Wed. Sep 23rd, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

“The Saga Ends” is an ominous phrase for a Star Wars fan such as me. As someone who grew up with the Original Trilogy and can still remember where the theaters existed where I saw the movies, I’ve spent forty years hearing from George Lucas how the saga was meant to be nine (occasionally twelve) films. And now that final installment is here.

I’ve been pretty vocal over the last five years how I wasn’t a huge fan of The Force Awakens. While I love the new characters, it didn’t feel like a sequel to Return of the Jedi. The movie felt like an intentional retread of A New Hope while JJ Abrams went down a nostalgia checklist in the hopes to woo back the fans who spent the Prequel years cursing George Lucas’ name and claiming he “raped their childhoods”. 

One of my fondest memories of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (and, yes, the Prequels) is how each movie felt new and introduced something to Star Wars we haven’t seen before. Empire gave us a snow planet and the AT-ATs, and for a kid in 1983 the B-Wing from Jedi was the coolest thing ever. I’m happy that The Rise of Skywalker does introduce new things. The Sith Troopers remind me a lot of seeing the red Imperial Guards in Jedi for the first time, there are some really cool new environments on display, and we get some great new characters such as the droidsmith Babu Frick who is almost the film’s Baby Yoda.

In returning to Star Wars, JJ Abrams had to do something with The Rise of Skywalker he really hasn’t had to do before. He had to craft an ending to the mysteries he setup for others to solve in The Force Awakens. And for the most part, he succeeds. I think he almost falls down the nostalgia pit he did in The Force Awakens with the amount of fan service, but the movie isn’t a direct repeat of Return of the Jedi outside of some rhyming, which is the sort of thing Lucas would’ve probably done. 

It’s difficult to really discuss the movie without going into spoilers, but with everything with this trilogy there will be people who will love it but will be drowned out by daily angry videos on YouTube screaming that they’re wrong for liking it. That’s unavoidable with anything related to Star Wars in the YouTube era, and it’s really frustrating.

Something I like most about it is how the trio is together for a good chunk of it. In the time since TLJ, you get the sense that they’ve become a group of friends. Finn and Poe especially have a fun rivalry, but can become partners when it matters. They remind me of Apollo and Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica.

Leia is actually in the movie a lot more than you’d expect, as it becomes obvious that it’s a lot more than just some unused footage from The Force Awakens. But it’s done well, and there’s only one part where you really know it wasn’t Carrie there. In regards to Lando, Billy Dee showed up and lights up every shot Lando is involved with. It was an absolute joy to see him back.

You’re going to see some reviewers this week saying they’re “conflicted” over decisions made in the movie. What that really means is that they’re upset that JJ Abrams didn’t read their mind and use their fan theory about Rey (or whatever) that they’ve been pushing for the past five years. The exact same thing happened with George Lucas. When the Prequels he made didn’t match the prequels people invented in their heads over eighteen years; toxic fans drove him away from Star Wars.

Something that has to be said about the Sequel Trilogy as a whole, that a lot of the angry voices out there seem to be uninformed on, is that George’s touch is on these movies from the beginning. The main character of this trilogy was always meant to be a girl learning to become a Jedi. It was never going to be a boy just being a repeat of Luke Skywalker.

People also don’t seem to realize that George spent the years following the Original Trilogy raising three kids, two of which were girls. As a single father George Lucas adopted them, so the theme of an orphan finding a family is something that makes a lot of sense in a Star Wars movie given that background. 

With that in mind, The Rise of Skywalker wraps up the Skywalker Saga in a way that you could have seen George Lucas doing it, based on the themes of an orphan girl learning to become a Jedi and finding a family. 

I think far too many people on the internet rush to judge Star Wars on what they would do, and not what the creator would have done. Which has been a problem for twenty years, ever since the Prequels, so it’s not exactly new. We’ve also been deprived of J.W. Rinzler “Making of” tomes for this trilogy to detail such things as George’s overall plan, which is a shame as his Original Trilogy books are absolutely required reading. 

Fans who actually like Star Wars will probably be happy with the epic scale in the movie and the surprises that tie all nine movies together. Five years ago, they intentionally removed Prequel stuff from The Force Awakens, now there are some cool Prequel surprises in this if you look and listen carefully. It’s almost as if someone convinced JJ that there is an entire generation of Star Wars fans who grew up with those movies and not the OT. Even the animated series are woven into this epic finale.

I’ve loved Star Wars from the day I opened my eyes, and I’ll love Star Wars until the day I forever sleep. There are things in every Star Wars movie I don’t like. I can’t stand the Jabba scene in A New Hope because it’s redundant and just repeats the information relayed in the Greedo scene, but that doesn’t make me go record an angry YouTube video calling it a “total cinematic failure”. There are some things in The Rise of Skywalker that bug me, but they’re spoilery yet don’t completely ruin the movie.

The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars movie. Meaning people are going to argue about it for years to come, and then people will change their mind in a decade or so when there’s another major thing to complain about. 

I admit I haven’t been a huge JJ Abrams fan; I like a lot of what he does, but I also dislike an equal amount. The stupidity of the Into Darkness script sends me into a rage. But I think The Rise of Skywalker is my favorite movie of his. It does tie all nine movies together with some big surprises for those who don’t seek out spoilers, and it’s easily John Williams’ best Star Wars score since the Prequels and my personal favorite score of his since the first Harry Potter.

I personally loved how it wrapped up the Skywalker Saga, especially the entire second half of the movie, and I enjoyed it a lot more than The Force Awakens. Part of me is sad to see such a major part of my life come to a close, but I’m also excited for an uncharted future in a galaxy far far away…