Star fight seen was well-acted and did a good job of showing Rey’s struggle with the Dark Side. The pace seems to slow a bit when Rey stabs Kylo and then immediately regrets it and heals him. The constant action ebbs a bit here and the relationship between Rey and Kylo gets a little deeper.
We also see Adam Driver’s true acting talent in a scene where Han appears to him in a vision, an exchange which mirrors The Force Awakens but ends in the happier outcome. Kylo throws his lightsaber into the waves and becomes Ben Solo once again.
A Mixed Ending
The revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter is hands down my least favorite part of the movie:
- Palpatine was already an old man when Anakin was a boy, so not only was Sheev boning someone, but he was doing so very late in his life. Ew. The idea that the Emperor was finding time for a side piece between engineering the destruction of the Republic, killing all the Jedi, and turning Anakin to the Dark side is ludicrous to me.
- Rey’s father is Palpatine’s son. Introducing a son of Palpatine who had no role in anything previously and apparently no Force power is so bogus.
- This is a slap in the face to the message of The Last Jedi, which was that Force power could manifest in anyone and that you did not need to have powerful lineage to be strong in the Force. I know many did not enjoy this part of The Last Jedi, but I loved it, and JJ’s big old middle finger here was unappreciated.
In good story-telling, plot twists and revelations should be not easily predicted, but somewhat obvious in hindsight. We want to be surprised, but we want to be able to go back and discover that there were hints all along.
So many of the big reveals in The Rise of Skywalker were not foreshadowed or hinted at in any way. Palpatine’s return and his role as Rey’s grandfather had no lead in. Yes, in novelizations we hear mention of the Emperor’s contingency plan in the Unknown Regions, but would it have really been so hard to hint at this in VII or VIII?
In my review of The Last Jedi, I defended Disney from the criticism that they had no plan for the overall plot and were making it up as they go. I believed that until this movie.
It feels like Abrams wrote The Rise of Skywalker while treating the previous two movies like story-board ideas rather than actual canon films.
The Last Jedi get’s a lot of heat for subverting expectations based on what was set up in The Force Awakens, but it didn’t outright contradict anything that was canon.
Rey flees to Ach-To where she gets a pep talk from Luke. This was a good scene until Luke mentions he and Leia knew Rey was a Palpatine and didn’t tell her. Also that they knew Palpatine was still alive. Leia and Luke talk about Snoke corrupting Ben in the previous movies, but never mention that they apparently knew Palpatine was the real threat and had a granddaughter? Again, a revelation that had zero foreshadowing whatsoever and that doesn’t fit with the other movies.
When Rey finally confronts Palpatine he reveals that he actually didn’t want her dead, he wants her to kill him and let his life force transfer to her.
So if this was the real plan (rather than Kylo Ren killing her, which is what he told Kylo), then I guess he banked on the fact that Kylo wouldn’t be able to do it and would instead lead her to him.
But if he knew that, then surely he knew about the strong bond between Rey and Kylo, right? After all, Snoke was his puppet, and Snoke knew. In fact, Snoke claims to have created their Force bond in The Last Jedi.
But Kylo tells Rey he and her are a dyad (“two that are one”) because of their Force bond, and that the Emperor doesn’t realize this.
So the Emperor doesn’t know they’re a dyad, but Snoke created their bond, so the Emperor had to have known about that and… none of this makes any sense. This is basically one of the biggest plot holes in the trilogy and demonstrates the laziest storytelling ever.
I don’t mind this idea of a dyad, but the concept is too big to be thrown in almost as an afterthought. It needed more build up and exposition, or it should have been left out.
The Emperor’s convoluted plan aside, his goal is now to get Rey to kill him. She refuses. Ben Solo arrives to help her. He is stopped by the Knights of Ren (another potentially cool element that didn’t get nearly enough explanation or plot to have any purpose other than as cool action figures).
Rey hands Kylo a lightsaber through the Force bond so he can quickly dispatch the Knights of Ren and join her.
Somehow the act of Ben arriving is all the Emperor needs to suddenly realize they are a dyad. New plan. He sucks the life force from both of them and becomes strong again.
Ben tries to stand and the Emperor Force throws him into an abyss. Rey calls upon all of the past Jedi to help her, hears their voices, then uses two lightsabers to deflect the Emperor’s lightning back into himself and he disintegrates.
The effort kills Rey. Ben climbs out of the abyss and passes his life force to her to heal her. For ten seconds, these two are finally happy together and enjoy a sad kiss before Ben dies. For good.
By the way, blink and you’ll miss it because the sheer amount of stuff going on, but Adam Driver has only one line after turning to the light and becoming Ben Solo again. It’s “Ow”. That’s the only thing he says for the rest of the movie. Gag me with a spoon.
I continue to maintain that Kylo and Rey’s relationship is the best part of this movie. These scenes were emotional and beautiful.
But five seconds after Ben dies, we are off and running again and there is no time to mourn. Despite the fact that Ben was apparently her other half, we next see Rey celebrating with her friends and then burying Luke and Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine, where she takes the name Skywalker for herself.
I know a lot of Reylos are upset that Ben died, and although I would have enjoyed an ending in which he doesn’t, I never really expected the series to end any other way. I wanted him to be redeemed, and I wanted him and Rey to finally be able to be in love, but I knew that he had too much to answer for to be allowed a happy ending.
In many ways, I got what I wanted in this ending, and I actually have fewer gripes with the ending than anything else.
Overall, I feel like The Rise of Skywalker sacrificed plot continuity and character development in favor of fitting in all of Abrams’ ideas and trying to please as many fans as possible.
The story overall isn’t bad, but it was very, very badly executed. So many potentially great scenes were glossed over and too much pointless nonsense took their place.
With everything crammed into this movie, I still felt like there were other ideas that were not included that should have been. Most notably, I feel as though the prequels were completely ignored in this movie.
The marketing for The Rise of Skywalker played up this being an ending for all IX movies. But if you’re going to claim that, there’s a lot that was missing. The ideas of a Chosen One and bringing balance to the Force were not revisited at all.
Anakin is not revisited either, and this was the most glaring omission, in my opinion. Anakin was the first Skywalker. He is the reason for the all of these events, for Luke and Leia. It is his name Rey gives herself at the end.
He shaped the events that led to Palpatine’s rise. He is the one who killed Palpatine, not Luke.
And he is nothing but one voice among many that speak to Rey when she is fighting Palpatine. How did Palpatine get a bigger role than him?
The lack of reference to the prequels and the focus on Luke and Leia made The Rise of Skywalker feel like an end to six movies, not nine.
If you wanted a visually stunning, fun, and action-packed sci-fi film, The Rise of Skywalker delivers. It certainly was exciting and full of interesting things to watch.
But I can’t ignore the things that make movies truly great. The cohesive story-telling; that feeling of “Ahhh..” when all the pieces fall into place. The right amount of pacing, exposition, and character development. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi actually had these things.
The Rise of Skywalker did not.
I’m not talking about Oscar-winning movie making, which no Star Wars movie ever had. But I needed the plot to make more sense. And I needed time to enjoy the few things I did like without all the filler.
The Rise of Skywalker had some great scenes that I really did like, but overall was not at all what I had hoped for. I’m not sure what to do with my fandom from here.
What did you think of the movie? Tell me in the comments!