Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker may be a mess, but it’s a fun mess.
I write this review both as a movie goer but also as an avid Star Wars fan. I have read a number of novels, played a bunch of video games, watched all the movies, been hooked on TV series such as The Clone Wars and Rebels, and have been greatly enjoying the ongoing series called ‘The Mandalorian.’ With this in mind, I recognize that my appreciation of this movie may greatly be influenced by my fandom, for better or for worse. But for me, I think it was for the better.
Be Warned! Very Vague Spoilers Below!
The Rise of Skywalker (Directed by J. J. Abrams) follows Rey as she and the entire galaxy faces the looming threat of a resurrected Emperor Palpatine. Throughout the movie Rey struggles against the temptations of the dark side as well as her identity. Fans of Rian Johnson’s ‘The Last Jedi’ may be disappointed to hear that Rey’s lineage is more complicated than we assumed, as J. J. Abram seeks to finally open the mystery box he first established in Episode VII. Nevertheless, the film still manages to honor Episode VIII’s message of found family in a beautiful way.
Although the film did an excellent job wrapping up Rey’s arc, and greatly featured Finn and Poe, there was a plethora of side characters that seemed to be unimportant to our main Characters but important to the story. The chief example of this can be found in the droid D-O, who seemed to be in the movie for the sole reason to be adorable and to sell toys. Cutting or strengthening some of these characters could have made the film much less complicated.
In my opinion, the biggest problem The Rise of Skywalker faces is not the return of the Emperor but it’s disconnected from the past two movies. Although the movie builds on the foundation that ‘The Force Awakens’ laid, I felt at times they stuffed a three-movie conflict into a mere 2 hours and 21 minutes. Certain major plot devices felt convenient and random, which had little to no precedent in the previous movies and made the stakes seem far less serious than intended. (though having a knowledge of shows such as Mandalorian and Rebels may help… I’m looking at you Mando chapter 7!).
Despite it’s disconnect, Episode IX does manage to tell an entertaining story that still harkens back to various moments in the Skywalker Saga. Listen closely and you may even hear music from the prequel trilogy, alongside of other callback to both the movies and the shows.
So as a Star Wars fan, I had absolute fun. Even if the movie seemed a bit convenient and messy at times. Nevertheless, aside from the Star Wars appeal, I do think there are a few other reasons to enjoy the film, starting with the Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, who played Rey, Finn and Poe. Their talent and chemistry carried the movie forwards and provided many fun moments.
As mentioned earlier, I also think the film continues and expands on ‘The Last Jedi’s message of found family with a clear character arc for Rey (even if she is still overpowered). It also delivers an important message about choosing between good and evil which I really appreciated, through both Rey and Kylo Ren. Adam Driver’s portrayal of the conflicted and masked man was compelling and powerful. You know the filmmakers did a good job when they make you care about the villain. The interactions between Rey and Kylo, was often hit or missed. But for the most part I enjoyed it.
When it comes to action, The Rise of Skywalker delivers! Some of the lightsaber fights, while not being the most complex, managed to be the most visually interesting in the whole Saga. In addition to this, fans of blaster fights and especially space battles should be extremely pleased with the amount of action that is packed into the movie.
And lastly, as a Star Wars fan, I must say I do think it tied together the whole saga nicely, even if it felt like bringing back Palpatine was a disconnected stretch, new force abilities and call backs to the previous movies helped greatly.
So yes, The Rise of Skywalker is a messy film. The movie is far from perfect. There were a lot of convenient plot devices, some of the side characters felt shoehorned in, and at times it felt disconnected from the rest of the Sequel Trilogy. But despite that, The Rise of Skywalker still manages to be a fun ride full of action, great acting, good messages and a celebration of 40+ years of Star Wars.
Really, I think that’s what Episode XI is at it’s core: A Celebration. And if you are looking for a movie that celebrates all of Star Wars, this may be the one for you!
In theaters now!!!