Movie review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker Poster

The Rise of Skywalker

On Christmas Day, Dara and I did our annual “go see a movie” thing. And, as should surprise exactly none of you who follow me and my postings, that movie was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

It’s taken me a few days to get a post together because I’ve been mulling over my thoughts on it, hardcore. The picoreview: I liked several things about it, and actively hated a few other things. Overall I found it a serviceable finale to the Skywalker saga, but only serviceable, which was a disappointment to me. It didn’t engage me emotionally nearly as much as I was hoping for.

I’ve seen reviews that have described the movie as unimaginative. That’s… kind of where I am with it. It makes some plot choices that feel utterly predictable, and presents them in a way that doesn’t reach the level The Force Awakens did to make them fun anyway.

That said, I’m still glad I saw it, and at least after my first viewing, I’m pretty sure I found it more enjoyable than any of the three movies in the prequel trilogy. I will probably need to see it again to find out whether my current overall opinion holds.

Follow the wayfinder to the SPOILERS behind the fold! As always, if you’re coming over to this post from anywhere it’s crossposted (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn), please comment here to try to keep spoilers in a contained area. Dreamwidth readers, your comments section is fair game. (But if any Dreamwidth readers haven’t seen the movie yet, be warned that the comments ARE a spoiler-friendly zone!)

What I really hated

  1. I am actively pissed off that Rose Tico was relegated to barely a speaking part, and that several of her lines were uttered instead by Dominic Monaghan. Don’t get me wrong: I like Dominic Monaghan just fine, and certainly cannot help but be partial to him due to his having been Merry in LotR. But his character, whoever the hell he was, showed up out of nowhere in this movie and uttered a bunch of lines that just as easily could have been given to Rose. Hashtag #RoseTicoDeservedBetter on Twitter was absolutely on point.
  2. Also really not a fan of what seems to be J.J. Abrams’ active refutation of what Rian Johnson established in The Last Jedi re: not needing to come out of a special/powerful family in order to have the Force. I thought the idea of Rey coming from parents who were nobodies infinitely more interesting than making her the secret daughter or descendant of some character we’d met already.

What I rolled my eyes at even if I didn’t actively hate it

  2. Related to previous, one kiss by two women in the background is not, repeat, NOT adequate on-camera queer representation. It’s barely a start.
  3. There were too many plot points that didn’t land with me like I think the movie wanted them to, because they played too hard as predictable and safe. E.g., “OHNOEZ CHEWIE IS DEAD!” Except I was pretty damn sure he wasn’t actually dead, and yep, boom, reveal he was on a different transport. E.g., “OHNOEZ ZORRI IS DEAD BECAUSE KIJIMI EXPLODED” except of course she survived the planet being blown up.
  4. My objection to Abrams’ stomping on Johnson’s “the Force can come from ANYBODY” theme aside, since we knew Palpatine was coming back from the trailers, I was prepared to deal with that. The core idea of “Palpatine is actually the Big Bad of this trilogy” is fine, and it does take steps to try to tie all three trilogies together. On the other hand, I feel like Palpatine’s return in this final movie was too rushed and too shoehorned in. I would have liked to have seen better foreshadowing in the previous two movies.
  5. Corollary to previous: bringing Palpatine back only in this movie means he had no time to be anything except a caricature of his previous appearances. Yeah, sure, it ain’t like Palpatine was ever a character of depth; he’s always been there to be Evil Because He’s Evil Period End of Story. But at least in the previous movies, even in the prequels, you had time to see him actually be conniving, and do more interesting things than hang off a bit of machinery keeping him alive and cackle menacingly about how he’s going to make Rey kill him just so he can take over her body.
  6. Likewise, maybe having to hide out in the Unknown Regions diminished his capacity for a Coherent Supervillain Plan or something, because it sure seemed like Palpatine did a fast pivot from ordering Kylo/Ben to “KILL THE GIRL” to incoherently jumping around between “goad the girl into killing me”, “slurp life force out of her and the Skywalker kid”, and “naaah let’s just make her kill me”.
  7. “I AM ALL THE SITH”/”I AM ALL THE JEDI” was just a bit too close to “I am inevitable”/”I am Iron Man” from the tail end of Avengers: Endgame. Particularly given that Rey actually dies.
  8. Confirmation that Rey and Ben were, in fact, romantically interested in one another. I’m sure all the Reylo shippers were happy about that (and I do not begrudge them that!), but me, I’m all “meh”.

What I boggled at, because WTF?

  1. After all that trouble the plot went to to have Finn be all “REY I GOTTA TELL YOU SOMETHING”, he never actually gets a chance to tell her whatever he wanted to say. Way to NOT GIVE ME CLOSURE, MOVIE. Did Abrams cut a scene where Finn actually gets to tell Rey later “oh hey by the way, that Force thing? I think I have a bit of it?” If he did, can we have that scene on the Blu-ray, please? Because dammit, I want to see that talk. (And I do hope it’s that as opposed to just “REY I LOVE YOU” because again, that’d be too predictable and safe.)
  2. All those hooded figures hanging out in the Dog Park around Palpatine while he cackled–those were just supposed to be the Sith spirits he was cackling about, right? Was there anything in canon lore in play here I’m not actually aware of? Because it seemed like the figures just were suddenly there, without any context as to why. I interpreted that as “these are the spirits”, but I’ve also seen commenters on the Internet with other interpretations like “uh, I thought they were cultists”. Which tells me the whole sequence did a poor job of establishing WTF was going on.
  3. Didn’t we have Snoke in TLJ crowing about how that connection in the Force between Rey and Kylo was only there because he manufactured it? And now in this movie we discover they’re a “dyad”, a special thing unknown for generations? So was Snoke lying out his ass, then, or what?
  4. Editing to add: Did I miss it, or did Rey’s vision of seeing herself and Ben on the Sith throne only get mentioned and not actually shown? I would have liked to actually have seen that.

What I was neutral on

  1. Zorri in general and the whole little side reveal of Poe having a past as a spice runner.
  2. Babu Frik. I know a lot of folks are all HE’S SO CUTE but he didn’t grab me like Baby Yoda did. 😉

What I actively liked

  1. More Leia than I was actually expecting! Which kinda left me in a weird state of being simultaneously dissatisfied with Leia’s participation in this plot (which pretty much amounts to “she fridges herself to save her son”) and acknowledgement that they did a halfway decent job cobbling together ANY plot for her under the circumstances. And I was willing to forgive that in no small part because this movie finally, FINALLY establishes that yes, goddammit, Leia trained as a Jedi. And she does, in fact, train Rey. AND HAS A LIGHTSABER AND EVERYTHING. FUCK YES.
  2. Ghost/Memory Han! I did NOT expect that! And crufty old Harrison still looked handsome and dad-like and loving. As I’d rather hope that he’d look if Ben was remembering his father properly.
  3. Lando! Where the HELL have you been, you old pirate? And I actively liked his last little scene with Jarrah, to get in a little extra mileage with the characters of color. Now that there are actually multiple characters of color on screen in a Star Wars movie at the same time!
  4. Wedge!
  5. Editing to add: I did like the brief glimpse we saw of Dark Rey (even if her hissing and showing pointy teeth was a little bit too much Bilbo Reacts to the Ring at Frodo for me), and that bit with Rey throwing lightning because of Ben pushing her into using more of her power. (I think we did get a bit of decent foreshadowing about this in TLJ, but I still feel like her struggle in this regard was still kind of rushed.)
  6. Jarrah and her little crew of deserters/former Stormtroopers. Partly because “hey some new friends for Finn” and partly because nice to see Finn isn’t the only one who went “fuck this, I am OUTTA HERE” at the First Order. Interesting implication though that all of them might have had some level of Force sensitivity, which suggests all sorts of things about whether they’d been engineered into having that.
  7. While I was neutral on Zorri in general, I’ll happily grant that her outfit was pretty bitchin’. I expect the cosplayers of the world are all over this and prepping to show it off at forthcoming conventions.
  8. This may be one of the first times, if not THE first time, I have actively liked something Threepio did. I really liked his being willing to submit to having his memory wiped if that was what it took to get at the Sith translation in his memory banks. Way to be noble there, Goldenrod. <3
  9. Related to previous, I also really liked that Artoo damn well had backups of Threepio’s memory. Because of COURSE Artoo would be smart enough to have finally figured out that’d be a useful safety precaution. (Which of course means I must also mention this lovely little article on Artoo and Threepio, on!)
  10. Force ghost Luke because OF COURSE we weren’t quite done with Hamill’s participation in this story yet. Lovely scene with him and Rey. <3 <3
  11. And I adored that ghost Luke levitated the X-Wing out of the water for her. Because apparently it took DYING for Luke to finally be able to lift the thing? 😀

  12. Voices of women in the flood of Jedi voices Rey hears at the end. Makes me more curious to go watch Clone Wars and Rebels so I can understand who those characters were!
  13. “Meh” as I was on the whole idea of Reylo getting confirmed, I must admit that I mostly feel like they handled the redemption of Ben Solo well enough. I was expecting him to get some kind of redemption arc, and they did indeed go the direction I thought they would: i.e., that he was going to have to die as part of it. Which was in fact the only way I was willing to accept a redemption arc for him, because I still hold a grudge against that prat for killing Han Solo. 😉 Part of me feels like the redemption was a trifle rushed–so what, he gets one Force ping from him mom, has one strong memory/hallucination of his father, and he comes back to the light? Presumably there was also some high degree of connection with Rey there, and responding to her Force-healing him, but I had to take that as implied. And it still all felt kind of rushed. (Though I’ll also grant that this may have been the best they could have done what with Carrie Fisher’s passing away. I kinda expect that if she’d still been with us, Leia would have had a more active role in her son’s redemption.)
  14. Speaking of Rey Force-healing, I did actively like that, too. And that she got to do it a couple of times. Nice to see the Force being used for something besides combat or mental manipulation.
  15. Poe being all “HALP I need your assistance with this plz be my co-general” at Finn, and Finn gratefully accepting. Because SPACE HUSBANDS.
  16. Rey rejecting her being a Palpatine and claiming the name of Skywalker for herself. I was expecting something like this to happen, i.e., that she’d claim the name. And I do grant that her having been a Palpatine makes her going “fuck that, I’m gonna be a Skywalker” dramatically and thematically appropriate.

In conclusion

Writing all this out, I feel like my picoreview at the top stands: I’m ambivalent on the movie, but leaning in the direction of liking it. I wish I could have found it something better than serviceable, but hey. I’m willing to see if my opinion of it improves after more viewings! And it’ll be interesting to watch it in closer proximity to TFA and TLJ in the future.

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