At last, the saga is coming to a close. Fans have been waiting for this moment ever since this sequel trilogy was announced and developed by Disney. Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises ever created, with millions of fans all across the world eager to see how the Skywalker story concludes. The expectations for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are through the roof, so it’s only natural that the film is disappointing. The film has moments of glory and plenty of intriguing concepts, but these are never organized enough to create a cohesive whole. J.J. Abrams crafts a visually appealing product with plenty of fan service, so those who just want a fun Star Wars movie will likely have no problems. However, anybody who wants a satisfying and emotional conclusion on a storyline basis will be left empty handed.
Quite a bit happens in this movie and to be honest it has a far more convoluted plot than was needed, none of which I will describe here. The basic gist of the narrative is that Emperor Palpatine has somehow returned and is planning something evil, so the heroes must stop him and bring peace to the galaxy. It’s essentially just Return of the Jedi with extra steps and worse writing. Rise of Skywalker starts off moving at a breakneck pace without any real introduction of plot or stakes. Viewers are shuffled from planet to planet as the main characters look for an object which will help them find an object which will help them find a place. If that series of events sounds far too confusing and overblown for a Star Wars movie, that’s because it totally is. Then, when this scavenger hunt starts to finally pay off near the halfway mark, the audience is told that none of it matters. Basically, viewers can tune out much of the first half of the movie and not miss too much.
The first hour of Rise of Skywalker is a complete mess, but the entertainment value increases and stakes rise in the second half. The plot brings itself together to achieve a somewhat understandable goal, and characters are treated with much more importance. The strong part of this film that redeems some of the weaker moments is the character of Kylo Ren, played excellently by Adam Driver. Driver’s character was the strongest part of both previous films on an emotional and visual level, and this film carries on that tradition with ease. By the end of the narrative, his character arc seems to be the only one that feels satisfying in any way. When looking back on all three installments of this trilogy, Ren’s arc makes sense, while others (Rey, Finn, Rose, etc.) feel as if though the writers stopped caring about their true motivations.
What truly shines here is the technical achievements from the visual effects artists, composer John Williams’ score, and the acting despite poor writing. There is not one scene throughout Rise of Skywalker that feels shot in front of a green screen even though about 90 percent of it probably is. One sequence that takes place among wreckage on a water planet is stunning in every way, with one of the most enthralling lightsaber fights in all of Star Wars canon. And yes, John Williams’ score is fantastic and adds to the experience. No surprises there. The overall performances are solid, but the forgettable character beats often hold them back from thriving, so they unfortunately have to settle for being average overall.
What truly sinks The Rise of Skywalker is its disjointed way of concluding nine films worth of material. It feels so concerned with cleaning up the mess that The Last Jedi left in its wake that it never creates its own story. The inclusion of Emperor Palpatine in particular just feels like Abrams’ way of recovering from Supreme Leader Snoke’s death in the previous movie. I actually think Abrams tried his best to put the pieces back together, so in my view none of the blame goes to him for the inconsistency; I think the blame should be put on Disney for not planning ahead. They succeeded on such a large scale when concluding the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame that one would assume they’d do the same with Star Wars, but all this does is prove that the studio should’ve left the vision to one person, as opposed to making this sequel trilogy an uncooperative group project.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is yet another movie that I could unpack for 50 paragraphs more of material, but, to be frank, I am a bit done with this franchise. Star Wars used to be literally the biggest and best event in all of Hollywood, but after multiple underwhelming entries, it seems to be time for a break. Yes, this film is adequately entertaining, but it’s not quite enough to satisfy loyal fans that were looking for an epic and emotional conclusion. I predict that in a couple years, people will remember how great the Star Wars franchise is as a whole, but Rise of Skywalker won’t be seen as a striking example.
I give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a C+.