The galactic mess that was “The Rise of Skywalker”

This reviewer critically analyzes the slow-moving plotline of the trilogy

This review contains spoilers ahead.

Over four decades later, the mainline saga of Star Wars has grown from only a film known exclusively for its innovative special effects, to spawning a media franchise and becoming one of the most beloved intellectual properties in filmmaking history. The modern iterations of the franchise, however, has been rife with controversy; “The Force Awakens” was criticized for paralleling the plot of Star Wars beat for beat, and “The Last Jedi” was panned by fans for its plot and treatment of its themes. Almost poetically, “The Rise of Skywalker” is a fitting end to this trilogy because it’s possibly the messiest and most controversial film of them all. The following review contains major spoilers for “The Rise of Skywalker,” so read at your discretion.

Before digging into the meat of the negatives, some acknowledgement for the well-executed facets of the movie is necessary. As always, the visual effects are stunning and John Williams’s original score manages to construct thematic callbacks with familiar leitmotifs while delivering music that succinctly delivers the emotional impact of any given scene. The performances are great and the chemistry between Finn, Rey and Poe are all phenomenal; this is the first movie where all three of them are going on adventures together, and the tension of the movie along with simple differences in their respective personalities allows for their more irritable exchanges to be believable. Ben Solo/Kylo Ren has the rare characteristic of having a consistent and interesting character arc that is carried over through all three movies. While these positives strive to make the movie worthy of the now revered original trilogy, the only word which can succinctly describe the result of this attempt is overwhelming.

The title crawl alone throws so much information at you that you barely have time to process the most ludicrous bit of them all: Emperor Palpatine has returned from the dead. Not only that, but he has quietly amassed a massive fleet of Death Star Destroyers called the Final Order to usher in a second Galactic Empire. At every turn, the movie packs every scene with fan service. The method by which he accomplished both of these immensely impactful feats are paid lip service to in the movie; falling back on monologues from the prequels and Palpatine’s archetypal conniving nature. This is disappointing considering that the last time Palpatine was seen, chronologically speaking, he exploded; and to round it out, the entire nuclear powered megastructure he was on exploded. Furthermore, the only characters who have any relevance or effect on the plot are Jedi and Sith; every other character had no discernable growth of character journey. Poe has gone from a charismatic ace pilot to the galactic equivalent of a limo-driver, while Finn was not only our other main character, but also a force-sensitive former stormtrooper. That concept alone could carry an entire trilogy, but in “The Rise of Skywalker,” Finn has no character growth and his status as a force-sensitive was confirmed in a tweet after the fact. Seeing as how these characters will never be seen on screen again, this tidbit is too little too late. Rey’s status as a Force-sensitive who is wholly disconnected from the families in the previous trilogies is reversed in favor of her new status as Palpatine’s granddaughter, a twist which sounds absolutely ludicrous when said out loud. This reversal completely nullifies her character’s arc, and now she is effectively reliving Luke’s character arc from Return of the Jedi. These issues combined with the about-face from Snoke back to the Emperor is symptomatic of why this movie falls short on a fundamental level. This movie suffers because of how much of the content is in direct opposition to the content of “The Last Jedi.”  Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran, was a main character in the previous movie, but the actress was bullied off of social media; what is worse is that she is in “The Rise of Skywalker,” and she barely gets any lines or screen time. Going further, the audience not only has another Big Bad but the exact same Big Bad as the last two trilogies. The Jedi and Sith are not outmoded concepts, they are alive and well in the galaxy. The Force is not mystical or everywhere; it is only in a select few which carry on the bloodlines of famous or infamous force users from previous trilogies. The Force, in fact, fixes every problem the characters come across in the latter half of the movie; they cannot find the ship they need to destroy, so they use the Force to find it. Kylo Ren and Rey both are almost killed in this movie, and both parties use the Force to heal each other. The extent to which the movie demystifies the Force goes to ridiculous lengths, perfectly summed up when Emperor Palpatine shoots a gigantic lightning blast into the sky to destroy rebel ships which evidently have not been given the same insulation from force lightning as the fleet of Death Star Destroyers within his line of fire.

In closing, “The Rise of Skywalker” fails not because of what it is, but because of what it is trying not to be. This movie does not want to be “The Last Jedi” and what that means is that the studio did not want to allow the Star Wars story to grow or change; as the studio has seen, any attempts at growth or change have been met with severe backlash from hardcore fans who only want what is expected out of Star Wars. What resulted from this is a movie that punches right into hyperspace and does not slow down for a second, delivers a half-baked plot which falls squarely into story beats the audience has seen before and fails to develop characters the audience has come to love and identify with.

~Ian Burke, Staff Writer~

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