And just like that, 42 years of filmmaking has come to a close…for now.
An end cap to the sequel trilogy and a bow on top of the first nine episodes of Star Wars films dubbed “The Skywalker Saga”, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker brings back the original trilogy’s big bad, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), as he yet again sets his sights on conquering the galaxy and crushing the Resistance – led by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) – under his heel. Reluctantly aided by the emotionally and mentally torn Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Emperor is in a position of ultimate power fueled by his unfathomable mastery of the dark side of the Force, but with the last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), her pals Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and constant companions Chewbacca (Joonas Suatamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and BB-8 refusing to let that happen, one final adventure to a galaxy far, far away begins, only this time with the stakes higher than ever!
Much like the previous sequel films that came before, The Rise of Skywalker is a little bit of everything, ranging from being pretty damn good to being pretty damn frustrating. For every great new element introduced in this film (New Force powers! Babu Frik! Lightspeed skipping!), there’s an equal amount of mediocre or just plain confusing elements (New Force powers? Palpatine is alive how? Knights of Ren getting “Captain Phasma-ed”?), that the overall experience of this film falls more or less to the audience in how much they care about every little continuity detail and how it all makes sense. For me, and even with some of the above mentioned frustrating details, I was genuinely surprised over the first half of the film, and in all honesty, loved what I was seeing.
Shunned characters were finally treated right (Finn!), action was explosive and exhilarating, story beats were solid and intriguing, and best of all, it finally felt like the Star Wars film I’ve been waiting to see since stepping foot into this universe decades ago. Throw in some unexpected but welcome comedic bits, a tighter cast that focuses on the real heroes we’ve been following all this time (C-3PO deserves all of the screen time), and you have a film that was satisfying my expectations in more ways than I could have hoped for before stepping into the theater.
And then things started going downhill.
Obviously I’ll speak no spoilers here, but once a certain reveal is made about a certain character, I more or less checked out of this one, or at the very least, it affected the rest of my viewing experience in a frustratingly annoying way. Try as I might to logically understand the reasoning behind this reveal and accept what the filmmakers were doing, I just couldn’t. Maybe it’s my bias being a big Star Wars fan outside of the mainstream films, but nothing towards the latter half of this film felt earned, and if it did, was crammed in so quickly and tightly that any real character moments or dramatic story turn just felt off without the necessary room to breathe.
The fun and competent first half of the film gives way to a convoluted mess that tries too hard to please fans, casual moviegoers, saga enthusiast and sequel trilogy lovers all at once, but ends up not being able to satisfy anyone with the unfocused, rushed and generally shoddy way the final hour or so plays out. Sure, some of what happens in the last stretch of the film isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things, but if you were hoping for a near perfect franchise capper that does justice to what has come before in a successful and meaningful way a la this summer’s Avengers: Endgame, this film will most definitely leave you wanting, and that’s a shame.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it doesn’t exactly stick the landing either. With a first half that I genuinely enjoyed and loved leading into a messy, head scratching – and in my humble nerd opinion – nonsensical fan servicing film that really doesn’t do any fans justice in the end, The Rise of Skywalker solidifies this new trilogy as being films that are simply okay while successfully accomplishing their job of bringing a new generation into the franchise for life. With sparks of some of the best Star Wars has to offer mixed with some of the worst, this film is on par with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, personal preference being the only real difference between the three. All that being said, I liked this film despite its various flaws and as usual, it gets a higher score for simply being a Star Wars flick, so until next time, may the Force be with you!