“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, the climactic conclusion to the trilogy of one of the most beloved stories of all time.
“The Rise of Skywalker” brings all of the emotions, questions, and mystery swelling over the past 4 years to a satisfying end. The movie delivers on everything expected from a Star Wars movie: glorious space battles, intense lightsaber duels, internal struggle, a clash of light and dark, and a sinister force lurking in the shadows that must be stopped. Following the events of the last movie, “The Last Jedi”, Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren, is on the hunt for this sinister force that seems to be behind the previous supreme leader, Snoke. The Wayfinders; two artifacts created to navigate the Unknown Regions, holds the key to finding this evil force that threatens Kylo’s power. Meanwhile, Rey trains under the tutelage of Princess Leia Organa, developing her force abilities and fighting skills while Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca set out to retrieve information collected by a spy in the First Order.
As the trailer alludes, the puppeteer influencing Kylo Ren from the beginning is none other than Emperor Palpatine. Hiding away on a remote planet called Exogol, Palpatine was the one behind Snoke and the First Order and has been secretly amazing an army of Star Destroyers, each equipped with planet-killing weapons, that dwarf the fleet of the First Order. He offers Kylo a deal; kill Rey and together they will join forces as the Final Order to rule over the galaxy. The Resistance learns about this threat from the information given by the spy and sets out to search for the second Wayfinder so they can get to Exogol and defeat the Final Order once and for all.
The main focus of the movie is the connection between Kylo and Rey. Building off of the connection developed in “The Last Jedi”, Rey and Kylo’s force bonds grow stronger as they frequently see each other and fight, trading blows and passing objects through the force. Kylo still wants Rey to join him in taking down Palpatine and ruling together and each time they connect, Kylo makes Rey question who she is by revealing more and more of her true identity. And just as much as Kylo has an effect on Rey, Rey has an effect on Kylo, making him question his role on the dark side. This struggle between the two culminates into a spectacular fight. What starts off as a typical flashy lightsaber duel with the almost dance-like fighting divulges into a gritty battle between two unwavering forces projecting their emotions to each other without saying a single word. I always love seeing this kind of fight where the battle impacts the character as they trade ideals with each trading blow.
The plot of the movie is fairly simple, taking very few risks or creating any meaningful plot twists that surprise you. On the Resistance side of the story, the majority of the movie is just one fetch quest after another. They go from planet to planet searching for a series of items all for it to not really matter in the end. It gets a little tiring at some point and the movie could have fared better with a little bit more variety in the quests. On the First Order side of the story, Kylo Ren plays a cat and mouse game trying to track down Rey and the gang as they embark on their series of fetch quests. Additionally, Emperor Palpatine cannot seem to decide what to do with Rey. He says he wants her dead, but then wants her alive, and then wants to kill both Rey and Kylo. For the dark and insidious sith ruler, he seems pretty indecisive and given how quickly these decisions flip, it gets a little confusing as to what his real plan is.
Given these quips about the plot, the movie is still a lot of fun to watch. The space battles are as expected from a Star Wars movie: grand, spectacular David versus Goliath battles where small, nimble resistance ships take on hulking Star Destroyers against all odds. They try to mix this kind of battle up, however, by keeping everything within the planet’s atmosphere. This allowed for Finn and the other resistance ground troops to land on top of a Star Destroyer; a strategy we don’t usually see in a Star Wars space battle. It also has several moments of nostalgia like Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca flying together in the Millenium Falcon. Nostalgic cameos like that created some small cheer-worthy moments throughout the film.
The acting in the film was phenomenal. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley as Rey both deliver fantastic performances of their internal struggles and the conflict between the two. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron is still the same cool and courageous pilot while offering some comedy relief through sassy quips, but we also get to explore a little bit of his backstory before he joined the resistance. John Boyega as Finn was also very good. He has several great moments in the film like the previously mentioned raid on top of the Star Destroyer and as a support for Rey as she navigates an internal conflict about her identity. Daisy, Oscar, and John as Rey, Poe, and Finn have a fantastic chemistry. Poe and Finn especially have developed a great friendship over the past three movies and it shows with their funny banter. Ian McDiarmid reprises his role as Emperor Palpatine. His line delivery as Palpatine has always been iconic and this time is no different. He has an older and frail quality to his voice as Palpatine is barely hanging on to life,
but his voice still reaches the same heights of power and evil it did in the previous movies. Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia was also in this film. Following her unfortunate passing in December of 2016, J.J. Abrams still wanted to include Princess Leia in the film to complete her story. Instead of using CGI to recreate her (besides a flashback to a young Leia and Luke), they used archived footage of her from the last two movies to complete the story. It’s bittersweet seeing her in the movie and it makes her role even more special.
Star Wars fans have had a lot of mixed opinions about this new trilogy and that will probably continue with this film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the discussion and passion about the movies is what makes the Star Wars fandom so great. I believe that going into this film with an open mind is the best way to view it. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was a great conclusion to this trilogy and rounds out the greater trilogy of movies. Check it out when it hits theaters on Friday, December 20th, 2019.