42 years and 11 theatrical releases later, the Skywalker saga has come to a close. Hopefully, by this point, most of you have had a chance to see the latest and final installment in the Star Wars saga. I’ve found it nearly impossible over the years to review Star Wars movies without spoilers so I’m not even going to try this year. However, this isn’t going to be like most movie reviews you see on this page. Instead, I’m going to talk briefly about some of the biggest questions that arose from watching the film.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ALL THE SPOILERS
Who is the chosen one?
The answer is Anakin, or at least it was. The Rise of Skywalker, however, changes that narrative significantly. First of all, the first six movies are almost undeniably about Anakin’s journey to bring balance to the force, which happens when he kills Palpatine at the end of Return of the Jedi. Disney’s trilogy seems to give off the impression that Luke Skywalker is the most important character in the saga, but I beg to differ, it should be Anakin that is the centerpiece. That being the case, his absence of mention in the Disney trilogy is inexcusable. What’s even more inexcusable to me, is the fact that by resurrecting Palpatine, Disney rewrote the original trilogy as well. If Anakin/Vader didn’t actually kill Palpatine in Episode 6, then he didn’t actually bring balance to the force. If this is true, then either the prophecies were all a lie, or Anakin wasn’t the chosen one and the entirety of episodes 1-6 was about almost bringing balance to the force but not quite. The final piece in this puzzle would be the idea that Rey would then have to be the chosen one, a notion that is not said even a single time throughout the entirety of the saga. The decision by Disney to rewrite the originals in this way will probably irk me forever. It makes the “Skywalker Saga” seems to be more accurately described as “The Rise and Fall of Palpatine”.
Blockbuster or Fanfiction?
Within minutes of the final credit music of The Force Awakens back in 2015, fans were theorizing about Rey’s origins. There were many theories, but the two most common by far were that she was a Kenobi or a Palpatine. For some reason, fans had it in their minds that if she was a hear such as Anakin, that was simply chosen by the force to be important, that wasn’t going to be enough for them. She had to be related to someone they’d seen in previous movies or else they would whine and pout. That is when Rian Johnson decided to shatter the dreams of the whiny casual Star Wars fan by doing just that, telling the world in The Last Jedi that she is just the child of a couple of randoms from Jakku. People revolted, yet critics appreciated Johnson’s ambition. Though many parts of the movie were poorly executed, or just unnecessary altogether, he made a movie that was different, original, and broke from the narrative a little bit (91% critic score on RT). When JJ Abrams reclaimed his director’s chair, it was clear that he didn’t like what Johnson did with the movie, and took it upon himself to undo a lot of it. It is almost like he looked back at all the fan theories and just decided to let the fans write the plot. Great in theory, but there is a reason that 99.99% of Star Wars fans will never write or direct a movie in their life because we suck at it.
Seriously though, many of the elements in The Rise of Skywalker just felt like fanfiction, and it left an uneasy feeling the pit of my stomach. Did Disney, a company that has done very little wrong in recent memory and has had such an impact on my life, just sell out to fans and ruin one of the most beloved franchises in history? One could argue that is exactly what they did.
Is there anything the force can’t do?
To quote a good friend and long-time Star Wars die-hard, “Now the force is just some weird magic that can do whatever with no training.” He is pretty much right on the money. I understand that force healing was introduced in comics and then again in The Mandalorian before it was displayed in The Rise of Skywalker. I would’ve totally accepted if JJ Abrams decided to use force healing in this movie once as a little bit of an easter egg, or a way to connect the television universe to the cinematic universe. However, that isn’t what Abrams did, he made it a MAJOR part of the movie and uses it THREE times. Do you mean to tell me that I should just accept the fact that in 42 years and 8 other movies involving force users, with all the death and pain that happens in those movies, and force healing is only used in this movie? And it is used three times? That doesn’t work for me, and it comes across as sloppy writing. Rey had minimal training compared to other Jedi, and she was able to use the force healing twice, but when Anakin is left without 3 of his limbs and nearly burned to death, don’t you think Palpatine would have force healed him instead of leaving him in all this pain for the rest of his life. Especially because Anakin would most definitely be aware of the power of force healing, so he would likely be expecting Palpatine to heal him. Obi-Wan is standing right there as Padme dies in childbirth, as well as when his master Qui-Gon Jinn dies from a lightsaber wound. Anakin holds his mother in his hands as she passes away and he could have stopped it. Do you see the issues that this force healing ability brings to the other movies of the saga?
What was Finn going to say?
First of all, this was by far my favorite version of Finn in the Disney trilogy, but I feel like they did him dirty when the movie closed. Early in the film in a moment of perceived peril, he tells Rey that there was something he’d been meaning to tell her. They then survived and he doesn’t reveal this information just yet, even though Rey seems to be extremely interested in what it might be. They come back to this question a few times but it is never revealed. What was Finn going to say? Okay, I don’t care what we are starting to see on social media, he was absolutely going to tell her that he loves her, right? JJ Abrams has said that he was going to reveal he is force sensitive, but I kind of feel like that is a cop-out. The Force Awakens makes it incredibly obvious that Finn has a crush on Rey, and judging by the sheer amount of times that he screams out her name in concern, that hasn’t changed at all. Poe makes a point to be nosey about the information he was going to reveal to Rey, and Finn gets all defensive. Why be defensive if he was just going to reveal he was force sensitive? It all just makes me wonder if the original plan was to have Finn disclose his love for Rey, but then Abrams decided he wanted to add a kissing scene between Rey and Kylo. He would then need to backtrack and change what Finn wanted to tell her without reshooting a bunch of scenes. Either way, the saga ends and he doesn’t tell her whatever it was he wanted to tell her.
Speaking of the kissing scene, I honestly kind of liked it, because it didn’t feel like a romantic kiss. To me, it felt more like they were expressing their love and appreciation for the other after everything they had just gone through together. They had defeated the sith together, and because of Rey, Ben Solo redeemed himself and made his parents proud. People that worked on the movie then confirmed this assumption (that it wasn’t a romantic kiss) on Twitter.
Other General Complaints
By my count, there were six death fake-outs in The Rise of Skywalker. Early in the movie, it seems like Rey accidentally destroys a ship that Chewie is on and it is a very emotional moment, but it made sense that some of these characters were probably going to die. Psych! In the very next scene, we realize he isn’t dead. Later, C3PO’s memory is wiped and the moment before it is as if he is about to die, however, R2D2 does have much of his memory backed-up so that pretty much turns into a non-issue. We meet a girl that Poe has a history with just to see her planet be destroyed 30 minutes later, presumably with her on it. That death didn’t last either, as it seems the only two characters we met on that planet just so happen to be the only two people who made it off the planet alive before it exploded. Kylo Ren fake dies twice, once on Endor before Rey force heals him, and once on Exegol before he force heals Rey (the sixth death fake-out) and disappears as if he was a Jedi. All of these death fake-outs are just more evidence of the fan treatment this movie so obviously was loaded with.
The Knights of Ren seemed like they were going to be awesome when they were finally explained. Nope, they were stupid and completely irrelevant.
There was a theory floating around that Rey would turn dark because of the clip in the trailers of her flipping open a dope, two-sided red lightsaber. Turns out that was just Rey imagining herself as a sith. I am fairly confident that the clip was solely included a gimmick to include in the trailers to make fans think that might happen. Star Wars is better than cheap gimmicks like that.
In my opinion, the most disrespectful thing Abrams did to Johnson in this movie wasn’t rewriting Rey’s backstory, but turning General Hux into a laughing stock. In case you’ve forgotten, Hux was the one that gave the Hitler-esque address to The First Order on Starkiller Base during The Force Awakens, a movie that Abrams directed. Johnson then built Hux up to the second most powerful name within The First Order behind only Kylo Ren. Against all common sense, Hux betrays the dark and gives information to the resistance for the sole motivation of not wanting to see Kylo get his way. He dies as just a plot device that acted as an ex machina to get Poe and Finn out of some trouble.
Wow, is it that bad?
To put it simply, absolutely not. If you’ve made it this far into the article, thanks for sticking around. You’ve just spent 5-10 minutes reading all the things I hated about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Despite everything I’ve said to this point, this is not a bad film. First of all, the cinematography is incredible. The settings and wide-shots can take your breath away at times. I specifically remember geeking out a little bit during the whole ordeal on Endor. It is a beautiful scene with amazing fight choreography and it may have been the first lightsaber fight in franchise history that takes away the music, and just lets you experience the power of the moment. You hear the strength of the waves crashing into the death star remains, and the sounds of the lightsabers colliding. Truly an amazing sequence.
There were other things I liked about The Rise of Skywalker as well, which can make it a pretty enjoyable watch for most casual fans. I had fun watching it as a spectator, but as a critic, the movie falls apart.
Buried beneath the dazzling effects, incredible cinematography, raw emotion, and beautifully choreographed fight sequences was a movie that didn’t know its direction. Now that the Disney trilogy is over, I can’t help but wonder if an outline was ever preconceived at all. Everyone gives the prequel trilogy so much hate, but it’s without question that the trilogy at least had a general idea of where they wanted to go. They focused on developing Anakin, showing him grow up in conflict with himself, learning how to grow into his power and control his rage. You might say “Well, they had to know where they were going because it had to lead into Episode 4,” and you would be right. However, it is still clear that George Lucas had a script outline for the entire trilogy in place even before The Phantom Menace was released. With the Disney trilogy, it truly feels like they just wrote everything as they went. These frequent changes in direction alter not just this trilogy, but the entire Star Wars universe as a whole.
As a fan of entertaining movies, The Rise of Skywalker is some high-level entertainment. But as a long-time fan of Star Wars and as a movie critic, it does more to damage the legacy of the saga in its entirety than it does to save the legacy of the Disney trilogy.