- (Also known as Star Wars: Episode IX–The Rise of Skywalker)
- Produced, Co-Written, and Directed by J. J. Abrams
- December 16, 2019 (Dolby Theatre) / December 20, 2019 (US)
- Based on characters created by George Lucas
Palpatine returns…somehow. And that’s among other things going on.
What do you do after the turd that was The Last Jedi? Apparently this. While not perfect, it is a better film than its predecessor in the sense of being a Star Wars movie.
The Rise of Skywalker did its best to fix the mess created by The Last Jedi. What The Last Jedi made clear was that there was no real plan for this sequel trilogy. Somebody at Lucasfilm figured that a cohesive narrative would come about magically. There is only one film series I can even think that happened with. Star Trek II, III, and IV each had a cohesive arc yet no plan. This isn’t Star Trek. An announced trilogy requires a plan as this is not a potentially unending series.
There were rumors that this movie was going to be split into two films and it probably should’ve been. It aimed to change or fix so much done in The Last Jedi that one film could not do it all without rushing through everything. And this often did that. Like the return of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
The return of The Emperor is probably the most out of left field plot twists I can think of. I thought it was cool, but there was no build up to it. It just happened. And it was poorly explained how it happened. The explanation touches a bit on Star Wars Legends lore as well as a bit hinted at in the prequels but is not obvious to the general fan or the more casual movie goer.
PopPop Palpatine being all the Sith (was he the embodiment of every Sith that ever lived?) was just a mind-blowing idea that got tossed at the audience but never explained or explored. And this revelation never made it to the larger galaxy or really impacted the players that learned it so why bring it up?
And this connects to Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parentage. Did the Emperor need her to hop into her body because they were related or could he hop into a clone or what? I have no idea how his plan worked when it came to her. Did she need to become Sith first? And why can she use Sith lightning? That is, well, a Sith exclusive power (or was) and now it seems to be connected to family.
Being the granddaughter of Palpatine is certainly easier to explain than the original plan of Rey being the daughter of Obi Wan. There would have needed to be much more of an explanation of how that worked in comparison to what we got. There is a time gap and Rey’s age and all.
What this got right is that the heroic characters were friends. They got along. They had a bond. In The Force Awakens that was missing but that was because they were first introduced to each other. In the second one that was clearly dumped because Rian Johnson had to make everybody antagonistic towards each other. It’s very much in the execution of the characters had that old school field. The banter and the humor amongst them are what you expect in a Star Wars movie.
It was a wise move to give Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) back his mask here. Not a narrative saving move but a serious improvement. It does make him a little more threatening with the removal of the mask in THIS film demonstrating a change of heart.
And finally the Knights of Ren play a part in a movie after only being talked about. Three films and we finally get to see them in action. Why did it take so long? But the sad part is they really do not amount to much. They show and that is pretty much it.
As with all Star Wars, this gets great action and stunning visuals right. That is one thing very hard to mess up and to not do in Star Wars. And perhaps my favorite scene in any Star Wars film came in this movie when Rey fights Kylo Ren’s tie fighter with a lightsaber. Absolutely amazing.
And finally we get the return of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Even here it is clear the man is getting up in age, but it was nice to see him take on the part one more time. As a character he seemed out of place on Pasaana. I guess it was a bit of a callback to him in Jabba’s palace in Jedi.
General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) was an improvement here, but not nearly as threatening as he was in The Force Awakens. Not that he was a Grand Moff Tarkin, but he was better than The Last Jedi here. That’s what you get when you turn the villain into a punchline as he was in The Last Jedi. It’s easier to destroy than it is to rebuild.
His counterpart in this story is Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant). He is the kind of threatening character needed for this story but is really a blank slate and shows up mostly to get the First Order over to the Sith and become The Final Order. I think he was a mole for Palpatine but could have just as easily been a voice that saw them as a better idea.
I understand Carrie Fisher passed before this, and there is a strong need to include her in this movie in some way. I understand that, but they should not have brought her in. The scenes with her remind me of what Bruce Willis did in his direct-to-video features. More often than not scenes appear to have been filmed largely separate from those of the people he was in the movie with. It’s obvious. The same is true with Carrie Fisher’s moments. It would’ve been much wiser to kill her off screen and have her death be a driving element of the narrative. I appreciate giving her a goodbye, but it came off awkwardly.
There is a scene in the wreckage of the Death Star that is clearly an attempt to mimic Luke’s scene in the Sith cave on Dagobah but exactly what does it reveal about Rey that we did not learn by the previous display of Sith lightning (that is what it looked like) from Rey on Pasaana? We already get there is great darkness in her. Is it meant to allude to her connection to Palpatine much like the Vader helmet in Empire did?
The reveal of the Sith fleet added an element of danger and worked with the possibility of this being the culmination of a nine-film story. We’ve heard plenty about the Sith Empire and the Sith ruling the galaxy, but I am not sure we ever got a good look at it. Sure Palestine was one dude who managed to take over the galaxy but it wasn’t a Sith empire.
The look of Exegol was perfectly dark and sinister. With the Star Destroyers overhead it made you feel as if everything was at stake. It equals the downbeat nature of the throne room scene in Jedi-without Palpatine being an asshole. And it ends on a hopeful high note with the arrival of Resistance supporters prior to a massive battle. It’s rousing and makes you cheer. It’s the kind of a last-minute save and that makes Star Wars so good. It’s the cavalry coming over the hill.
There is hope here. A hope for a better tomorrow. A hope that good will triumph ultimately over evil. Hope that fighting the good fight leads to victory. There is a positive energy throughout. The good are undeniably good and the evil are undeniably evil. That was missing from the second film.
Much has been made of Rey calling herself ‘Rey Skywalker’ in the closing moments of this film. And I agree with it. She was a Palpatine. You just can’t remake yourself. If the point was not living in the shadow of another, then when speaking to that woman Rey should have stuck with plain ‘Rey.’ It would’ve signaled that she was carving her own future independent of her lineage.
This is visually stunning. It does get the rousing adventure vibe right. There are highs and lows and everything. This is what the second film should’ve been. This would have worked as a midpoint movie. The first half as the middle film with the last half as the last movie. And I am of the mind that this is what JJ Abrams envisioned when he set things up in The Force Awakens but failed to enforce by not establishing a trilogy plan.
The Rise of Skywalker suffers largely from trying to fix issues created by the previous film. It’s trying to correct the wrongs. It covers so much and reframes and retcons so many things from the last movie.
Luke (Mark Hamill) for example. As a Force ghost admits he was wrong on just about everything and convinces Rey while she is getting ready to hide on Ach-To in Luke’s old digs that he should treat a lightsaber with more respect. Rey turned his whole view on things around. Not only that but he gives her his old ship and gives her a boost while she is on Exegol.
While not perfect, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a good Star Wars film and a vast improvement over The Last Jedi. It gets right for more than it gets wrong. I say watch it!