‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I have so many mixed feelings about this movie. I’ve taken some time to digest it, I’ve discussed my thoughts with several people, and yet …I’m still struggling with how to put into words how I feel. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Was it a satisfying ending to the saga? Can the answer be both yes and no to all of the above?

There was so much of this movie that I loved: Finn, Rey and Poe getting to work together, the moments of nostalgia, Kylo Ren’s arc (YES, IT’S STILL ME, I SAID THAT), so many moments that left me going wait what, like: Rey being a Palpatine, the fact that Star Wars is so quick to replace one WOC with another, because hey, they’re only sidekicks, and also, so many things I wished they’d done differently.

And yet, when the final credits rolled in, I was happy. Rey had found herself. Not just that, she’d taken ownership of who she was. She’d claimed the life she wanted. And boy, was I proud.

However, as a long-time Star Wars fan, this is only a satisfyingly-ish conclusion to the new characters, and even so, it feels like there was so much potential wasted there that it’s hard to feel as happy about it as they probably want us to feel.

It isn’t a satisfying ending to the characters we grew up loving, and it isn’t really a satisfying ending to what was billed for so long as the Skywalker saga.

So, I’m going to try to put my thoughts into some semblance of order as I review this movie by discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of The Rise of Skywalker.

THE GOOD

The trio

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I remember some people bristling at the idea of calling Rey, Finn and Poe “the trio,” before this movie came out. Those people rightfully pointed out the fact that these three had barely spent time together (not that Han, Leia and Luke spent as much time together as we all think). In this movie, their screen time together warrants the name trio, and it also warrants us asking: why did we have to wait so long to get this?

We shouldn’t be surprised that three charismatic actors play off each other so well, after all. We shouldn’t be surprised at the fact that they made each other better, easier to relate to, and just more interesting. This was the dynamic we deserved from the beginning, and though I wish we’d gotten way more, I will admit I enjoyed what we did get in this movie more than I can put into words.

Nostalgia

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From the voiceovers, to the appearance of every one of our main trio (Han is there, somehow! ForceGhost Luke! Leia being Leia!) to that moment near the end where Rey channeled all the Jedi from the past, the movie did a great job at reminding us why we fell in love with this series, why it has remained a part of our lives for so long.

This especially applies to the few minutes we got of Carrie Fisher; our General, our Princess, the woman who taught so many of us that heroines aren’t supposed to just wait to be saved, that princesses can become generals, that we don’t have to be okay all the time, and more importantly, than we are more than our worst moments. Star Wars seemed liked it couldn’t exist without her, and I’m glad it didn’t, even if I will forever wish she had a chance to give us more.

Kylo Ren’s arc

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Kylo Ren’s biggest fan I am not. Or at least, I haven’t been. Part of it is that I called this ending from day one, and I try not to get attached to dead men walking. The other part is that the character, in my opinion, lacked nuance. This wasn’t about Driver, who is a tremendous actor, so good that in The Rise of Skywalker he manages to convey the change from Kylo to Ben with just the way he stands. This was about the writing, about how much time the trilogy spent trying to play up Kylo’s issues without ever spending enough time going into the why, into his parental traumas, into his feelings over Luke.

In fact, for so long, I felt like we only got Kylo’s feelings about Rey, and she could never, should never, have been the reason for anything in his story.

She wasn’t, in the end, and that’s why every second of his breaking away from Kylo and finally going back to Ben Solo works. It was about the father he killed, but who never stopped loving him, about the mother who never stopped believing in him, even about the uncle who could, finally, all these years later, admit he was wrong. It was, finally, about what being a Skywalker meant, for better or worse.

THE BAD

You get fanservice, you get fanservice, and you get fanservice

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For a movie with barely any romance, the movie gave fanservicy (if you know me you know how much it hurts me to use that word) nods everywhere, kinda like it was trying to make all possible shippers have something to hold onto after the credits rolled. I get the idea of it, but in reality, I don’t actually like the execution. I’d like my characters to commit to things, in canon. I promise, I can write/read fanfiction that contradicts canon, if need be. I don’t need canon to be wishy washy.

And then there’s the Reylo kiss. All of these things are a matter of interpretation, of course, but I thought it was shoe-horned in to please fans. Were there any specific romantic undertones before-hand? Were there any after? The answer, for me, is no. Rey and Kylo undoubtedly had a connection, one I never viewed as romantic, and if I’d sneezed during the right time, I could go on with my interpretation. Hell, I probably will anyway. The kiss makes very little sense to me as it stands. The movie had to either COMMIT to Reylo as a romance, or just keep the connection as something powerful but undefined, and it tried to do both and failed miserably.

The Last Jedi as equivalent to the Empire Strikes Back

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I’m not a The Last Jedi hater. Or maybe I should say I wasn’t. Or maybe hate is still a strong word. I still appreciate a lot of what the movie tried to do, but after 2+ hours of Finn, Poe and Rey working together, I’m just heartbroken about the lost opportunities of the middle movie in this trilogy. Why did Finn need that stupid pointless mission to Canto Bight again? Wasn’t there another way for Poe to learn how to be a leader? Did we really have to wait till not to get the magic that was John, Oscar and Daisy together?

Narrative cohesion

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Now, I get we were playing fast and lose with many things because there just wasn’t much Carrie Fisher footage, but so much of this movie lacked narrative cohesion. It felt sloppy and so many narrative threads from The Last Jedi were dropped that I’m not even sure we need to re-watch that movie for this one to make sense. This movie stands on in its own pretty well, but as the final chapter of nine, or even the final chapter of 3, well …it’s just not making as much sense as it should.

THE UGLY

Palpatine’s granddaughter

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Honestly, the she was nobody thing was much better. She could still have chosen to be a Skywalker, and she could have still had the power to defeat Palpatine, because the lesson that only a few people can have that kind of power sucks hairy goats. Not to mention that bringing Palpatine back is a mess that basically invalidates the original trilogy and makes the heroes we grew up loving look like idiots. Well, and Palpatine as well.

Of course, this only happened because The Last Jedi wanted to be edgy and killed Snoke and Kylo Ren wasn’t a sustainable villain by himself, which WE ALL KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING. He was always going to be redeemed. He’s Leia and Han’s son, for crying out loud.

Replacing one WOC with another

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Can we only take one per movie on adventures or what? Jannah was a good addition to the Star Wars canon, a feisty and interesting character that I hope we get to see a lot more of, maybe, perhaps, in a Disney+ series (*wink wink*). But the fact that for her to get screen time Rose had to be relegated to basically extra is, well …sad. WOC always get the short end of the stick when it comes to representation, and it’s about time we stop thinking of filling a quota. Both of them could have had more of a storyline, and guess what, it didn’t have to be the SAME storyline, because just as Poe and Finn are different, so are Rose and Jannah. Shocking, I know.

Agree? Disagree? What did you think about The Rise of Skywalker? Share with us in the comments below!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.

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