This is the first time I have ever (kind of) reviewed a Star Wars film even though I have written extensively about Star Wars for the past few years. But hey, it’s the last film in the Skywalker Saga, so why not?
*****This review has spoilers!!!!***********
The short version of my review is this – I loved it. It worked for me. I left the theater feeling hopeful about the main characters and the future of Star Wars. I also thought the film was a bit messy but not in a bad way. I’m sure I could nitpick this film to death but I feel the same way about all the Star Wars films – why would I?
The pace of the film is, to put it mildy, very fast. But understandably so because there was a lot to do in this film. Arguably way too much to do. My one overall wish, if we could go back in time, would be to convince Lucasfilm to make five or six post-Return of the Jedi films instead of three. I think with more films it would have been easier to tell the stories of the original trilogy characters (Leia, Luke, Han) as well as the new characters (Rey, Kylo, Finn, Poe) properly.
I loved Finn and Poe in this film. I wish if anything there had been more Finn. He is one of my favorite Star Wars characters and his friendship with Rey is one of my favorite film relationships of all time. I adore them. Chewbacca was, as always, a great addition to any scene. Scenes that involved his character were also the ones that made me cry the most. I think this was my favorite C-3PO performance which was a wonderful surprise to me (I’m not a 3PO hater but he’s not a huge favorite of mine).
I never thought Rose would be in The Rise of Skywalker much. Maybe because I wasn’t sure what I would do with her character in this film. But I was still surprised (and disappointed) she was in it so little. I enjoyed the new characters Zorii Bliss and Jannah and I hope to see them in future Star Wars stories. Did they need to be in this movie? Honestly, probably not. But Jannah especially easily won me over. Over at the First Order General Pryde was a pure delight but I kind of wish instead of adding that new character they gave us more of Hux. More Hux please! is not a thing I would be requesting after The Force Awakens but he really grew on me in The Last Jedi.
After seeing The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi I had a variety of thoughts and feelings about what might happen in The Rise of Skywalker. To me the sequel trilogy had dual protagonists – Rey and Kylo. Light and dark. And the more I saw them together the more I thought they were heading for a doomed romance – which is something I have come to expect from all Star Wars stories.
Something else I expect from Star Wars stories is redemption. Knowing that no matter how many bad choices you have made in your life there’s still time to turn to the light. Because Kylo Ren had done so many awful and arguably unforgivable things (which no amount of manipulation by others can excuse) I felt like there would need to be a full transformation from Kylo Ren to Ben Solo to sell any kind of redemption in The Rise of Skywalker. And I think the film (really Adam Driver’s performance as Ben) did an amazing job with this.
I was very skeptical there would be a Rey/Ben kiss in TROS but there was and I think it worked!?! which to me was impressive. I think it would have been much harder to pull off a Rey and Ben live happily ever after ending so I wasn’t surprised that Ben died right after the kiss. Ben giving his life to save Rey. Leia sacrificing everything to try and save her son. These are all very Star Warsy moments to me that work well and make sense in the larger story. I even wrote about sacrifice as a theme in Star Wars earlier this year for StarWars.com.
Speaking of Leia, I was shocked at how much of her there was in TROS and overall I was incredibly excited with how it all was presented on the screen. Seeing a young Luke and Leia training and Leia’s lightsaber both hit me quite hard emotionally in the very best way as well.
The storyline I was the most invested in was Rey’s. Overall I was very pleased with how Rey’s journey continued in TROS. There’s too much for me to say about the challenges and choices she faced in this film for this review so I’ll leave that for another piece. But I can’t help but mention a few of the highlights (or lowlights for some people) of her story.
First the elephant in this story – Palpatine.
Star Wars has been bringing all kinds of people back from the dead lately and let me go on record as saying – this is ridiculous and I am totally OK with that. So while I was shocked at Star Wars Celebration to learn that Palpatine would be back in The Rise of Skywalker it didn’t take me long to embrace his return. (Bring back Satine Kryze for the Kenobi series while you’re at it Lucasfilm!)
Of course, there’s a big difference between bringing Palpatine back and making him Rey’s grandfather. Because The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi took so much storytime to discuss who Rey’s parents were I was prepared for this to be a major story element in TROS as well. To me, who her parents were was an open question after The Last Jedi. Both Rey and Kylo had visions (or feelings) about this topic but they remained murky for me. I didn’t trust them (or any of the creators) since we were only 2/3 of the way through a trilogy.
I’m not sure I would say I love that Rey is a Palpatine but I also don’t hate it. And I think it’s an interesting way to tie the nine films together. In the end, it never mattered to me who her parents were and having her related to literally anyone would not have diminished her character in any way for me. I also pretty much assume all Star Wars character ARE related to one another (if Jannah isn’t Lando’s daughter I will legit be shocked) which is an assumption that has served me well over the years.
I’ll admit I was hoping to find out Rey’s parents were nice people who tried to protect her by leaving her on Jakku so that might also explain why having her related to Palpatine wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. But that leads me to another topic – Rey’s name.
I like that Rey ended up as Rey Skywalker. I like that she chose her name. I thought it was a power move on her part. I would have been fine if in the end Rey said her name was “just Rey” or if she would have chosen to say Solo, Organa, or even Palpatine as her last name. What was important to me is that she chose her name. She chose who she wanted to be connected to. No one bestowed a name on her. She chose her path.
My reading of the end of the film was that Rey was putting to rest one part of her life – a life dominated by loneliness and being told she wasn’t worth much – and moving on to another part filled with promise, and yes, hope. When I first saw TROS I thought it was likely Rey left soon after she buried the lightsabers, never to return to Tattooine. But I also like the idea I’ve heard from friends that she might use Luke’s old home as a new Jedi training ground. Either way in the final moments of The Rise of Skywalker Rey wasn’t really alone for me, she was saying goodbye to Luke and Leia and moving on to a new life with Chewbacca, Finn, Poe, and Rose.
But before I wrap up this review/string of thoughts I want to say one more thing about Ben Solo. And bringing people back from the dead. And how I’m cool with that. I am fully on board with the idea I’ve seen a few people mention on Twitter that Rey could find the World Between Worlds (which apparently is mentioned in the books she has from Luke) and go back and save Ben Solo so they could be together and have adventures in the future. Because while I do love a good doomed romance and I think the ending of The Rise of Skywalker worked quite well … I also love the idea of Leia and Han’s son getting a new chance to make his mark on the galaxy far, far away with Rey. And what I want more than anything is an endless supply of new Star Wars stories with characters I love.