REVIEW: Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
“A thousand generations live in you now.”
Endings are hard. It’s hard to say goodbye, hard to wrap things up, and hard to satisfy everyone.
To say that the pressure was on for The Rise of Skywalker to be a satisfying ending would be one of the greatest understatements in history. As the (supposed) final chapter in a saga spanning over 40 years, there were the expectations of generations weighing on this film. You can feel the pressure.
The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth entry in the Skywalker Saga, picks up after The Last Jedi left off, with our heroes rallying to strike back against the First Order. Rey is training to be a Jedi while Finn and Poe are working to build the Resistance and find a strategy to attack the First Order. Kylo Ren, meanwhile, is searching for the mysteriously returned Emperor.
If that sounds like a lot to juggle, it’s because it is. This is the busiest film in the entire series, which is both a source of excitement and frustration. The plot has non-stop movement, with new characters and locations entering and leaving the action with aggressive speed. While I found it to be captivating for the film’s first two acts, it grew a bit tiresome by the third. The greatest Star Wars movies are not defined by their frenetic pace and endless action, but by their balance with moments of reflection and solace.
The biggest issues with this entry, however, are some of the core choices it makes in regards to plot. Without going into spoiler territory, there are some decisions made that will split the fanbase even further than it has become in recent years. The Rise of Skywalker goes to great lengths to try and please everyone, but it just might end up frustrating most. Almost the entire third act could be read as fan fiction, which is not always damning, but at the end of one of the greatest stories ever told, it’s disappointing.
However, even with some major flaws (and they are major), I don’t dislike The Rise of Skywalker. It’s a messy film with a plot that is entirely too busy, and its first hour lacks any real rhythm, but it’s an absolutely thrilling ride. There are plenty of triumphant moments when nostalgia and fan service are properly utilized, as well as some creative fights and set pieces that will have you cheering. The Rise of Skywalker is many things, but I wouldn’t say “boring” is one of them.
The returning cast, including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Carrie Fisher are all just as strong as they have been in past entries, even when the plot and writing fail them. These are characters that we have grown to love, and it’s bittersweet to see their journey come to an end. It’s a testament to all of their conviction and commitment to these characters that we care about them as much as we do. They’re our rebels, our underdogs, and I love them for it.
As a whole, though, The Rise of Skywalker amounts to something that’s hard to describe. It’s exciting and satisfying in some regards while also being disappointing and misjudged in others. Many of the plot beats come and go without any real weight, and although the new characters are fun, there isn’t any real reason to invest in them.
Ultimately, that’s what keeps this entry from being a great Star Wars film. In its hectic scramble to tie everything up and please everyone, it forgets what makes these movies so special in the first place: the characters we believe in and the little moments that speak louder than any blaster.
The Rise of Skywalker is not a disaster, and it’s not even a bad film. But it is a disappointing and often disjointed one, a film that is occasionally at odds with itself but almost always at odds with the entries that precede it. For every exhilarating moment and awesome lightsaber fight, there’s a wonky plot choice or excessive fan service moment. It’s truly a mixed bag, from start to finish, and I’ll be interested to see how it ages alongside the rest of the series.
The saga has ended, but the discussion it invites will live on forever.
Now, if you’ll indulge me for just another minute, I’d like to speak about the saga as a whole.
Star Wars is, at its core, an adventure, one that spans galaxies and generations. No matter when you discovered it, as a child, teenager, or adult, we’ve all taken this adventure together in one way or another.
We’ve all been frightened by Darth Vader and the Emperor, cheered as two Death Stars were blown apart, saddened by the collapse of the Jedi Order, and enlivened by a new resurgence of the Force. For some, this happened over the course of 40 years, for some, maybe over the course of a few weeks.
But it doesn’t matter when you discovered this galaxy far, far away. What matters are the thrills, chills, tears, and everything else felt along the way. Luke watching the binary sunset over Tatooine. Darth Vader revealing his connection to Luke. Leia and Han’s expression of their love. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fateful clash on Mustafar. Rey extending the lightsaber to Luke Skywalker, connecting the old with the new. Kylo Ren striking down his true enemy.
These moments are what make Star Wars such an integral and important part of our lives. It has not been a perfect journey, but it has been the journey. Regardless of your feelings on the ending, nothing can take those moments from you, from us. I encourage you to be grateful for the journey and everyone you took it with. After all, the Force is what ties each and every living being together, including you and me.
And the Force will be with you, always.
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fiesher, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, Lupita Nyong’o, Mark Hamill, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant
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