J.J. Abrams returns to a galaxy far, far away and is given the herculean task of closing out three trilogies worth of storytelling with this closing chapter. The Rise of Skywalker is meant to serve as the finale to not only the sequel trilogy but the original saga and even the prequels. That’s a lot of lore-and fans-to make happy and J.J. mostly gets it right with this one. This will be a spoiler-free discussion of the movie, stay tuned for the spoiler talk next week!
The Rise of Skywalker takes place roughly one year after the events of The Last Jedi and sees Rey, Finn and Poe working together after an unexpectedly dark twist is unleashed on the galaxy. The pressure and stakes are at an all-time high and the clock is ticking for our heroes, who must find an item to help them in their efforts to keep the light shining. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren seeks to crush any resistance to his rule, no matter what.
I’m keeping things vague here plot-wise so I’ll talk about what works and what doesn’t work with the movie. Unlike the previous two films in the Sequel Trilogy, our core heroes are actually together for most of the movie and their chemistry and dynamic is great fun to watch, even when the odds are against them. Rey is looking to hone her Jedi teachings and thus has become quite powerful in the year since we’ve last seen her. Finn and Poe, however, are bringing the fight to the First Order and one of these encounters sets them on a journey that could save the galaxy. The opening sequence with Kylo Ren is quite possibly one of my favourite scenes in the sequel trilogy and C-3P0 is the best he’s ever been.
Noticeably absent for most of the film is Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, who is very much relegated to a background character in this movie. While not confirmed, Rose being sidelined is likely do the fan response of her character in the last time and Lucasfilm wanted to be sure they had a crowd-pleasing movie with this one. So they pulled out the Star Wars handbook and applied a lot of rules from it. At the same time, a lot of the story beats I thought were going to happen in this movie happened in the last movie, so I was left wondering and surprised throughout the film.
With that in mind, a lot of what was established in The Last Jedi has been scrapped or retconned. An underlying message of the previous film was seemingly been wiped and it’s a bit clear that Lucasfilm did not have a road map for the trilogy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the inclusion of Palpatine, who was clearly supposed to be Snoke. In relation to taking stabs at Rian Johnson’s movie, there is even a scene that feels like a stab at his movie in Skywalker’s third act. There are also quite a few plot holes and conveniences in the script, especially when it comes to the scavenger hunt aspect of the movie. We’ll talk more about this in the spoiler review, where I don’t have to tiptoe around anything. Simultaneously, the film brings a lot of themes and story beats together from the last two films. Questions are answered, reveals are made and logical and fan-pleasing story beats to keep things moving nicely.
While the trio was fun to watch in the first half, I found Kylo Ren, who was the highlight of the last film in terms of character, got related to more of a one-dimensional villain for a time, falling back to using his mask and requesting Rey join him. Again. Thankfully, his story becomes more interesting later on in the film and a sabre fight between him and Rey halfway through the film makes fascinating use of physical space in a way that’s never been seen in the franchise to date. I like this Force power and loved seeing that fight. Overall Kylo is the highlight of the trilogy and even though he had a rocky start in the movie, his overall arc is great.
There’s some new characters to the story and they’re hit or passable, but thankfully no misses. Richard E. Grant steps in as Allegiant General Pryde, because we needed a menacing First Order General after Hux ended up as a joke. And Kerri Russell as Zorii Bliss is great, even with her limited screen time.
Regardless of your opinion on Johnson’s film, there are no moments in this film that has the same level of shock and awe as the Holdo Monuver or the Praetorian Guard scene. The movie is beautiful, but there’s nothing quite so memorable about it. The sight of the Final Order fleet, seen in the trailers, is impressive, but it’s more of visual awe rather than making an impression on you.
In the end, The Rise of Skywalker is fun, has lots of adventure and a great story arc for certain characters. I’m not quite so in love with certain character decisions and the overall ending feels a little too clean for me. Stay tuned for more when I can talk without worrying about spoiling anything.