Really Late Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Date: 27 December 2019

Unlike most of the reviews in this series, I actually got to see the movie while it was still in theaters. So, it’s really a “Kinda but not really late movie review.” 😄 I took my kids to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Christmas. There’s been a lot of angst, vitriol, and excitement about the “last” movie in the Skywalker Saga online. I was just excited.

I want to set the stage so you know where I’m coming from. Star Wars is the first movie I saw in theaters. (Yes, I was a baby but still ….) As much as I love the MCU movies, I’m happy wait until they hit streaming or disc to see them. The Star Wars saga is another matter. I have enjoyed every Star Wars movie I’ve seen. I get misty eyed when the Star Wars title appears on the big screen and that wonderful John Williams score plays. With all of that in mind, the tl;dr is that RoS is a fun movie. It’s not without its flaws but I enjoyed it.

Warning! There will be some spoilers below. Warning!

I need to start with one of the biggest problems RoS has because it colors everything else. I’m not sure J.J. Abrams’ view of the “Force-time” link between Rey and Kylo jives with what Rian Johnson set up in The Last Jedi. Abrams uses it to have Kylo show up where every he wants, whenever he wants. It makes it hard to tell when Kylo is actually there and when he’s not. (Maybe that’s the point? It’s one thing to confuse Rey but confusing the audience is not ideal.)

How matter crosses their link also seems inconsistent. What determines what crosses? It’s seemingly random. (Or worse, matter only crosses the link when it suits the plot.) If you can get passed this, RoS is a lot of fun, if not … well, you’re going to have some issues with it.

Visually, the movie looked great and the way John Williams tied musical ques from all of the movies was amazing! I expected nothing less. There were some great call backs to previous movies all around. The Porgs are back but so are Ewoks. There’s also a fabulous scene with ghost Luke that recalls the Empire Strikes Back in a fun way. (Even Luke smirks at the situation.)

The trailer mentioned that Rey was the culmination of a thousand generation of Jedi. One of the ways they show that is her hearing encouragement from past Jedi. What’s really, really cool for me is that they pulled in Jedi voices from the Clone Wars and Rebels series as well as the movies. Collider put together a really nice post that runs down the whole list. I want to highlight Ashoka Tano and Kannan Jarus. Why? Because it means that the animated series actually matter. Sure, we saw that Ghost very briefly and heard a page for General Syndulla in Rogue One but the saga films have pretty much ignored the series. Plus, Ashoka is one of my favorite characters.

The lightsaber action is great and there are some fun little moments. I already mentioned Luke’s but Ben Solo has a great little shrug gesture that is very much in line with what I would expect from Han’s son.

One of my daughters called RoS her favorite Star Wars movie and one of the others said that its her favorite after Return of the Jedi. I’m not sure I’d go that far. I’d rank it somewhere near Revenge of the Sith. Probably above it but I need to see RoS a few more times.

I’ve pointed out a lot of problems here. The first act has some pacing issues mostly due to the weird Force-time stuff and the reveal of the Emperor. J.J. kinda squeezes an entire movie’s exposition into the opening crawl and five minutes of screen time. This, more than anything else, points to the biggest problems with the new trilogy. Lucasfilm had no idea what story they were trying to tell. It shows. Honestly, the might have been better off splitting this into two movies. Let J.J. have his trilogy. There’s no reason the last part of the story had to be three movies except for tradition and cast contracts.

The prequals get a lot of well deserved flack but George Lucas knew where the story was going. That through-line, no matter how well or poorly executed, is there. There isn’t a consistent story in these last three movies. If Lucasfilm doesn’t start taking a few notes from the Marvel side of the house, the movies are going to crash.

Anyway, I liked Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It’s definitely worth seeing though don’t be afraid to wait until it hits Disney+.