As promised, here is my “Rise of Skywalker” review that features spoilers so I can get into the nitty-gritty. If you want my non-spoiler filled review, just click on the link below to be transferred out safety. I recommend you do this anyway because in it I discuss why I think it’s good in spite of the complications it faced.
To recap as quickly as possible, I think it was a very flawed movie that was not half as bad as it had every right to be, strictly due to the fact that director J.J. Abrams was essentially making two movies in one in order to fix the mistakes made by “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson.
I’m glad I went to see the film in theaters, and I’m likely going to go see it again before exits. The visuals and music were stunning, and it scratched a lot of itches the Star Wars fan in me was feeling since “The Force Awakens.”
“Rise of Skywalker” seems to be a movie that spends a good deal of its time going around and fixing the mistakes of “The Last Jedi.” There are points in the movie where Abrams seems to directly spit on Johnson’s plot elements throughout the film. In fact, if you take a step back, “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi,” and “Rise of Skywalker” is like watching Abrams and Johnson argue back and forth over what the story should be.
I’m going to have to side with Abrams against the woke Johnson, but in the end, the real blame for this fiasco lies with executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, who had zero game plan when she got the job to run the Star Wars universe other than injecting modern politics and feminism into the movies.
The list of things Abrams had to fix was long, too.
Rey’s parentage, dismissed in TLJ, was brought back as an important plot element as Kylo Ren revealed that her parents were nobodies like he said before, but added now that this is only because they wanted to be. One of them was the child of the big Star Wars bad guy, Emperor Palpatine, and it’s revealed that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter.
The grumpy and uncaring Luke Skywalker comes back as a force ghost to say that he was wrong for acting the way he did in TLJ, and even said a line that completely contradicts the message Johnson was trying to get across about killing off the past with Luke telling Rey that she should have more respect for old Jedi things.
Snoke, who was killed off in TLJ without so much as an explanation as to who he was is finally answered by Abrams. He’s a test tube puppet created by Palpatine to steer events. There were even extra Snokes in a test tube.
Vice Admiral Holdo, the nonsensical purple-haired leader of the resistance who sacrificed herself by plowing into enemy ships via hyperdrive is tossed away in a single line by noting that what she did was a one in a million shot, which is good, because if you can destroy half an enemy fleet with just a hyperdrive with some metal attached to it, why hasn’t that been done way more?
Rose Tico, a highly disliked character introduced in TLJ is sidelined and rarely appears in the movie except when to offer a slice of exposition. Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber was broken into two pieces at the end of TLJ, but was suddenly fixed by the time of RoS, essentially terminating any meaning that had altogether. Even “broom boy” at the end of TLJ is never spoken of, though don’t be surprised if this is referenced in a different piece of Star Wars media later on.
Mostly, I’m happy to see that Abrams gave the older characters the respect they deserved. I think Leia got an appropriate send-off with her death, which triggered the conversion of Kylo Ren from the dark side to the light side of the force. I think it’s good to see Luke back to being Luke. Even Han came back as a memory, which was good to see. C-3PO gets a lot of screen time, and while I do wish I had gotten way more R2-D2, it’s cool that 3PO got his moment in the spotlight. While you never see them, it is pretty neat that they brought old Jedi back to speak to Rey be it Yoda, Obi-Wan, or even Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars.
Cleaning up Johnson’s mess may seem like it only took a few lines or moments to retcon, but you can still smell the lingering stench TLJ left in the Star Wars universe. Abrams was forced to work around it as best he could while introducing new plot points, fostering character development that was neglected in TLJ, introducing new characters, rearranging elements in order to have a cogent story, and then stick the landing.
He definitely lands, though I wouldn’t give it a perfect 10. I’m pretty sure I heard some bones snap.
While I have to commend Abrams for his fixing of Johnson’s mistakes, I’m going to have to really question some of his decisions, which seemed pretty nonsensical. I’m going to organize this by tackling one subject at a time.
1: That’s not how the force works.
The “force Skype” that Rey and Kylo Ren have as seen in TLJ has no gotten so powerful that they seem able to physically transport objects to one another despite being millions of miles away. At one point, Kylo Ren, who is on a ship, reaches out and grabs some beads off of Rey, who is on a planet. Kylo Ren then is seen carrying these beads around. Near the end, Rey is in a room with Palpatine while Kylo Ren is in the next one, and she manages to physically transport her lightsaber to him.
The hell? If they can do that, why didn’t Kylo ever just transport Rey to him from wherever she was? This is universe breaking if the force makes you capable of that. Teleportation on that scale is crazy overpowered and makes so many plot elements seem unimportant.
2: Hyperspace really is just like dustin’ crops, boy.
At the beginning of the movie, Poe Dameron pilots the Millennium Falcon like a madman. I expect him to be a tremendous pilot and maneuver the Falcon with such expertise that it blows your mind, and I was all set to watch the skills of the best pilot in the galaxy with excitement. That was until he began hyperspace jumping from one place to another like it was nothing. He jumps right onto planets, debris fields, and even at one point jumps right next to a giant space worm just as it was ready to strike. I remember verbally going “what?!” in the theater as they did it.
It was my understanding that hyperspace was way more complicated than just pushing an accelerator and popping up on a planet. I know that because Han Solo made that very clear in “A New Hope” when he told Luke that “jumping to hyperspace ain’t like dustin’ crops, boy.”
3: The Safety Dance
Even despite the previous two, my biggest complaint is probably the way Abrams played it so safe. There were no real consequences. For instance, Kylo is run through with his own lightsaber by Rey after Leia, his mother, makes him feel her death, causing him to drop his guard. Oh, but no worries. Rey has the ability to heal wounds with the force now and he’s good as new. During the final space battle, Abrams elects not to kill off characters that you’ve spent more than five minutes of screen time with despite the overwhelming odds, giving the battle almost no weight.
But the worst was Chewbacca’s non-death. When it was implied that Rey blew up a ship that Chewie was on with her force lightning because she lost control, I was in shock but also rather impressed. To lose this big of a character because of Rey’s lack of training would have given her some real chances at character development. This Mary Sue would finally have flaws. She would have carried around some very real anger, pain, suffering, and all the other tidbits that Yoda says lead to the dark side. Her fight against becoming a Sith would have become a real struggle, and what’s more, the tragedy of Chewie would have really put the audience on their toes as they understood that this movie is ready to kill off anyone at any time.
But no worries. Chewie was just on another transport that looked just like the one that took him and from that same exact spot! Wow! What a coincidence! Everything is okay now!
4: Palpatine’s Presence Cheapens All
The magic of the original trilogy was the story of how Darth Vader overcame the dark side through the love of his son and how it cost him his life to kill off the Emperor that had kept him shrouded in darkness since childhood. This sacrifice allowed the universe to move out from under the thumb of oppression and tyranny, and enter a new age of freedom and light.
But Palpatine’s 11th-hour resurrection completely makes any sacrifice Anakin Skywalker made cheap, if not his very existence. Anakin’s sacrifice was for nothing as Palpatine was still alive, pulling the strings from the background, and raising up a monumental force of planet-destroying ships to boot. The entire point of Anakin was to be the chosen one who would bring balance. He was even immaculately conceived to drive the point home that he is that universe’s savior. Really, all he did was change the political climate for a time.
I’ve got a lot of gripes, but I also have a lot of sympathies. I can’t hate this movie and I think the people shouting from the mountaintops that it’s horrific aren’t being fair. Despite its massive flaws, I enjoyed it. I want to see it again in theaters.
It is, by far, the best movie in the sequel trilogy, but as I said in my non-spoiler review, that’s like comparing room temp coffee to sour milk. You’re not going to get the same magic you got from the original trilogy, but at least you won’t walk away feeling like going to the dark side like you did after TLJ.
Go see it.