It’s so much fun to watch Star Wars. It has been an integral part of my life. Growing up from moisture farmer to the man I am today, I can attribute part of that growth to the lessons I’ve learned from that young boy on Tatooine. The Skywalker saga has finally ended, a story 42 years in the making. From the sand swept plains of Tatooine to the dark forces of Exegol, Star Wars has given me a story of adventure, love, sacrifice, and hope that no other story has been able to inspire me with. With that said, I’m here with a grateful heart to review The Rise of Skywalker– the end of my favorite story ever told. May the Force be with you!
Synopsis and Overview
When it’s discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order’s plans to form a new Empire, while Rey anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren.
Despite having his very own cameo in the film, John Williams never ceases to amaze. Although I’ve loved all the music throughout the Skywalker saga, the music for the sequel trilogy has been my least favorite. However, The Rise of Skywalker did something the previous two films couldn’t. Williams’ score reawakened every emotion in my soul and was able to bring out the ‘kid’ in me once again, just like how the OT did. The fun and adventure of Star Wars came back and it took me on a ride I’ll never forget. Beautifully composed, The Rise of Skywalker stands out as the leader of the sequel trilogy in terms of its score.
Cinematography and Visuals
Some may argue that the sequel trilogy has some of the best cinematography and visuals out of the entire Skywalker saga. Then again, some may counter by saying that cinematography has gotten easier with the advances in filmmaking techniques. The latter argument is clearly from someone who is uninformed. Although some breakthroughs in technology have made things easier, at the same time, it’s also allowed cinematographers like Dan Mindel to make Star Wars feel revitalized, yet respectful of its past. Dan Mindel, a talented cinematographer, who is known to have worked on projects like Star Trek and The Force Awakens, has proven that he has what it takes to bring a fresh, new, and immersive feel to the Star Wars franchise. The Rise of Skywalker has done what no other Star Wars film has done before. Besides using the largest sets that’s ever been used for a Star Wars film, the cinematography and visuals from ILM have created the most immersive and beautiful looking film to date. You can feel the Force. I love all Star Wars films and it’s very hard to distinguish which one I love more. But, from someone who has watched the film multiple times, and is a part-time film student as well, The Rise of Skywalker is a cinematographic masterpiece.
After coming off the success of Argo, Chris Terrio has proven once again how and why he has what it takes to write for blockbuster franchises. Although his desire is to now work on smaller projects after dealing with huge franchises like DC and Star Wars, I can tell that he took the time to study and research before writing the script. In fact, he said it himself in a recent interview. He mentioned how he spent months of research studying all aspects of the franchise, including the now non-canon Legends universe. One of the complaints I had with The Force Awakens is that the writing didn’t feel new. The style felt too similar and connected to the OT. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but having new writer’s blood, like Chris Terrio, for The Rise of Skywalker felt refreshing and invigorating, especially after some lazy writing that I felt plagued The Last Jedi. While the writing in The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t perfect by any means, I feel that it was the best out of the sequel trilogy. The story brought purpose, understanding, and meaning to the trilogy and to the entire saga. From start to finish, each line of dialogue felt essential to the plot and drove home the essence of Star Wars.
Along with great writing comes great on-set chemistry behind our main characters, Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Ben Solo, Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn, FN-2187), and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron, Pilot, and former Spice Runner). Although good writing is essential to storytelling, selling the lines to the audience is really what wins them over in the end. The main cast fought the fight and won. Their performances were front and center-stage. Throughout the film, I felt as if I was a part of their little team. When Finn asked Rey and Poe to join hands with him to create some sort of unity amongst the team, I felt as if I was there holding their hands too. I felt like their family. They learned that the only way to win was by having each other. In doing so, they won my heart.
A common complaint among some is that the pacing of The Rise of Skywalker is what detracts from its storytelling. More specifically, some had an issue with the pacing at the very beginning. Since watching the film more than once, I disagree.
The film dives right into the action showing Kylo slaughtering people on the planet of Mustafar. After killing all in sight, he finds a Sith wayfinder device that guides him to the Sith home planet of Exegol: where Palpatine lays in wait. We find out that Palpatine created Snoke, through cloning and Sith sorcery, and that he’s been building a massive Sith fleet all of these years. Through his show of might and power, he is able to convince Kylo to kill Rey and take his seat as the new Emperor. This is when the scenes cuts to showing Chewie, Poe, and Finn playing a holochess game called Dejarik. Moments later, the crew jumps into the action and is able to escape the hands of the First Order by lightspeed-skipping the Falcon, which Rey finds to be most distasteful.
There you have it: a short summary of what some consider to be distracting in terms of pacing. Words can’t describe pacing, so if you haven’t seen the film for yourself, I suggest watching it before passing any swift judgement. However, whether you’ve seen the film or not, the complaint of the film’s pacing was no issue at all for me. Although The Rise of Skywalker felt like a 3-hour movie shrunk into only a little over a 2-hour one, the pacing does no damage to its ability to tell a well-written, well-told, and well-acted story. I do wish some scenes were expanded upon and provided a little more insight into the characters, but that’s what film novelizations do. In this aspect, I can’t complain.
Now, near the end of the film, you will feel out of breath. In my opinion, that is a good thing. However, just when you think the story ends, it concludes with a well-paced and well-timed conclusion to help solve any unanswered questions regarding Rey and the Skywalker legacy.
At the end of the film, despite being a Palpatine by blood, Rey takes on the last name of Skywalker. However, despite her amazing performance and becoming the last of the Skywalker’s, Ben Solo is my MVP. After a tearful and heartfelt scene involving Kylo seeing his father appear to him, through the help of Leia, Han Solo convinces Ben to destroy Kylo for good. Ben does what he didn’t know he had the strength to do: he destroyed the evil inside himself and was redeemed from his evil past. From this, he ceases to be Kylo Ren. Throwing his lightsaber aside, he becomes who he was born to be- a Skywalker. In the end, although Rey is the one who destroys the Emperor, Ben gets the Sixth Man of the Year for showing up when it matters most. He kills the Knights of Ren and after Rey defeats Palpatine, he sacrifices his life to save Rey by using the Force to resurrect her. Although it’s a shame we don’t see Ben as a Force ghost alongside Luke and Leia on the planet of Tatooine, I feel satisfied enough that Ben was redeemed. Without Ben, the Jedi would be no more, and George Lucas would have to rethink about ending his saga in only nine films.
The Rise of Skywalker is my favorite film of the entire Skywalker saga. I never thought this would be possible. It’s not a perfect film, but is any Star Wars film? No. It takes in nearly every aspect of the Skywalker saga and it does the unexpected; it encapsulates the message of the Skywalker saga- HOPE.
Overall Score: 9.8/10