Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

by W. Andrew Powell
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Since George Lucas decided Star Wars needed to be updated for modern times, Lucasfilm has set a certain tone. That was never more evident than when Star Wars: A New Hope arrived on Disney+ with “maclunkey” plopped in for absolutely no apparent reason.

With writer and director J.J. Abrams returning to helm Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, things have been taken a step further, and we’re not talking about just changing moments, it’s more like a wholesale tossing out of everything that Rian Johnson created in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

From the opening credits, Abrams establishes what he wants to do with Star Wars and you’re either going to love or hate it.

Perhaps it’s worth saying right now that I was on Team Johnson when it comes to Star Wars and what he created with The Last Jedi. Abrams’ The Force Awakens got me back into the universe, but I was bored by how much the film rehashed the past. Johnson reinvigorated Star Wars, shook up the universe, and created tension and turmoil in a story that hadn’t been seen since The Empire Strikes Back.

With Abrams returning to direct, it feels like he listened to what the fans said about The Last Jedi and just worked to destroy anything Johnson had created. He seems to have taken a page from this modern era of political leadership where instead of creating anything, the goal is simply to undo what previous leaders have built-up.

There are countless examples of how Abrams has hacked away at what I consider an excellent story from the last film, but none feel quite so shocking, or disgusting, as the near complete removal of Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico from the story.

Rose had become a big part of the story in the last film, but in Rise of Skywalker, she’s left with a few lines and not a single moment of real drama. It’s startling, and seems nothing if not vengeful.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX.

Meanwhile, a major twist is revealed in the opening crawl, and it’s the most pointless, meaningless events in the history of the films. Jar Jar Binks included. Abrams effectively out-Binked George Lucas, and it doesn’t serve the greater story that’s been setup for the last two films at all.

In fact, I don’t even think there’s much of a story at all in Rise of Skywalker. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio don’t want to support anything from The Last Jedi, so they have to drop, ignore, hatchet, or burn any plot points that Johnson created, and the effect is that Rise of Skywalker finishes the new trilogy with nonsense, plot holes, and new concepts that don’t mean much.

Given that there were two very different directors working on this trilogy, with obviously different plans, it’s easy to see why things ended so badly. They either needed one director for all thrree films, or a concrete plan for the story. At the very least, it would have been wise if there was a concept for the directors for where to start, carry-on, and finish with the trilogy. Abrams came up with what he wanted to do in the first film, Johnson had his plan, and when Abrams came back, and to deal with the fan backlash from the The Last Jedi, a script was made that set a brand new course.

While I have my complaints with other franchises with multiple sequels, many of them had the sense to maintain a style, theme, and mood that carried throughout most or all of the films. This trilogy unfortunately didn’t have the same kind of plan.

While the effects and acting are good, and there are things to praise about this film, Rise of Skywalker is neither fulfilling, in the sense of how a trilogy should end, nor does it feel like a fully formed thought. The “They fly now” clip pretty much sums up the entire film for me as it’s silly, but not funny, and lacks any real depth, or development for the characters or story.

Even the final scene, that did make me smile, starts to feel disingenuous when you start thinking about it too long. The last three minutes of the film actually brought me back to the mood and spirit of what I loved about Star Wars from the start, at least for a few moments, but it ends with a meaningless gesture that throws out so many things that could have been so much more impactful.

Fans will want to check this film out and judge for themselves, and maybe they won’t agree with me, but you may be surprised. If you’re at all in doubt about if you need to see Rise of Skywalker, I’m here to tell you that you can save it for when it arrives on Disney+ or TV.

I adore Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, but this film hardly serves any of them well.

The Last Jedi was not a perfect film. It had flaws. Tossing all of that story down the drain though effectively threw this trilogy off the rails and makes it hardly any better than the prequels, and that’s saying a lot. There’s actually a ton of heart, wit, and emotion in the prequel trilogy–for all its failures–and that’s a lot more than I can say about The Rise of Skywalker.

Daisy Ridley is Rey and Adam Driver is Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

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