Star Wars is such a divisive franchise, from the die-hard fans to those who swear each new installment “killed the franchise” to the casual fans who jump in and out, Star Wars means many different things to many different people. And I feel this movie is going to be the epitome of that feeling. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has the added pressure of not just continuing a long-running series but ending the saga of the Skywalkers giving way to new stories in the future. Does Star Wars accomplish that mission? Or does it fall to the dark side?
After skipping the last movie, J.J. Abrams returns to direct the final chapter of this saga. This movie starts off with quite the bang. In the first 15 minutes, we get Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on a rampage through space, Finn and Poe (John Boyega and Oscar Isacc respectively) escaping from the first order, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) training to become a true Jedi under the watchful eye of Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). Seriously, I felt like I got whiplash from everything that happened in this short amount of time. It’s fun and exciting, but also a bit overwhelming and muddled. From there, our three heroes set out to find a way to an uncharted part of the system to stop the plans of the returning Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
The first half of this movie is one big fetch quest; our heroes fetching an artifact to lead them to Palpatine, Kylo fetching Rey to try and turn her to the dark side, its reasoning is not all that interesting but what they do here is. We get some pretty great local and action sequences, plus the reintroduction to the always smooth as silk Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). And after 2 movies of them just being mentioned we finally get to see The Knights of Ren in action. However, I wish we got more of them since they were a pretty cool idea, aside from looking cool and menacing, they don’t do much. I think they are in two really short fights and that’s all we really get. We also dive more into Rey’s continuing struggle between light and dark. At times, it’s the most interesting part of the film and at others, the most frustrating. Normally, Star Wars has been pretty black and white about the light and the dark side of the force (in the movies that is) but here we get a lot of gray areas. She does a lot of things that she never gets any comeuppance for, she tends to run off a lot which inadvertently causes her friends to be put in danger and is never really called out for it. They come close once but that’s really it.
Along with Rey, Finn and Poe also get some character development. This movie actually had all three characters together and interacting that the first two movies seemed to have advertised but not deliver on. We find out some more about Poe’s past and Finn gets some interesting expansion of what it means for a storm trouper to be free… but man, did they do my man Finn dirty. Throughout three movies they could never really figure out what they wanted to do with him. He gets some great moments here but his character motivation is just bad. They basically turn him into Ethan from Heavy Rain for most of this movie (press X to Ray).
I also want to say that they did a good job with Leia’s character. While it’s pretty blatant where they spliced together what they could with existing footage before her death, they still did a pretty great job at honoring the character and giving her a proper sendoff. The action scenes are really kick-ass and the final battle is a spectacle to behold. The film does get really dark at times but it works in favor of the story… But at times, the story turns into a real mess. One of the worse sins this movie commits is that it drops storylines altogether. Certain character motivations don’t get resolved by the end and it’s a real shame since it’s present throughout the entire movie just to get forgotten about. As a “conclusion” to the main storyline of the Skywalker Saga, it doesn’t seem all that conclusive. It just feels like the end to a movie, not a trilogy and not the end of 9 movies. The end is going to be really divisive, some will love it and some will absolutely hate it. The movie also seems to undercut itself, and the trilogy, with its message of it not being important what your bloodline is but who you are as a person. Even though all the power in the universe seems to come from the same one or two bloodlines.
This movie isn’t bad, it just makes some bad choices. If you hated this new trilogy, this movie isn’t going to change your mind. If you’ve been loving it so far, you may still love it or you may not. This movie is definitely a person by person experience and that’s ok. For me, the movie was pretty middle of the road. It had some great moments and had some terrible ones but I will say with certainty that unfortunately, it was the weakest of the three. If you don’t like it, go watch the original trilogy and the Mandalorian which is superb right now. But if you like it, keep on liking it. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t listen to the haters. Star Wars will live on for years to come.