by Theo Sloan
January 23, 2020
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker is Lucasfilms’ fifth Star Wars movie under Disney. It is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. This movie has some truly great moments in it, though they are not enough to salvage its lack of creativity and jarring plot.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are the absolute standouts of The Rise of Skywalker. Their chemistry is beyond amazing, and their connection provides the heart of the movie. The action sequences are also great. There are a couple of outstanding lightsaber duels, and Rey and Kylo Ren’s Force connection that has been established in The Last Jedi is used expertly to make some of the action sequences even better. In the beginning of the movie, there is a fantastic chase scene that shows lightspeed travel being used in a new and interesting way. There are multiple new Force powers as well that I really enjoyed seeing, just as I enjoyed seeing Luke’s ability to Force project in The Last Jedi. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac both return in this movie playing Finn and Poe, respectively, and their dynamic is very fun once again. Additionally, BB-8 is still really cute.
Moving on from the good elements in this movie, there are a few mixed aspects about The Rise of Skywalker that need to be addressed. Emperor Palpatine returns in The Rise of Skywalker, played once again by Ian McDiarmid. I take serious issue with this plot point, because I feel that it undercuts the victory in Return of the Jedi. It is also incredibly unbelievable that Palpatine could have done some of the things that he did without being detected. However, I think that Ian McDiarmid throws everything into this performance, and I have to give him credit for his performance, even though I don’t love every choice he has made with this character. Another shortcoming of the movie is that it follows a very similar story structure to Avengers: Endgame except without any time travel. Though I do not think it is fair to judge a movie for being too similar to another movie, and I get that they are both supposed to be epic finales to long sagas of movies, sometimes they feel so similar that it becomes a bit distracting. Unfortunately, everything else that I have to say about The Rise of Skywalker is negative.
The Rise of Skywalker is uncreative and safe. Besides Rey and Kylo Ren’s relationship, everything has been done before by another movie. For example, in the finale, the stakes are raised by making the Emperor have an entire fleet of Death Stars. This is now the fourth Star Wars movie to feature a Death Star that has to be destroyed, and it is tiresome. This movie also chooses to bring Palpatine back, another safe, uncreative decision made in this safe, uncreative movie. This choice uses one of my least favorite plot devices: claiming that something was going on behind the scenes in previous movies that the audience and the characters did not know about. In addition, there is too much unnecessary fan service. The most cringeworthy fan service occurs when Maz Kanata hands a medal to Chewbacca after the finale, which is a call back to the medal ceremony in A New Hope, in which he does not get a medal. This scene not only got an actual groan from the audience in the theatre, but it actually breaks Star Wars continuity, because in one of Marvel’s Star Wars comic books — which are considered to be in continuity with the movies — it is explained that Chewbacca does not get a medal, because Wookiees don’t like medals. There are also an extreme number of cameos, which are distracting. Some actors who make cameos are Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christensen, and Billy Dee Williams. All of these actors have a cameo as their respective Jedi from the prequel trilogy, or in Billy Dee Williams’ case, as Lando Calrissian. Additionally, there is a lack of cohesion in terms of the sequel trilogy. This movie undoes almost everything that The Last Jedi has done both thematically and plotwise. The Last Jedi has a very clear message of “let the past die; kill it if you have to,” to quote Kylo Ren. Furthermore, The Last Jedi sets up Rey’s parents as being nobodies, includes a galaxy-wide slave revolt, teases a new order of Jedi, gives a big role to Rose Tico, and sets up Kylo Ren as the new leader of The First Order. Unfortunately, J.J. Abrams either ignores or actively undoes all of those things. It is extremely jarring to watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi — which flow together well enough — and then watch this completely fan-service ridden, convoluted mess of a movie.
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that has some great performances and passable comedy, but that is unfortunately not enough to save its messy plot, abundance of fan service, and undoing of The Last Jedi.