Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review *Spoiler Free*
It all started in 1977 with a film that no one at 20th Century Fox thought would succeed. Star Wars (later retitled Episode 4: A New Hope after the prequel renumbering) was a smash hit and as cliche as it sounds: the rest was history...
Fast forward to the year 2019 and we have a conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. The trilogy ending films (Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and Episode 6: Return of the Jedi) have both been average. Episode 3 was following up the worst entry of the Franchise in Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 6 was following up the best entry of the franchise in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back.
The Rise of Skywalker (Episode 9) is coming off by far the most polarizing film in Star Wars canon, Episode 8: The Last Jedi. Whether you liked Episode 8 or not, it challenged the status-quo of the franchise and really turned it on its own head. JJ Abrams inherited a difficult task when he came back to helm Episode 9. He has to tie everything he started with Episode 7: The Force Awakens and everything that was thrown away by Rian Johnson in Episode 8.
Episode 9 is not perfect, but Abrams delivered a film that bangs home the original Star Wars feel of adventure, fantasy, discovery, and family. With that being said, there are some problems with pacing and the plot, but nothing that deters the film in general.
Episode 9 picks up in a frantic pace that is reminiscent of Episode 7. The first character we see in this film is Kylo Ren. Kylo has been the most interesting character in this sequel trilogy and it's not even close. Kylo has always drawn interest because of the complicated backstory that surrounds him and that continues into this film.
No spoiler when I say this but Kylo is confronting something that is a threat to his power and still drawn to fulfilling his destiny as the grandson of Darth Vader. He has ditched any chance for redemption in the previous film by fully committing to the dark side of the force. Kylo and Anakin (Vader) only share the Skywalker blood. What makes Kylo so fascinating is that he is fueled by stories of his grandfather and finding him so cool, while Anakin was fueled to save Padme, a product of love.
The plot moves extremely fast in the first half and doesn't really give you a chance to breathe. There are also very obvious choices to retread on some plot points that were introduced in Episode 8. One can presume it was mandated by the higher-ups at Disney in an attempt to rectify issues that the loud minority of people found in Episode 8. One plot twist is the most glaring and obvious retcon in the film but does not ruin anything that came before in the previous film.
During the frenetic first half of the film, the magic and wonder of Star Wars came into play big time. Probably for nostalgia purpose, but I was in wonder of the set-pieces and the enthralling action that had real tension. Criticize whatever you want about the Sequel Trilogy, but one thing that cannot be denied is the real gritty serial movie feel that was lacking in the plasticky prequel trilogy.
For once in this trilogy, we got to see all of the main three characters (Rey, Finn, and Poe) together working as a team together. Being able to capture the feeling of the Original Trilogy is pleasing and endearing to the heart. Abrams and Disney told the public they were looking to tie-in all 8 previous films in the franchise and they did.
An amazing amount of fan service is served in this movie, very similar to what Avengers: Endgame did. Some of it is obviously to make peace with the total lack of fan service in Episode 8. It was refreshing to see a film that challenged you to think in Episode 8 and I very much appreciated not being pandered to in the most important film in the trilogy. At the same time, for a final ending, the fan service is welcomed and loved as it wasn't obnoxious and didn't derail the story. One choice felt just a bit forced as it could've been anyone in the role but the choice isn't egregious.
The conflict between Rey and Kylo is another highlight of the film as the tension between the two continues and sheds a little bit of light on the possible ending. Opting for a plot reveal that continues to tease an idea that was very present in the last film. If you've watched all the Star Wars films before this one, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
The climax of the story was enthralling and delivered a great ending to fans of the series and is unapologetic about it. This final installment of the franchise delivers on beautiful vistas, witty Star Wars dialogue, enthralling action, compelling additions to mythology and fan service to put a smile on any die-hard fans face. Despite all the positives, there are negatives to keep this film grounded and prevent it from ascending to elite Star Wars (Episode 5) levels.
The rushed plot is too hard to just glare over and it feels crammed in the initial stages of the film. It is clear that there is a lot of ground to cover in the time allotted. I, as a devout defender of Episode 8, really did not appreciate the detours they took from the previous film. I understand the choices made regarding retreading on plot points, but it feels like a slight to Rian Johnson's vision. Episode 8 was not a bad film despite whatever incel YouTube video you watch. It was just a major departure from anything else we have seen in the franchise and people don't like change.
Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker delivers a great conclusion to its own trilogy and the franchise as a whole. Critics are divided on the film (58% Critic Score on Rotten Tomatoes), but fans seem to love it (86% Fan Score on Rotten Tomatoes). The Skywalker Saga is over and we must wait for a new legend to pop up in the galaxy so we can go on another space adventure.