Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Rey and Kylo fight it out on the wreckage of the Death Star.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Dept. of Last Ever Star Wars Movies


I was expecting to feel a wave of unimaginable emotion. This was, after all, the culmination of a story that has been 42 years in the making: across nine movies, one holiday special, five animated series, dozens of video games, and hundreds of novels and comic books. We were told that everything would come full circle. We were promised an end. As likely a conclusion we could expect from a franchise that prides itself in being endless. 

What I felt instead, was tired. 

The Rise of Skywalker is more Star Wars than you can shake a stick at. Luke. Leia. Palpatine. The wreckage of the Death Star. Desert planets. Speeder chases. Rey’s in training. Kylo’s raging. Finn and Poe are lost and yearning. Lando’s back, in his cape. There’s trouble in outer space. Lawrence of Arabia. British Beatlemania. Pope Paul. Malcolm X. British politician sex. JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say?

There is just too much here. In an effort to close out the narrative of the six original films, tie-up the loose threads introduced in The Force Awakens, and undo the new ideas from The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams seems to have crammed three movies into one. The end result being something that is deeply satisfying at times and incredibly frustrating at others.

Seeing Rey grow into her powers as a Jedi was joyous. But it was ultimately let down by the contradictions within her story arc. Palpatine’s return was thrilling but explained away with a few throwaway lines. And as wonderful as it was to see Carrie Fisher on screen, I couldn’t help but feel that the movie would have worked better without having to shoehorn unused footage of her from The Force Awakens.

The Rise of Skywalker is as visual a feast as we’ve come to expect from a Star Wars movie. There are wonderful new worlds to savour and explore, but the movie moves along at such a breakneck speed that we aren’t allowed to spend any time with the Aki-Aki on Pasaana or survey the seedy underworld that is Kijimi. (I guess I’ll just have to wait for the video game.)

At its finest, The Rise of Skywalker gives you all the grandeur of Star Wars – though it feels, at times, like John Williams’ score is doing most of the heavy lifting. At its worst, the movie reads like so much fan fiction.

Which is unsurprising given how much of The Rise of Skywalker feels like a kneejerk to Disney’s experiences with both The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story. They were so burned by both the box-office response to Solo and the fan backlash to Jedi that this movie feels like an overcorrection. 

Bob Iger and Kathleen Kennedy seemed to buy into the notion that the reason for the lukewarm reception to Solo was franchise fatigue. That they put out too much Star Wars in too short a time. When, in fact, a movie about the exploits of a young Han Solo was something that no one asked for. Now, if you insist on giving people something they didn’t ask for, you need to make sure that it’s something they didn’t know they wanted. Or needed. Toy Story 4CreedBlade Runner 2049Mad Max: Fury Road. You need to make it great. The problem wasn’t too much Star Wars. It was too much middling Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - It's Keri Russell playing Zorii Bliss.

And then there was all of that outrage towards The Last Jedi.

Rian Johnson made some of the boldest choices ever in the history of the franchise. With Rey, he introduced the idea that lineage didn’t matter and that anyone could be a powerful Force user. With the Jedi, he doubled down on the notion that they were a bunch of oblivious, self-involved jerks. And with Luke, he tore down the legend and gave us instead an individual who was cowardly, conflicted, and so flawed that he even contemplated murdering his own nephew.

What set the scene for an exciting – even potentially surprising – final chapter to the trilogy ended up being all for naught. The fans did not like it. And Disney, running scared, seem to have responded by ignoring almost everything from the previous movie. 

The most glaring being Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, who has been reduced to less than a supporting character, standing in the background asking expository questions, with whatever relationship she once had with Finn all but forgotten. Given how big a role her character played in The Last Jedi, and how she was attacked for it by sexist and racist trolls on the Internet, this decision comes across as a particularly bad look for Disney.

It is difficult not to compare The Rise of Skywalker to Avengers: Endgame; a movie that has become something of a benchmark on how to pull off an ending. Both movies play out in very similar ways. Sometimes even beat-for-beat. I can’t tell if it’s by coincidence or by design, but where the latter succeeds, and where Skywalker falters, is in its ability to give audiences a resolution that works on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one. Character arcs felt complete. And the plot machinations were consistent with the internal logic of the movie.

The Rise of Skywalker is an ending, but one that feels like it was put together by committee. It pushes forward but doesn’t necessarily progress. It panders. But does it pay off? I was expecting to feel a wave of unimaginable emotion. What I felt instead, was relief. The Skywalker Saga is over. Bring on what’s next.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
142 minutes
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio
Story: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, J. J. Abrams, and Chris Terrio
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, and Billy Dee Williams

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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