Movies

Star Wars: The Rise (and Fall) of Skywalker

Chewbacca, Poe, Finn, and Rey in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker".
Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Heavy Spoilers Bar

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, 43 years ago Star Wars: A New Hope was released in theaters and took the world by storm with its lovable characters and cheeky one-liners. Since then, Hollywood has capitalized off the Star Wars brand with sequels, prequels, cartoons, and more. Although not every installment of the franchise is the utmost tentpole of quality, the overall silliness has a rightful place in my heart. I was a fan of the original trilogy, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is. The prequel trilogy hit theaters when I was young, even though the acting is a little cardboard-esque, no one can tell me Darth Maul (Ray Park) isn’t incredibly badass (I know I’m going to get roasted for this but at least those three films had a consistent narrative). Segway into the sequel trilogy, *pushes long, lustrous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) hair out of my face,* I have a lot of mixed feelings. 

Unpopular opinion: I was not head over heels for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have already seen that movie, it’s called A New Hope. Star Wars: the Last Jedi was very polarizing for the fandom. It seemed to move the needle too far left, flipping characters on their heads and making bold, game-changing story shifts. I can appreciate that Rian Johnson wanted to switch things up and keep the world-building fresh, but Star Wars fans thrive on predictability. The end result felt foreign. The Rise of Skywalker had more weight on its back than pretty much any other film in the course of history. How do you perfectly put a cap on over 40 years worth of storytelling? How does one creative team tie up so many character threads and plot points? It’s impossible to create a final product that pleases everyone. I knew that going into the movie.

What I wasn’t anticipating is how haphazardly the fabric of the story could be sewn together. I didn’t hate TROS but it wasn’t without a series of agonizing pain-points. Here are my top nine, one for each installation of the franchise, because I’m festive when I tear things apart.

1. The Secret That Stays Secret

Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Finn (John Boyega) has to tell Rey (Daisy Ridley) something. It’s urgent. It’s so pressing that there’s even a follow-up question about it: “What did you want to tell me?” Rey asks Finn. Finn then decides to leave the matter alone. It’s to be assumed that he wanted to finally confess his feelings for Rey (even though the prior film suggests he might be coupled up with Rose [Kelly Marie Tran])?  Finn never comes forward to tell Rey what he wanted to tell her.

J.J. Abrams later stated in a Q&A that Finn wanted to confess that he might be Force-sensitive. Is that really such a dramatic reveal when you’re talking to a Jedi in training? I feel like she’d be pretty happy about it and business would proceed as usual. “Cool Finn, I can train you, let’s go get lunch at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida.”

2. The Bromance… No Hom-Poe

Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker".
Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

It turns out, Finn and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are just lovable-loser bookends to Rey. That’s it. They were there to fill the static that Rey couldn’t fill by learning to be a Jedi. Finn was a Stormtrooper who wanted to be a real boy. He could have aspired to (and maybe successfully) dismantle the First Order infrastructure but did not. Poe was a hot head who probably should have gotten blown up in The Force Awakens (like he was originally intended to).

Instead, he stuck around and whined a lot about wanting to be important while getting his squadron killed on accident. When he finally was important he then realized he needed Finn to be co-general of the Resistance. His character growth was about… admitting he needed an assist? Finn’s growth was… being bored enough to say yes to Poe? All I can say about their storyline is, undefined homo-erotic undertones. Have fun being “co-generals” and “roommates.”

3. The Disclusion of Rose Tic-who?

Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

76 seconds. That’s all the time you’ll see Rose on screen in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Not only is it incredibly disheartening that the writers leaned into the hateful anti-Rose fanboys, but Kelly Marie Tran deserved a redemption arc. I was part of the group that didn’t mind Rose as a character but felt like her to-do list in The Last Jedi was pretty lame. This film was an epic shot at redemption, instead she was bolted to the ground, missing out on the entire adventure. The creatives behind the film claim that Rose’s additional footage made Leia’s pre-existing portions harder to jigsaw into the film. Excuses. They wanted her gone and Death Star laser beamed her role into pieces. 76 one second pieces. 

No matter what excuses people use, trolls hated Rose in The Last Jedi for being a person of color who didn’t adhere to traditional beauty standards, her body was covered, her hair was futuristic, she’s a janitor. Her character is really no more or less relevant than Poe or Finn. Give this character her own Disney+ series. Give her the rightful chance to be beloved.

4. Grow-A-Snoke!

If you like Sea-Monkeys and Chia Pets you’ll love “Grow-A-Snoke”! Just toss some organic matter a petri dish, add a distinct yet random facial scar, skimp on half of the necessary humanoid attributes one would need to be even relatively handsome, add some Andy Serkis for zest, and there you have it. The jar of clone Snokes was a throwaway scene to explain the entire existence of a meaningless character.

The Force Awakens lead us to believe that Snoke would be the new surrogate Emperor (Ian Mcdiarmid) of the final three films. The Last Jedi then backpedaled, and showed Kylo Ren going all Benihana on Snoke’s ass. In many ways, disassembling his importance added to the greater storyline, refocusing Kylo as the big-bad who will do anything to obtain power. 

Making Snoke a clone that the Emperor Martha Stewart’d up in his meantime is convoluted. The original Star Wars Expanded Universe featured Palpatine cloning himself, but that was too confusing so Disney wiped the board clean. As if this plot point was any better? What makes it even worse is that true hardcore Star Wars fans know nerd-details like cloning force-sensitive beings is nearly impossible? Whoever is creating these universal laws is not abiding by them. This franchise is literally a familial space opera, it can be pure fantasy but the content is barely following its own canon at this point. 

5. Leia’s Final Moments

Admiral Organa hugs Rey.
Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) got something to say. She astral-projects herself across the galaxy to her son and distracts him by whispering his name long enough for him to be stabbed by Rey. Did she mean to distract him? Did she have the foresight to know that only her voice would stop him long enough to give Rey the in to bring him down? The sequence feels very much up to the viewer in terms of interpretation. Leia clearly formulated a plan, but no one really knew her angle. I still don’t know her angle. Then, she becomes one with the force and disappears under the bed sheet like an antsy child in a makeshift fort. What a sendoff. Somehow, it’s still more palatable than Mary Poppins force-wielding Leia from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In a perfect world, neither sequence would exist.

6. “The Sims: Star Wars Expansion Pack”

I’m sorry, some things are destined to age poorly. Like the Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia flashback for instance. Because Hamill was used as the base of his CGI younger counterpart, he looked pretty decent. As much as I live and breathe for Billie Lourd, trying to composite over her to look like her mom just came off like this pseudo-Sims character. I kept looking for the plumbob (green diamond icon) to float over her head but could not find it. From a story perspective, SO cool. I had always wished we had seen a sequence between Luke and Leia like that. As for execution, “Sulsul! Plerg Majah Bliff?”

7. Palpatine and the Pizza Time Players

Nothing is spookier than my favorite animatronic from the Chuck E. Cheese and the Pizzatime Players show, Emperor Palpatine. His janky back-rig which held him up like an elderly puppet was anything but sinister. No matter how hard the emo audience roared or the sound fx intensified, I couldn’t keep it together. The most powerful Sith in the universe is floating on a robotic arm that conveys him around as his Hot Topic fanboys cheer. Be careful with this one Rey, if you kill him who will play the tambourine at my neighbor’s kid’s pizza party?!

Brining the Emperor back has its pros and cons. The fact that he’s tied to Rey’s lineage is kind of interesting, but it should have been decided prior to the last film. His existence was took us away from Kylo Ren’s villain arc and really just served as a giant, hooded distraction.

 8. Ben Solo, We Barely Knew Ye

Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

No really, who are you? The second that he leans toward the light, Ben gives Rey a grade school kiss and straight up dies. I can’t be the only person that feels like we put so much footwork into watching him transition to good, to have it be ripped away from us? This may be my biggest gripe of the film. I guess once you kill Han Solo and institute a few genocides, you are irredeemable in the eyes of Star Wars but from a fan standpoint, wouldn’t watching him step off the Falcon and be welcomed by the Resistance as a newfound hero slightly charming? 

Ben comes from a lineage of good, and waived to evil. Rey did the opposite. Together they could have completely balanced The Force, she could have taken the surname ‘Solo’ and that’s how the film could have ended (I realize that does away with the subtitle of the film)? Maybe, in the depths of my soul, I am a self-proclaimed “Reylo” (part of the fandom that wants to see Rey and Kylo together), but is that so bad? In his last moments, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) leaned toward the light side, and died. Kylo could have seen the error of his ways and lived on with the intention to right them. 

9. And Then She Says, “I’m Every Jedi”

Daisy Ridley as Rey in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker".
Image Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“I’m every Jedi,” Rey utters to the Emperor as she destroys him with in just a few short moments. The sentiment behind this message is powerful, but hollow. Rey, you’ve met two Jedi? Three if you could ghost Yoda (Frank Oz). Now you’re taking credit for embodying the thousands of beings who came before you? It’s a nice gesture, but keep it to yourself. You should have said “I’m like three-ish Jedi.” It’s less impactful but far more accurate. To cap off the end of the film, Rey turns on her little light-up sword and it’s yellow. She had no reason to turn it off, but basement-dwelling men everywhere needed to know WHAT. COLOR. IT. WAS. Satisfied?

May The Force Be With You

The sequel trilogy kind of feels like three individual cat puzzles that you find in your basement. You try your best to fit the pieces together, “they’re all cats, this should work” but the parts are not from the same puzzle manufacturing company, and they don’t connect. I wholeheartedly believe the J.J. Abrams and the team at Disney did the very best they could with the resources available to them. It’s important to note that the original Star Wars trilogy was fashioned in the same manner, no one really knew where the story was going in its entirety. Every film was created hoping it would piggyback off the other nicely. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t. 

Honestly, it was just time for the Skywalker saga to wrap, and wrap it did. I will always remain a loyal Star Wars fanboy. I plan for this to be my first and only venture into complaining about this film, the rest of my days from here on out will be spent telling people how no one really learned anything from Solo: A Star Wars Story and correcting people when they call “The Child” his wrongful pop culture meme alias “Baby Yoda,” May the Force Quit on this saga be with you, and goodnight. *lights up yellow lightsaber*

3.5 stars

What did you think of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Let us know in a comment below.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now

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