Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – 7/10
It’s fair to say that the Star Wars saga has been in turmoil for many around the world following the release of The Last Jedi and then Solo: A Star Was Story, two films that were heavily criticised by both fans and critics alike. Many believed that the franchise had derailed and there was no way to fix it despite the positive announcements Disney were making surrounding Star Wars in relation to their new Disney+ streaming service.
Disney would have once last chance to roll the dice however with the release of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, a film which was being billed as the final story of the Skywalker Saga. The movie would have to do a lot to fix the errors the previous two movies made but nonetheless it was still another Star Wars movie that we could watch and the anticipation levels were at an all time high following the release of the first teaser trailer.
Not only would JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens be returning to finish the trilogy but the evil Emperor Palpatine, played by Ian McDiarmid, would also be returning for the epic finale.
As more and more trailers rolled out everything was looking perfect, it seemed as though Disney were on the verge of getting their fanbase back and ending the saga in superb fashion.
So has the franchise been avenged? Has JJ Abrams fixed everything that was wrong with the Episode VII? Has Disney pulled off another hit in an already successful year for them?
I saw the movie on opening day and my first impression was no. It was only after seeing a second time that I truly appreciated it and it’s fair to say that it’s the best film out of the new trilogy however it does still make a lot of bad decisions meaning the Force isn’t all strong with this one.
First of all, the best thing about the movie is Kylo Ren/Ben Solo played by Adam Driver. The sinister supreme leader of The First Order continues to struggle with his feelings towards the light side of the Force as seen in the previous two movies whilst also this time being influenced by Palpatine. Driver’s performance is probably the best one yet out the three films. His turning point midway through is so well done and once he ditches the red lightsaber he becomes the most likeable character for the rest of the movie despite only being on screen again once for a few minutes in the final battle.
Another positive to take is JJ Abrams’s clear display to correct every mistake that was made in The Last Jedi. We see it from start to finish but one scene in particular where Rey throws her lightsaber into a fire which is caught by Luke Skywalker, in the form of a force ghost, who tells her this is no way to treat a Jedi’s weapon. This subtle line corrects the mistake made in which Luke bluntly throws his lightsaber off a cliff at the beginning of the previous movie. It’s not a major plus point but it’s something that adds to Abrams giving the fans what they want.
The nostalgia affect comes into play as once again JJ expertly reminds us of characters we loved before, planets we’ve seen before, music we’ve heard before and at no point are you left wanting more references to the previous eight movies. We see a returning Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams and we get some touching moments from him as the old Rebellion general aids the new heroes in their battle against the Emperor. He isn’t in the movie for an entirely long time but we get enough in that he isn’t just a glorified cameo in the end.
Like with the previous two movies, this story mainly centres around the connection between Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, and Ben Solo. Something that has been a massive hit over the whole trilogy is concluded in a fine way as the pair go from connecting with each other through the Force to feeling each other’s pain to then fighting each other in a lightsaber duel. Every moment of screen time the duo share together is crafted so well and their relationship comes full circle by the movie’s end.
Another great thing is getting to see Princess Leia one more time as the audience say their final farewell. The late Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016 and it was announced that she would play a part in the story with unused footage from The Force Awakens being used. It’s a fitting send off as the former princess now turned general uses every last strength in her body to connect with her son Ben which results in her death. It’s an emotional ending as perfectly displayed by the main characters, specifically Chewbacca, when they find out she has passed away.
The chemistry that Rey, Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, and Finn, played by John Boyega, have also makes for some entertaining viewing. It’s the first proper time we see all three characters interact as they go on a mission together. The theme of their friendship has a massive effect on the story and as they all reunite with each other after the final battle you get a great sense of the bond they have and what they have been through together.
On the other hand, one of the big issues the movie has however is the inclusion of Emperor Palpatine. As mentioned earlier there was such a hype surrounding his return but by the conclusion of the movie all I could think about wads how much better they could have used him. We meet the Emperor again on a planet called Exegol where he is scarred and wounded from his fall at the end of Return of the Jedi. At no point does it explain how he survived or why he went into hiding but he’s alive for the sake of the rest of the movie. It is revealed within the first five minutes that, like many predicted years ago, he created Snoke and has been pulling the strings this whole time. We then learn that Palpatine has secretly created a new fleet of planet killing star destroyers which he calls “The Final Order”. Another massive yet predictable revelation is that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter and his real motive is for her to kill him and become the new ruler of the Sith.
The latest instalment introduces a lot of new characters that have no real bearing on the story. Unlike giving returning characters more development The Rise of Skywalker gives us new characters in nearly every planet the heroes travel to which makes it feel bloated as you try keep up with who’s who. It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on as the movie is so fast paced with so many sub plots that aren’t really resolved by the end.
Everyone is also talking about how great the movie is in that it finally gives C3P0 a big moment to shine. That’s correct, the protocol droid does make a somewhat heroic sacrifice where he wipes his memory in order for the heroes to encrypt a message that can only be read in Sith. It’s a bold move to make only for them to restore everything nearly ten minutes later when he gets his memory back thanks to R2D2 meaning that his sacrifice ain’t all that memorable as the trailers would suggest.
Disney also clearly like to repeat things that went down well in previous movie franchises to get the same sort of reaction as during the final battle a massive fleet turns up to help Poe Dameron and the Resistance when all hope seems lost. You may have seen something very similar in a little but successful movie called Avengers: Endgame where the rest of The Avengers turn up to help Captain America fight Thanos and his army. It’s practically a carbon copy of that scene. Not a massive negative but something original would have been nice to see.
Overall, whilst The Rise of Skywalker is not the perfect movie it’s still a fitting way to wrap up the three trilogies. There are a few bumps along the way but in whole it’s entertaining and gives you everything you could have hoped for. Yes it’s highly predictable but it plays as a “greatest hits” of the Star Wars saga with so many references, cameos and Easter eggs that will please any fan.