In 1977, the world was introduced to the galaxy far, far away known as Star Wars. It was one of the biggest and most revolutionary movies ever that produced an even bigger universe. It has included a trilogy of trilogies, along with a couple of spin-off movies and television series. The recent Star Wars: Episode IX – the Rise of Skywalker marks the end of this new trilogy and the Skywalker Saga as a whole. Does this serve as a satisfying end to the science-fiction epic, or does in disappoint more than losing a pod race? Let’s explore further to find out. I’ll do my best to be spoiler free since the film just released, but keep in mind that some minor ones still occur.
Like past Star Wars films, the visual effects are some of the best in cinema history. Everything looks real enough that it feels like this galaxy actually exists. The movie blends traditional effects with CGI seamlessly. The puppeteering and costumes are beyond exceptional, and most of the CGI looks just as realistic.
J.J. Abrams completely outdoes himself. The directing in The Rise of Skywalker is the best in the trilogy. Every shot produces a lot of emotion. The placement of each character is well-thought out. The set pieces and environment were all cleverly used and served as more than just background, like every inch of a destroyed ship being used as a platform for battle or an underground cavern used to create a sense of claustrophobia.
Each actor gives an outstanding performance. Daisy Ridley once again shines as the protagonist, Rey. Oscar Isaac proves that he can do no wrong in any role (other than as Apocalypse, but we don’t talk about that). John Boyega proves he is one of the most capable actors in Hollywood and needs to be seen in more movies. The rest of the cast, including Kelly Marie Tran, Adam Driver, Naomi Ackie, Mark Hamill, and more, are all just as talented and bring their characters to life with ease.
In most movies, the protagonist undergoes character development of some kind. In The Rise of Skywalker, however, Rey receives that character development but is not the only one who does. She experiences an interesting inner conflict that she must overcome, which leads to her development. Kylo Ren has one of the most interesting arcs in Star Wars history, battling with his desire for power while also wanting to be the person his parents want him to be. Poe learns a valuable lesson about his brashness, and we finally find out about his past before he was a pilot for the Resistance. Finn learns there are others like him who are ex-Storm troopers and overcomes his past. Even C-3PO plays a huge part in saving the day, sacrificing a lot to be the hero no one ever thought he would be.
There are some big twists throughout the film that genuinely surprised me. I recall quite a few moments where my jaw hung open and I was left speechless. I was completely caught off guard and could not predict what would happen next. Most blockbusters these days, like the countless superhero flicks, are extremely predictable. The unpredictability of The Rise of Skywalker made it that much more fun of an experience.
This is also a rather emotional movie. It’s not just in the climax, either. There are several scenes, whether they are sad or touching, that genuinely brought a tear to my eye. Saying goodbye to certain characters, being concerned about losing others, and experiencing heartfelt moments makes this one of the most emotional movies in the franchise. Being invested enough in the story for one to cry is not nothing.
The Rise of Skywalker has some of the best world-building in Star Wars. We see new aliens and wildlife throughout the film, but it never feels like there’s too much focus taken away from the story to showcase them. They feel organic to the world, like how we see squirrels in our’s. I’ve always wanted to see more aliens in Star Wars since it’s mostly humans with some aliens sprinkled in. We actually get to see more alien characters in this one other than just Chewbacca. We’re also introduced to some cool new planets, which is exciting because it can be hard for one to imagine what other kinds of planets can even exist within the world of Star Wars that haven’t been used before. We even get to learn a bit about the culture of a newly introduced race, including one of their holiday celebrations. It adds a lot to the Star Wars galaxy and, it is an absolute delight to see the universe grow.
The core group of this trilogy, including Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO feel like more of a team in this one. Until now, they’ve been separated and going about their own stories. Here, everything is a little more streamlined. It’s nice to see the main characters interacting with each other more. It leads to fun character moments, along with some amusing banter, especially between two headstrong characters like Rey and Poe.
This installment serves as a greatest hits playlist of John Williams’ Star Wars themes, making the score of the movie one of the best around. There is a famous tune or two that is missing, but it does reflect the talent that went into the iconic Star Wars music.
The Rise of Skywalker does a great job at tying the three trilogies together, as well as capping off this sequel trilogy. It brings in old characters and elements from the previous trilogies while standing out as its own entity. It even puts a positive spin on certain aspects of the previous film that received some complaints. It truly feels like everything was leading to this. As for being the ending of the Skywalker Saga, things are wrapped up very nicely. Loose ends are tied up and character arcs come full circle. Even the final scene mirrors Luke’s first scenes in A New Hope.
I like that the movie redirects things to where J.J. Abrams originally wanted them to go, but that redirecting takes up a bit too much of the movie. It makes some things feel rather sudden, and it occasionally distracts from the central plot (in albeit minor ways).
There are some missed opportunities here and there. For instance, there’s a moment when voices of past Jedi are heard, including Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. However, they don’t have him appear as a force ghost to talk to Kylo Ren about how everything he did as Darth Vader is wrong and should not be repeated. Finn tells Rey that he needs to tell her something several times throughout the course of the movie, and never does. It never leads anywhere. Why have him say he wants to talk to her if we never actually get to see it happen?
A couple of the new characters, like D-O and the Knights of Ren, are cool, but clearly serve almost no purpose other than just to sell toys. That’s par for the course for a Star Wars movie, but it still would have been exciting to see them involved in the story more.
There are quite a lot of homages and references to classic Star Wars throughout the film. There are too many to name, but we do see things like the medal that Chewbacca receives at the end of A New Hope, Luke’s X-Wing, and even a brief Ewok sighting. They aren’t crucial to the plot, but the sense of nostalgia is certainly strong with this one.
Carrie Fisher was thankfully able to appear as Leia once again. It wasn’t through CGI or recasting the character. J.J. Abrams and his team was able to utilize unused footage of Fisher as Leia for her scenes in The Rise of Skywalker. They cleverly wrote her scenes around what footage they had so that it seems like she was on set with them during filming.
The title is a little misleading. I mean, it does make sense in the end, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Given Palpatine’s plans and what he mentions several times, a better title could have been The Final Order. It even sounds more like a final installment than Rise does.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker feels like the original trilogy and the new trilogy blended together in tone and story. It answers to some things that people may not have liked about the previous film by making them into interesting surprises. There is even a heartfelt theme thrown in about how working together with others, regardless of who they are, is the key to building the best possible future.
There may have been some missed opportunities, and the movie spends a little too much time redirecting the story away from where The Last Jedi led it, but it serves as an outstanding end to the Skywalker Saga and makes my Star Wars loving heart happy.