After enduring two whole years being depressed and uncertain about Star Wars movies due to Rian Johnson’s arrogant deformation of the franchise with his abomination The Last Jedi, I am happy to say that I’m happy again after watching Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.
This is my review of The Rise of Skywalker directed by J.J. Abrams and co-written by Abrams, Chris Terrio, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly.
The movie begins with the First Order’s supreme leader Kylo Ren on an unrelenting quest that leads him deep into the galaxy where he finds the uncharted destination of Exegol. There he meets a living Palpatine who turns out to be the creator of the late Snoke, the previous supreme leader of the First Order.
Palpatine knows that Rey is still training as a Jedi and he tells Kylo to eliminate her. Palpatine also has a brand new fleet composed of advanced star destroyers armed with powerful weapons capable of destroying planets.
Meanwhile, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca travel in the Millennium Falcon to obtain crucial information from a spy about the location of Palpatine.
Let me start with the fact that The Rise of Skywalker is, unsurprisingly, a flawed movie that happens to have more good stuff than bad ones. To put things into perspective, J.J. Abrams and their creative team had to make a new movie following the abomination The Last Jedi which, literally, dug a large hole and let the Star Wars film franchise fall deep into it. Not only did Abrams and team work to lift the franchise up and move it forward by having a story that not only made sense but resonated with Star Wars fans while delivering long bouts of cinematic fun. If you want to focus on the fun factor, The Rise of Skywalker is a joy ride while Rian John’s The Last Jedi was sluggish and frustrating to watch.
Storytelling? This movie has been bashed for having a video game-inspired approach of narrative: the band of protagonists go to a new location where they meet people as they move to fulfill a goal only to be hounded by opposition from the antagonists, then they go to a new location where they meet people and similar events repeat.
In some ways, The Rise of Skywalker reminded me about the video game Grandia, Final Fantasy IX and other role-playing games (RPGs) I personally played. While the use of video game-inspired narrative is not the perfect tool to use for a movie, this approach actually works in The Rise of Skywalker! For one thing, the sense of excitement and adventuring I enjoyed from the original Star Wars trilogy returned and I enjoyed every moment of it. This translates into fun while remaining focus on the story objectives and characters. I do confirm that there were lots of spectacles (lots of lightsaber action, shooting, running and spaceship battles) throughout the movie that kept me entertained most of the time. There was no boring moment, not even in the slowest scenes.
The use of video game-inspired narrative also worked in building up the tension leading into the series of events that lead into the final conflict. The result? It paid off nicely! The final conflict and the way the story ended were all worth the wait and build-up! Considering how terrible events happened and ended in The Last Jedi, what was achieved in The Rise of Skywalker was a tremendous achievement!
On the aspect of emphasizing the Force and the Jedi themselves, this movie, in my honest opinion, took inspiration from the non-canon Star Wars Legends (previously referred to as Star Wars Expanded Universe), specifically with elements from the Dark Empire comic book mini-series of 1991-1992. When a key visual in the film was shown to explain Palpatine’s survival, I was not surprised at all.
When it comes to performances, Daisy Ridley really defined herself as an actor and she really defined Rey as a Jedi (with assistance from Abrams and the screenwriters) who carries a huge burden related to her heritage (you’ll find out in the film). After watching Rey in the first two films struggling to learn and move on, she is a more developed character in this movie. That’s not all. Poe and Finn have been more refined and it is through adventuring that they really became lively and believable characters. Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren consistently delivered the symbolism of the dark side of the Force (specifically consuming the younger generation) with the exception of a key twist that took place much later (you just have to watch the movie). Ian McDiarmind’s return as Palpatine is undeniably great and a welcome return to form. The actor really showed he is great in portraying cinematic evil.
When it comes to classic Star Wars characters, the filmmakers cleverly used existing footage of the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia and by means of editing and scene set-ups, they succeeded in inserting the character into the narrative complete with recorded dialogue that relate to the events that happened. Billy Dee Williams, meanwhile, made a great return as Lando Calrissian. While I wish his screen time was longer and his character was more involved with the remaining Resistance, it was still nice to see Williams literally disappear letting Lando come to life on-screen once again.
As mentioned earlier, The Rise of Skywalker is a flawed film. For one thing, there are several plot holes here and there (responded to via visual dictionary). There were also new Force powers that were not fully explained in detail. Those weaknesses, however, did not really drag the film that much. The bad stuff here is NOTHING compared to all the creative garbage Rian Johnson (plus the trash from the Political Left in Hollywood) filled in The Last Jedi since that director was too obsessed with subverting people’s expectations all throughout.
What I admire in it is the effort done by Abrams to connect it with 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The shots of the remains of the 2nd Death Star in the previews only literally show the tip of the iceberg.
As a follow-up to The Last Jedi, this movie moved in two ways: correcting what was set in Rian Johnson’s abomination while also somewhat building up on what was also established in that same abomination. Ultimately, the course-correction done by Abrams and team made The Rise of Skywalker not only fun and engaging, but also recaptured the elements that defined Star Wars as a cinematic experience. There were also key scenes that, in my view, allowed this movie to punch back at the deformation done in The Last Jedi. I smiled a lot when those creative moments took place.
When compared to The Force Awakens, this movie is actually more fun and more engaging. In fact, it is indeed the best of the current Star Wars trilogy (2015-2019).
With this current Star Wars trilogy concluded, I do regret that the classic characters of Han, Luke and Leia ended up as supporting players and the trio of Rey-Finn-Poe (who are welcome additions to the Star Wars family of characters) as protagonists still pale in comparison to them. To simplify things, Luke-Han-Leia are iconic while Rey-Finn-Poe are serviceable protagonists at best.
Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker is a solidly good Star Wars film and is itself a major recovery from the debacle of The Last Jedi. As the ninth chapter of the entire Star Wars main movies franchise (which first started in 1977), it is a flawed yet worthy addition (and also worthy as the new conclusion) into the saga that involved the Force and the Skywalkers. It is nowhere as great as The Empire Strikes Back (the best Star Wars movie ever) but it is, in my opinion, better and more engaging than The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith respectively.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is recommended.
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