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Rant & Rave—Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars has never been as divisive as it is today. Disney’s sequel trilogy has, at best, been a mixed bag, and it was always going to be difficult to bring a close to such a turbulent story. Stepping up to the plate in an attempt to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the galaxy-spanning saga is the final film in the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams returns to the director’s helm for the final time in this franchise, bringing a close to the trilogy that he started back in 2015.

On the surface, The Rise of Skywalker hits every note a Star Wars movie ideally should: vast sci-fi landscapes, epic lightsaber battles, breathtaking spectacle, and displays of the powers of the Force. However, the film suffers from the same problems that have plagued the previous entries in the sequel trilogy, such as a wildly convoluted plot, inconsistent characterization, and an excessive amount of retcons that force the story to go back on nearly everything that has been established in their world thus far. The result is an ending that lacks heart, appearing to paper over the cracks created by its predecessors, failing to make any significant mark on the world of Star Wars and beyond.

Risen from the ashes

The film begins with Star Wars’ iconic title scroll, revealing that Emperor Palpatine—once thought killed in Return of the Jedi—is alive, and has been behind the First Order from the very beginning. Having received a broadcast of Palpatine’s plans to mount a devastating assault on the galaxy, the Resistance sends Rey, Poe, and Finn to find Exegol, where the Sith Lord is building his new fleet.

What’s good about the film is that, unlike previous installments, the main trio of the sequel trilogy embark on an adventure together. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac have remained true to their characters ever since The Force Awakens, and their onscreen chemistry shines, especially in the first half of the film. Their banter is quick, funny, and well-in character—a smooth transition from the heavier plot progressions in the story. The company of C-3PO, and the surprise appearance of Lando Calrissian, with Billy Dee Williams reprising his iconic role, gives veteran fans little bits of nostalgia that they can enjoy from their witty interactions.

On a technical level, there is a lot to enjoy. The film is jam-packed with action sequences, from chase scenes on speeders and spaceships to deadly lightsaber duels we’ve come to expect from Star Wars. Abrams doesn’t pull punches when it comes to spectacle. From the colorful villages in Pasaana to the treacherous waves of Kef Bir, the backdrop of each battle is set in gorgeous sci-fi landscapes, with each set piece showcasing the vast worlds a galaxy of Star Wars’ scale can hold. 

The music in the film is also as wonderful to the ears as ever. John Williams has crafted a stellar score for the film, sampling his work from the original trilogy to create a somber yet riveting setlist for this trilogy’s finale—a fitting performance for his final score in the franchise. The sounds of triumph, desolation, and hope are all captured in the film’s music, evoking the emotion of classic Star Wars in every note.

Strike me down
What ultimately ends up being the downfall of the film is its story, which tries so hard to change and correct what has already been established, while also rushing to some semblance of a conclusion.

It’s no secret that The Last Jedi was a movie that received a huge amount of backlash, and it was so strange to see the movie bend over backwards to such a gargantuan degree in an attempt to cater to fans who had found the previous entry unappealing. 

Palpatine’s return as the main villain of the franchise, despite being presumed dead in the original trilogy—a  point the movie never bothers to explain fully—comes across as some form of atonement for having abruptly killed Supreme Leader Snoke in the previous film. Rose Tico, a character in The Last Jedi who was not well-received by fans—evidenced by the barrage of abuse Kelly Marie Tran received after the film’s release—was demoted to a background character in the trilogy’s final chapter. 

Rey’s lineage receives yet another update as well, despite questions about her parent’s identity having supposedly been answered in the previous film. These are but some instances in the film that make it feel less like an actual story, and more of a series of attempts at damage control.

Beyond the retcons, the film’s narrative itself feels messy and perplexing, as though the writers just wanted to arrive at an ending, regardless of how they got there. Characters are launched back and forth across planets at breakneck pace, throwing them into a convoluted fetch quest. The story also attempts to shock the audience by teasing major character deaths for no good reason and then  backtracking, undoing any emotional impact it might have had on the audience and on the characters. Throughout the film, the characters’ actions are constantly based on flawed logic, with some decisions being nothing more than what the script demanded. 

Despite all of this, everyone ends up right where they need to be, and everything gets wrapped up nice and neatly. It defies logic to such a great degree, putting any amount of thought into any aspect of the story dissolves any suspension of disbelief one may have.

To see the last film in this trilogy end in such a drab and insipid manner is so disappointing; in trying to correct the mistakes of those that came before it, The Rise of Skywalker fails to give audiences a reason to fall in love with the story it is telling. Where previous films told inspiring stories of good versus evil, with even the worst films in the franchise having a core message at its heart, the sequel trilogy’s final film is hollow and empty, leaving Star Wars fans everywhere asking what the point was of having watched this all play out.

What they grow beyond

The Rise of Skywalker is just about an average blockbuster. Though the film leaves much to be desired given the context of Star Wars as a whole, the film still displays a great level of competence in its surface level aspects, featuring solid visuals, good acting, and another killer John Williams score. However, flashy lightsaber duels and epic battles aren’t enough to make a good Star Wars film.

Though sequels and spin-offs are sure to continue coming to a galaxy far, far away, it is clear that many fans have become tired of the controversial decisions made in moving Star Wars forward. For better or worse, this chapter of the Star Wars story has come to a close—and only time will tell where the franchise goes from here.

Rating: 2/4

By Anakin Loewes Garcia

By Westin Perez

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