Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Disney faces an exigent challenge to conclude The Skywalker Saga after a plethora of backlash to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Can they turn things around?

Gavin Sidhu, Media and Culture Editor

The Rise of Skywalker is orchestrated to hit the audience with nostalgia, passion, and love through trying to settle 42 years’ worth of story elements – probably too much for one film to handle. This finale is, all in all, a tribute to the legacy of Star Wars.

After the infamous fan backlash to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” it was evident that Disney would not be able to satisfy all of its fans with the finale to the Skywalker Saga. Whether it was because of the broad jokes, confusing plot lines, or underwhelming character development, Star Wars fans knew the franchise was taking a turn mostly for the worse. If the finale was to be held high in some regard, it would have to tie-up loose ends in only 150 minutes.

“The Rise of Skywalker” made an attempt at doing just that, but it was noticeably lazy and hollow, likely because of both screen time constraints and what different fans were hoping for. 

The biggest problem I had with the film’s plot was the complete reboot of Rey’s story arc. One of the few things “The Last Jedi” did right was the meticulous crafting of Rey’s search for her identity and place in the universe; essentially, you don’t need to be of legendary descent to be capable of something great. “The Rise of Skywalker” completely drops that, and Rey is back to square one, still questioning, “Who are my parents?” I sat in my seat cringing at this repeated question, as it should have so obviously been nipped in the bud by now.

Speaking of Rey’s parents, it turns out her grandfather is Palpatine, which explains why she’s so capable in the force; I am obviously hinting back at “The Force Awakens” when she, a novice, defeats Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel. I also perceived this as lazy writing; obviously, there was panic after “The Last Jedi” when the only “big baddie” – with what could have been an interesting backstory – had been killed. In my opinion, Palpatine should have stayed dead after Episode VI. He’s already had a presence in six movies, and it was definitely time for a new villain to pull the strings.

In a more broad sense, most of the supporting characters felt a bit flat in this film. They feel hollow and are never really pushed further to affect the main plot line of the story. Finn is a major victim of this. His only notable debut was in “The Force Awakens” where he assists the resistance by helping Poe out of captivity. In “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” the side plots he is involved in do not affect the final outcome of the movie.

All of the lazy writing put aside, “The Rise of Skywalker” is actually a very enjoyable movie for Star Wars fans. The visual and sound effects are, as always, top-notch. Lucasfilm did a good job on Leia’s presence via CGI given the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher two years ago. Abrams definitely does her character justice with her emotional passing during her last-ditch attempt to save her son from the dark side.
Billy Dee Williams surprised us with his return as Lando, who actually played a huge part in turning the tide of the film’s final battle.
The acting in this film is definitely the best of the trilogy. Daisy Ridley gives her most confident appearance yet, and Adam Driver continues giving a very effective “less-is-more” performance. 

A two-part finale, in my opinion, would have paid off here. One very good example of this was the finale to “Harry Potter.” The franchise’s finale “The Deathly Hallows” was split into two parts, allowing for much more character development and suspense. While Episode X would have broken the Star Wars franchise’s preference for trilogies, ending with “Episode Ten” would have felt more like a fulfilled saga.

Despite all of the trilogy’s shortcomings, “The Rise of Skywalker” plays its part well given its long list of demands for only a short 150-minute film. It continues to show what makes Star Wars a franchise that will never be forgotten, whether it be through its exceptional effects, tremendous acting, or unique setting. While the finale may depend heavily on nostalgia to make the ride comfortable for long-time fans, it ultimately serves as a tribute to the Star Wars legacy.