The final blow to a mediocre sequel trilogy
Review by Gabriela Delgado
Revitalizing a dearly beloved, multimillionaire franchise such as Star Wars was no easy task from the beginning.
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm for a whopping $4.05 billion (you read that right, billion), Star Wars fans both rejoiced and worried for the future of the Skywalker saga. After all, the last few times the story had graced the silver screen with the prequels, the fandom had been left with a bittersweet aftertaste that refused to leave. Disney came in like their last hope, a huge studio that had managed to make other esteemed universes like Marvel come to life in unexpected, but welcome, ways.
What followed was an exciting seventh instalment, a polarizing eighth, and a terribly disappointing ninth episode. Rise of Skywalker is a disheartening end to Star Wars and a frustration to fans all over the world who had hoped for answers to the burning questions that have haunted us since 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Staying away from spoilers for one of the most awaited films of the year in our era of social media was extremely difficult but somehow I succeeded, for the most part. I’d originally planned to watch the film as soon as it came out, but the lack of enthusiasm from people online and offline deterred me from buying a ticket as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, my endless love for the characters and George Lucas’ universe finally drove me to watch it, albeit by myself, with no real expectations to meet. I’d loved The Force Awakens and disliked The Last Jedi (2017), so Rise of Skywalker would be the final piece in deciding whether this sequel trilogy lived up to the legacy of the original, or if it failed despite Disney’s ‘saving grace’. It was incredibly disappointing that the latter ended up being the case.
Episode IX follows Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and company on a quest to find the recently resurrected Emperor Palpatine. Their adventure takes them through several planets as Rey continues to explore the Force and her connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and gets closer to the truth about her origin.
Rise of Skywalker is a strange film. It negates every polarizing, bold choice that writer-director Rian Johnson made in The Last Jedi by tonally and aesthetically mirroring that of The Force Awakens, and by cutting out several developments that had been made in the previous film. It feels like J.J. Abrams decided to pull out the Uno Reverse card on anything Johnson built up in Episode VIII.
Not even the classic Star Wars staples such as the lightsaber action scenes, the good natured humour, and John Williams’ beautiful score, are able to save Rise of Skywalker. The result is a film with awkward pacing, cheesy dialogue, and underdeveloped characters that tries —and fails— to tie every loose end while introducing many more.
The character arcs that Abrams introduced in The Force Awakens, which ultimately lead the plot of the sequel trilogy, either get a mediocre resolution or are abandoned halfway. Kylo Ren’s predictable redemption is probably the most satisfactory of all, but the abundant plot lines explored in Rise of Skywalker take away from the emotional depth that we’d been guaranteed from the start.
Daisy Ridley certainly tries her best to save Rey’s characterization by delivering some of her best acting, but it’s not enough to explain some of Rey’s questionable choices. When she was first introduced, Rey promised to be a complex character that went beyond the Skywalker name; unfortunately she’s held back once again by her quest for her past, a plot point that, in my opinion, should have been resolved in the first film so she could be allowed to evolve further.
Perhaps the most disappointing of all is Finn, a character that had so much potential that it pains me to see him reduced to sidekick rather than protagonist. Every indication that Finn is Force sensitive is ignored and glossed over in favour of anything else. The idea of a stormtrooper like Finn finally finding himself, and finding where he belongs in the world was incredibly compelling since the first trailer for The Force Awakens dropped. Over The Last Jedi and now Rise of Skywalker, Finn has been relegated to a whiny child that does little more than follow Rey around. Finn is a wasted opportunity that I will never forget.
Did Episode IX do anything right? Well, the visual effects are great, particularly the fight scenes. They gave the fandom a few nods here and there. Billy Dee Williams’ Lando makes a few short appearances. The lightsabers actually clashed. But that’s about it.
I will probably rewatch Rise of Skywalker in a few years and remove it from my least three favourite Star Wars films (where Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace have reigned since the beginning), but it’ll stay there at least until I’ve cleansed my eyes with several viewings of The Empire Strikes Back.