The Rise Of Skywalker had the odds stacked against it very early on. Original director Colin Trevorrow was replaced by J J Abrams, legacy star Carrie Fisher had tragically passed away, and it had to not only follow up The Last Jedi, which proved incredibly divisive but also end the trilogy as well as the nine-film Skywalker Saga. Initial reactions were not positive. Fans on either side of The Last Jedi debate were dissatisfied with the “undoing” of several plot elements, the return of arch-villain Palpatine and the film’s reliance on nostalgia and references to the original trilogy. Now that some time has passed, it’s time to revisit Episode IX and ask, was it really that bad?
“I have a bad feeling about this”
Rise of Skywalker currently sits at a 6.7/10 on IMDb, putting it just ahead of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and scoring the least of the sequel trilogy. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has the second-lowest score of the whole franchise, with only the animated Clone Wars film scoring lower. After the division that The Last Jedi caused in the fandom, it was important for the final installment to have more universal appeal, unfortunately, in trying to appease everyone, the film doesn’t take any risks and relies heavily on nostalgia, without any of the buildup that made the orignal moments so satisfying and iconic. In addition, many of the plot points were retconned, Rey did have an important lineage, Kylo Ren donned his mask again, and Palpatine was brought back from the dead by cloning or dark magic or… something.
So, without the magic of a midnight screening, would I see the stitches holding this film together? Well.. yes and no
“Bring balance to the Force”
Some of the film’s faults are apparent right away, Palpatine, after dying in Return of the Jedi, has returned with an ominous and vague plan. How he returned is handwaved over, almost like the film is trying to jedi mind trick you, and his message announcing his return to the galaxy is never heard (except in Fortnite, because of course). Although it is always wonderful to see Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, his presence doesn’t really add anything other than tie up some plot threads that had already been dealt with. And while the film does seem to go out of it’s way to attempt to put things back on track, it really doesn’t do that much damage when compared to some of the orginal retcons. Let’s not forget that Vader and Anakin Skywalker were once two seperate people, and that Luke and Leia weren’t related. While the Rey reveal in particular does more harm than good, she does still have a solid arc about choosing her own family.
The film also has a few plot points that don’t make much sense, such as the Sith dagger. It does feel like it’s jumping through hoops to explain some elements but not others. Again though, this isn’t a problem unique to this entry, Palpatine’s plots are hilariously convoluted in the prequels as well as Luke’s rescue mission in Episode VI. It also leans very heavily on nostalgia. Nearly every iconic moment from the original films is referenced. Some of these moments work better than others. But the things the film expands upon are some real highlights. The connection between Rey and Kylo Ren remains the best thing about the trilogy. Their “Force Skype” power expanding to allow physical objects to pass between them adds an intriguing new dynamic. The final duel between them is suitably dramatic. The main trio finally being together is wonderful and some legacy characters get a great sendoff.
Was it really that bad?…No
It doesn’t manage to compete with top tier entries, but it certainly isn’t the worst. It feel more like a sequel to Force Awakens than Last Jedi and it can’t quite decide what it wants to be or have guts to stick with some plot points. It feels rather similar to Solo, which isn’t a bad thing, but feels to safe for what should be the final word in the story.
Would Trevorrow’s version have been an improvement? It’s hard to say as the two are very different, but have some interesting similarities.
Overall, this one just needed more time in the oven. The rushed development and behind the scenes drama creates a lack of vision, but there is still a solid action flick in here akin to Force Awakens or Abram’s Star Trek reboot.