The following review contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker, proceed with caution.
It is done, the Skywalker-saga has been brought to an end. After the saga spent 42 years telling the stories of the Skywalkers through nine films, of which the Rise of Skywalker is the closing chapter. That movie is how the saga of three trilogies ends, not with a thunderous applause, but with an ‘’It’s okay I guess?’’
First off: I love Star Wars. I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since the words ‘’A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’’ popped up on my screen. I cried when Carrie Fisher died, and will defend The Last Jedi – the most divisive thing since pineapple on pizza – until my dying breath. The Rise of Skywalker however, is not worth such a defense. One could almost call it bland. It follows the classic beats of a heroes’ journey and anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the films could’ve predicted this ending. There are no risks taken, the movie comfortably stays in its self-imposed prison of predictability, which is a shame.
First off, Rise ruins the one message that was sent out loud and clear from the previous movie: you don’t need to be related to some great hero to do great deeds. The fact that Rey’s parents were shown to be insignificant nobodies in the eighth installment of the franchise, was a powerful message. Change is not brought upon by heroes, but by people. TRoS wastes no time upsetting this message by somehow making Rey the granddaughter of a very, very important character. This important character also somehow pops up, with no explanation given about his/her whereabouts in the previous films. That’s not a loose thread, that’s an unraveled tapestry that some dog took a shit on.
The storylines and character beats feel contrived and forced towards an unnatural ending that’s about as Disney as it can be. Deaths are mostly glossed over, all in order to wrap everything up in a House of the Mouse-shaped gift box. Where the last movie was willing to take a deep, hard look at the consequences of war, this movie ignores that in favour of more pew-pew-pew and John Williams firing up his orchestra for big, visual spectacle.
Very few moments truly land. The death of Leia – which we all saw coming, since Carrie Fisher is now flipping us off from the heavens – was handled with grace and felt like one of the few poignant moments in the film. There are some other cameos that also got my nerves tingling and the dynamic between Finn, Rey and Poe is amazing. They truly feel like a trio in this movie, something the other movies of this trilogy failed to do.
Yet the movie leaves far too much unanswered. A small plot point involves Finn wanting to tell Rey something (probably that he has the hots for her, because who doesn’t, she’s delightful) and even after Poe and Finn bring up this thread several times, the movie tries to ignore this. I need my closure dammit. If you claim that a movie wraps up a saga, wrap it up properly and don’t leave some bits dawdling around. The movie tries to cash in on the nostalgia of 42 years, without having the proper foundation to build that nostalgia on. Sure, we love it when we see an old favourite pop up, but we don’t like it if it’s just a case of ‘’Hey remember this guy he was in the older movies and now he’s here. Fun right?!’’
The acting performances overall are great, Adam Drivers’ Kylo Ren is believable, the brotherly, dynamic between Finn and Poe is outright charming and Rey manages to sell the hell out of her shitty character arc. Even the small bit parts are excellently cast and everyone tries their utmost best with whatever drivel they’re given. The actors are absolutely not the problem of this movie, the writing, pacing and story is.
Sure, the Last Jedi might’ve been divisive, but at least that movie dared to take risks. Hell, the entirety of Star Wars was built on risky endeavours. The Rise of Skywalker took the teeth out of Star Wars, it turned the ending of this saga into a predictable, slightly boring mess. From a filmmakers viewpoint it might make sense to make this third trilogy follow the same beats as the second. However, when the original Star Wars movies did it, it was a fresh take, a daring direction to go in, something new. When this movie does it, it’s like you ride the same carousel on a fair, but on a fancier horse. It might feel fresh and new, but you’re still going in the same circle.
Disney has promised to adapt their Star Wars strategy, and I genuinely hope they do. This was not the ending this saga deserved, people did not wait 42 years for the equivalent of a wet fart. Star Wars is one of the most iconic franchises in the world. It defined a generation of pop culture and some of its parts are still seen as the best movies ever made. This movie however is just so very mediocre. Sure, it’s visually stunning, the music is amazing and it takes mere seconds to get sucked into the universe, but I get pulled out of it just as easily.
I cried a few tears, laughed a few times, but I missed the soul and the teeth that made Star Wars so great to start with. Please, Star Wars, find your teeth. Dare to be different, to challenge conventions and to write against what we want sometimes. You gave the audience exactly what it wanted: a sugarcoated, wrapped up gift with a bow on top. But it’s not the ending you deserved. You deserve a whole lot better.