by ALEX PIROWSKI
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Dec. 2019) - With the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as the final entry of the Star Wars saga, there has been a divide among fans as to whether or not the film lived up to its expectations. Given the franchise’s 40+ year legacy and millions of fans worldwide, this film is, to say the least, a big deal. With so much weight on its shoulders, was The Rise of Skywalker able to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the saga? In my opinion, yes...and no. Spoiler alert for those who have not seen the movie.
It’s safe to say that the newest Star Wars trilogy has been the most divisive of all. The Force Awakens, and especially The Last Jedi, caused many problems among the fanbase. These criticisms spelled disaster for the trilogy’s conclusion, but, despite this, The Rise of Skywalker was an enjoyable film, and was able to do a good job at tying up loose ends from the previous two entries of the Star Wars saga.
Within the opening crawl of The Rise of Skywalker, we learn that the Emperor is still alive after his death in Return of the Jedi, and that Kylo Ren is searching for him. The inclusion of Palpatine was a great way to raise the stakes of the story, as he was the main villain throughout both the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy. Palpatine’s inclusion in this film also provides conclusions to stories found in some of the Star Wars comics, books, and video games. Once Kylo Ren confronts him, we learn that Palpatine has amassed a fleet capable of destroying the galaxy. In addition, we learn that Rey’s true identity is of such importance that she must never become a Jedi.
The discovery of the Emperor’s return is what kicks off this brand new adventure, as protagonists Rey, Finn, and Poe search for a way to find and defeat the Sith. The Rise of Skywalker marks the first time that all three characters actually interact with each other at the same time. It’s a shame that this didn’t happen sooner because the actors have such great chemistry with each other. But it’s better late than never.
As the story progresses, we are taken to some amazing new planets, each with their fair share of unique inhabitants and locations. Following a trail to the desert planet Pasaana, the protagonists come across Lando, but only interact with him in one scene. I feel like Billy Dee Williams was heavily underused in The Rise of Skywalker. Lando was a very well-beloved, charismatic character in the Original Trilogy, and more screen time could have helped the movie tremendously.
Shortly after meeting Lando, Chewbacca gets captured by the First Order, and Rey and Kylo Ren each try to use the Force to pull the shuttle towards themselves. This scene mirrors the one from Last Jedi, where both characters fought over Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Amidst the struggle, Rey taps into the Dark Side and uses Force lightning, destroying the shuttle Chewbacca was on. We later find out that Chewbacca wasn’t dead, and was instead on another transport. This was an amazing plot twist, in theory; however, Chewbacca is shown to be alive not even 10 minutes after this twist.
The gang soon learns about Chewbacca’s whereabouts, and rescue him from Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer. During our time on the ship, we find out that General Hux, one of the main villains of this trilogy, is actually a spy for the Resistance because he hates Kylo Ren so much. He later dies, which is a shame, since Hux is yet another new character who gets disposed of, without any real character development. Anyways, Kylo Ren confronts Rey and tells her that she is actually Palpatine’s granddaughter. I don’t really know how to feel about this reveal, as it seems like it was just Abrams’s way of appealing to fans, given that Rey being a Palpatine was a theory since The Force Awakens.
Later on, Kylo Ren and Rey clash on the ruins of the second Death Star, when Leia uses the last of her energy to use the Force and reach out to her son. This gives Rey the opportunity to finish her enemy, but she then uses the Force to heal his wound. This confrontation leads Rey to journey to Ach-To, the planet where she trained with Luke in "The Last Jedi" , where she decides she must cut herself off from the Force. Before Rey can destroy her lightsaber, however, a Force ghost Luke Skywalker catches it, and explains to her why leaving the war is bad. Luke then shows her Leia’s lightsaber, and we are shown a scene from Leia’s Jedi training. CGI was used in this scene to show a younger Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. I think the de-aging CGI from Rogue One, the Star Wars film released in 2016, looked much better, but I digress. Luke then raises his X-Wing out of the ocean, just like how Yoda did in The Empire Strikes Back; they even use Yoda’s theme at this moment.
Taking Luke’s X-Wing, Rey travels to Palpatine’s location and sends a transmission of her path back to the Resistance so they can follow. Rey lands, confronts Palpatine, and pretends to follow his command to kill him and gain the power of all the Sith. Unfortunately for Palpatine, Kylo Ren, who is now back to being Ben Solo, shows up, kills the Knights of Ren, and joins Rey to fight the Emperor. It’s at this time that the Resistance fighters come out of hyperspace to engage the Final Order’s starfighters. When it seems as though the Resistance fleet is doomed, Lando and Chewbacca arrive in the Millennium Falcon, backed by countless other starfighters. Rey and Ben are still fighting Palpatine when Solo is seemingly killed. This leaves Rey to call upon all the Jedi via the Force, to lend her their strength. Hearing all the voices of characters like Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka and more was a really cool moment, but I wish we actually saw them in the forms of Force ghosts. Rey is able to deflect Palpatine’s lightning with Luke and Leia’s lightsabers and kills him without killing him, as to not gain the power from all the Sith. Rey dies, but Ben comes out of the pit he was knocked into and heals her with the Force, but doing this ends up killing him.
We then cut back to the Resistance celebrating, and then it’s shown that sometime later, Rey travels to Tatooine. She journeys to Luke’s old home and buries the twins’ lightsabers. After being asked who she is by a local, Rey sees the Force ghosts of Luke and Leia and deems herself Rey Skywalker. The saga then ends just as it began, with the main character staring out into the setting of the twin suns.
All in all, I thought The Rise of Skywalker was a good film, but it felt like it tried to answer too many questions within its story. I also felt as though it left the new main characters, except Rey and Kylo Ren, with hardly any development at all. The only character that had really changed was Finn since he was now Force-sensitive. Given that the new trilogy wasn’t made with a cohesive plan from the beginning, it’s a bummer that the last Star Wars film wasn’t as good as it could have been. For what it was, The Rise of Skywalker was a great entry into the Star Wars saga, but it could have been so much more.