I’m going to start this off with a spoiler-free look at the entire trilogy, and review of The Rise of Skywalker, before heading into a detailed review of the film. So feel free to read on if you have not seen the film yet. There will be a spoiler warning when the time comes.
“You will now pay the price for your lack of vision.” – Sheev Palpatine
Here we go again, one last time… With the release of The Rise of Skywalker, the Disney Star Wars Trilogy is finally over. That is, until inevitably the next installment shows up, because who are we kidding? Disney will continue to milk this franchise, until it has thoroughly been run into the ground. Although we will see how they will try to do this next, since cinemas in many areas across the world remain largely empty so far and critics’ responses were mixed at best thus far. Will this film flop like Solo did? And will Disney and Lucasfilm act on this and draw the right conclusions from it?
It now remains to be seen if this franchise will survive without its previously established and beloved characters. But we also have to ask ourselves, why? Why did Disney and Lucasfilm even bother to tap into the original stories and characters in the first place? Their strategy seemed flawed from the get-go. The Rise of Skywalker is an exercise in exorcism of the previously established Star Wars films, so that they can start creating their own original content, unburdened by the past, and it is tragically obvious, why it did not work.
Disney’s premise was that people who cared about Star Wars were disappointed with the prequel trilogy and in order to get audiences excited for new movies, they would have to go back to the original cast and continue the story that wrapped up in the Original Trilogy. But at the same time, Disney wanted new characters and new merchandising opportunities that would extend beyond the first trilogy they planned, because that is where the money is. So it made perfect sense to them that they would just do both at once. Introduce us to new characters and make them the protagonists, while dangling old characters in front of us. And herein lies the problem.
They treated the Original Trilogy heritage as bait to lure audiences into their new stories based on their new characters. In doing so, they set up unrealistic expectations for audiences, who were all too familiar with the past, but didn’t get to see quite the nostalgic reunions they were promised. At the same time, the new characters did not have a lot of time or room to grow, because too much of it was spent on identity politics and other pointless side-quests, which may have been great for merchandising, but was terrible for character development and group dynamics. The stories were weaved together based around the merchandise, but they should have been following the characters and their journeys, from which the merchandise would then spring.
Rey spends almost no time whatsoever with Finn and Poe. She only meets Poe at the end of the second film. Instead, she spends her time with Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia, who are all madly impressed with her from the very beginning. This film somewhat addresses why that is, but it feels like an excuse for what otherwise has been coined as the Mary Sue trope; a character that is all powerful, great at everything and immediately adored by every other character that has previously been established. Had she struggled more and spent more time bonding with her fellow Resistance fighters, the story would have become far more enjoyable and meaningful. One of the scenes in the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker even feels like an admission of this very fact, but unfortunately comes too late in the trilogy.
In the Expanded Universe, the story focus lay exclusively on the main gang of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando and the droids. But as their adventures continued, they encountered many new faces, who became integral to the story in one way or another and grew into fan favourites with their own stories over time. The whole thing was a continuation of what came before, but it moved the story forward into many new exciting and often unexpected places by utilising character development and group dynamics. This is what Disney did not understand (as we now know, Kathleen Kennedy never even considered researching the Expanded Universe…) and what fans of The Last Jedi don’t seem to understand. They hail the departure from previously established rules and boundaries, but fail to see that there was a much better way to do so.
While some fans disliked them, the Yuuzhan Vong, were an incredible new addition to the Star Wars lore and turned the story on its head. For those readers unfamilar with the 200+ novels, the Yuuzhan Vong were a species of warriors that travelled from another galaxy, where the Force did not exist. They used biotechnology and bio-weaponry and displayed a hatred for all things mechanical. They followed an interesting polytheistic religion and bathed the galaxy in fire from the moment of their arrival. Now that is an interesting new villain! Something we haven’t seen in Star Wars on the big screen before. It was also a story line that delved deeper into the mysteries of the Force. But of course casual audiences wouldn’t know about the creative stories from the Expanded Universe, which is why some of them believed The Last Jedi was such a creative success.
What they don’t understand is that there are three ways to be creative.
1) You build something new from scratch.
2) Build on top of something existing and add to its foundations.
3) Destroy existing structures and rebuild something new based on the familiar.
Number one was always out of the question. Star Wars is an established property. Number two is the most difficult, but also most rewarding approach. It was the way of the Expanded Universe. It is in the name, expand something existing, improve upon it, add to it. Rian Johnson’s (and by extension Hollywood’s) approach corresponds to number three. It is the reboot culture. Johnson didn’t care much for the foundation and he ripped it apart to try and build something new. Unfortunately for him, this is not going to fly with an audience that has been consuming this content for over 40 years now. They want their previous content preserved and expanded upon, not a revolution that will flip things on its head.
The truth is, that even the Force bond and the idea of cutting oneself off from the Force, was previously established in the highly acclaimed Old Republic video games. Very little of what Rian Johnson put in his film, was original content, just as J. J. Abrams mostly recycled old plot points for both his films and did not have many new things to add, apart from some new droid and alien designs that came from Lucasfilm’s design department. To be fair, the Force bond being able to teleport solid objects was quite new and freezing objects in space and time, as well as Force projecting onself across the galaxy was also original. But the most original story addition in these new films was the focus on ‘identity’ and even this was inconsistent across all three films and sent out conflicting messages that serve to confuse the audience and discredit the films and the lessons they are trying to convey.
“Amazing. Everything you just said is wrong.” – Luke Skywalker
I watched The Rise of Skywalker with some surprise and bemusement, as the Reddit plot leaks Disney so vehemently denied and attributed to hateful trolls, were all true. Who has the moral high ground now?
What I did not realise, however, was that the film would try its very best to retcon The Last Jedi in every possible way, using either big plot points or simple one-liners to discredit, or explain away anything and everything the previous film had done. This came to the dismay of The Last Jedi fans and left many old fans completely cold, as we have already emotionally moved on from the franchise. This was evidenced by the number of people with me in the theatre on opening night. I caught the second viewing. The first one finished just before that and only about twenty people left the room, before we got to enter. We were also a group of around twenty people. That is an abysmal number. But even if fans still cared enough to see the film, they were left disappointed with what they saw (as evidenced by the audience’s laughter and booing towards the end of the film).
The turnarounds in The Rise of Skywalker feel very forced and out of place making an even greater mess of this weird trilogy. I re-watched The Last Jedi just before I went to the cinema and have to profess it was very jarring to see its core messages so profoundly destroyed immediately after seeing it. It is no secret I believe The Last Jedi was a catastrophic example of lazy writing, but if it is supposed to have its place in the Star Wars canon, one cannot simply undo it with the following installment. It would be better to simply ignore it or wipe it out completely, but like this, it just throws it under the bus and creates even more division and conflict in the fandom and there is already more than enough conflict in the world.
As it stands, the trilogy as a whole, simply does not work. One could only try to skip The Last Jedi and fill in the gaps with a longer crawl text or a clip show with relevant scenes, to make it work. There was absolutely no plan for this trilogy and it shows.
The Rise of Skywalker itself is also a convoluted mess that doesn’t have a beginning, a middle or an end. The whole film is just one big third act and roller coaster ride that doesn’t want to end, while at the same time being overflown with exposition necessary to tie things together and explain what all of this is supposed to mean. It is just a needless MacGuffin chase that serves to establish who all these characters actually are, because none of the previous films have managed to do so. Otherwise we could have easily skipped the first hour or so and just arrived at the final battle, because everything that happened before that was ultimately just action filler.
But allow me to say something positive about the film, as I actually felt entertained by it and there were many elements of it that I thoroughly enjoyed. The soundtrack is gorgeous and feels much stronger than the previous two installments. The effects and cinematography are also superb and I cannot say anything bad about the acting either. The character interactions were at a high point and the cast really came together as an ensemble. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) finally got more attention and something to do! He was so underused in most of the previous films and he finally got to stand in the spot light.
The chemistry between cast members is amazing and hints at what we could have had if we had gotten a properly planned out trilogy that would allow them to team up earlier. In this sense, the MacGuffin chase was necessary, because we really needed to form an emotional bond with this characters at some point before the end.
In the end it is only the writing that fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion to this needlessly prolonged story. In J. J. Abrams’ defense, he had an impossible job, following The Last Jedi and having to try and connect all nine films together. Had he been in charge of all three films, perhaps he could have made a satisfying new trilogy. But he wasn’t and so he did the best he could and one can see how much effort was put into the making of this film. One of the major things I would like to credit him with, is the return of the story to its roots. While identity is still the main theme of this trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker returns the main focus back to family. But unfortunately, Abrams’ best was not enough. While I found the viewing experience enjoyable (much like with The Force Awakens and with Abrams’ Star Trek films), I could not immerse myself into the story or the universe portrayed, because of its over-the-top nature and the many resulting flaws.
“Much to learn you still have…” – Yoda *Spoilers ahead*
The film is very entertaining, it often feels like Star Wars and there are these moments when you can see glimpses of true cinematic greatness shine through, but ultimately you cannot take it seriously. The writing is incredibly thin and cringe-worthy. The first line of the opening crawl made me laugh out loud. “The dead speak!” Seriously? Is this a black and white horror film from the 50s? Or are you referring to Force ghosts? Cause those have been around since the very first film…
No, actually, Abrams is referring to Palpatine, who miraculously survived his fall into the Death Star’s reactor shaft, nullifying the end of Return of the Jedi. Now, don’t get me wrong, Palpatine returned in the Expanded Universe too and Luke and company spent a great deal of time dismantling his Empire, hunting for his relics and defeating his disciples after Return of the Jedi. In fact, Han Solo ended up killing Palpatine for good in the comics (it was better than it sounds on paper). But because Palpatine’s return did not unbalance the Force and he was quite quickly and easily dispatched the second time around, it really did not detract from the original ending.
In this instance, it kind of does. Because there is no explanation for his survival, except for one line: “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Really? Just quote yourself from five movies ago and it’ll be fine… This seems to be the solution for most problems in this film. Just gloss over it with a few lines and hope no one has the time or energy left to ask questions at the end of the film.
Not only is Palpatine’s miraculous survival never explained, but his presence suddenly shifts the entire trilogy’s focus in a completely different direction. It came out of nowhere. His return is announced in the crawl and the movie immediately begins with everyone looking for him and already talking about his evil new schemes. It is a very jarring start and it feels as if there is another whole film missing in between.
In the Reddit leaks, an earlier version of the script explained that Palpatine had successfully cloned himself and that his clone had actually died in Return of the Jedi. One can easily understand why that never made it into the final cut. In the Expanded Universe, Palpatine had also managed to clone himself, but his spirit used the clones as new vessels, after one of his bodies died. That was how he was able to survive. This is another plot point that was utilised for the film. What? You thought Palpatine being able to take over another person’s body was an original idea? Not at all. In fact, the Darth Bane novels explained this process in detail.
George Lucas had determined long ago that Darth Bane created the Rule of Two between the Sith 1000 years before Episode I. The rule stipulates that there would always be two Sith, a master and an apprentice, so that the most powerful of them would succeed the other and the Sith would not destroy themselves in constant civil war as before. Bane learned the secret to immortality; an ancient ritual that allowed him to transfer his spirit into another host. However, the host had to be strong in the dark side and either willing or weakened enough for him to gain control. In the end, Bane used that technique on his apprentice Darth Zannah. The final book leaves the outcome open-ended. Zannah claims to be herself, but her hand twitches in the same way her master’s had. So was Bane just pretending, or was it an after effect, a last flicker of his life? Or perhaps did they merge into a new entity?
The Rise of Skywalker in a way answers this question. Palpatine claims that he is all the Sith. He asks Rey to kill him in anger, because that would allow him to pass into her. Literally every Sith since Bane has transferred their spirit into their apprentice and merged with them, so that all the Sith lived within him. This could also explain, in a way, why he was able to cheat death. After all, he killed his master, Darth Plagueis, who has this knowledge and power. His spirit would have merged with Palpatine and given him that very same power and knowledge. Perhaps this also confirms that Palpatine was the one who manipulated the Force into creating Anakin Skywalker, as part of his master plan to eradicate the Jedi. Although at this point, Palpatine’s schemes seem just as convoluted and ridiculous as Lex Luthor’s plan in Batman v Superman. Then again, the same screen writer, Chris Terrio, wrote both films, so that checks out.
In any case, I found this very interesting, because this creates a weird plot hole for Return of the Jedi. While Vader’s sacrifice ultimately did not kill the Emperor, it succeeded in toppling him and his power base and restoring balance for a while. Okay, fine, I can live with this. But Palpatine claims he had always been after this new host. So Luke would have had to be that new host, because Vader was damaged goods. So Palpatine wanted Luke to turn to the dark side and get rid of Vader. But at the same time, Palpatine asked Luke to strike him down in hatred to complete his journey to the dark side (he actually wanted him to do it!), but then Vader stopped him and started dueling Luke. If the Emperor’s plan was to be killed, why the bloody hell would Vader interfere? He was so close to getting what he wanted! And then, ultimately, Luke gave into his anger, but let go of it, before he could kill Vader. Then again, why did Palpatine even care if Vader was still alive if Luke was supposed to kill him, not Vader? This new plot point makes absolutely no sense in contrast with the Original Trilogy.
Also, he tells Rey she has to kill him in hatred, so he can enter her body, but then she says she refuses to kill and hate him. But in the end she kills him anyway. So didn’t he actually get exactly what he wanted? Why didn’t his spirit enter her? Or are you telling me she killed him with love?
The dialogue in that scene is also beyond ridiculous. “I am all the Sith!” “And I… am… Iron man!” Oops, I mean “I am all the Jedi!” Really? You are? I didn’t realise that every Jedi is all the Jedi. That opens up so many… Wait what?
On another note, Palpatine suddenly has the power to zap an entire fleet (and conveniently only the enemy ships) with lightning. But the lightning only immobilises the the fleet, it doesn’t actually damage any of the ships. So what is the whole point of any of this? And didn’t Rey’s little bit of lightning blow up an entire starship a few scenes before? Don’t think too much about it…
There are moments in this film that are really great, for example the part where Lando shows up with the entire fleet of “just people”, which includes the Ghost from Rebels, and also Wedge Antilles, who should have been there from the beginning. But other moments feel as if they were written by a three-year old, or someone who really liked Avengers: Endgame and tried to blindly copy-paste it to Star Wars.
The most interesting and semi-original part of this film was the idea of the dyad in the Force, but even that creates problems and ultimaltey feels like a convenient way for Palpatine to restore himself.
If Rey and Kylo were a dyad, is that why they had this Force bond and were able to teleport things to each other? But Snoke had claimed he had created the bond. Was he just lying? Was he actually just trying to cover for the fact that he didn’t understand what was going on between them? How does Snoke fit into any of this anyway? Apparently Palpatine created Snoke and was also him and Vader in Kylo’s head this entire time? So was Snoke just a failed clone or some sort of lackey? Was he even in on the master plan? Because he wanted Kylo to bring the girl to him unharmed, so he could train her. That fits with Palpatine’s M.O. But then he asked Kylo to kill her to prove himself in The Last Jedi. Why would he do that? He needed her alive! Was he able to predict the future with such accuracy that he knew Kylo would never kill her? Or would he have accepted Kylo as an alternative body? But then why didn’t Palpatine enter him, when he (Snoke) was killed by him? Or is that not how it works? So was Snoke really just a stupid puppet, or was Palpatine in charge of the body all along and did he allow Kylo to kill him, to move the plot forward and save Rey, so she could later come to him? Ugh… This guy’s plans have plans on top of their plans with extra plans on the side. Who makes plans like that? And how can they even fail if they are this convoluted? Or rather, how could he have possibly pulled of his whole Empire routine in the first place if that’s how he plots all the time?
“A Jedi? Whaddya know?” – Watto
Who are all the Jedi that speak to Rey by the way? It turns out, that while the prequel trilogy is almost entirely ignored by this trilogy and film, this is the part where they get out their prequel characters. Apart from Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka Tano (spoilers! We didn’t know she was dead yet!!!) from the animated shows, we get Obi-Wan, Anakin, Yoda, Qui-Gon, Luke, Mace Windu, Aayla Secura, Luminara Undulli and Adi Gallia.
So first things first, this selection feels really random. All of these Jedi were alive during the last 50 years and quite a few of them died during the Jedi purge. You’re telling me these are ALL the Jedi? Like all of the ones that ever became Force ghosts? First of all, shame on you for not including Leia in this. Secondly, couldn’t you have added some completely unknown voices for additional effect? What about the Old Republic Jedi? “For over a thousand generations the Jedi were guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic…” No? None of them were worthy enough to become Force Ghosts? Incidentally, Jennifer Hale, who appeared here to voice Aayla Secura, actually voiced both fan favourites Bastila and Satele Shan from the Old Republic games, who in the Expanded Universe turned into Force ghosts. So to me it would make more sense that one of them would be speaking to Rey.
Speaking of Aayla and the other Jedi, remember them? No? That’s probably because they played very minor roles in the prequels and are only appearing here to have more female Jedi represented. Aayla had no lines and her big scene was when she was brutally gunned down by her own clones in Revenge of the Sith. She only got an episode or two of her own in The Clone Wars animated series. The same goes for Adi Gallia who was murdered in that series (and did not disappear) and Luminara Undulli, who was killed in Revenge of the Sith off-screen and whose corpse was later used by the Empire to lure Jedi into a trap in Rebels. So we have several Jedi here, who are speaking to Rey, despite them never having become one with the Force. It was previously established in The Clone Wars that one had to go through very special training to become a Force Ghost and the Jedi Council did not believe Yoda, when he told them Qui-Gon had spoken to him from beyond the grave, because they believed that to be impossible.
Yoda ended up going through his trials to learn how to become one with the Force and he and Qui-Gon passed this knowledge on to Obi-Wan, who trained hard for 18 years on Tatooine before the beginning of the Original Trilogy, so that he too could become a Force ghost when the time came. So these cameos completely destroy this concept and both Obi-Wan’s and Yoda’s character arcs.
Speaking of Force Ghosts, The Last Jedi had already shown us that Yoda was able to summon Lightning, giving truth to Obi-Wan’s last words “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” I always imagined Obi-Wan speaking metaphorically, seeing as he would become part of the Force, and therefore a being that was part of the greatest power in the universe, but not individually all-powerful. But The Rise of Skywalker doubles down on this, as Luke catches his lightsaber, when Rey throws it into a fire. He then also lifts his old X-Wing out of the sea with the Force.
This begs the question: Why aren’t all the Force ghosts more active? Can’t they stop Palpatine themselves? Why wait all this time? Why not intervene at all? When they spoke to Rey, did they actually grant her some power? Did the CGI budget run out for this? We are going to get a special edition in twenty years that corrects this, aren’t we?
But in all seriousness, this is a glaring plot hole. Why are Force ghosts cheering on the living from the sidelines? At least give us a throwaway line or something that explains when you can and when you cannot act… In Empire Strikes Back Obi-Wan told Luke he could not interfere. But we never found out why. We did not need to, because we did not think he was all-powerful. But now we know he is, so why won’t any of them help out?
And since I am already talking about this scene, Luke reveals to Rey that he and Leia both knew she was a Palpatine. How? And if they knew and really believed she would not be defined by her bloodline, then why did they leave her all on her own on Jakku? Wouldn’t her loneliness and obsession with reuniting with her family be more likely to turn her to the dark? Maybe Ben would never even have turned if they had adopted Rey… Did Han know too? Most importantly, how did Luke and Leia know about her being a Palpatine, but didn’t know about Palpatine himself being alive? This is the quintessential reason why switching out Snoke for Palpatine doesn’t work. Everyone seems to know about Snoke and his origins (except for the audience), but no one knows about Palpatine and is surprised to hear he is back. But Snoke was literally created by Palpatine. So how does that track?
“I know you like me because I’m a scoundrel…” – Han Solo
Let’s talk about the worst element of this film. The Twilight saga in Space. Right of the bat, we are dropped into a situation, where we aren’t sure what is going on, but something is definitely going on. At the end of The Last Jedi, Poe and Rey met briefly and seemed to have some instant chemistry. In the novelisation of The Force Awakens, this scene actually takes place at the end of the first film, which makes far more sense. For two of the main characters to meet so late in the game, is disasterous writing.
In any case, Rey and Poe have very heated arguments as soon as they see each other, but Poe also is jealous of her relationship with Finn and is over-protective of her. They clearly have a thing for each other. Meanwhile, Finn spends most of the film running after her and calling her name. Every other near-death situation he also tries to tell her “something important”. In other words, the audience is led to assume he is trying to work up the courage to tell her he is in love with her. Although J. J. Abrams has now confirmed that he actually wants to tell her he is Force-sensitive, but it makes little sense he would keep this a secret…
Everyone loves Rey. This, of course, includes Kylo Ren, who keeps on telling her he will turn her and make her his Empress. She just tells him “We shall see.” That’s not a no, though, Rey. Are you serious? You’re really just going to keep all your options open now aren’t you? Luke wishes he got that much attention from girls. Then again, I suppose there weren’t any girls in his films, except for his sister and… Ooookay, let’s not revisit that scene.
So the film is a back and forth between all of this, which really resembles some teenage girl romance fantasy novel series, or, you know, Twilight. I mean Rey actually kills Kylo Ren in anger, but then realises she can’t swoon all over him, when he is dead so she uses her mega Force powers to bring him back to life. Then she dies at the end and he brings her back to life, they stare at each other for way too long, then kiss and then he dies and immediately becomes a Force Ghost, so she can’t do the same.
The whole Force healing also rubs me the wrong way. It is not a new power, if you’ve played any of the games or read the books, but Force healing being able to instantly heal mortal wounds or raise people from the dead? That is pretty damn incredible (and convenient). You’d think one of the Jedi would have used that before, like Obi-Wan to save Qui-Gon for example. And didn’t Anakin look for that exact power and get lured to the dark side by the Emperor, because the Jedi couldn’t use the Force to bring people back? Kind of ruins the entire premise of the Prequel Trilogy. Anyway…
Finn and Poe each strike out on Rey and Poe also strikes out on Zorii (Keri Russell), who appears to be a former lover of his and who wanted him to run away with her just a few scenes before, but then decides otherwise for no particular reason. But in the end there is no real resolution for the two main male characters.
“Another happy landing.” Obi-Wan Kenobi
Let’s talk about Finn and Poe. After Leia’s passing, the two of them just decide they are going to be the new generals now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they don’t exactly have a lot of people left, but should people really be promoted to General within two seconds? Isn’t that kind of disrespectful to people who have dedicated their whole lives to serving in the military and who in all likelihood will never even reach the rank of general?
Speaking of generals, General Hux was quickly dispatched in this film and completed his journey from Hitler/Göbbels to comic relief with one of the most comedic deaths in all of Star Wars. I feel like Jar Jar Binks is a more serious character at this point.
Poe’s character arc, at least, came full circle as the new Resistance general. But Finn had so much untapped potential. J. J. Abrams finally shoehorned in a plot point about other storm troopers that mutinied against the First Order. This is what he should have been doing all along. I expected Finn to go out there and mount a rebellion from within the First Order, freeing the storm troopers from their brainwashing and growing the Resistance ranks, while depleting the First Order of its soldiers. I have no doubt this would have been explored more fully if Abrams had directed the second film of this trilogy. Finn also pretty much confirms that he is Force-sensitive, (so that’s why he can use a lightsaber), allowing for a spin-off in the near future, where he becomes a Jedi himself. Unfortunately, for now it is just setup, and there are no ramifications for this saga, which is too bad.
Leia’s character was neatly placed in the film, using deleted scenes from The Force Awakens. One could kind of tell at times she was digitally inserted and her reactions being mostly one word responses or nods and grunts felt a bit awkward at times. If used sparingly, I think it would have worked better, but they kept coming back to Leia, just to have her there and it felt a little out of place for me. Her death scene also came very unexpectedly for me and I don’t quite understand what killed her. Was it old age at 60? Or did she choose to become one with the Force? I was glad she was in the film and that they used the deleted footage to keep her in, but I would have liked a better ending for the character.
The ending in general was a bit cringey. Chewie gets his medal from A New Hope for some reason (why now though???), R2 restores 3PO’s memory, which reduces his entire sacrifice beforehand to nothing more than comic relief and Lando talks to Jannah (Naomi Ackie) and insinuates that she is probably his long lost daughter (which was confirmed as a deleted scene in the Reddit leaks).
Rey goes to Tatooine to bury Luke and Leia’s lightsabers at his old homestead and encounters an old woman, who asks who she is. She replies “I am Rey.” “Rey, who?” she asks. As Rey looks over to see Luke and Leia standing and smiling at her from a distance, she responds “Rey Skywalker.” Now don’t get me wrong, it is a touching moment and she is free to change her name to anything she likes, but I find the message stupid. “I don’t identify with the name I was given and what it stands for. I identify as those awesome people I met over there so I will take on their name.” And I sexually identify as an apache attack helicopter.
Nice gesture to honour your teachers, but how about you just work to clear your family name, like Luke did? Vader tarnished the name of Anakin Skywalker, but Luke cleansed the family name. In the Expanded Universe, Leia named one of her sons Anakin, for this very reason, because she wanted her father’s earlier good deeds to be remembered and for her son to exemplify the goodness that was always within him. Rey just rejects the Palpatine name, even though her father, also a Palpatine, was a good man and died to save her. Isn’t that disrespectful to his legacy too? I mean I could change my last name to Skywalker any day, or maybe I should call myself McCartney, or Obama? But if I did that, my family might feel a bit odd and ask me why I no longer want to carry their name.
Not everything has to be rejected, or dismissed out of hand instantaneously. This message only emboldens all those, who sow hatred in the world. I really wish the Star Wars saga would have ended with a message of unity, tolerance and forgiveness, rather than “I don’t like this, so I will shut it out.” Retreating into our little bubbles and rejecting anyone and anything that does not correspond to our own opinion, is what creates the divisions we see in the world today. You can choose your own identity, but don’t define yourself by what you reject, define yourself by your own principles and actions and let others be who they are, without shaming or attacking them.
I am also wondering if that is what the title of the film refers to. Is the Rise of Skywalker meant to be the rise of Rey? Or are we talking about the literal rise of Ben Solo after his fall, i.e. the moment he comes back to save Rey?
In any case, I am just glad they did not have her say that from now on the Jedi will all be called Skywalkers. I hope they don’t add that in at any point in the future.
“That’s not how the Force works!” – Han Solo
I’ve talked about this film at length now, but there is one final element of it I simply have to discuss, before I can give it a rest: universe shattering MacGuffins.
So the new Star Wars films have a terrible track record with respecting established lore. I am not going to go back down the Last Jedi rabbit hole on this one, but The Rise of Skywalker and The Force Awakens, for example, both have a problem with hyperspace travel. Not only is it nearly instantaneous, but it suddenly allows ships to pass through things, such as shields or planets. So hyperspace skipping is now a thing in Star Wars, which makes very little sense, because you could easily crash into something along the way and also because space is very big and hyperspace travel takes a very long time.
Hyperspace, in its original sense, was a subspace, where one could achieve speeds above light speed. But this does not mean you can just zip across the galaxy in mere seconds and pass through solid objects. Those still exist in hyperspace, which is why hyperspace routes and lanes have been painstakingly calculated, so that people could safely travel along them, without crashing into things along the way. But according to the new trilogy, all of that was a waste of time.
At the same time, the Holdo (wo-)manoeuvre is dismissed as a one in a million shot, but then we see the same manoeuvre performed above Endor at the end of the film, so either they are very lucky, or Poe is full of shit. And even if that is a one in a million shot, why was everyone on that First Order cruiser so aware of the danger it posed? Ahh… Why am I still talking about The Last Jedi? Let’s talk about The Rise of Skywalker’s biggest blunder.
So Rey needs to find a way finder, which is a Sith holocron, but it has Google Maps for the Sith home world. She can’t find it, so she first has to find this contact who knows something. It turns out to be Lando. So he points her toward that old Jedi hunter ship. Some mindless action later, the group falls into a pit of quick sand, where Rey conveniently finds the ancient Sith dagger she needs, most likely thousands of years old. Engraved on the Sith dagger there are coordinates to the way finder. C-3PO can read them, but his programming forbids him from saying it, because the Old Republic mandated that the Sith language would be forbidden (why are his protocols up to Old Republic standards? He was made by a slave boy in the Outer Rim… The film implies he got those protocols later, but his memory was wiped at the dawn of the Empire, so what???). So they need to find a droid re-programmer or something, who cracks open his head and wipes his memory, so he can read the damn dagger.
It is heavily implied he will not be able to come back (which of course he does at the end), just as Chewie supposedly was accidentally killed by Rey’s Force lightning beforehand and then turned out to have been on a different ship off screen that no one else noticed.
3PO reads the dagger and concludes the way finder is on one of the moons of Endor (not the one with the Ewoks). After some back and forth they go there and Rey figures out there is a bit of the dagger that can be pulled out. She holds it up and looks through it. The dagger’s outline now fits exactly over a piece of debris from the second Death Star. It happens to be the old throne room of the Emperor and he conveniently kept the way finder on a pedestal in a small storage room right next to the throne room, where all the action went down.
So let me get this straight, there is an ancient Sith dagger that has coordinates engraved on it, that lead to a crash site of a planet killer weapon that was built and destroyed a thousand years after the dagger was made and then fell into pieces on to the moon where the dagger said it would be and the debris also happens to have taken on the shape the dagger wanted it to have and Rey just happens to be standing at the exact right angle and distance from the debris to immediately notice all of this. I mean even if Palpatine had made the dagger and planted all of this stuff there for her to find, it would have made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Finally, the Death Star blew up into ash, there was nothing left of it at the end of Return of the Jedi. How is half of it just lying around on one of the moons of Endor? How is half a death star just a small little wreckage compared to the size of a moon. I thought it was the size of a moon? “That’s no moon. It’s a space station.” And even if it was far smaller in size than the moon, how the hell did that moon and its ecosystem survive an impact like that?
I can forgive a lot about this movie. I can even forgive the terrible final fight. But this? The entire stupid MacGuffin chase that made up most of the bloody film ends with this stupid illogical dagger nonsense that would have Indiana Jones turn in his grave and was completely and utterly avoidable. Kylo Ren got his hands on his way finder in the very first minute of the movie! Why are we spending so much time on this, when it is clear it is all just one big distraction for the audience?
On top of this, the Sith wayfinder turns out to be utterly pointless in the end. All you need to do is find a ship that knows how to navigate the maelstrom or whatever it is and follow their course. That’s what the Resistance did, when they followed Rey. One of the star destroyers also was able to leave to blow up Kimiji, but suddenly they are all bound to one signal beacon? And then they can switch that signal beacon to another ship, but it can only be one and the other ships can’t leave for some reason? Then how the hell did the thousands of “just people” ships manage to get there without a beacon and leave again? They show up at the last second, but it is never explained how they managed to even navigate to this inaccessible place.
This film is jam packed, full of non-stop action and it is all pointless, meaningless and just there to make you so excited that you stop thinking and questioning the validity of what is going on. It is trying to tell you that you are a stupid monkey, who is not supposed to call out filmmakers on their bullshit, but I am here to tell you that I am not falling for it and I know many of you won’t either.
“Always two there are. No more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” – Yoda
As convoluted as it is, the audience might not realise this, but Chris Terrio and J. J. Abrams did here what Lawrence Kasdan and J. J. Abrams did in The Force Awakens. The Rise of Skywalker is a remix of Return of the Jedi with some parts from Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones), as well as Avengers: Endgame.
Let’s look at the parallel plot points.
ROTJ: The group goes to save Han from Jabba.
TROS: The group goes to save Chewie from the First Order.
ROTJ: There is a speeder bike chase in the forest.
TROS: There is a speeder bike chase in the desert.
ROTJ: Obi-Wan’s Force ghost explains to Luke that he and Yoda kept the truth about his father from him.
TROS: Luke’s Force ghost explains that he and Leia kept the truth about her grandfather from Rey.
ROTJ: Yoda dies from old age and becomes a Force ghost.
TROS: Leia dies (probably also from old age?) and becomes a Force ghost.
ESB: Vader tells Luke he is his father.
TROS: Ren tells Rey about her grandfather.
ESB: Luke confronts his own dark side in a dark side cave and loses to his fear.
TROS: Rey confronts her own dark side in the Emperor’s ante chamber and loses to her fear.
ROTJ: Luke duels Vader and gives in to his anger, defeating and wounding him. But ultimately he rejects the dark side and throws away his lightsaber.
TROS: Rey duels Ren and gives in to her anger, through which she actually is defeated for once, but as he hesitates she strikes him down in anger and mortally wounds him. But then she ultimately rejects the darkness, heals him, runs away and throws away her lightsaber.
ROTJ: Luke refuses to join the dark side, as he confronts the Emperor. He is saved by Darth Vader in the end, who gives his life for him.
TROS: Rey refuses to join the dark side, as she confronts the Emperor (although she kind of agrees at first), but she is saved by Kylo Ren in the end, who gives his life for her.
ROTJ: At the end there is a big celebration with a group shot and a montage of planets from the previous trilogy rising up against the Empire. Luke bids farewell to his Force ghost companions.
TROS: At the end there is a big celebration with a group shot and a montage of planets from the previous trilogy rising up against the First Order. Rey goes to Tatooine, where she dons the name of Skywalker and bids farewell to her Force ghost companions.
The Sith dagger is essentially the medallion from Raiders of the Lost Ark, all the way up to how it reveals the hidden location of the way finder. Even the way Chewie seems to get blown up, but later appears as a prisoner, is a parallel plot point to Marion Ravenwood blowing up in the truck and then reappearing as a prisoner of the Nazis. That is why the adventure at the beginning of the film feels very familiar and fun, but doesn’t seem to quite fit in the film. It is not just too fast-paced, it is taken from another franchise. Palpatine’s end is also a parallel to Raiders, as his face gets melted off in the end. The cavalry arriving at the end of the space battle, also mirrors Avengers: Endgame, where Captain America seems to be all alone and about to perish, but then all the resurrected heroes arrive. Of course, I’ve already mentioned the parallel to the Thanos vs Iron Man stand-off.
There are some differences to Return of the Jedi. The group does not encounter Ewoks here and has to do some other things, because they crammed too much into this, but ultimately, you can see that it is just as much of a rehash of Return of the Jedi, as The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, making the soft reboot of the franchise complete and paving the way for Disney to tell its own version of the story and sell lots of merchandise.
In conclusion, your honour, this film is an entertaining thrill ride in a Disney World theme park, but it is little more than that. The story is paper thin and full of holes, holes that when examined more closely mess up the premise of both the Original and Prequel Trilogies. The Rise of Skywalker cannot make up for The Last Jedi. If anything, it adds to its blunders and leads me to conclude that Star Wars is better left untouched in our childhood memories where it belongs and can live on forever as modern mythology, a magical fairy tale about good and evil, life and death, and above all, family.