HomeReviewsThe Rise of Skywalker is a Hot Mess, And That’s Okay

The Rise of Skywalker is a Hot Mess, And That’s Okay

It has been almost two weeks since The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters, and if you thought The Last Jedi caused a rift in the fandom, I have some news for you. The Last Jedi has been referred to as the most divisive movie in the Star Wars universe. Early on, The Rise of Skywalker seems to be dividing fans as well. It is easy to see how The Rise of Skywalker is loved by some, while it is also easy to see why folks loathe it.

In the beginning of the movie, there is a lot to be catching up with and before any of the action starts, there is the opening crawl. For my taste, I was not the biggest fan of this opening crawl. It spent a lot of time summarizing what everyone has been up to and then immediately shows those characters doing that. Instead of summarizing what everyone is doing, describe some aspects we aren’t about to see on screen. It all is redundant, and the movie would have benefited greatly from a different opening crawl.

Above everything else, the thing that works the least in the opening crawl is when it mentions the speech heard across the galaxy from Palpatine. It would have been a powerful moment to see characters we know reacting to what a speech, by the once perceived dead Palpatine, about the rise and new age of the sith. It would have struck emotionally with the audience and set the stone for his return right off the bat. Now, you can hear this speech on Fortnite, but this is something that should have been in the movie, and not in a video game that only some heard.

Once the opening crawl is over, we get right in the action, and it is awesome. We see Kylo Ren slaughtering folks to find a sith holocr- I mean Wayfinder. It is revealed in The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary that this planet is Mustafar. The planet Mustafar is a fan favorite, and the movie would have been significantly enhanced if they made this clear in the movie with an overhead shot of Vader’s Castle. Regardless, this is a cool moment in the movie. It also shows Kylo Ren going to Exegol to visit a sith citadel where he meets Palpatine. This is when it is revealed that Palatine has been pulling the strings the entire time. In the first ten minutes of the movie, we also get to see an exciting excursion of Poe Dameron and company in the Millennium Falcon and Rey training on Ajan Kloss. These were all great moments that would have been top Star Wars moments if they had just some time to breathe.

After this opening, we then go with Rey, Finn, Poe, and C-3PO to the desert planet Pasaana, and a lot of the events that happen here are the best in the movie. We get some of the best set costume design in the entire movie, and frankly the entire sequel trilogy. This is all top tier Star Wars, and it was beautiful to look at. While on Pasaana, the group of heroes are on a mission to retrieve Ochi’s Blade, which can only be described as a galactic compass to one of the two wayfinders that leads to Palpatine.

On Pasaana there is a lot to take in, like the rest of the movie. We meet Lando, which was awesome! Lando was at his best in this movie, and I loved the outfit nod to Solo: A Star Wars Story. Each time Lando showed up, I was grinning ear to ear and the movie was at its best when he made cameos. We also get to see Rey using her force healing capabilities on a Vexis, which is an armored snake. This was the first time in the movies we see force transfer and healing, another great Star Wars moment! We see a great desert chase scene between our heroes and the First Order which resembled aspects of the Endor chase in The Return of the Jedi. Then our time on Pasaana comes to a close when Rey jumps over Ren’s TIE Silencer, destroying it. They Rey accidentally brought down the ship that has a captured Chewbacca, making it seem like she accidentally killed Chewie. During this force fight, we see Rey use force lightning, and that was one of the top moments of The Rise of Skywalker.

Then we get to go to another new planet known as Kijimi. On this planet, we meet two great new characters, Zorii Bliss and Babu Frik. I would love some extensions on Bliss. She seems like such a great character and left me wanting more. Babu Frik is great in his own right and is the key to helping C-3PO transcribing the sith text on the dagger they have found. Babu Frik reminds me of a drunk friend, at the end of a party, that won’t let anyone go home and gets everyone at the bar to stay longer than anticipated. Star Wars needs that chaotic energy. Give me a Zorri Bliss and Babu Frik Disney+ series ASAP.

While on Kijimi, Rey and the gang go up to Kylo’s command ship to rescue Chewie and everything they found on Pasaana. Their time on the ship also included a force bond fight with Kylo Ren and the big reveal that Rey is the granddaughter of Palpatine. This reveal sure was something. Some people love it, some people hate it, and few are in the middle. It seems like a last-ditch effort to try and justify Rey being powerful. After years of being called a Mary Sue, Disney decided to make it justified by having her related to a royal bloodline. So many people found comfort in Rey being a nobody in terms of her namesake. It taught people, and from what I can tell, especially women, that you don’t have to come from somewhere special to be special. That’s what The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens sets up, but The Rise of Skywalker negates that idea, and as a storytelling choice it is infuriating.

After the reveal and time on Kijimi, we get to visit another moon of Endor, Kef Bir. This is an oceanic planet that holds some of the Death Star II remains. On this planet, three major things happen. First, some is revealed about Finn’s background through the new character of Jannah, who was also a First Order trooper who turned rogue, along with everyone else left on the planet. It paints a picture of a First Order trooper revolt that would make for some great additional Star Wars content down the road. Naomi Ackie plays Jannah so well, and she deserves more of a story told through Ackie.

The second major event on Kef Bir happens when Rey and Kylo Ren fight among the Death Star II wreckage. This gives us a glimpse at Dark Rey, which was a great and highly anticipated moment. It was equal parts creepy and exciting. The fight on the wreckage while visually stunning, lacked emotion for me to love it. I liked it enough, but if incorporated music like Duel of Fates or Battle of the Heroes, it would have had me more invested in the moment. Again, visually this was a great fight, but I didn’t feel as invested in it and part of that comes from the music choices. While it was still some great music from John Williams, it just didn’t hit during the fight like other fights have had. In the end, it was a cool moment because all lightsaber duels are cool but could have benefitted from more build-up and if it lasted longer. This fight ends with Rey stabbing Kylo with his saber and the first intimate moment between the two. It signified where their story was going and was a masterclass from Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley on how to portray an intimate moment with minimal dialogue. This moment also led to Rey showing her force healing and transfer between two humans.

The last scene on Kef Bir was my favorite of The Rise of Skywalker, and potentially the entire Sequel Trilogy. It showed an encounter between Ben Solo and Han Solo. It was the same conversation between the two in The Force Awakens but ends with Ben throwing his saber in the ocean. It was an elite father-son moment in Star Wars, and one of my favorite Star Wars moments. It also took into consideration what Luke Skywalker said in The Last Jedi. In his face off with Kylo Ren, he says “Strike me down in anger, and I’ll always be with you…just like your father.” It was a moment that was a payoff for Ben, and this whole trilogy he has lived in the shadow of his father, so it was nice to get closure on this part of Ben’s story.

After that, we finally enter act three of The Rise of Skywalker. Most of this takes place on Exegol, while Rey starts on Ahch-To to essentially do what Luke was doing in The Last Jedi. I loved that Rey was going this route, but when Luke showed up, I wasn’t in love with it. It was great to see Luke again, but his force ghost looked very different than what he looked like at the end of The Last Jedi, but I loved that he learned the lesson about growing past our failures from Yoda and passed that lesson along to Rey.

The final battle of Exegol was one of the best moments and third acts in Star Wars. In the air, we have the Resistance playing into a classic Star Wars trope of having the feeling that all hope is lost. It created an emotional connection through Poe and, for a second, it feels like this might be their last stand. Then out of nowhere, in a chilling moment, the rest of the fleet comes to the rescue. It is a great Star Wars moment and the embodiment of the true essence of Star Wars – holding out for hope when there seems to be none left. It also has just a group of people coming together to fight for a greater cause, I loved it and it made me so emotional.

Then on the ground, we have the climax between Rey, Ben, and Palpatine. First off, the music of the sith citadel was superbly good. We got a look at Rey and Ben teaming up via force bond to take down the Knights of Ren, face off against Palpatine, and then a force drains to fully rejuvenate Palpatine to semi-normal form. It expanded what the force bond can be used to do, and a look at an expansion of the force through an essence drain of Rey and Ben. Then we get Rey finally breaking through and talking to the Jedi of the past, that was perfection. Then, through her strength rising, Rey hopefully defeats Palpatine for good this time. This leads to Ben coming out of a pit to resurrect Rey, have the highly anticipated Reylo kiss, and then die himself. I love this third act, my only complaint is the Reylo moment feels rushed, but a lot of this movie feels rushed.

The final few minutes of the movie includes an emotional celebration and embrace back on Ajan Kloss that mirrors the ending to Return of the Jedi. It is celebratory and, in my opinion, full of hope for the next generation. Then it takes us back to Tatooine with Rey and BB-8. This scene has been scrutinized, but I love 95% of it. I love the true wonder that Rey has. It’s what made me fall in love with her character back in 2015, and for her to be in awe of Luke’s old home was such a great nod to her character. To her, Luke was this great mythical legend. She met him and might have been disappointed in meeting him, but she still has this raw vulnerability that is seen only in a child. She is at the home of this lifelong hero of hers, and I love it. Now, to the final shot. I love that Rey is looking off into the binary sunset, ready for her next adventure. She claims the last name Skywalker when asked who she is, which plays into the Leia storyline in Bloodline, and there is a lot of power behind your chosen family. That’s a major theme throughout Star Wars. Then she looks over to the force ghosts of Luke and Leia, and although a great moment, where is Ben and Anakin? It feels that at the very least there should be Ben, but potentially Anakin too. It’s a major missed opportunity, but I’m hoping there’s a legitimate reason for it.

Before I get into my final thoughts and overall ideas, I need to rant for a moment. The treatment of Rose Tico and Kelly Marie Tran in this movie is such a disappointment. Now, did I love Rose Tico in The Last Jedi? No. She wasn’t my favorite, but to essentially write her out of the movie is such a disappointment. She has at the very most ten moments where she speaks and is on screen for less than a total of two minutes. It feels like a giant slap in the face after they made a big deal after casting the first minority women as a lead for Star Wars. Then when people didn’t like her, bullied her off of social media, and were bullies; Disney and Lucasfilm took an act of cowardice and took her out of a major role. Say what you want about George Lucas or Disney, but when Ahmed Best was in a similar situation after The Phantom Menace, Lucas certainly didn’t give him a lesser role to this extent. I hope they learn from this sort of thing for the future, now back to my final thought.

There is a lot to take in with The Rise of Skywalker. That should come off as clear from this recap and review. This movie is a hot mess, but I love a hot mess. Are there flaws in this movie? Absolutely. The biggest flaw for this movie comes with the pacing, as well as everything seeming like surface-level Star Wars. For the pacing, it feels more of a sequel to The Force Awakens and has enough plot to spread out over an entire trilogy. While The Last Jedi had some of the deepest thematic storytelling in Star Wars, this all is so surface level. With that being said – there is so much I love about this story. Some moments are my favorite in all of Star Wars, and when you give some of those moments time to breathe, they are tremendously triumphant moments. There is certainly a lot to love, and in the end, all Star Wars is good Star Wars.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Will Custer
"We must keep our faith in the Republic. The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.” — Queen Jamillia

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