Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Hit or Miss?

Mickey Lonner and Zachary Nicholas

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Hit:

The new Star Wars trilogy has acquired acclaim and criticism alike from critics and fans, but The Rise of Skywalker was undoubtedly the worst received. Walking into the theater, I was sure I wouldn’t like what I found. 

Maybe that was why I was shocked with how enjoyable the movie actually was. There were definitely flaws, but overall, The Rise of Skywalker was fast-paced, action-packed, and funny. There were some cliches and some odd directorial choices, but most importantly, the movie was genuinely fun to watch. 

 Rey, Poe, and Finn are all likeable characters with a great bond. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rey’s struggle with the dark side. It gave depth to her character and made her journey more interesting to watch, as opposed to an all-good hero facing off against an all-bad villain. 

With female characters, all but their most palatable flaws are usually erased in order to make them more likeable [most heroines will be clumsy instead of ambitious, shy instead of outspoken], so seeing a pronounced dark side in Rey only made her better. While even the toughest women in film are often reduced to sidekicks for the male leads, Rey kicks butt over the course of all three movies. 

A common criticism of The Rise of Skywalker is the renewal of Emperor Palpatine as the villain. I agree that this wasn’t creative, but I can see why the decision was made. After all, the trilogy’s main villain  was killed off at the end of the second movie, and there wasn’t time to create a whole new bad guy in two hours. Kylo Ren could’ve taken up the mantle and become the new Big Bad, but that wouldn’t have made much narrative sense.

As for Rey being a Palpatine, I had mixed feelings about that particular plot point. On the one hand, her having average parents was kind of a cool development in The Last Jedi. Still, I felt that it created a cool dynamic for Kylo Ren to be a conflicted villain who comes from the light side and for Rey to be a conflicted hero who comes from the dark. 

That brings us to the elephant in the room: Kylo Ren’s redemption arc. Does a character who did such despicable things really deserve a love story with our beloved female lead? Could their relationship detract from Rey’s story? Is it too close to Vader’s ending to even add to the plot in the first place? To be honest, I was afraid of a Kylo-Rey love story when I walked into the theater, but I wasn’t surprised when it happened. In The Force Awakens, they showed us a villain with a strong pull toward the light side, and in The Last Jedi, a strong relationship between him and Rey was established. 

If his story had ended any other way, it would’ve felt incomplete. It wouldn’t be logical to hint toward a redemption arc in the first two movies, only to change direction in the last installment, and I think any other outcome would’ve been jarring. Furthermore, Kylo Ren and Darth Vader have had undeniable parallels throughout the entire trilogy, so it makes sense that their endings would be similar. 

 After The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker felt like a return to the original feel of the series. Parts of the movie were unoriginal, but it did what Star Wars is intended to do: it made me smile. It made me excited. It made me want to go right back to the theater and see it all over again. No matter the criticisms this new installment faced, a movie that makes me happy is a win in my book. 

 

Miss

The reviews were not good. But as a Star Wars fan, I wanted to get my own opinion. I went to the theater with an open mind, and I walked out feeling confused. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a confusing film and a disappointing ending to the saga. 

Let me start off by saying I didn’t completely hate this film. The actors’ performances were all pretty great. They did the most they could with their scripts, and the humor was spot on, in comparison to The Last Jedi’s attempts at comedy. 

The group dynamic between Rey, Finn, and Poe also worked really well. They made for a great team, while the action is, for the most part, entertaining. The lightsaber battles are all incredibly well-choreographed. Yet, there’s some major problems.

The film is overwhelming. It’s so convoluted and there is so much exposition within it, making the movie feel super off in terms of pacing. The script is terrible, mostly because half the time the characters are either being an info-dump or hustling out a corny line. I am all for corny—it’s Star Wars—but some of the lines are just awful. This might be one of my least favorite Star Wars scripts ever put onto screen, and that’s saying something. 

Let’s talk about the story itself. It is… so horrible. To begin with, the opening title crawl is one of the worst Star Wars opening sequences. Somehow, Emperor Palpatine is back, and there’s no explanation why, because his magical return happened off screen. So us audience members are supposed to just accept a vague explanation of the Emperor’s return and take it in stride, despite how important it is both to the plot and to the fans.

The fact that Palpatine’s motives and plans make zero sense is, again, thanks to the terrible script. First, he wants Kylo Ren to kill Rey. Then, he changes his mind and wants Rey to come to him and become the new Sith. Finally, he decides to just suck the life-force out of her and become the new Sith himself. What!? Palpatine, make up your mind already! 

Speaking of Palpatine, I guess Rey is one now. One of my favorite parts of The Last Jedi was how Rey was a “nobody” who came from nothing. She showed how the Force can be strong with anyone and that everyone has a chance. But no, Disney said make her a Palpatine, which was the dumbest thing. 

Other than that, I actually liked Rey in this movie. She deals with a lot of internal conflict, which makes for great characters and great character arcs, and her struggles are really fascinating to watch. 

But that leads me to another complaint: every other main character who is not Rey or Kylo does not matter in this film. They get no arc; no development; they are just in the movie. Take Finn, a character that was great in The Force Awakens, and who went through a great, meaningful arc in that film. In The Last Jedi, he went through the same exact arc, and it was stupid. But the cherry on top was that in this movie, all he does is yell. He does nothing, and it’s so frustrating because he had the potential to be an amazing character. Instead, he was useless. 

Apart from the characters, the plot sucks. Boiling it down to its basics, it’s a film about finding a thing that leads to another thing, and I hate it. I have two big complaints in regards to the plot. First, the Force is used as a magical plot device. Oh, this character doesn’t know where something is? Just use the Force! This character wants to heal a wounded animal? Just use the Force! That is lazy writing, and it makes for a lazy film. 

Secondly, what is up with the amount of fake deaths? I counted six fake deaths in this movie. Rey has one; Chewbacca has one; C3PO has one; and Kylo Ren has three. Three fake deaths… for one character. Every time a character died, I was never sad because I thought that they would be back on screen in a matter of minutes. 

Apart from those two complaints, I just wish this film wasn’t so complex. Since there was so much happening in this movie, the moments that are supposed to feel like big payoff character service moments, don’t. 

Honestly, I do not understand what Disney was doing or thinking when they made this movie. As a huge Star Wars fan, I really wanted to like it. But it fails all the expectations set by the past movies without any doubt. This film is a miss, and that’s putting it nicely.