The Reckoning with The Rise of Skywalker
In this article I would like to review the latest Star Wars movie Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. It is the last part of the sequel trilogy and as such it concludes the whole Skywalker Saga which originally started in 1977 with the movie Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Therefore, it was probably the most anticipated movie in Star Wars history. Nevertheless, it certainly didn’t live up to the hype. And I dare say it even further divided the demanding Star Wars fan base.
The movie had its premiere on December 20, 2019. And since its launch in theatres it has received rather harsh criticism. For instance, the review website Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a rating of only 52%. That represents a significant downswing, since the previous two movies both received ratings of over 90%. The critics resent mostly the plot’s diversion from the previous movie The Last Jedi, its rushed pace and its emphasis on nostalgia, although this was well received by the audience. It seems that this movie was tailor-made for the fans who disliked The Last Jedi and loved the original trilogy. As for our local media, on the Czech-Slovakian film database, there is similarly low rating – of 63% which is the lowest grade ever concerning Skywalker Saga movies. As a devoted Star Wars fan, I regret to see my beloved saga falling to such an average level. Nevertheless, I must agree with the critics on this one.
And what are my thoughts on the matter? As I wouldn’t wish to stall, let us begin. However, I should warn you that the following lines are full of spoilers.
There are many ups and downs in this movie. I have to admit that I am rather disappointed with the way it turned out. First of all, I don’t appreciate the fast pace. The movie is full of unnecessary action scenes. Though this may seem like an advantage to some, and it certainly doesn’t allow for any boredom, it takes away from the story as a whole and leaves no space for the development of the characters. This I find rather disruptive. Action scenes overpower the narrative here, and I believe this was purposefully done to please the Star Wars fanbase of the original trilogy, which is believed to crave nostalgia and space scenes. But as George Lucas once said: Star Wars isn’t about space ships and space battles. Ultimately, it is a family soap opera. It deals with family problems, issues between fathers and sons. It is simply a story of generations (Lucas, 2015). Sadly, in this respect the story was underdeveloped. In addition, the movie lacked the ever-present wisdom so typical of Star Wars. I must say that I find the lack of memorable lines disturbing.
Another thing I don’t approve of is the vast amount of characters. The introduction and development of new characters prevents deeper development of the main ones, which doesn’t add up. I would love to see more of Rey’s (played by Daisy Ridley) inner development. In my opinion, it would have been very attractive to get the chance to explore her dark side a bit more profoundly. Secondly, instead of endless action scenes with the Millennium Falcon crew I would have given more creative space to Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver), as in my view he is the most remarkable character in the sequel trilogy. Yet all we see is Rey hunting the way finder and Kylo Ren hunting Rey. Such a waste of potential.
And what seems to me quite amusing is how readily the Resistance accepts Palpatine’s (played by Ian McDiarmid) return. As I see it, the comeback of the ultimate villain of the entire Skywalker Saga should have caused a much greater uproar than it did in the movie. They should have worked him into the plot more gradually. It lacked the moment of surprise.
Another disruptive element for me is the treatment of the action around Leia (played by Carrie Fisher). I do realize it must have been enormously difficult to create good quality content with only a limited supply of unused footage with Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016. These images come from The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, some of these scenes seemed half-witted and simply unnecessary. On the other hand, I do understand they wanted to include as much of Leia as possible. After all, it is a miracle to have her in the movie.
However, what disturbs me the most is the ending of the movie, namely the death of Ben Solo (played by Adam Driver). Apart from it being fairly predictable, the question here is, what purpose does it serve? It is no surprise that the villain had to die. But wouldn’t the metaphorical death of Kylo Ren representing the dark side of Ben Solo suffice here? I mean, apart from the fact that they killed him twice in this movie, it simply lacks originality. They really made him just another Darth Vader, with the same fate. This is hardly a tribute to Anakin. One would say people should learn from the past, not repeat it. On the other hand, his line “I will finish what you started” finally makes sense, as he was able to save Rey, while Anakin wasn’t able to do so with Padmé (Natalie Portman) or his mother. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to see that redemption really is possible? After all, these movies were made especially for kids, so a happy ending wouldn’t hurt here, would it? Forgive me for my attachment, but I really liked this character, and I view his death as a waste of potential. Furthermore, as he is the last member of the Skywalker dynasty, it feels kind of wrong to realize they are all dead at the end of the movie. Rey taking the Skywalker name provides hardly any consolation.
One more element was greatly mistreated here: the Dyad. This mysterious new Force had too much potential to be crushed so easily. As an element yet unseen in the Star Wars universe, I wish they had developed it further, rather than destroying it right away. Also on the Dyad, it would make much more sense if Rey and Ben had killed the Emperor together. Nevertheless, if we are to accept things as they turned out, another question emerges. Why isn’t Ben’s Force ghost in the final scene on Tatooine? In my view, he should have been there with his mother Leia. It would make sense if their death and becoming one with the Force were intertwined. That would be the closure I was expecting. To leave him out like that didn’t do justice to the sacrifice he made to save Rey.
Anyhow, let us now focus on the strengths. First of all, I would like to say that the movie is visually a beautiful piece of art. There are stunning special effects. I am also appreciative of the visual contrast of the planets, such as the colourful and bright Pasaana compared to the dark and gloomy Kijimi. The light sabre fighting scenes, too, are brilliant to behold. The battle scenes between Kylo Ren and Rey and their joint fight against the Red Guards and the Knights of Ren are my favourite sequences in the movie. The Dyad scene where Rey passes Anakin’s light sabre to Ben is without question the best of them all.
I also quite appreciate the nostalgia. It is good to see Lando again, especially considering he is the only surviving member of the original crew. And my love for C-3PO and R2-D2 goes without saying.
Furthermore, I am very appreciative of the parallels, for instance the scene with Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) that is exactly the same as in The Force Awakens but differs in the result, or Palpatine’s monologue mirroring what he said in Revenge of the Sith. Or the Force ghost of Luke finally being able to raise his X-wing from the water, which he couldn’t do in The Empire Strikes Back. Yet the best parallel is probably the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren on the Death Star, because it beautifully mirrors the battle between Anakin (played by Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (played by Ewan McGregor) on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, both being the battles of fates. However, as the first battle ended up with Anakin falling to the dark side, this time it is the other way around. The dark side in Ben Solo, which is depicted by Kylo Ren, dies, and he is redeemed.
Last but not least, I must mention the scenes with Ben Solo, for these were my favourites. I truly admire how Adam Driver handles the transition in portraying Ben in a completely different manner than Kylo Ren. Moreover, I loved the Han Solo-like shrug he performed when fighting the Knights of Ren.
In conclusion, I would like to state that had the whole trilogy been created by the same director, perhaps it would have turned out as a more coherent story. The whole story should have been better thought-out from beginning to end, but it is still worth watching. Nevertheless, for me personally Star Wars is and always will be George Lucas. I simply can’t stop wondering what the sequel trilogy would have been like if he had been the one to create it.
Despite its many faults, I would recommend this movie. For the sake of nostalgia, for the light sabre fight scenes, for the amazing Adam Driver, for the special effects, for the breathtaking music of John Williams, who appears in the film in person, and above all for the very last glimpse of Carrie Fisher, our beloved princess Leia. May the Force be with you, always.
Wikipedia contributors. (2020, March 31). Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:45, April 3, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Star_Wars:_The_Rise_of_Skywalker&oldid=948341507
Wikipedia contributors. (2020, March 30). 2019 in film. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:46, April 3, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2019_in_film&oldid=948120070
Wikipedia contributors. (2020, March 28). List of highest-grossing films. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:47, April 3, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_highest-grossing_films&oldid=947843455
Rose, Ch. (2015, December 25). George Lucas on ‘Force Awakens’: It’s like a “break up” (Dec. 25, 2015) | Charlie Rose [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8hQVlRgFlU
Rotten Tomatoes. (2020, March 31). Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker
ČSFD. (2020, March 31). Star Wars: Vzestup Skywalkera. Česko-Slovenská filmová databáze. Retrieved from https://www.csfd.cz/film/334626-star-wars-vzestup-skywalkera/prehled/
The Rise of Skywalker Poster, photograph, viewed 31 March 2020, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker.
The Death Star Remains, photograph, viewed 31 March 2020, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker/pictures
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), photograph, viewed 31 March 2020, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker/pictures
Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), photograph, viewed 31 March 2020, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker/pictures
Leia and Rey (Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley), photograph, viewed 31 March 2020, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker/pictures