Director J.J. Abrams makes a return to the world of cinematic space operas in Walt Disney Studios Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Following the events of The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is still seeking domination of the galaxy. Kylo made the shocking discovery that long-dead Sith Dark Lord Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has come back to life via “unnatural” Force abilities.
Informing Kylo that he must find and kill Rey (Daisy Ridley), Palpatine sets out on a mission to rule the galaxy. Meanwhile, Rey is perfecting her Jedi training under Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Rey discovers notes from her original mentor Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) about Palpatine’s possible return.
With assistance from her battle buddies Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey sets out to track down Palpatine and put a stop to his evil plans. Assisting the trio on their journey are fan favorites Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).
I’ve always considered myself a casual fan of the Star Wars cinematic. Sure, I’ve seen all the films in the theater, own the previous eight movies on either Blu Ray or DVD, and found great joy in some of the video games. I’m in the minority, but I pleasantly enjoyed the direction that director Rian Johnson was attempting with the series in the previous film, The Last Jedi. Everything that Johnson tried to do in his film is a distant memory in The Rise of Skywalker.
Regarding this latest entry, Disney was more concerned with getting butts in the seats and appeasing fan service this time around as opposed to telling a cohesive trilogy ending. As the film moves along, it’s clear the latest Star Wars entry is here to appease the die-hard fans. However, by taking this route, the heart of the Star Wars magic is lost.
For starters, the reveal of the connection between Palpatine and Rey is a safe and predictable choice. The return of one of my favorite characters Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), was refreshing, but his connection to the new heroine in the film comes off somewhat inappropriate. One of my favorite aspects of this trilogy is Finn (John Boyega), who doesn’t have much to do this time. The screenplay paints Finn as a lovesick puppy when it comes to Rey and somewhat turns the character into a Beta male.
Similarly, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, who was vital in The Last Jedi, is reduced to a brief cameo in this film. Considering the positive representation she gave plus sized Asian American woman, it’s a shame she’s written so weakly here. The writers also make the critical mistake of separating Rose from Finn for the bulk of the film, as the duo’s chemistry was one of the highlights of The Last Jedi.
The acting by the rest of the cast does save the film from being a total washout. Daisy Ridley is still fun to watch as Rey, especially when it comes to lightsaber action. Adam Driver is an excellent bad guy in the form of Kylo Ren, and I’m still hopeful to see Driver take on more action-orientated roles in the future. Oscar Isaac is still having a grand time portraying reckless flyboy Poe Dameron. There’s also some great supporting work in brief parts by Naomi Ackie as Jannah, a former Stormtrooper of the First Order who aids the Resistance, as well as Keri Russel as Zori Bliss and a friend of Poe’s.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t a total waste of a film. I did enjoy the action in the film, and there are a few applause-worthy moments for both the casual and die-hard fans—however, the transparency of playing it safe results in a mediocre close to the Skywalker saga.
Final Grade C+