Movies: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Screenplay by: Rian Johnson
Lionsgate, 2019
PG-13; 130 minutes
4.75 stars (out of 5)

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There will be spoilers. I usually try to avoid them, but I don’t think there’s any way to talk about this movie without spoiling some of it, so if you don’t want to know anything prior to viewing, read this after you’ve seen the film.

Imagine there was an address that only two or three GPS systems in the world knew how to get to. Yeah, that’s what this movie starts out being about. Of course, that’s just the McGuffin. Basically, it becomes clear that Emperor Palpatine is still alive and hiding on a planet that only a few of these Sith WayfindersTM can locate. So Rey, Poe, and Finn must go find one so they can find Palpatine and, er, end him, I guess. Before he can raise a new, Final Order and become emperor of the known universe.

Palpatine, meanwhile, has sent Kylo Ren to find and kill Rey because she’s so powerful, etc. etc.

On paper it… seems to work? But then things begin to muddy as Abrams attempts to retcon the things Rian Johnson did in Last Jedi that he would have done differently. Rey’s parentage is finally revealed to be not “nobody.” And Luke (as a Force ghost) chides Rey for nearly throwing away her lightsaber, saying, “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect,” which seems to be a direct rebuke to Johnson having Luke toss said weapon over his shoulder in the last film. Yeah, okay, but the lack of consistency between the last film and this one leaves a viewer’s head spinning. Luke behaves one way in one film and completely differently in the next. Rey is a nobody and then she’s not. Instead of going with the flow, Episodes VII-IX feel like the tug-of-war Kylo and Rey engage in when fighting over a transport ship.

What it says, really, is that one person and one vision should have been in charge throughout. Lucas’ singular vision in Episodes IV-VI meant they were at the very least consistent in tone, if sometimes contrary in small ways. Barring being able to have the same person at the helm for each film, each subsequent writer/director should have taken the baton and run, ideally toward the same finish line, rather than hieing off in random directions.

I didn’t dislike this movie. At least, I don’t think I did? There is no star rating because I’m still trying to suss everything I’ve seen and how I really feel. There were a number of moving moments that gave me chills and just as many that felt nonsensical to me. There is a lot of fan service, some of which I enjoyed and some of which felt shoehorned in to me. But movies—and especially something as big as Star Wars, something that has spanned multiple generations and has avid, ravenous fans—are so subjective. The things I liked will be things others hate, and the things that bothered me will be things others have no problem with. From “who shot first” to now, there will always be debate and dissension.

I will probably need to see the movie one or two more times to figure out whether I actually like it. I loved The Force Awakens from the start and still do. I had mixed feelings about Last Jedi but came to enjoy it more after multiple viewings (though a few of my reservations remain). This one? I really don’t know whether I’ll come to like it more or less over time. Or if it will always be that I like some of it, but not all of it, not nearly. My niggles about Last Jedi felt small compared to my divergent feelings here, so I can’t really foresee how my heart will eventually settle.

I was only a year old when Episode IV came out. It wasn’t until much later that I used to watch Empire Strikes Back on the VCR… a lot. And sometimes Return of the Jedi, though not as often. My best friend, however, was hugely into Star Wars. She and her mother both loved Rise of Skywalker, so maybe I’m just not a big enough fan to embrace everything that’s going on in this film? Then again, I hesitate to compare fans and suggest that some are “truer” than others. There is no wrong or right way to enjoy something, is there?

And if you don’t fully enjoy something, are you less of a fan? I don’t think so. I think discernment, and thoughtfulness, are not bad things. This isn’t a “with me or against me” situation. If you don’t love something 100% that doesn’t make you a “hater.” As the Force shows, there is light and dark in everyone; it’s how you wield it that matters.

I may, after one or two more viewings, or even after some more thought and discussion, revisit this review. I may even be able to decide on a star rating. Until then… may the Force be with you, and with us all.


Fan fiction note: How many people are going to write a story in which Ben impregnates Rey with that last little bit of life force? Like, an extra life in there maybe? For all we know that’s how Anakin happened…