I was lucky enough to be able to get the day off work to see The Rise of Skywalker on its first day out in the UK. When I came home, I put out a non-spoiler review, but wanted to see the movie again before I put out my full thoughts to see if my opinion changed. Well, I got the chance a few weeks later and have finally had the time to sit down and get my thoughts out there.
Be warned: this will be full of spoilers!
One of the reasons that I have delayed slightly is that – to be honest – I was very disappointed by the film, to the point that I actually had a couple of days feeling down about Star Wars. I don’t hate the film by any means – there are no Star Wars films that I hate – but it is going to be very low in my rankings and as a culmination to the Skywalker Saga, I was very disappointed. I am very glad that I waited for a second viewing before writing this, though, as there were a few issues I had the first time that I could accept the second time, and hopefully as time goes on, more viewings and supporting material like the upcoming novelisation will help even more.
So let’s start with the positives. As has always been the case in the Disney-era movies, the visuals look great – though the de-aged Leia in the flashback scene did look a little off. It did also look like some of the Leia footage didn’t quite fit in with everything around her, but that is to be expected given the circumstances and I can give that a pass. John Williams’s score hit the mark as always and it was great to hear some familiar themes returning. The only time that I was a little taken out by the score was when Rey entered the Death Star’s throne room, as I didn’t feel that the version of the Imperial March from the moment Vader died quite fit in with the circumstances.
The acting was fantastic once again, with nobody putting in a performance that stuck out to me as being poor. Massive credit has to go go Daisy Ridley and especially Adam Driver, who both did wonderful jobs, especially Driver, who did a fantastic job of making Kylo Ren and Ben Solo two very different characters. Anthony Daniels’ C-3PO has often been a character that I have tolerated, but in this movie I really enjoyed him and actually found the humour he was involved with hitting very well. I enjoyed all the new characters brought in (if it wasn’t for The Mandalorian, Babu Frik would be getting much more love!) and would love to get more from these characters in future stories, especially Zorii and Jannah as it sounds like they have some great stories to tell in their past.
As I have been showing in my series of “Why I Love Star Wars” articles, even the movies that I am less fond of have beautiful moments, and that was no different here, with the scene between Ben and his memory of Han being one of my absolute favourites. While I do question how some of the Jedi were able to communicate from beyond, hearing the voices of so many Jedi (including Ahsoka and Kanan) speaking to Rey was amazing and it was great to hear Hayden Christensen’s voice in there. I was hoping for a Force ghost of Anakin, but I’ll take that! On my initial viewing, I didn’t like the continued use of Rey and Kylo’s connection allowing them to communicate and then be able to pass items between them, but I thought about this between viewings and realised that it was because I had interpreted Rey closing the Falcon door on Kylo in The Last Jedi as her shutting him out, but when I changed my interpretation I was fine with this in Episode IX, while the transfer of some drops of water during one of their connections when Rey was on Ahch-To had actually already set up the idea that was expanded upon, so I enjoyed those moments so much more this time and enjoyed the uniqueness that this brought to their one duel.
And now, we come onto the negatives, and unfortunately they generally relate to something very important: the story. This movie was far too fast paced and I can’t help feel that JJ Abrams was almost trying to squeeze 2 movies into 1 so that he could get the characters into place for how he wanted his story to progress. There were some huge reveals in this movie, and that fast pace meant that I felt like I didn’t have a moment to breath and take in what was going on, while it also meant that things didn’t have the time to be explained properly. We get Finn wanting to tell Rey something secret, but though it is alluded to in multiple scenes, we never find out what it was, while there are hints (including one very blatant one near the end) that Finn is Force-sensitive, but this is never confirmed. JJ Abrams has apparently said that Finn wanted to tell Rey he was Force sensitive… well that should have been in the movie! New ideas are thrown out there like a Force Dyad but with no explanation of what this is or what it’s significance is, while we are also not given an explanation for how Palpatine survived the events of Return of the Jedi, other than a cheap throwback to a line from the Prequel Trilogy that “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be… unnatural.” That is not an explanation, that is lazy writing from JJ and Chris Terrio. Yes Star Wars is fantasy, but that doesn’t mean the return of such a key villain from the dead can be left unexplained.
Too often the story left me with questions that were left unanswered. Fine in part 2 of a trilogy, but not in the wrap-up of a saga! The constant fast pace also harmed a number of characters in my opinion, as it meant that too many of the characters had limited time to make it hard to care for them, such as Hux who is revealed to be a spy and killed in his very next scene, or Jannah whose reveal that she and her squad deserted from the First Order feels like its setting up something great, only to go nowhere. I also found that in the rush, I still didn’t understand Palpatine’s plans. One moment he wants Rey dead, the next he wants to transfer his essence into her so that she can continue the Sith legacy. This movie could have had another half hour or cut time by streamlining the first act and that would have given the time to slow things down and explain things, making it a better movie straight away.
And then we come to moments that seemed like lazy copies. One of the biggest complaints of The Force Awakens was how it was basically a remake of A New Hope with Starkiller Base basically just being Death Star number 3. Well JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio clearly decided that 3 planet-killers in 9 movies wasn’t enough as they created an entire fleet of Star Destroyers capable of destroying planets. The galaxy can be at risk from just a large army or really evil people without having to have planet-killers, but apparently we need them for JJ’s Star Wars. Similarly, there were also some moments that felt far too similar to 2019’s other culmination to a blockbuster saga, Avengers: Endgame. The arrival of the fleet to help the Resistance was so similar to the portals moment of Endgame, while the final moments of Rey and Palpatine (“I am all the Sith”/”And I am all the Jedi”) was far too similar to Endgame‘s “I am inevitable”/”And I am Iron Man”. Unfortunately, and this is coming from someone who really enjoys the MCU but absolutely loves Star Wars, I think that Endgame did these moments far better, to the point that the arrival of the fleet was cut off so quickly by Palpatine’s lightning that it really felt that the moment was cut short and the impact taken away.
I will be honest, I came in trying to keep an open mind, but there were things that I’d rather not see… and we got most of those. However, I kept myself in a mindset that “I don’t want this, but if it feels earned then I can go along with it.” Sadly, I didn’t often feel that these moments were earned. Palpatine’s return can hardly be classed as earned because we got no answers how it was possible, while I also now feel that his return lessens Vader’s redemption and Anakin’s role as The Chosen One. I personally wanted Kylo Ren to remain as a villain and while I loved Ben Solo when we got him and the scene with his memory of Han bringing him back to the light, I thought that the moment leading to it (starting to turn because he felt his mother call out to him with her last breath) felt underwhelming, so it didn’t fully sit with me, while I was then disappointed that he was written to die as this felt too similar to Anakin and I would have preferred to see the alternative of him being required to go into exile to atone for his crimes. Reylo was something that I really couldn’t get behind and while I liked the idea of Rey having some attachment to Ben, the kiss at the end really didn’t feel like it had been earned either through the film or the entire trilogy. Personally I felt that Rey from Nowhere was a wonderful story for her as it was a great reminder that the Force belonged to everyone and that anyone could be the hero, rather than someone born into a powerful family. However, Abrams and Terrio decided that they had to write her into a Palpatine so that she had some arc in this movie, and I honestly didn’t think that it was earned. If they wanted an arc for her, I personally feel that it could have been the realisation that though her family were nobodies, the family that mattered was the one she had found in Resistance, leading to her still taking on the name Skywalker at the end to honour her teachers. This way she still gets an arc, but it doesn’t feel rushed and it gives you more time to focus on the rest of the story.
Finally for this point, I was not a massive fan of Rose in The Last Jedi, but I was excited to see what she did in this movie. So imagine my shock when I find that she had gone from a key character in Episode VIII to having less than 2 minutes of screentime. Chris Terrio admitted that a lot of her scenes with Leia did not make it as they could not write something that felt right, but (as much as I love Dom Monaghan and enjoyed his character) was Beaumont Kin really needed? His role could have easily been spread over Rose and Connix, while Klaud’s spot on the Falcon at the start would have been a perfect opportunity to get Rose into the story more. Sadly, it now looks like the racists and other scum that hounded Kelly Marie Tran off of social media have been validated by the creators of this movie.
Now as if all that wasn’t bad enough, we come to the issues that really left me down on Star Wars for a few days. After Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and their reset of canon, it was said that all subsequent material would tie into one canon. While there has been the odd moment that contradicted this (eg. Rey and Poe first meeting in the novelisation of The Force Awakens, then again in The Last Jedi), it felt like JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio chose to ignore the rest of the wider canon on the whole when creating their story. Poe Dameron is revealed in this movie to have been a spice runner, who left running with Zorii to join the Resistance. While already awkward that they made the character played by a latino actor into a drug smuggler, it also goes against his history as being a pilot for the New Republic who joined the Resistance, following in the footsteps of his parents, who both fought for the Rebellion in the Battle of Endor. Endor is referred to as where the last war ended, yet plenty of stories (including Lost Stars, the Aftermath Trilogy and Star Wars Battlefront II) have clearly shown the war continuing to the Battle of Jakku, almost a year later! Threepio refers to this as being Rey’s first mission for the Resistance as well, despite having been with them for a year, but that also seems in contrast to the novel Spark of the Resistance by Justina Ireland, while I also got the feeling that Abrams and Terrio weren’t aware/didn’t care about Wedge being Snap Wexley’s stepfather considering the way they killed Snap right before the reinforcements arrived, while Snap’s mother Norra Wexley (Wedge’s wife, who came to the Resistance with him) didn’t even appear. Having thrown myself deep into all of these stories, it really did feel like Abrams and Terrio were giving me the middle finger, and while it probably seems picky, it doesn’t help my investment in a story if I’m being given completely contradictory information by stories that are meant to agree with each other.
One final nitpick, and this is less about the movie, but the marketing. I really feel that the way this movie was promoted really harmed the movie and its impact. Chewie’s “death” could have been such an emotional moment in the movie if we hadn’t seen clips of Chewie and Lando flying the Falcon in the trailers. Other moments to really hype up the audience also fell rather flat in the actual movie, such as the arrival of the fleet to help the Resistance and Dark Rey, which was in the movie almost as long as it was in the actual trailer! The Endgame trailers did a great job of not giving anything away and keeping the big moments secret but still getting us excited for the movie, unfortunately the marketing of this movie failed to do the same.
So final thoughts from me: I don’t hate the movie but I have a lot of problems with it that have dropped it very low in my rankings. To me, it’s very clear that the story of the trilogy was not mapped out at the start and that has really harmed the trilogy and especially this movie in my eyes. There are still certainly moments to love in this movie and I can completely understand why some people love the film. For me, I think that this is one that a more casual viewer will love more than someone deeply invested in the wider canon.
So that’s my opinion, let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you.
2 thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker: Review (SPOILERS)”
“It really did feel like Abrams and Terrio were giving me the middle finger.”
I confess I share in your opinion. I think “Force Awakens” started this trilogy off strong but the 2nd and 3rd act didn’t gel, what with Rian Johnson doing one thing and then JJ Abrams trying to “fix it”. As you said, it came across as a rehash of the original trilogy. More’s the pity because I thought Adam Driver was great in his role but audiences were torn over his character’s future: should Kylo Ren be redeemed or Ben Solo return, only to die? Oh yeah, and killing Snap Wexley was awful! Why’d they waste him so fast?
Overall I’ve been disappointed with the management top-down with the sequel trilogy. But there are two things to keep in mind. First, any franchise this big is bound to have some bruises along the way. Disney animation took a dark turn in the 70’s, DC is struggling back on its feet after “Justice League”, J.K. Rowling’s having trouble with her prequel saga, etc. I think studios are going to have to face a few flops before learning what stories just don’t work, then progress to make something better.
Here’s the silver lining: “The Mandalorian”. Dave Filoni and John Favereau know what they were doing and made a loving tribute to Star Wars and attentive fans. So I don’t think we’re done with the saga by a long shot. And what with the 6th season of “Clone Wars” and another Thrawn novel in May 2020, there’s other stories in the galaxy to look forward to.
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Thanks for reading!
I didn’t have such an issue with TLJ in terms of contradicting what was out there, but it felt like TROS went against a lot that us who dive deep into the canon had learned over the years.
You make a very good point about other big franchises. Hopefully things improve on the movie front soon and we get more consistent quality. I just hope that they become more willing to take risks in the big movies like the MCU did with Guardians of the Galaxy – a group that few had heard of that had no clear connection the the rest of the movies!
You’re spot on about the Mandalorian though. Favreau and Filoni just get Star Wars and trust the fans. I’m still very hopeful for the future of Star Wars, but I’ll be a little nervous about the movies until I hear more news…