Editor’s Note: This review is mostly spoiler-free, but a few minor plot details may slip during the course of this article. But rest assured, no major twists will be revealed.
By Billy Liggett
Your opinion of the final movie in Star Wars’ “Skywalker saga” might very well depend on what you thought of the previous movie.
In other words, if you loved The Last Jedi for its bold choices, its lack of fear in taking everything you thought you knew about the cult of Star Wars and turning it on its head and its idea that “The Force” can live in anybody — from a nobody scavenger on a desert planet to a young broom boy working the stables at a giant casino — … then chances are, The Rise of Skywalker is going to piss you off.
But if you thought The Last Jedi treated the legend of Luke Skywalker with lack of respect; belittled the idea of the Sith, the Jedi and that whole “balance” thing; and was an overall abomination to the franchise that you love … then chances are, The Rise of Skywalker is going to please your inner fanboy.
I fall into the former — I thought The Last Jedi was the best “Star War” since Empire Strikes Back. And because of this, there’s a lot about J.J. Abrams’ finale that irks me. He pretty much takes most of the ideas Rian Johnson laid out previously — Rey is a nobody, the Jedi have a history of failure, anybody can be a hero, etc. — and tosses it into the Sarlacc Pit. And it does so without even a hint of subtlety.
So, I didn’t LOVE The Rise of Skywalker. And that disappoints me — a fan of the franchise for as long as I can remember who has passed down his love of “pew pew,” laser swords and cool bounty hunters to my kids.
But I didn’t HATE The Rise of Skywalker either. Because for all that’s bad in it — a clunky-as-hell first 30 minutes, twists that are neither surprising nor earned, the whole “Emperor still lives” plot device (not a spoiler … it’s in the trailers, and it’s literally the first thing you learn in the opening crawl) — there’s still a lot of good in it. And even a little “pretty great” in it.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren carry the movie on their shoulders and are solely responsible for it not being a complete disaster. The movie shines brightest when both are on screen, and their fight scenes are brilliant. Anthony Daniels as C-3PO has some of the best lines and is important for the first time since the early 1980s. And the new droid and new little alien — although underused — are great additions.
As for the ending — once I stopped overthinking what got us there and sat back and accepted that I was watching Star Wars, the ending was pretty big, packed a decent emotional punch and was satisfying enough that my kids and I left with a smile on our faces.
No movie in the franchise will ever touch Empire — even though we all hoped these last three would come close. I contend The Last Jedi had potential and set the table for a more thought-provoking ending than what Rise of Skywalker gave us. Am I going to lose sleep over it? No. I’m 43, and I cherish my sleep. I advise everybody else to do the same.
Besides, while this is the end of the “saga,” we’re going to have Star Wars shoved down our throats for years to come. And I’m thoroughly enjoying Star Wars in the slower TV format, with The Mandalorian and a future Obi-Wan Kenobi show on the horizon.
Verdict: The worst of the sequel trilogy, but still better acting and action than anything the prequels gave us. Rise of Skywalker is safe and full of fan service. Just accept it. The final movie doesn’t stick the landing, but it’s still a Star War. And I’m OK with that.