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The Rise of Skywalker (Star Wars - Episode IX) - Movies

Title: The Rise of Skywalker

Director: JJ Abrams

Release Date: December 20, 2019

Timeline: 67 years after The Phantom Menace; 31 years after Return of the Jedi

Additional Reference: 35 years after A New Hope

Runtime: 142 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

This is a full review. Spoiler warning applies...

Review | Discussion

Bring balance to the Force, as I did.

Review

 "My name is Rey.... Rey Skywalker." SPOILERS.

Yet another twin sunset on Tatooine, the final scene of the movie

The finale of the sequel trilogy cannot be looked at in isolation. What was marketed as the end of the "Skywalker Saga" must certainly be seen and examined in context of what came before. So I will merely briefly describe the plot of the movie and then discuss it, always keeping in mind that this is the end of the saga that began 42 years ago.

The plot of The Rise of Skywalker is relatively simple. I will not describe in detail here, I assume everyone who reads this has either seen the movie or knows the leaks. The basic gist of the movie is this: the Emperor is back, somehow, and he wants Rey dead, or so he says. When Kylo finds his lair Palpatine orders him to kill Rey. We also find out that Palpatine was Snoke and impersonated Vader when he whispered to Kylo, he was manipulated for almost all of his life. Kylo Ren however has other plans and wants Rey to become his Dark Side Empress, ruling side by side with him, he wants to kill Palpatine with her to seize the throne. Rey refuses but then Kylo reveals to her that Palpatine is her grandfather. Kylo tries to convince Rey that the Dark Side is her destiny. After several duels throughout the movie Rey finally manages to mortally wound Kylo. Kylo had Rey more or less beaten, who was visibly upset after having a dark side vision in the Death Star wreck, as she tried to find an artifact that would allow her to find Palpatine in the Unknown Regions. But as Kylo contemplates striking down Rey Leia calls out to Kylo from half across the galaxy, which kills her because of the effort, and her calling out to him and her subsequent death shakes and diverts him. Rey uses this to stab him with his own lightsaber. But Rey has developed Force healing powers (which is not explained in the movie, however the visual dictionary sheds a bit more light on it) and heals Kylo, because she regrets stabbing him immediately. Kylo, still shaken, then sees a vision of Han Solo and that turns him back into the light. He is Ben Solo again.

I know...

Rey, after a detour to Ahch-To (she wants to become a hermit and cut herself off from the Force like Luke before, because she fears she may succumb to the Dark Side) and short guest appearance and pep talk by Luke (who is hardly in the movie at all), eventually makes her way to Palpatine, using Kylo's Sith artifact as a guide. Once in Palpatine's lair we find out he doesn't want Rey dead after all, despite saying so in the beginning of the movie, instead he wants her to become his heir and to become the vessel of all the Sith. Rey refuses and a fight with Palpatine's Royal guards begins, which is very short. Ben Solo, now redeemed, also arrives on the scene, he fights the Knights of Ren who have even less screentime than the Praetorian Guards, and eventually manages to defeat them easily, because Rey senses him and hands him the Skywalker saber through their Force bond (which can transfer objects).

Luke explains to Rey that being a hermit is not the way

Kylo and Ben finally face off against Palpatine. Palpatine simply drains the life force off of them, rejuvenating himself. Ben recovers first and stands up, but Palpatine tosses him into a pit and he falls seemingly to his death. Rey then connects with all the previous Jedi, we hear short snippets of dialogue from Obi-Wan, Anakin, Qui-Gon, Yoda, Ahsoka and Luke and that gives her the strength of all Jedi, she then stands up. Palpatine hurls lightning at her, Rey at first keeps it in check with Leia's lightsaber, but then she Force pulls the Skywalker lightsaber into her other hand and crosses the blades, now she can deflect the lightning back onto Palpatine. Palpatine keeps shooting lightning at Rey for some reason until his face begins to melt and he eventually explodes. Palpatine and with him the Sith are dead. But the effort was too much for Rey, she collapses as well and dies.

However, Ben crawls out of the pit. He sees Rey, rushes to her, cradles her in his arms and then transfers his life energy to her, which is what Force healing does. Rey comes to life again, opens her eyes, smiles, says "Ben" and the two share a sweet, romantic, intimate kiss. And then Ben dies, vanishing into thin air like Jedi usually do when they die.

Meanwhile there is a space battle, the odds are bad, Snap Wexley is shot down and explodes, Finn, Jannah, Rose and other troopers charge a Star Destroyer with horse creatures. The Sith Troopers make their very short appearance, they are just as bad as the white variety and just as easily disposed of. Things still go south until Lando arrives on the scene with a massive fleet and Palpatine's demise and this massive fleet can defeat the armada of Star Destroyers with death star lasers. We cut to several locations across the galaxy, Bespin, Jakku... and for no apparent reason First Order Star Destroyers are crashing down, it seems Palpatine's death destroyed the entire fleet all across the galaxy. There is celebration, and finally Rey flies off with the Falcon. She arrives on the Lars Homestead on Tatooine, here she buries Luke's and Leia's lightsaber. She then ignites her own lightsaber, the hilt is made from her staff and the blade is yellow. Then a random woman appears, saying that no one has lived here for a long time and who she may be? Rey says that she's "Rey... Rey Skywalker". As the Force ghosts of Luke and Leia appear. Rey then watches the twin sunset with BB-8. And the credits roll.

The first live action lightsaber with a yellow blade

That's the core of the plot. And I have some severe issues with it and the whole movie. First of all, the movie has too much content, too many concepts that are hardly explained, it jumps right into the action and you get the feeling you missed maybe a movie or two, because especially in the beginning The Rise of Skywalker doesn't feel like the continuation of The Last Jedi at all. The movie feels convoluted, there's no room to breathe for the characters. Once the scavenger hunt for the McGuffin begins there is no respite.

First, there is Palpatine. His return is never explained. A typical JJ Abrams mystery box. In the final movie. And a pretty big one as well. I suppose most fans would love to know how Palpatine survived his fall and the explosion. But he's just there. It reeks a bit of desperation, since the other big bad, Snoke, was killed in the previous movie. Also, his plan makes little sense. First he wants Rey dead, then he wants her to become his heir, then he wants to kill her anyway, because she refuses and he rejuvenates himself by absorbing Rey's and Ben's life force. In the movie it seems Palpatine only finds out about being able to do that when Rey and Ben face him together, when it was made clear in The Last Jedi that Snoke, who is merely Palpatine in disguise, stablished this Force bond between them to begin with, so Palpatine should absolutely be aware of its special abilities.

And in the final fight he uses the same strategy as in Revenge of the Sith. He simply shoots lightning at his opponent, even if said opponent can easily deflect and eventually even reflect the lightning. But he doesn't stop, he just keeps going... until he explodes. The final "fight" was a major letdown for me. It consisted of Palpatine draining the life force like some space vampire, then hurling lightning at Rey and at the ships in the sky above. Only to be vaporized by his own reflected lightning a short while later. There was no actual duel. There was hardly anything. No real fight. Certainly no action.

Palpatine is a mere husk on Exegol

Then we have to talk about the various fake deaths. Chewie is seemingly killed by Rey, but we quickly find out he's alive. C-3PO's memory is seemingly erased for good when he translates the Sith language, only for R2-D2 to have a more or less recent backup copy of his memories he then restores. And then there's Ben's fake death as he gets tossed into the pit. Only to die for real a few moments later. These fake deaths (total memory loss is death of personality) fealt a bit cheap, especially when you do it three times in one movie.

But let's talk about what everyone will talk about. In The Rise of Skywalker the last of the Skywalkers is killed and Rey, who is revealed to be a Palpatine, actually is the only Force user/Jedi left at the end of the movie. And she declares herself a Skywalker. Just like that. I do understand what JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio were aiming for. You are not defined by your heritage, you can choose who you want to be. And it is, in theory, a very beautiful message, I just think it's a terrible plot idea for the "Skywalker Saga" when all Skywalkers are dead and a Palpatine becomes a Skywalker in name only, maybe even in spirit, but the fact remains that the Skywalker lineage has been wiped out.

Another problem is that character motivations are vague at best and not understandable at worst. You have to remember that the entire movie takes place on one day, less than 16 hours actually. In these 16 hours... Palpatine first orders Kylo to kill Rey. Only to later reveal that he doesn't want her dead after all, no, she is supposed to kill him, so she can become Empress, inhabited by all the Sith spirits. Why then did Palpatine order Kylo to kill Rey? Also, the Emperor is all selfless now and is willing to get killed? Even if his spirit will reside in Rey as well, he will be dead. Palpatine never came across as someone who wants to found a dynasty. Why did he ever bother with apprentices when it's suddenly about family?

But Kylo's redemption is especially puzzling. He wants Rey to be his Dark Side Princess, he wants her to take his hand, so they can rule the galaxy together and kill Palpatine. Then he hears his mother calling his name, he feels when she dies, Rey mortally wounds him, only to heal him, then he sees his dead father. And then he's no longer Kylo, but Ben again. Just like that. I didn't believe this for one second. The change was much too abrupt, especially given the timeframe of the movie, only hours earlier Kylo wanted Rey to be his Dark Side Princess. And now he tosses away his lightsaber and returns to the light, mere hours after teasing and hurting Rey by revealing to her that she is a Palpatine and should join him? It is obvious what JJ wants to be his motivation, familial bonds, love - but we had that all in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as well, and while Kylo did hesitate to shoot the bridge of the Raddus with his mother on, he stabbed his own father in the chest and killed him. And he was very eager to obliterate his uncle. So why the sudden change of heart now? The death of his mother suddenly changes all? But why?

The ending is especially troublesome. While it is understandable why Ben might be in love with Rey, she is very attractive, after all, the movie never explains why Rey would feel anything for Ben. Ben, or Kylo, not only killed his own father, but he also tortured Rey. What kind of woman would fall in love with someone like that? The romantic kiss at the end felt like pure fanservice for the so-called "Reylo" community, but completely out of character for Rey.

The moment all Reylo fans have been waiting for

And why does Rey return to Tatooine to bury the Skywalker lightsabers? Luke hated the place and wanted nothing but to get off of this planet, Leia was enslaved there by a vile criminal and was probably his sex slave, their grandmother was murdered there, Luke's foster family was murdered there. It seems JJ Abrams just wanted to provide yet some more fan service without giving any real thought about the deeper meaning. Also, in A New Hope Luke watches the sunset with longing, it represents his wish to see the galaxy, to have adventures. Rey and BB-8 watching the sunset feels empty. It doesn't feel earned. It doesn't resonate with what we saw before in A New Hope.

Luke's and Leia's lightsabers, about to be buried on Tatooine

Several characters are completely neglected in The Rise of Skywalker. Luke has a mere cameo, his sole purpose is to give Rey some moral support and to subvert The Last Jedi's saber tossing scene by making a joke about it. R2-D2 is reduced to prop status, he gets even less to do than in The Force Awakens. C-3PO is, for a change, an integral part of the plot and it works quite well actually, the only problem is that when he says goodbye to his friends, you never really believe it that these people are his friends. Especially Poe is not even remotely nice to him in the movie, Han was abrasive and had little patience, but Poe seems to be more hostile. Rose is reduced to a bitpart, she was basically "Jar Jared", why even introduce her character in the previous movie when the next one does nothing with her? The new characters, Jannah and Zorii hardly get anything to do either, of the two Zorii has a bit more screentime as Poe's feisty ex. Lando is pure fanservice. He does assemble the massive fleet in the end. But you have to question the logistics here. He does all that in maybe an hour or so? Less than an hour? How he assembled this massive fleet is mysterious. And why wasn't this megafleet assembled in The Last Jedi? Vice Admiral Holdo could have taken the shuttle used by Finn and Rose, travel to the Core worlds and send her call for help just like Lando.

Finn and Poe get more to do, and their onscreen bond is strong and the two make for a great team. It's nice we finally have all heroes together as a team, with Chewie and C-3PO as sidekick. But for some strange reason JJ Abrams decided that Rey should not get along with Poe, they are at odds and obviously don't like each other all that much. Hux is barely in the movie. And the person who foamed at the mouth when he ordered the destruction of the New Republic is now a mole who helps the Resistance out of spite, because he doesn't like Kylo Ren. But he's quickly found out and shot by Allegiant General Pryde. Hux was completely wasted in this and the last movie.

We also have the Knights of Ren. I can understand now why Hasbro was hesitant to make them. They actually have even less screentime than the Pratorian Guards and their one, very short, action sequence is completely lackluster. In the few, very short scenes in the movie they act like Nazgul, on the trail of Rey. Then they are on Exegol, for some reason, and want to stop Ben Solo, but are quickly disposed of. And not even one of them speaks a single word. They were completely useless.

Then we have the subplot for Finn, who is suddenly Force sensitive, at least the movie strongly hints at it. This was never really hinted at before and comes out of nowhere. Finn also wants to tell Rey something very important in the movie. Maybe about him being Force sensitive? Or maybe about his feelings? The movie never tells you, this subplot is never resolved, even when Poe insists Finn tells him what it is he wanted to confess to Rey. Poe however can't even score with his old flame Zorii, the two were an item in the past, but the two times Poe makes a move on her she declines, it's played for laughs but makes Poe a somewhat odd loser character. He actually wants to kiss Zorii while on the run from the First Order and trying to free Chewbacca, which seems weird.

And then there is Leia. You can tell that she wasn't really on set. While they used no CGI to recreate her face you can tell that her face was inserted, the lighting is ever so slightly off at times and you can even tell that some of the dialogue characters have with her sounds and feels awkward as it was written around dialogue for her originally intended for The Force Awakens. And while it was always obvious that she would die, to have her die like Luke, from using the Force too much, is another questionable decision. Also, remember, the entire plot unfolds in the course of mere hours. We go from Leia training Rey and looking healthy to Leia suddenly using the last of her power to reach out to Ben and say his name, only to collapse and die. It makes little sense. Then there is the short training montage flashback with Luke. This scene just looks bad. For most of the short flashback Luke and Leia wear helmets with blast shields. Leia manages to topple Luke over, the brief glimpse of his very young Return of the Jedi era face looks ok, but Leia's face looks really, really off. It seems the effects team once again didn't have enough time to deliver proper results. All in all Leia's presence in the movie is on the one hand nice to have, but on the other hand it's awkward, you can tell she's inserted, not really there and she hardly contributes anything of substance to the plot. Her most important act is the "Ben!" voiceover.

In the end the movie fails for me. And with it the sequels. There never was a coherent plan. The Rise of Skywalker undoes several key decisions from The Last Jedi which renders the divisive movie more or less irrelevant, which will certainly anger many fans of The Last Jedi. To rehash the original trilogy plot structure, with some kind of Empire fighting some kind of Rebels, was never original to begin with. But the sequels ultimately undid everything from the prequels and the original trilogy. The Skywalkers failed. Actually, they were trolled and manipulated all this time by Palpatine. Anakin's redemption and sacrifice was more or less in vain. Yes, he did save Luke and returned to the light, but Luke failed to accomplish anything later in life. The Emperor however, was never dead and pulled the strings in the background. Anakin, despite his one short piece of dialogue in the movie, never really did bring balance to the Force, Palpatine was alive the whole time. The movie lies to the audience when it tries to convince you that Anakin achieved anything.

The final entry in the Skywalker saga has all Skywalker's dead and a Palpatine the sole survirvor and winner of this epic conflict. But to add insult to injury Rey assumes the Skywalker name and smiles happily in the end. The message is obvious, it's actually a good message, you can be anyone you want to be, you are not defined by your heritage or the deeds of your ancestors. You are your own person with your own destiny. It's beautiful. But I think it's a terrible ending to the Skywalker Saga. It is heartbreaking. But even if you ignore the Star Wars lore the movie even fails as mindless entertainment. Motivations for various characters are not believable, the movie runs you over with the might of a steamroller, it never catches breath, it throws things, gadgets, locations, cameos (including a 1 second shot of Wedge as a Falcon gunner) at you and on top you get weird concepts that are never properly explained, schemes by the main villain that appear to make little sense, even the idea that Snoke was just a clone and Palpatine's puppet makes no sense. Why use someone like Snoke? Why not clone the Emperor, a few of his cells are certainly available for that? Why the subterfuge? And the final duel is just anticlimactic. Someone who first watched Endgame earlier this year and then The Rise of Skywalker will certainly feel underwhelmed. The finale offers almost nothing on the action front. And the romance scene with Ben reviving Rey feels entirely out of place. In these scenes the movie feels as if it is fanfic.

The Skywalker Force ghosts (sans Anakin and Ben) adopt Rey as one of their own, apparently

Ultimately, Lucasfilm dropped the ball here by not having one coherent vision for the trilogy. The tonal and thematic shifts between the sequel movies are jarring. Also, the sequels tried to be all things at once, they tried to please old fans, they tried to win new fans, but no one can be really happy here. The old characters were killed off one by one, all of their accomplishments undone. The droids were mostly reduced to cameos, of the new characters only Rey and Kylo have something of a real arc, whereas Poe and Finn have much less defined arcs. And several guest stars, even if they had a substantial role in one movie, are cast to the wayside and rendered mostly irrelevant later. On top of that the trilogy teased fans with characters such as Phasma or the Knights of Ren, but never captures the effectiveness of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. The inclusion of these characters rings hollow, they served no real purpose.

But it's all over now. We can move on. We can only hope that the next movie projects will have better stories and better creative people who come up with ideas that make sense, that don't offer empty fanservice in lieu of real emotions. The fanservice in The Mandalorian never feels empty. But in The Rise of Skywalker it felt so forced, it took you out of the movie again and again. It was pandering. But all of that lies behind us. Let us look forward.

While Mike, who reviewed the previous sequel movies, gave The Last Jedi 4 holocrons, I would give The Last Jedi 1.5, just to provide some perspective. The Rise of Skywalker is perhaps somewhat more entertaining than The Last Jedi, but it's barely a better Star Wars movie, in some ways it's even worse. As a stand alone movie I would give it 2.5 holocrons, but seen in context, as not only the conclusion of the sequel trilogy but also the finale of the Skywalker Saga I give it 1.5 holocrons.

Back To TopPoints of Discussion
  • Palpatine's unexplained return
  • Rey being a Palpatine
  • Rey assuming the Skywalker name
  • All Skywalkers are dead
  • Luke reduced to a mere cameo
  • No appearance by Anakin Skywalker in the sequel trilogy, only one line of voice over dialogue
  • Kylo's sudden redemption
  • Fan service
  • Breakneck speed, confusing and convoluted narrative
External Links:
Added: December 18, 2019
Category: Theatrical Releases
Reviewer: Thomas
Score:
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