Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker successfully ends the Saga that began it all 42 years ago. It is a “love letter to Star Wars,” according to co-writer Chris Terrio, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. From beginning to end, it is filled with adventure, love, friendship, family, and that special touch of Star Wars magic that sets it apart from every other movie.
Episode IX begins with Kylo Ren in search of the wayfinder device. Kylo, now the Supreme Leader of the First Order, is brimming with power. Only now, his power isn’t raw like it was before. It is controlled. Focused and determined. Dark.
After finding and using the wayfinder device, Kylo discovers that the voices haunting and taunting him all his life have been from none other than Sheev Palpatine, the former Galactic Emperor. This entire scene is something I’ve been wishing to see in a live-action Star Wars movie: a Sith Temple. It did not disappoint, with towering statues in a cavernous hall and hints of ancient and sinister mysteries.
Initially, the pacing felt off. Everything moved too quickly, including dialogue, especially in the jungle with the Resistance. However, further views (I’ve had three so far) removed the pacing issues altogether for me. I enjoyed the camaraderie between “The Trio.” Rey, Finn, and Poe have clearly come to care for each other in the time since we last saw them in The Last Jedi. Along with the camaraderie comes conflict, but it’s a very natural feeling conflict, the kind that comes from a sense of comfort with each other.
Poe and Finn flourish in this movie, with the former struggling with, and eventually meeting, the demands of command, and the latter proving himself to not only be a devoted friend, but also a budding Force-sensitive. Their development in The Last Jedi was important, but as in JJ Abrams’ first addition to the trilogy, it’s simply fun to watch these two in action. Their friendship, to each other and to Rey, is a pleasure to watch.
The action scenes in The Rise of Skywalker do not disappoint. They are fun, exciting, and choreographed to near perfection. Woven between the action scenes are brief but welcome bits of downtime – a game of Dejarik aboard the Falcon, several private conversations between Rey and Finn, and a farewell to Luke and Leia.
Lest the movie start to take itself too seriously, there is humor throughout as well, most of it provided by Threepio. Rather than a near-constant stream of puns as in Attack of the Clones or a barely-there presence as in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Threepio has come into his own in this film. His jokes are subtle, yet land with impact. This is on display when he declares in outrage to Poe on Kijimi, “How dare you? We’ve only just met!” There’s also the sense that Threepio is done being everyone’s punching bag.
Speaking of humor (not to mention serious doses of cuteness), I respectfully request an entire series starring just Baby Yoda and Babu Frik, with special guest appearances by BB-8 and D-O, thank you very much!
Rose’s moments were few, but I appreciated the more serious nature of her character in this movie. Zorii and Jannah are excellent additions to Star Wars, and I feel certain that there will be more content with the three of them, if not in feature films then in animated series, books, and comics. I hope so!
The tribute to Carrie Fisher, to our Princess, before the final climax of the film is a touching moment, and although it’s clearly a tribute to Carrie, it doesn’t feel out of place within the movie.
Which brings us to the most important characters in the sequel trilogy and the bantha in the room: Reylo. I’ve been on that ship since 2017. Balance in the Force is my jam, after all. Who knew we’d get an actual dyad with these two?
The most important characters are of course Rey of Jakku and Kylo Ren. Their scenes are electric, with Daisy Ridley’s and Adam Driver’s onscreen chemistry adding more weight to their interactions than any mere scrip could provide. There are volumes of things left unsaid brimming beneath the surface, even when it seems they are merely intent on killing each other. There is hurt and longing, confusion, and pain. Resentment. Kylo still desperately wants Rey to join him. It isn’t until she tells him that she wanted to take his hand and join Ben Solo that Kylo understands. It isn’t the man inside of him that she rejected, but the man who hid behind the mask. The man he had tried so desperately to become. This scene between them on the Death Star ruins is a surprisingly intimate moment, and I could watch an entire movie of the two of them realizing truths about each other and themselves.
Adam Driver portrays the transformation from Kylo Ren to Ben Solo with his typical range and skill, and without a single word. Truly magnificent and Oscar-worthy. The change is impossible to miss and yet seems effortless on Driver’s part, so well does he convince us of it. Driver made me want to see more of Ben Solo, and that is precisely why his death is so painful and powerful.
I admire the courage of Abrams and Terrio (and Johnson) to create such a tragically conflicted character, a son of beloved legacy characters. So many of us rooted for his redemption, and eventually grew to care for the man buried in darkness. They orchestrated our admiration and hope, and then gave it back to us tenfold in not only his redemption, but also in his final act: sacrificing his life for the woman he loved. It is one of the most light-sided acts ever seen in Star Wars, joining ranks with Luke’s and Leia’s sacrifices for Ben and the Resistance. Ben’s death is both horribly sad and amazingly beautiful, and I’m grateful for the range of emotion this film has provoked in me. Additionally, the score from John Williams is one of his best. I can close my eyes and just listen and know the story that’s being conveyed.
The reunion between Rey, Finn, and Poe is incredibly heartwarming. People have commented that Rey showed little emotion upon Ben’s death. However, it seems clear to me that Rey, upon seeing her friends, is overwhelmed by emotion. Not only is she immensely relieved that they are alive and well, she is safe within the comforting arms of her friends, free to cry for the man who gave his life to save hers. The mix of emotions the audience experiences is mirrored in Rey’s own feelings of relief and grief. It is an incredibly moving scene, accompanied again by a poignant score.
The final scene with Rey is like Luke’s in Return of the Jedi: a moment of solitude, of ritual, and of farewell. The Skywalker Saga was likely always destined to end with a twin sunset on Tatooine, and I don’t mind the fan service here one bit. The name “Rey Skywalker” takes a minute to get used to, but I’ve come to appreciate the meaning behind her adopting the name. Leia told Rey that she doesn’t have to be afraid of who she is. She also doesn’t have to be who she isn’t. Rey couldn’t likely go about the galaxy calling herself a Palpatine, and so she took the name of the people who gave their lives to save Ben Solo, who then saved her. In taking their name, she not only has the belonging she sought, but also the name lives on through her. The Skywalkers will not be forgotten.
I happily imagine that Chewy, Finn, Poe, and Rose are waiting on the Falcon for her, ready to go home. It truly is a hopeful ending.
I absolutely adored this movie. It isn’t perfect. No Star Wars movie is (thank goodness!). It doesn’t answer every question, nor should it. Star Wars kept fans theorizing for decades and I hope it never stops. The Rise of Skywalker is a wonderful end to the Saga that so monumentally changed movie making four decades ago. I can’t wait to see what comes next!