The Rise of Skywalker has been out just short of two weeks and I still have very complicated emotions towards it. On the one hand, itís a Star Wars film and Iím predisposed to love everything that Lucasfilm releases. On a base level, The Rise of Skywalker serves as a satisfying conclusion to 42 years of storytelling but not without major issues.
It has some of the highest highs that Iíve ever experienced as a Star Wars fan but matches it with some pretty shocking lows. Its best parts are a joyous love letter to the series and a reminder of why I love it so much. But other parts feel like a slap in the face of its direct predecessor The Last Jedi and its creator Rian Johnson. Caving to the worst parts of fandom for what they want in a Star Wars movie, merely going down a checklist of cool moments.
Letís start with my biggest problem with the film, the big Ďrevealí of the sequel trilogy, Rey is a Palpatine. I donít think I could roll my eyes any further than I did when Kylo told Rey the truth. Iím sorry, that is without a doubt one of the dumbest moments in the entire series and makes zero sense. Itís malarkey, lazy, and downright fan fiction.
The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie ever mainly for its messages of failure and how they dealt with Reyís legacy. The hardest thing for Rey to hear was that she was a nobody and frankly she didnít need to be anyone to be powerful. There are a couple of plot points that can be seen as contradictory to TLJ, but this is by far the most egregious. It goes against everything that TLJ set-up and the amount of linguistic gymnastics that JJ and Terrio had to go through to get there is laughable.
Speaking of Palpatine, for the most part, I think his inclusion worked for me, although they did just brush over why he was back. After seeing it a second time, it doesnít bother me because as Sheev said ďThe Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.Ē and I just accepted it. Plus it was a nice call back to Revenge of the Sith.
Ian McDiarmid is as gleefully evil as ever, reminding everyone why heís the big bad of all 9 films. Honestly part of the reason Iím willing to not be bothered by his return is that itís always fun to see him on screen. Itís a movie about space wizards, of course, the evil warlock will find a way to come back from the grave.
Sticking to villains I think itís safe to say that Kylo Ren is the most emotional and nuanced villain this series has ever seen. Adam Driver is a force to be reckoned with and I donít think we appreciate how lucky we are to have him. He brings the emotional depth I wanted in Anakin Skywalker in the prequels and you ultimately sympathize with him. Thatís not a knock on Hayden Christensen, Driver was just given better material to act out with.
Kyloís return back to Ben Solo is easily the most well-done touching moment in the sequel trilogy. Itís ultimately his parents that bring him back and both their parts in the turn were exceptionally done. Ben feeling Leia right before she died was a poignant moment that would have been enough for me, but then they took it to another level with Han.
I donít say this lightly, but itís a perfect scene. Mirroring Ben killing his father in The Force Awakens and using the same lines in a new and thoughtful way. Drawing strength from his father to do what needs to do to return to the light. Itís a wonderful way to bring back Han Solo in a way that makes sense in the narrative and a huge surprise to the audience. When I heard the familiar ďhey kidĒ I let out something between and screech and a cry. The perfect farewell to Han and his last line in Star Wars is ďI knowĒ feels right.
Letís talk about the legacy characters for a bit.
If weíre honest, we were all a little bit worried about the inclusion of our dear princess and general, Carrie Fisher. Her tragic death three years ago has left a huge chasm in a lot of fan's hearts and Lucasfilm and JJ were left with an almost impossible task. Using footage from The Force Awakens they wrote scenes around that dialogued and included it in the film. Thankfully it works fairly well.
I do love that sheís training Rey as a Jedi now, and throughout the movie, they do a good job of explaining why she would. As much as I complained about the film contradicting The Last Jedi, this built on the ďMary PoppinsĒ moment from that film. Sheís a Skywalker and has some training from Luke and it just made sense to me. They pay respect to Carrie in a beautiful and respectful and Iím really glad they did.
The other Skywalker, Luke was great with his Force ghost pow-wow with Rey on Ahch-to. Being exactly the kind of master that Rey needed in her moment of sadness. Catching the reforged Skywalker saber and showing actual growth. Admitting he was wrong for running and lifting his old X-Wing as a great nod to The Empire Strikes Back. Although I was a little confused that his hair got longer since The Last Jedi.
While he isnít in all that much of it, Billy Dee shines once again as our favorite administrator Lando Calrissian. Effortlessly bringing back that typical Lando charm and heart that made him such a fan favorite. Williams has been playing the character for 40 years on and off and itís amazing to me how easily he comes back into the role. Heís the coolest dude in the galaxy and helps our new heroes find strength against impossible odds. His interactions with Poe, in particular, feel meaningful and he provides crucial guidance.
The sequel trilogy has had a real problem with finding something for R2 and 3-PO to do of significance. Thankfully that changes in IX because Anthony Daniels finds a way to bring his best portrayal ever of our favorite protocol droid. Providing not just the funniest lines of the movie, but also some of the most important. Finally, after two films, the sequel trilogy figures out how to use 3-PO the right way.
Finally, Chewie plays a pretty substantial role this time around and offers one of the most gut-wrenching moments in the trilogy. Falling to his knees when he finds out Leia has died and let out a heart-breaking cry mourning for his lost family member. Itís an already emotional scene that had me teary-eyed, but seeing Chewie turned on the waterworks. Joonas Suotamo has done a terrific job of carrying the torch that Peter Mayhew left behind and has made the character his own.
Ultimately I think the biggest reason the sequel trilogy works so well is because of this generationís big three, Rey, Finn, and Poe. Thankfully all three can highlight why I love their characters so much in this film. While we havenít seen Poe and Rey interact until now, they all need each other and you can feel that throughout the film. All three have full character arcs that are interesting and they aren't the same people they were when we met them in The Force Awakens. Theyíre all together to save the galaxy and itís glorious to see.
What can I say about Daisy Ridley that hasnít already been said? Sheís able to convey intensity, vulnerability, and power incredibly effectively and thereís a reason so many people love Rey. Sheís an inspiring figure for a brand new generation and will act as peopleís Luke Skywalker for years to come.
Itís a testament to Daisyís ability as an actor that she takes some of my least favorite narrative choices in the series ever and makes them convincing. As much as I hate her being a Palpatine, her dealing with that conflict is interesting to see. In a similar way to what Luke dealt with when he found out Vader was his father, you feel the emotions bursting through the screen. Coming to grips with who she is and rising above the evil in her blood to become a Jedi.
Finn has been my favorite character in the new trilogy because I just think his story is so interesting. A stormtrooper that goes against his orders and joins the Resistance. Itís a really powerful idea, the faceless legions now had a face in Finn. Now fully committed Finn has come into his own as a Resistance leader.
John Boyega is a huge part of why I love this character so much. Heís believable as a Resistance leader and through all of it, you feel how much he cares for his friends in this film. Parts of Boyegaís personality find their way into the character and make him endearing and someone you care about. Plus the idea of him being Force-Sensitive finds its way into the film and it feels like a natural progression from TFA.
There had to be a way he went against his conditioning and it makes perfect sense to me.
Itís obvious I loved the characters, but at the same time, the plot that these characters are involved in is incredibly messy. Secret Sith fleets, a dagger that shows where a vault is, and secret First Order spies. The movie moves at a break-neck pace and there's very little time to appreciate what the characters are talking about.
Thereís a lot of exposition, especially at the beginning and most of the time that exposition leaves more questions than answers. Palatine being back doesnít bother me, but his plan is all over the place. First, he needs Kylo Ren, then he needs Rey, then thereís so kind of dyad in the Force. Iím a huge Star Wars fan and Iím still trying to wrap my head around some of the plot points. Itís just too convoluted.
The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi all in all are pretty straightforward to understand. Sure, some plans donít make sense, but the overall story is there. I just donít feel like thereís that same narrative cohesion in The Rise of Skywalker.
I know itís been mentioned before, but there has to be a directors cut thatís way longer than the theatrical version. Parts of this film are under baked and feel jarring.
All that being said, I still feel like the last 20 mins of the film are a great reminder of why I love this series. Donít get me wrong, a lot of it is silly. In particular how Rey defeats her grandfather, but just about everything else is wonderful.
Ben Solo joining the battle to help Rey defeat Palpatine. Lando arriving with what seems to be every ship in the galaxy with the main theme triumphantly playing. The voices of the Jedi finally coming to Rey. Ben resurrecting Rey, stealing a kiss before he dies. The celebration back at the Resistance base, and of course Rey going to Tatooine with her new lightsaber in hand.
Every moment resonates with me and left me incredibly emotional both times Iíve seen it. Itís that same joyful feeling I got as a kid when I watched Return of the Jedi. Our heroes won and you feel what theyíve been through because youíve been with them. You know what it took to get there and as Finn hugs his two best friends and cries, you cry with him.
I will say that I do wish that Ben has survived Exogol. There felt like there was so much more potential for stories after this with Rey and Ben together. Weíve seen this kind of redemption before and it feels a bit uninspired. There was a way to give Ben the redemption he deserved and surviving the encounter, spending the rest of his life making up for his sins. That would have been way more interesting to me than just dying the way he did.
As many problems that I had with The Rise of Skywalker, I couldnít help but enjoy it. It was far from perfect but still left me loving these characters and their overall arcs. While there are certainly some awful contradictions to The Last Jedi, the story moved forward and ended satisfyingly. I desperately want to see more stories from these characters and I have a feeling this isnít the last weíve seen of them. Star Wars as always been a little bit messy, but it never took away my love for the series, and neither has The Rise of Skywalker. I love Star Wars and I love the Rise of Skywalker.
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5/12 - Domhnall Gleeson
5/13 - Milton Johns
5/14 - George Lucas
5/16 - Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999)
5/19 - Peter Mayhew
5/19 - Claudia Karvan
5/21 - Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980)