Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Well, here it is: the end* of the Star Wars saga. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the completion of the nine-film series George Lucas originally promised us in 1978. It took 41 years, selling the series to Disney, a lot of noise over The Last Jedi, and some false starts of spin-offs to do it…but they finally did it.

Sadly, The Rise of Skywalker hasn’t received the hype that The Force Awakens did in 2015. Reality has ensued in the intervening years, and Disney has not been able to put up the consistent quality and build-up of interest that it did with Avengers: Endgame earlier this year. However, this is still one of the biggest events for one of the most beloved science fiction franchises of all time.

And…I wasn’t impressed. My rating is 3 out of 5.

No spoilers here, or not much you couldn’t guess from the trailer. Frankly, this movie felt more like Star Wars fanfiction than actual Star Wars. Without getting into details, it was rushed and choppy almost the whole way through, up until the final battle. There were gratuitous cameos that didn’t really add anything to the plot. There were feats of technology that ignored the established lore. There were new Force powers that were way beyond anything we’ve seen before to the point of breaking my suspension of disbelief. And an awful lot of time was spent trying to fix the mistakes (or “mistakes”) of The Last Jedi (a few of which caused more problems).

Then, on top of all that, it was a classic case of trying to do too much, and in this case, it wasn’t really needed. This wasn’t based on an especially long book or something. It was all, “we have to go to this place and then this other place to find this person and then do this other thing” when several of those could have been cut out to simplify the plot. (And all in an alarmingly short space of in-story time.) I don’t have the time or space here to break it down scene by scene and compare it with the other films, but I think they were trying to do a lot more than the others—easily two movies’ worth.

Okay, there were a couple things I did really like. There were little references to the past mistakes of the franchise as a whole (not just The Last Jedi) like the First Order learning from the “single point of failure” mistakes of the past. The final battle in general was pretty good. And most especially, one theme I really liked in The Last Jedi, the theme of empowering the people, paid off really well in The Rise of Skywalker, although it still could have been explored in a lot more depth.

Star Wars really is an impressive achievement. It had two exceptionally good movies back in the 1970s, and those two movies have carried the franchise to being the second-highest grossing film series of all time (behind only the Marvel Cinematic Universe). True, it had one other truly excellent film, The Force Awakens, but it was kind of a rip-off of the original. Return of the Jedi was only pretty good. Attack of the Clones is arguably underrated (except for “I don’t like sand.”) And personally, I loved The Last Jedi, but it was really a love it or hate it kind of film. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t improve that score.

I’ve argued before that the best thing for Star Wars as a franchise would be to strip everything back to the original trilogy and film the best of the novels, starting from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy. In other words, create a “Star Wars Cinematic Universe” building on what is now Star Wars Legends (formerly the Expanded Universe).

After seeing The Rise of Skywalker, I still wish Disney would do that, if they do anything. They have the formula. They have proven and time-tested material to use. And they could do a lot better than what they’ve done with the sequel trilogy.

But for now, that’s all she wrote. May the Force be with you.

*Until the Mouse says otherwise.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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