An Honest Review Of 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker'

At the end of the day, 'Star Wars' is still 'Star Wars.'
PHOTO: Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

A long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away, it's The Rise Of Skywalker! After powering through their individual plotlines in the previous film, Rey, Finn, and Poe meet up and go on an adventure together. (Finally!) In order to defeat the First Order, and ultimately take down the Dark Side of the Force, the trio must go on a grand scavenger hunt to find certain valuable artifacts and a hidden lair that can secure their victory. This mission leads them to exotic planets and locales where they meet characters both new and very, very familiar to the franchise. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren takes control of the First Order and uses his mysterious connection with Rey to give chase. And now it's a race against time as they hop from one planet to another in hopes of finally ending this war once and for all. Will Rey be able to take down the Dark Side? Will the culmination of the Skywalker saga, spanning decades, provide a satisfying conclusion for rabid Star Wars fans?

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The Short, Honest Plot

A high-speed glorified fetch quest that's overflowing with every Star Wars reference imaginable to placate the fans.

The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Daisy Ridley as Rey

The actress did a major throwback starring in the retro-style film, Murder On The Orient Express.

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John Boyega as Finn

The actor can't seem to get enough of sci-fi because he portrayed a Jaeger pilot in Pacific Rim: Uprising.

 

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron

He did some voiceover work for the following family-friendly animated films, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and The Addams Family.

 

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Adam Driver as Kylo Ren

He broke our hearts as a man going through a rough divorce in the Netflix film, Marriage Story.

Did You Know?

1. The final trailer was released on October 21, which is the late Carrie Fisher's birthday. She would have been 63 years old.

2. General Leia Organa was originally going to be the "Last Jedi" referred to in the title. Due to Carrie Fisher's untimely passing, the story was reworked. Fortunately, they were able to include unused footage from The Force Awakens to complete her character arc. (We can't help wonder what could have been, though!)

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3. Director J.J. Abrams voiced the new droid character, D-O.

4. The Rise of Skywalker script that ended up on eBay actually belonged to John Boyega, who misplaced it in between moving apartments. Thankfully, it was retrieved before the entire plot was leaked online.

5. The video game Fortnite held a special Star Wars event where an audio message from Emperor Palpatine was broadcasted to the participating players.

 

What My Friend Thinks:

"The Rise of Skywalker feels like JJ Abrams' desperately trying to pull the trilogy back towards his vision of the beloved franchise after The Last Jedi shook some things up. It starts off quite fast-paced, almost as if one was skipping through cut scenes in a video game to get to the important part of the story. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver also gave great performances. The salutes to the Original Trilogy will definitely pull at the heartstrings of Star Wars fans—particularly the scenes with Carrie Fisher. And while it's possibly the most enjoyable film out of the new trilogy, it's disappointing to see one of the largest-grossing franchises in the world getting into this mess, clearly without a roadmap to begin with. That being said, it's still the finale to the latest saga that spans almost 50 years. I'm going to watch it over and over again!" Mika Fabella

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What I Think:

The Rise Of Skywalker is like that parent who is doing the most to placate their child's massive temper tantrum. (I can vividly imagine a saltier portion of the Star Wars fandom thrashing about a la Kylo Ren every time they don't get what they want.) Just to put things into perspective, the previous film, The Last Jedi, was considered very divisive among the fandom. I actually enjoyed the film but agree that it felt disjointed from The Force Awakens. However, I was so down with TLJ making the ballsy move of obliterating fan theories, revealing that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a "nobody" without a famous lineage. And just to emphasize this further, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) drops the line, "It's time to let old things die!" Boom! The underlying message being that anybody can strive for greatness regardless of their origin. (Shout out to the kid from Canto Bight who used the Force on his broom.) Well, you can say goodbye to that revelation (Rey-velation?) because The Rise Of Skywalker completely scrubbed it out of existence! The third-act finale retcons almost everything new established in The Last Jedi.

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Remember when Kylo Ren said, "It's time to let old things die?" Turns out, if you stick wires in them, they can survive for decades to return as a villain in the final film. This character's return springs to mind so many questions and plot holes that are never answered nor resolved. The stakes don't feel that high because we already know this bad guy's M.O.

Revising that amount of material has its share of consequences: With so many events and rewrites being stuffed into the final film, it resulted in the choppiest and clunkiest editing of the trilogy. It felt like listening to an overcaffeinated person providing an information overload of exposition at break-neck speed while wildly gesticulating. But honestly, there was no other way to deliver the narrative and so it was a necessary choice since there was only one film left.

I am glad that Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are finally sharing a screen together for long periods of time and there are scenes focus on their bickering and fun interaction with each other. I had hoped they would do more together outside of the intergalactic fetch quest. That said, the new planets featured looked absolutely stunning, vibrant, and downright unreal. I would book the Millennium Falcon to take me on a vacation there. It's really inspiring how far technology has come from the time they had to paint on Stormtroopers and use stage props in the '70s to how massive and intimidating the First Order ship interiors look rendered in HD.

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Speaking of screen time though, TROS did my girl Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) done-diddly-dirty! Just to vaguely acknowledge her existence, Finn extends a half-hearted invite for Rose to join their adventure but unfortunately, the script dictates she peace out for most of the film. (They don't even acknowledge the kiss!) Yes, I am highly aware that there was a lot of plot to cover within a short span of time but the freaking guy from Lost had so many scenes that could have easily been given to Rose instead. Even as a fan/cosplayer of Rose, I acknowledge that she sorely lacks characterization but this could have been the opportunity to improve on that. She deserved better!

I think one of the interesting shifts in the new Trilogy is finding a hero in the universe's equivalent of the red shirt/bullet fodder foot soldier, the Stormtrooper. That's the kind of redemption arc that felt new and I'm glad we saw more of Finn's kind with Jannah (Naomi Ackie) and other defectors from the First Order. I was glad to see Poe Dameron take on a more prominent role but was not here for the obvious straightwashing of what was previously a character with queer undertones. Even the actor himself was pushing for it! Don't get me wrong, Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) was an amazing action girl but she didn't have to forcibly have a history with Poe Dameron to stay relevant.

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By the way, Rey does turn out to be somebody but I'm not snitching which famous lineage she hails from. Kylo Ren is a stinking liar! And on that note, let's talk about the toxic relationship that is Reylo (Rey x Kylo Ren)! I have always side-eyed the fan-preferred pairing due to Kylo's penchant for negging (basically backhanded compliments that make you more vulnerable to the manipulator) and you know, being a Sith and all that. I have resisted the pull of the Reylo ship but alas, the onscreen chemistry between Daisy and Adam is so darn effective! All that flirty Force Skyping, intense eye-sexing, and suggestive lightsaber dueling has finally gotten to me in the third movie. I felt the kilig and I am not proud of it! (Remember: You can't fix a man. The boy has to fix himself!)

Perhaps the biggest question that comes to mind about The Rise Of Skywalker is how they will conclude General Leia's story arc. I was okay with how they utilized the remaining footage of Carrie Fisher, giving her younger self more backstory post-OG Trilogy using the magic of CG (a glimpse into what could have been if Carrie were still with us today *sniff*). I wish there could have been more to the send-off but I feel that they did their best for our Princess/General.

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Regardless of my initial misgivings about the film, I whooped and cheered when the big payoff scene took place towards the end of the film. It took me back to my childhood, when I was less of an overthinker who unironically liked Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. Once that John Williams score swelled in the background, the waterworks came in. The nostalgia was real!

But there is also merit in regulating (and maybe even denying) fanservice especially when the feedback is no longer constructive and borders on verbally abusive. Racist and toxic remarks are the main reason Kelly Marie Tran opted out of social media. (To those who enjoyed trashing the cast and crew: I hope you're pleased with yourselves for being such a negative presence in the fandom! You did this! This is why we can't have nice things!) To paraphrase a popular Internet adage, "Nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans." It's kinda ironic to go against the very teachings of the franchise that discourages fear, anger, and hate consuming you whole. The very fear of encountering something new is what leads some toxic fans into this dark path. I hope this becomes a learning experience to be better people and respecting the ones who portrayed the characters and worked on the movies that you adore.

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At the end of the day, Star Wars is still Star Wars and regardless of whatever I say, you will still feel the urge to watch it for yourself. I still enjoyed it as a Star Wars fan as it still had the spaceships, lightsabers, and the pew-pew-pew that got me hooked in the first place. You know what would have made it better? We could have had it all if they just added a fourth movie, turning it into a quadrilogy. That way, they would have had enough time to tie up all the loose ends without it looking like a rush job.

There's a certain melancholic vibe in a meta sense knowing that this is the end of the Skywalker saga, which spans decades. Plus, it's the last time John Williams will be scoring a Star Wars film. We may also have to wait decades before revisiting the main storyline. (Imagining a way older Rey, Finn, and Poe returning in a future trilogy with yours truly still watching as a geeky grandma.)

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I don't hate The Rise Of Skywalker but it's not the best in the franchise and there were so many missed opportunities. Even with the aforementioned criticisms given, it's still peak space opera entertainment. And come on, it's not like the OG Trilogy wasn't riddled with plot holes either. But looking at Rey's overarching arc throughout the three films, I'm satisfied with how her character grew both physically and emotionally stronger despite everything that has happened. I disagree with the criticism that she's overpowered as she is also weighed down by a lot of flaws and personal issues that still make her relatable. Personally, I am glad to see a woman headline this trilogy and a Jedi warrior at that. I'm thankful for the diversity the new slew of Star Wars films has given us and the fact that is has evolved with the times.

It really boils down to how the franchise makes you feel like you matter and belong in a greater universe that encourages you to resist and rebel against injustice. A message we desperately need right now as the real world is slowly descending into chaos. We will always need films that motivate us to fight back oppression and save our world.

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I'd Recommend It To:

  • Star Wars fans of all ages. Especially the ones who grew up watching the OG Trilogy.
  • Crazy Baby Yoda followers who will find a new character to coo and wibble at. (You'll know what we're talking about when you finally see the film.)
  • The hipster geeks who enjoy easter egg hunting for obscure references.
  • Treasure hunt enthusiasts who enjoy the thrill of the chase.
  • Diehard Reylo (Rey x Kylo Ren) shippers who want to see more flirty moments between their favorite pairing.
  • Boyband stans who may or may not notice some similarities upon seeing the Knights of Ren in motion.
  • Viewers who disliked The Last Jedi will be pleased.
  • Loyal fans of General Leia who will find a satisfying conclusion that honors her character.
  • Cosplayers who can find fashion pegs in Zorii Bliss, Jannah, and the Knights of Ren.
  • World-weary Star Wars fans who are so sick of the toxicity that can occur within the fandom and can relate to the new droid D-O who constantly says, "No, thank you!"
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