Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

Stephon Spiegel, Contributing Reporter

I will preface this review with the fact that I was going to write an article praising the current state of the Disney Star Wars era. I was writing positively about the new Star Wars video game “Jedi Fallen Order,” the updates to “Battlefront 2,” and the release of The Mandalorian. I held off a day of writing as I saw The Rise of Skywalker at a midnight showing on Dec. 19, the day before the release, and came out of the theater with such disappointment that made me drop all of that to discuss the movie itself.

I am more than familiar with the galaxy far far away as I grew up on Star Wars, particularly the original trilogy. These movies, characters, and plotlines have stuck with me and have been there as a source of comforting escapism, with their charming characters, cheesy dialogue, in-depth lore, and spectacular visual effects. I ignored the prequels, but still admired their additions to the lore, in spite of the lack of quality – due to the fact that Star Wars was George Lucas’s vision. The new trilogy, moreso the whole new Disney stream of movies, have disappointed me. The Force Awakens and Rogue One were the only movies from this new era I enjoy, but with the lack of a compelling storyline in the new films – and what appears to be a clear focus on corporate greed – has caused the original Star Wars’ legacy to be ruined.


Now, let’s get on to the mess that is The Rise of Skywalker. The film is a bloated, emotionally hollow, and incohesive mess; however, there are few moments that deserve massive praise.


How did that ancient knife line-up with the Death Star wreckage? How did Palpatine survive the evaporative death at the Death Star engine? How did Palpatine conjure up an entire fleet of millions of crew members, soldiers, and officers? When did Palpatine have kids? Why does the force ghost of Luke and Anakin call to Rey instead of Ben? These are some of the things the movie throws at you with no time to breathe or question. The film goes at a breakneck pace answering questions in a haphazard manner, with side characters answering important questions like how Palpatine return from the dead. 

The problems from the movie stem from that plotpoint: the out of nowhere return of the dead Sheev Palpatine. This one choice immediately invalidates the past sacrifices of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker, as their selflessness is outweighed by lazy writing. The theme from the divisive The Last Jedi that I personally enjoyed was the theme of greatness.  Rey being related to no one was also amazing, but is thrown away to stick to a Star Wars cliche of her being related to someone, and that someone being Palpatine. This reveal made me cringe in the theater, as it is too derivative and stupid. Then to add further insult to injury, Rey at the very end goes to the Lars homestead on Tatooine to bury all the Skywalker sabers, when an old woman out of nowhere asks Rey her last name. Rey then looks at the force ghost of Luke and Leia (although Ben and Anakin are Skywalkers and the movie refuses to include them) and announces her name by saying, “Rey…Rey Skywalker”. 


Another negative ties into the lack of a story for Finn (John Boyega) who has been sidelined for the last two movies only devoted to yelling out “REY!” whenever she is in danger. There were three, yes THREE, love interests for Finn (Rey, Jannah, and Rose) and he did not end up with a single one of them. The only true chemistry he had was with Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) leading to theories of an LGBTQ relationship. Disney wrote in a lazy love interest for Poe to shut down those theories when – in my honest opinion – Poe would have been a great fit for Finn, and would have provided more representation for such an unrepresented group of people. The only representation Disney gave was a quick peck during the ending that two side characters gave, something that could have been edited out for foreign audiences (as they did in the cut in Singapore).


Another issue this movie has is that it feels compelled to “correct” the errors of The Last Jedi in an obvious way. The movie throws away the themes of failure, legacy, and upbringing that episode 8 had. The movie instead relies on “things you know”: an Imperial Stormtrooper’s armor on the Death Star II, the Tantive IV, Cloud City, Ewoks, Tatooine,Chewie’s medal, and recreating the X-Wing scene from Episode 5. What should have made me feel joy just made me feel hollow as the fan service came off as ingenuine and left a bitter taste in my mouth. The movie gives a straight middle finger to The Last Jedi by sidelining Rose Tico, who I did not like but could have been redeemed, after harassment on social media.  Retroactive writing stating Holdos lightspeed maneuver was one in a million, and lastly having Luke straight up saying, “I was wrong” for his behavior in Episode 8. To me all these things made me wish the trilogy was good enough to deserve fan service like that, which Disney pulled off spectacularly well with their other fan service filled saga-ending conclusion with Avengers: Endgame.

The only positives I can give the movie relate to the only character who I enjoy through the whole trilogy, Ben Solo (Adam Driver). His character arc and inner conflict is a beautifully conducted concept that reaches a (somewhat) satisfying conclusion. After being stabbed by Rey and force healed, Kylo receives a vivid memory of a somewhat shaggy, Han Solo, from his mother Leia Organa. The dialogue from Han’s death is repeated, but instead of being shadowed by the dark, Kylo is in the light and is cut off by Han when saying “dad” and Han gives a familiar line, saying “I know” (and Star Wars fans will understand what Ben wanted to say). Han disappears as the now redeemed Ben Solo returns to the light, throwing his saber into the water of the wrecked Death Star II. This scene was beautiful as from then on Ben starts enacting “Solo-y” tendencies, such as shooting without looking, shrugging at his enemies, and sliding past hallways. Another scene that brought up some emotions is when the news of Leia’s death is given to Chewbacca, who cries in pain realizing all of his friends are dead. That made me sad as it made me realize our original main cast never reunited at all. This perhaps was the only moment from the plot itself that generated an emotive reaction besides “meh”. Oh and Lando was great…for all the three minutes he was in the movie. 


Overall, this movie poorly concludes the Skywalker Saga and left me feeling utterly hollow and disappointed. I still love Star Wars, but boy this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth for any future films. To get straight to the point, this whole trilogy felt like fanfiction…bad fanfiction. Instead of sticking with the Lawrence Kasdan (writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) to write the finale…they chose Chris Terrio…writer of Batman v Superman AND Justice League *sigh*. Also, one last thing…who were the Knights of Ren?