This is going to sound like a criticism of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, but it’s not. The film is a nostalgia-fest breaking no new ground in the series. However, it’s doubtful it was meant to be something new or daring, especially with JJ Abrams directing. Again, not a criticism, just an observation.
The Rise of Skywalker is a good film. It feels like a Star Wars film. It’s like slipping on a well-oiled glove which has been used over and over again and still delivers well. The score is excellent, the acting is decent too, and the special effects are amazing. Which is what I expect and, sort of, want whenever I pop the original trilogy, and even the prequels, into the BluRay player. Even if I wish George Lucas had avoided midichlorians all together.
The story? It’s not the strongest. The First Order wants to take over the Galaxy led by Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. Rey, General Leia Organa, Poe Dameron, Finn, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian all seek to stop Ren/Solo from succeeding. Kudos to Abrams for using unused footage from The Force Awakens to ensure the late Carrie Fisher had a prominent role in The Rise of Skywalker. The spectre of Emperor Palpatine looms large over the film as does the entire Sith vs. Jedi conflict.
However, it’s standard Star Wars fare, and tends to show one of the reasons why the Expanded Universe from 1991 to 2014 eventually ran out of steam despite the creation of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Admiral Daala, Mara Jade (who is sorely missed, Disney), Kyle Katarn, Kip Durron, the Yuuzhan Vong, and Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo along with Ben Skywalker. There is only so much you can do with the canon characters which doesn’t involve retreading past conflicts. Although, given the circular nature of history, this may be why Star Wars tends to rest itself on big battles between the forces of Good and Evil.
I was still invested in the story, which is all I ask whenever I go to the movies. Abrams deserves praise for this, as do Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Johnny Boyega, and Adam Driver. They did their jobs and did them well. Ridley, Isaac, and Boyega have great chemistry, particularly the latter two. I wouldn’t mind seeing more films with all three characters together. The cameos were also well done and two, in particular, brought a smile to my face.
There have been people who used the term “Mary Sue,” to describe the character of Rey. It’s a pejorative meaning a female character who is able to do almost everything with little or no training. The male version is either “Marty Stu” or “Gary Sue.” I’ve long disagreed with this characterization, however, because I think it does a disservice to a likable character. Abrams does do a good job of explaining her raw aptitude in the Force in a way which makes sense. It’s not the route I would have taken, but it works and works well.
Is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the best Star Wars film? No. I still prefer the Original Trilogy, as I think most everyone does. It’s a good ending to the Skywalker Saga. Could it have been better? Obviously, but it felt like a Star Wars film. That’s what I want when I go see one and I got it. There’s still more to explore and more to do instead of just retreading past plots.
There’s plenty left for other filmmakers to pick up on. An entire galaxy worth of ideas is out there. History of the Sith and the Jedi. Learning more about ancient secrets and the difficulties of setting up a government. More to learn about Rey, Fin, and Dameron’s history. Plus, there’s wherever The Mandalorian on Disney+ is leading us. Maybe it’s Jon Favreau’s turn to have a shot at a Star Wars film if he’s not satisfied with episodic drama.
Let’s see where we go from here.