Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of the 9-film Skywalker Saga, and after Rian Johnson’s disastrous The Last Jedi, fans were really hoping this would be the film that redeemed this new trilogy and ended it on a high note. To put it simply, it did not. Instead, the trilogy ends being the same thing it has been the whole time: a jumbled mess with no direction on where to go.
To avoid any spoilers (I will be doing a spoiler review as well so I can expand upon my points in more detail), I will not give any plot synopsis. The trailers alone are extremely vague. All that is shown is Palpatine as the main villain in this movie.
Now, this leads me to my first problem with the film. And the problem is Palpatine. He is clearly just here as damage control on director JJ Abrams’ part in order to accommodate for how badly Rian Johnson screwed your with The Last Jedi. Since that movie is has been out for a couple years, there is no issue in mentioning that Rian for some reason decided to kill off the original main villain of the trilogy, Snoke. So, with Rian leaving the franchise after a midpoint film that screwed up the whole trilogy’s story without a care in the world, JJ had to bring someone in, so he decided to bring back Palpatine. The more I think about it, the less sense it makes. They give a lot of description to justify his appearance, but it all makes no sense and to me, simply screams “writing room trouble.” And it is very tough to care about Palpatine’s appearance because there is no build up to it. There are no hints in the previous film, nothing which signifies a big, epic appearance like there should have been if this was planned from the start, which it clearly was not.
The characters are pretty much the exact same as they were in The Last Jedi, and don’t develop much in this film, except for Poe and Finn suddenly being extremely unlikable characters to me, despite them being likeable in The Force Awakens. They suddenly change so drastically and I don’t like the direction they take these characters one bit. Rey is the same Mary Sue she always was throughout this trilogy. Despite lacking any sort of character arc other than learning to become a Jedi, she still remains a character who is difficult to dislike, simply because she is so likeable despite the lack of development.
The biggest problem with this film, however, is one that affects this entire trilogy, since it lacks any sort of cohesive storytelling and just ends up a fumbled mess of a trilogy. I think JJ had a very vague idea of where he wanted this trilogy to go, but, for the most part, there was no direction here, especially after The Last Jedi. It’s disappointing, because we live in an era with massive film universes that span tons of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example, which, despite having a lot of creative freedom and different directors for each film, it still manages to be as cohesive as a franchise with over 20 films should be. This new Star Wars trilogy should have had a lot more cohesion to its 3-part narrative than the MCU, and it couldn’t even get that right. It’s very confusing to me. Shame on Disney, especially Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, for not developing a creative team on this trilogy who would create a solid foundation and story structure for this trilogy. And who’s idea was it to bring in a completely different director for the 2nd film?!
Despite all these issues, this film has all the right pieces to be a fitting conclusion to not just the trilogy, but the whole Skywalker Saga. However, most of these pieces are not executed properly and either come off as lazy or very rushed. Many things that required more time or more development are over in under a minute. I will go into more detail in my spoiler review, but it was extremely disappointing to see such great puzzle pieces struggle to click together in a very rushed, underwhelming, and at times careless way.
But here’s the interesting thing about my critique, and the critique of all the other reviewers out there. The reasons this film falls flat are all because of how screwed up The Last Jedi is. It is not necessarily this film’s fault, nor is it the fault of director JJ Abrams. Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi, not to mention the executives at Disney who decided not to bring in a consistent creative team, are at fault for making this film, and the trilogy, the jumbled mess that it is. And it would be very unfair to insinuate otherwise. Because JJ did what he can here to damage control and try to fix a trilogy which already lacked any significant direction and randomly brought in a whole new director for the midpoint who scrapped any possible direction that was developed, which was very minimal.
Now, despite this overwhelming negativity I’ve had around this film, I really want to talk about the positives, because there are a lot of great things this film has going for it. First, the movie is fun. A lot of fun. And that’s what Star Wars is, and always has been. It’s always been just a ton of fun to watch. And in that sense, this film absolutely succeeds. Star Wars has never had any sort of deep storytelling, and should not be expected to. It’s very simple fun with the complexity in story coming exclusively from its themes, which are still very meaningful in this film.
There are also some fun moments that not only move the story forward, but also hit that nostalgia. While some moments are clear pandering fan service, similar to something you’d see in an MCU film, the more genuine fan service, which is seen as more of an afterthought in favour of pushing the story forward, those were the moments I appreciated the most. It is also a well-shot movie. It has that Star Wars style cinematography that makes it so unique and fun. And the absolute bare minimum I expected from this film is some Star Wars style direction, so at least there’e that as well.
This may have been a brief review, but I’m trying to avoid discussing anything that could be considered spoilers. My spoiler review will be more detailed and expand upon these thoughts I’ve had on the film with actual examples. But overall, while it was a very fun movie like a Star Wars movie should be, there is such a lack of cohesive storytelling and poorly executed ideas that could have been great in this film but end up making this, and the entire trilogy, a complete mess due to its clear lack of direction. It’s not as bad as the prequels, but at least that trilogy was all planned out from the start. Disney, and Kathleen Kennedy, if you want to do another trilogy, you best bring on a creative team who can structure a full, cohesive story. It’s the least the fans deserve.
Film Grade: C