In the weeks leading up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the message was clear, “We’re going to answer your questions.” It’s true. They did. A lot of them. All at once.
This review is spoiler-free.
When the latest Star Wars trilogy started, fans all over the world wondered what direction it would take. Could it live up to the expectations of fans who’d waited decades to find out what happened to Luke, Leia, Han and so many others in that beloved galaxy far, far away?
The Force Awakens delivered that information. Han and Leia got married and had a child. Leia was a General and the leader of the nascent Resistance, and Han Solo was… off being Han Solo.
Luke Skywalker had become a Jedi Master and a teacher, but then left it all behind, choosing self-imposed exile after a terrible tragedy in which his nephew chose the dark side and killed fellow students, while recruiting others to become his own Knights of Ren. Questions answered. Done and dusted.
The Force Awakens also introduced three new characters in the form of Rey (a Force-sensitive scavenger who’s been left behind with no last name), Finn (a stormtrooper, so no name at all to begin with, just a number), and Poe Dameron (a Resistance pilot with a last name and a cocky Han Solo-esque attitude).
And this is where the new questions started. Who are Rey’s parents? Why can she use the Force? Why is she so good at, well, everything? Why is Kylo Ren so immediately drawn to Rey? Okay, but really, who the hell is Rey and why is she such a big deal?
More questions, this time about Kylo Ren. Leia Organa and Han Solo gave birth to a son named Ben Solo. Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. Why? This epic bad guy named Supreme Leader Snoke. Who’s Snoke? Why is Ben looking for Luke Skywalker? Why does he hate his uncle? Why does he feel a connection to Rey? So many questions.
Oh, and a cliffhanger. Because, hey, why not? J.J. Abrams was only hired to do the first of the three movies in the trilogy, so his job was to create a movie that answered some questions, set up new questions, laid out a plot, and get everyone in position for the next guy in the relay to pick up the baton.
In this case, J.J. literally left Rey holding out that
baton lightsaber to Luke Skywalker in the last moments of the film.
Then The Last Jedi happened, which The Rise of Skywalker mostly ignores, save for a few plot points (Luke’s and Snoke’s deaths, Kylo’s new status, Rose, and the Force connection between Rey and Kylo).
In fact, Rise of Skywalker ignores Last Jedi so much that we get a whole new lightsaber handoff. In essence, J.J. Abrams takes the baton from himself and then proceeds to answer all the questions he, himself, set up in The Force Awakens.
All of them. And some of them repeatedly, just to make sure you didn’t miss it the first time. Or the second. Or even the third.
When I walked out of The Rise of Skywalker, one of the people I spoke to said he really enjoyed the movie because it answered so many questions for him.
And maybe that’s exactly what the film is meant to do. We’ve heard fandom complaints about unanswered questions and plot holes for years now. If you don’t feel those issues have been handled after seeing this film, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.
One of the other big talking points in the lead up to The Rise of Skywalker was the amount of time the new trio spends together — It’s apparent in trailers, and the film definitely delivers.
The new trio have more time together than they do in any of the previous films, including what we saw amongst the old trio in the original trilogy. Poe and Finn, Finn and Rey, Poe and Rey, Rey, Finn, and Poe, they’re all together and there’s lots of dialogue between them. Lots of banter. Lots.
Personally, I could have done with a little less of it, but I’m one of those people who likes my banter old school. In doses and short bursts. YMMV. It’s not bad. It’s even fun. But there were times it felt… pushed.
All of that said, there’s a lot I liked about The Rise of Skywalker the second time around. (Yes, it’s been an exciting week.)
The film is beautiful to look at. The cinematography, especially in the sweeping outdoor desert world our characters travel to, is gorgeous. The special effects in this film are an achievement worthy of both praise and awards.
The lightsaber fights are amazing. Both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are at the top of their game, and the fight choreographers and stunt team really deserve so much praise for the skill and complexity of each fight.
The performances are all top-notch. Ridley and Driver are challenged harder than ever and deliver beautifully. Oscar Issac is clearly having a blast. John Boyega is as passionate as ever. Richard E. Grant is evil personified, and Anthony Daniels gives what I think is his best performance of all nine films.
In the end, The Rise of Skywalker delivers on what it’s supposed to be –– a Star Wars film. The end of a nine-film saga that’s touched the hearts of generations for decades and will inspire others for decades to come.
It’s the culmination of a story that began as an idea in a young director’s mind and has grown into a cultural phenomenon that’s inspired so many creative people to create their own movies, their own stories, their own dreams.
Whether it’ll be your favorite, or if it will fall lower down your list, will all depend on what Star Wars means to you and what it is you want from this series.
That’s the beauty of Star Wars. It’s not one thing for everyone. For some, it’s a lifelong passion. For others, it’s a passing enjoyment. Each trilogy has its own passionate advocates and critics, as does every book, film and TV show. Over time, you’ll decide for yourself where this film falls in the overall picture and you’ll find the Star Wars that YOU love.
The Skywalker saga may be at an end, but Star Wars will continue, and I’m still just as interested in what’s next as I’ve always been.
The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.
By the way: There is one question I still don’t have answered and, honestly, I want to know the answer to it. At one point, Finn tries to tell Rey something. He doesn’t get to. It gets brought up again a few times but, y’know, in the end, I don’t think we ever heard what it was.
Now they’re gonna have to make another movie!