Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

In case you haven’t been on the internet the past couple days, a Star Wars movie came out this weekend. I saw it last night, and….I have thoughts.

First, I should start off by saying that I like The Force Awakens and I REALLY like The Last Jedi (sue me). I’ll explain why sometime but that’s a different article for a different day.

I also want to just throw this out there. Star Wars is my favorite piece of entertainment media on the planet. I find enjoyment in all of these movies, some way more than others obviously, but even the ones that I think are bad movies I still like. I just love this universe so damn much.

Everything I am about to say is my opinion and I am going to go in depth because I am a massive nerd.

So, how did I like The Rise of Skywalker?

It was….fine. It was ok, I didn’t hate it, but I definitely love it either. I was very disappointed walking out of the theater. I have some major issues and now that this trilogy is over, and we know everything that happens I have some pretty big issues with the trilogy as a whole.

I honestly have no friggin idea how to write about this thing without talking about spoilers, so I am going to absolutely spoil the hell out of this movie, you’ve been warned.

I don’t really know where to start so I’m pretty much just going to throw everything against the wall and hopefully you guys will understand what I’m saying. This review is going to be an absolute mess, because that’s kind of how I feel after watching this thing.

The plot, is, MESSY!! To say this movie throws a lot at you is severely understating things. It feels very crammed and rushed, even the opening crawl has way too much going on in it. The first act is very bumpy, and it feels as though because JJ wasn’t able to tell the middle part of the story that he tried to tell it in the first hour of this movie, and the storytelling suffered from it.

The first two acts of the movie feel like a lot of “we need to get this thing, so that we can get this thing, so we can do this, and that will lead us here”. It becomes very convoluted and sloppy.

At the same time, there is a good amount of fun to be had with these characters who are FINALLY getting screen time together. It’s certainly an adventure and the banter within the group made them feel as though they were real friends, even if much of the development of their relationship as a group happens off screen between movies.

For me, the biggest issue with the sequel trilogy is the lack of a roadmap. There didn’t seem to be a plan for the bigger picture. JJ sets up characters and storylines with the FA. Then, Rian Johnson comes in and because he has complete creative control, he does what he wants with the characters and sets up his own storylines. THEN the fan base is completely divided, and JJ comes back to try and tie it all up and finish something he isn’t truly satisfied with because he wasn’t able to complete the full narrative he had envisioned. It feels like there was so much setup in the first two movies of this trilogy that they didn’t give themselves enough time for payoffs and conclusions to most of the things they set up. The result for me was a disappointing finish.

I think this trilogy gets significantly more coherent and better if it is one directors vision throughout the course of the three films. At the very least, as a studio they should have gotten together and created a roadmap of plot points and character beats and arcs they wanted to hit and develop over the course of the trilogy. As it stands the trilogy feels unfocused and all over the place, with little connective tissue tying these stories together between the movies. As individual movies they work better than when you look at the trilogy as a whole.

Sorry, back to this movie.

So, the whole plot is pretty much centered around Palpatine, finding Palpatine, and destroying Palpatine. To be honest, he felt really awkward in this story and it just didn’t work for me. He feels very shoehorned into the story because they felt like they needed a big bad for the final film, when it should have just been Kylo. I think Palpatine actually takes away from what they set Kylo up to be, and he doesn’t really have a lot to do in this movie, which I found very disappointing. I was looking forward to hearing how he survived and more about what he had been up to this whole time, but the movie doesn’t give you those answers and I think it’s because there are no logical answers to the questions it presents.

Let’s talk about Kylo. He is probably my favorite character from this trilogy, he gets the most interesting character stuff. In this movie however, I felt as though he mostly just follows Rey around and doesn’t get much to do himself. I think Palpatine being in this movie really takes away from Kylo’s eventual demise being as impactful as it could have been.

His turn to the light and his scene with Han Solo was really well done. I just wish he had more to do in this story. I also find it very bizarre that after the scene with Han, he doesn’t speak again. I am 99% sure Kylo does not have a line for the entire third act of the film. Considering he turns to the light side and dies, it was puzzling to me that he says nothing during that time.

I like Rey, she’s very easy to root for. I liked the ideas of her being strong as hell and not really knowing if there’s a darker force inside of her that is just waiting to show itself. However, I don’t feel as though those ideas are executed well, I don’t really think there was enough of her struggling with it. It seems too easy for her.

Reylo, because that’s a thing now. Their dynamic has been one of my favorite parts of the sequel trilogy, and once again there’s some good stuff between them in here. I like the force connection they have and that it is getting stronger as time goes on. I found their connection to be very genuine as the only people in the galaxy who really can listen and understand each other. That bond and dynamic is great, and the look on Rey’s face when she sees he has turned for the better is perfect. HOWEVER, the absolute worst moment from this movie in my opinion is when they kiss for literally no reason. I hated the Finn-Rose kiss from TLJ but this one is so much worse.

There is nothing romantic with these characters at all and it felt like it came out of nowhere. I actually think it takes away from the bond they have had that I just praised. They work so much better as force users trying to pull each other to their side of the force rather than lovers, or whatever the hell they were trying to go for. It was cringy to me, was cheap, and made no sense.

That whole scene is very awkward in general. Kylo transfers his force energy to Rey to save her, she wakes up, they kiss, they laugh and are all happy, and then he plops over and dies. I was like huh?? It felt weird and Kylo’s death lost some of its impact.

The act of Kylo Ren giving his life to Rey through the force actually really works for me. It harkens back to the prequels and shows that Palpatine was telling the truth to Anakin when he said it was possible to save people from death. Tying back into the prequels in this way was one of the few times this film felt like an organic callback to a previous installment.

I think this movie was trying to tell me that Finn was force sensitive? At the very least he has some connection to it. He gets “feelings” and when important things happen he would react to it. It would have been a lot cooler if it didn’t feel thrown in there. There is zero setup in the first two movies for that to be a thing. It feels like they knew they screwed up and wasted Finns character, so they gave him force sensitivity or whatever to cover up the lack of a satisfying arc.

I thought they did the best they could with what they had with Leia. It was an awful situation and while her departure from the story feels random I don’t think there was a better way they could have done it. It was touching that her last bit of energy was spent reaching out to her son.

C3PO is the best he’s ever been, he actually is important to the story and isn’t just kind of there, and he is genuinely funny as hell, he has some great lines that made me laugh. Most of the movies humor works, I thought they picked their spots well when going for laughs. However, him getting his memories back at the end was cheap. His goodbye was emotional and gave his actions stakes but restoring them all at the end makes his sacrifice meaningless.

General Hux being the spy was…eh. It felt like a forced plot point so that the good guys knew what was going on. While it makes sense as to why he would resent Kylo with the abuse he’s been put throughout the previous two movies, I found it hard to believe that he would go against everything he’s ever wanted just to see Kylo lose. I was interested to see where else they went with that and it would have been cool to see more of the spy stuff but then he just dies unceremoniously and that’s the end of it, it felt lazy.

This movie felt like it was afraid to take any risks due to the division of the fans that had already occurred. Not only that, but I couldn’t help but feel as though this movie was constantly apologizing and back pedaling on things that happened in TLJ.

The literal first scene we learn that Snoke was made by Palpatine. How? Cloning I guess? The problem with this is that when watching Force Awakens and particularly The Last Jedi it is very obvious to me that Snoke is his own character and threat. The only reason why he is “made by Palpatine” is because fans were very upset that Snoke wasn’t anyone important. I didn’t mind that at all, as I always saw Snoke as a place holder for the true villain of the trilogy in Kylo. It just doesn’t make sense in the context of the other movies.

Other back pedaling moments include Rey being a Palpatine. That’s right, somebody ACTUALLY had sex with Palpatine. Any who, it was fine to me that Rey wasn’t anyone important. I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone in this universe to be related to someone is who super-duper important to the other movies. You can have someone be very force sensitive without being a somebody, its literal magic dude. This is a franchise about space wizards with lazer swords that use a mystical force power, you don’t have to over explain everything. But because fans were mad about her being a nobody, we now have a granddaughter to Palpatine.

In a small throwaway line, we even have an explanation to the Holdo hyperspace suicide. Fans were mad that this “creates massive plot holes”. They argued that the rebels should have just rammed the death star with hyper speed.  The line happens when some random rebel suggests that they use similar tactics against the emperor’s forces. I think Finn is the one who responds but I’m not 100% sure, whoever it is says something along the lines of “That’s not possible what Holdo did was a one in a million chance”. This is a minor nitpick but it’s illustrative of an overall problem with this movie. It defends or backtracks so much when it should be focusing on telling its own story.

These moments feel like justification or re-doing what the previous movie did, and as a result the trilogy feels as though it is at odds with itself on what it want to be. It’s clear there wasn’t a vision in mind when they started.

This movie has A LOT of fan service, and quite frankly I wasn’t about a lot of it. It feels like the filmmakers thought if they took us places and did things that reminded us of the nostalgic elements from other better Star Wars movies that we would ignore the messy story it was having trouble telling.

The entire death star sequence felt so out of place. While it was undeniably gorgeous to see the massive waves crash against the wreckage and to see our new characters in the old throne room, there’s really no reason for any of that to take place and it falls apart when you really think about it.

They go there to get a doo-hickey, but how did it get there? Did someone go to the death star wreckage to put that item there? If so who and why? If that item leads them back to Palpatine, and Palpatine doesn’t want to be found, why does the item exist? If it wasn’t put there that means it was always there and was when the death star exploded, but if Kylo Ren was able to crush it with his hand I doubt it would survive a death star sized explosion. Once Kylo crushes it, this whole sequence is rendered pointless.

The only reason why it feels like it is there is so that we can get a pretty looking lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo, on the old death star. The fight is fine, but there’s no emotional weight to it and there is some awkward close-up camera work.

Side note, I like the idea of force healing. However, Rey healing Kylo’s fatal wound was a bit much for me. I get that it heals the wound itself, but did she heal all the organs that got messed up too? I’m being nitpicky as hell but it’s a genuine question.

We found out Luke trains Leia. Again, this makes sense and is really cool to see, but it feels so forced and awkwardly inserted into this movie. It felt like an excuse so that Ren didn’t have to use a red lightsaber for the finale.

The speech force ghost Luke gives is pretty good. However, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when he says that both him and Leia knew Rey was a Palpatine. No, you didn’t, and no she didn’t. If he did, it would have made a lot more sense if in TLJ when she showed up on the island if he was like “I ain’t training a Palpatine are you kidding me your lineage stems from the literal worst person to ever exist”. Even if he did decide to train her after that there is no reason to keep that knowledge from her at all, other than the fact that they didn’t know they were bringing Palps back into the story at that point. It makes the continuity feel weird and disingenuine.

Bringing back the dead as fuck emperor is also fan service. It seemed to me like the studio got together and, in an attempt to get people back on board and draw interest, decided to bring back the big bad that everyone loves. Instead of feeling organic and fluid, it feels random and the movie right away tries to force the audience to accept it. The opening crawl talks about a galaxy wide broadcast and now everyone is terrified, and we are just supposed to be ok with that even though absolutely nothing from the first two movies set that up at all, and it was clearly never the plan from the beginning, no matter what Disney says.

This movie goes out of its way to please a certain group of people and connect dots that just didn’t need to be connected. In doing so, it doesn’t have much to say as far as being its own individual chapter.

The Knights of Ren were absolutely wasted. They look badass and I was told that they are badass, but they do exactly zero badass things throughout the whole trilogy. Ren trained them, right? I feel like there should be some awesome emotional payoff when he comes back to help Rey, but the fight is weightless. They don’t speak, and we don’t even see their faces, I thought it was huge wasted potential. I also wish they all had lightsabers. A finale that included Rey and Ren vs. Palps and the Knights of Ren in a crazy lightsaber duel would have been awesome and would have actually felt like a final battle.

Palpatine goes down way too easy. He gets an amazing moment where his lightning affects the entire fleet of ships, and then Rey blocks that lightning back at him and he dies. It’s very quick and wasn’t very satisfying to me. He had just absorbed two of the most powerful force users ever, and he still manages to go out like a bitch.

We were presented with hundreds of star destroyers with planet killing weapons and a stronger than ever emperor, yet I feel like the resolution to this conflict was soooooo easy. They blow up a couple of the important ships, kill palps pretty easily, and then fly on out of there. The planet killing weapons on every star destroyer was also a little much. It cheapens the scale and power of the death stars if all of the sudden all the little ships can do it too. Having that many destroyers was enough to take the galaxy by force, the planet killing tech was overkill and we’ve also seen that way too many times for me to actually care.

I did think it was cool that the Sith’s presence was really felt in Palpatines lair thing. The shadows and chanting really worked for me. I also liked when Rey gets back up to all of the Jedi’s cheering her on. Fan service sure, but I feel like in that moment it made sense that the Jedi watching from above would want to give her some words of encouragement. I want to go back and listen to everyone talking, the ones that I could make out include Ahsoka, Anakin, Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, and Yoda.

The lines of “I am all the sith” followed by “And I, am all the Jedi” is ok. It was a little weird that the movie argues to let go of your titles and just be you, but then at other points it gives those same characters titles. For example, most of the movie Rey is told that just because she is a Palpatine doesn’t mean she has to give in to the dark side. We are told she has to let go of that title and just be herself. Yet, “I am all the Jedi” seems to be giving herself a title. If you disagree with that one, she DEFINETELY gives herself a title at the end when she says “Rey Skywalker”. She literally lies to people to give herself a title.

This movie is very story driven, pretty much everything that happens is to move the plot along. There are very few character moments, and there are very few arcs or growth.

I really dislike the moment where Rey goes back to the island Luke was on and says she’s going to stay there. It felt like a total betrayal of her character to me, there’s no way Rey would be ok with staying on that island when she knows that Palpatine is about to take over the galaxy and kill all of her friends. There’s no way she would do the same exact thing Luke did after she spent half of TLJ trying to get him off that same island.

There are some new characters introduce that I liked. I liked the little time we spent with them. It would have been nice to get to know them better so that we cared more, but this movie was already crowded enough, and they just don’t have the time, especially because the story itself is crammed. I unfortunately don’t even remember most of their names. Babu Frik was unforgettable though, love that lil dude.

I do like the returning theme of hope and the good will always outnumber the bad. I really dig the moment where Poe is apologizing for leading them all into what they think is their death. It was a very human moment and the way the battle had been going they did a good job making you think hope was lost. Then BOOM, all the goddamn ships you could possibly hope for. Good people did come, and they brought everyone and their mothers. It was a classic good stand up to evil moment.

There’s some good Star Wars action. I liked how the Jedi fights included more force usage, doing flips and leaps and blocking blaster bolts and such. There is some great stunt and wire work for some of the more intense Jedi fight moves.

This recap/review of this movie probably sounds like I hated it, I really didn’t. I’m going to list off some great moments from it, even if I already mentioned them.

-Lando’s introduction

-Rey force lightning

-Palpatine mega force lightning

-Good Guy ships to the rescue

-Palpatine lightning

-Lightsaber behind the head transfer

-Chewie getting a medal

-Han conversation with Ren

There are probably more I am forgetting but this is just off the top of my head.

While I did have fun at parts and it is definitely entertaining, I found The Rise of Skywalker to be a massive disappointment. Star Wars fans hold these movies to a higher standard because our fandom makes us want everything to be perfect.  Almost nothing in film in perfect, and Star Wars isn’t any different, but I feel like this movie could have and should have been so much better.

I think more casual fans are going to like this movie a lot more than hardcore Star Wars fans. The online buzz seems to show me that if you like TLJ you will like this movie less and if you hated TLJ you will like this movie more. As someone who really did like TLJ, I can say that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of the reactions I’ve seen.

It interests me that this movie seems to have people all over the scale. Love it, hate it, in the middle, I’ve seen it all. I find myself in the middle, but I was also extremely disappointed. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, because I don’t think it is, my nerdy ass expectations were just too high. I should have seen this coming considering how the vibe of this movie felt like damage control from the start.

I must reiterate, I am just some nerd on the internet sharing his opinions on the new Star Wars. Everything I just said is my opinion and I can totally understand people feeling the exact opposite of what I feel. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I enjoy the debates. It’s perfectly ok to love something most people hate or to hate something most people love. I wish fans would understand this. It’s become clear to me that Star Wars more than anything is all about personal preference. If you agree with some or all of what I said great, let’s talk more about it. If you didn’t that’s fine too. I genuinely really hope that fans enjoy this movie more than I did. I really wanted to love it, I just didn’t.

This review definitely feels like it was all over the place, but so was the movie. It’s like poetry, it rhymes. If you know you know.


– @bdiehards (Zachary Muller)




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