Star Wars: Episode IX- The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Review

The final entry in the new Star Wars trilogy has finally come. Not only is it the end of the new trilogy but it’s being labeled as the final entry in the Skywalker saga and is supposed to wrap up the complete story from Episode I – Episode IX. There was a lot riding on this movie’s release whether it be the need to wrap up the trilogy, the need to close the saga, or even the need to make up for what some fans didn’t like in The Last Jedi. While I was not one of those people that didn’t like The Last Jedi, it was a very apparent that many fans were expecting some kind of course correction in this new film. Bringing back JJ Abrams to direct this film seemed to be a step in the right direction since most fans were positive about his first film The Force Awakens. Bringing him on clearly sent a message that they were going back to someone they trusted and what you could say is a safe choice, so the question was whether or not he would do his own thing and give us a great movie or make a movie by committee. I finally got to see it last night in an IMAX theatre, so let’s see what I thought about it!

In my reviews of the other movies in this series, I have always been a bit of a defender to all of them to a certain extent. While I point out flaws and issues that they have, I do find a lot of good in them because I’m just a lover of the franchise. Coming out of this movie, I had to take time to take in what I saw and to think on it rather than rushing into doing a review immediately after watching it. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, my feelings seem to be the same now as they were when I first came out. This is the most disappointing Star Wars movie I’ve ever seen for the first time in theatres. I wanted so bad to like this movie and tried to find positives in it and there are some positives, but overall I was absolutely disappointed and it pains me to say that. The most broad way to look at it is that there are many things that on paper seem like a good idea, but are executed poorly. There is a good movie in here somewhere but it just wasn’t the movie that was presented. It was very clear that this movie feels connected to The Force Awakens and has a similar look and feel to that movie and is very much detached from The Last Jedi. There isn’t anything specific I would say that this movie does to intentionally retcon anything in the previous film, but there are some things that it brushes over or pushes to the side like the character of Rose. I’m not sure if it was because of all of the hate the actress received after the release of The Last Jedi or if it was because it wasn’t a character that JJ created, but she is pushed to the side from the very beginning. She isn’t given anything to do and her storyline and relationship with Finn is not picked up in the slightest and seems to be just thrown in there for the fact that people would question where she was if she wasn’t in there. The other most notable thing that differed from the previous movie was the character arc that Kylo Ren went through. It was clear that in the first movie he was immature, angry, and childish at times, but in The Last Jedi, he clearly becomes more mature, and in control of the First Order with no care about what anyone else thinks. This movie very quickly takes the development of that character in the last movie and turns him right back into the version of the character that we saw in The Force Awakens. They have him rebuild his helmet for no apparent reason and he listens to what Palpatine asks of him only to defy him for his own purpose only to eventually turn to the light side. His character arc is all over the place in this movie and doesn’t flow at all in consistent with how it was in the last movie. These two specific things seem to feel like JJ was trying to make a continuation of his movie rather than making a complete continuation of the trilogy from The Last Jedi. I don’t feel like it was the best decision because it will eventually make watching these three movies difficult with the inconsistencies between each movie.

From the very opening crawl, this movie throws us our plot point of Palpatine being back from the dead and how Kylo Ren is seeking him to destroy him. From the opening crawl I already cringed because it feels rushed and thrown at us in words rather than visuals. It’s something that should have been revealed through imagery rather than writing and only further worsens when the whole opening is a rushed mess of setup. We see Kylo slow motion fighting on a planet to retrieve an item that takes him to another world where he finds Palpatine who reveals that he wants Kylo to join him and take over his Final Order fleet in exchange for killing Rey. This whole opening seems to be thrown at you so fast in an attempt to set up the plot as quick as possible. The Final Order being several thousand ships with all of them having planet destroying capabilities is a step too far. It’s like they had to do better than the Death Star so they bring in Starkiller base, they had to do better than Starkiller base so they bring in The Final Order. It’s just too much for me because I already know that the ships are going to have to go against the resistance who is going to somehow destroy them all in a climactic battle. Unfortunately that climactic battle was poorly done with every opportunity to be fantastic, but failed to stick the landing. Back to the plot of the movie though, the whole point is that they all find out that Palpatine is alive and apparently everyone somehow knew or had a feeling that he was still alive but never once said anything up to this point. They want to take the fight to him so that they can kill him before time runs out and he sends all of his ships to destroy all the planets in the universe. Typing this out in detail makes me roll my eyes even harder. The last movie had a time frame against the clock plot and this one did too, both of them were handled poorly. Why can’t we just get a good story with stakes that aren’t reliant on time as the suspension creator. They figure out that they have to find a way finder so they follow some clues that take them to a planet where they magically run into Lando who somehow got there before them and then find out that Luke was following some clues of a killer who knew how to find the way finder. That same killer apparently killed Rey’s mom and dad, and her dad is of course Palpatine’s son. All of this seems to make the universe so much smaller. This goes on and on as they go through problem after problem that takes them to different planets that seems to just drag out to a point that you start to realize that there really isn’t much of a plot here. Just a plot point to cause our characters to go through trouble on new worlds and meet new characters and revisit old places. There’s no real compelling narrative that keeps me invested once you see beyond that.

Eventually we get to the point where things get a little more serious and we get to the real meat of the story. They make it to the moon where the second death start pieces had crashed landed and that is revealed to be where the way finder is located. Rey goes onto the Death Star by herself and manages to find the way finder only to have to fight a dark side version of herself for a brief moment and then finally having to confront Kylo Ren. This is where the movie actually started to pick up for me. It was finally giving us a confrontation of two worthy opponents and actually continues the relationship and arc that they both went through in the last movie when talking about why she didn’t take his hand. This leads to an epic duel that reminds you of the match between Obi-Wan and Anakin on the lava planet just in this case its ocean and waves. It’s awesome moment that ends with a surprise fatal blow, a death, a revival, and a turn followed by a surprise cameo. It’s amazing that a moment so great could go off the edge so quickly. I know that Rey stabbed him out of anger, but what at that point compelled her to want to heal him and bring him back only to ditch him? Was it the fact that she instantly regretted what she did? She had the time to think about it, but she did it anyways. It didn’t work that well for me. In that action, Leia dies because of her connection to Kylo Ren that apparently was supposed to star swaying him towards turning to the light side. This only furthers when Ben now has a memory of Han that turns into a conversation with a memory in a scene recreated from The Force Awakens between the two, except this time Ben throws the saber and is now finally good…I had assumed that they were going to go with trying to redeem him and I could see a way where it could work, but really it just doesn’t. It’s very clearly set up in the last movie and in this movie that he already had his moments at redemption and turned them down. He is very clearly from the start of this movie full on for himself and The First Order and ruling the galaxy and what occurs during the end of the fight with Rey does not in any way convince me that it was enough to push him back to turning to the light.

All of this finally ends with Rey running away only to have a conversation with force ghost Luke and she realizes that she needs to confront her fear and face the emperor. He raises his broken X-Wing from the ocean and it’s now magically fixed and perfectly capable of working after several years of being submerged and she takes it to face the emperor. The Resistance gets a signal sent from her and realize that she’s heading to the Sith planet so they follow. They also send Lando to recruit as many people as he can to join them in the fight (honestly probably only giving him a short amount of time to go to several systems). This brings us to the confrontation between Rey and Palpatine and how she’s in a no win situation, while this is happening, Ben shows up on the planet with a blaster and starts getting beat to hell by the Knights of Ren (incredibly disappointing). Palpatine convinces her that the only way to save her friends from the war is to strike him down and become the Empress Palpatine. She gets ready to strike but then realizes that Ben is there and about to get defeated so she pulls a Houdini and sends the lightsaber to him so he can defeat them and then she pulls out Leia’s lightsaber and they fight Palpatine together. Palpatine steals their life force, shoots lightning in the sky, throws Ben in a pit and is about to win until Rey feels the force of all the Jedi. It’s a cool moment with recognizable voices, but still seemed a little much. She now has the strength of all the Jedi and uses two lightsabers to deflect the lightning and melt Palpatine’s face off (Raiders of the Lost Ark style) thus killing him and apparently killing her. Ben shows up, revives her with force, they kiss, he dies, everyone wins. So there’s a lot to take in with the ending of the movie. I could go on and on with what I didn’t like about this or how it didn’t work which I plan on doing in a full editorial over the Skywalker saga, but really a lot of it stems back to them trying to do too much in this movie.

This is a movie that very clearly is a movie made by committee with the intention to appease fans and to fix things that were disliked before. In doing this, you still split a fan base that was already split before. For some people that loved The Last Jedi  you may have split them on this movie, by not picking up on many of the things set up in that movie. For those who hated The Last Jedi, you gave them a movie that is very much fan service as a sort of apology for getting risky. I enjoy a series getting risky and taking a chance and they certainly took chances in this movie, but they didn’t do anything risky for the sake of telling a good story. They went risky for the sake of trying to please everyone and connect everything in a way that should have been set up more through the other films but wasn’t. This is a movie that comes off very much like it should have been two movies at least, but honestly should have been set up more in the previous films. It looks like they had a plan for an endgame for this trilogy early on before The Force Awakens but instead of planning out the trilogy before and bringing in directors to direct the plans you already have, they decided to be careless with how they managed the trilogy and now we see ourselves with a movie that just doesn’t work. I know many people that loved it and feel like it worked perfectly and I’m happy for them and that they were able to have that kind of experience with it. Unfortunately it wasn’t me and I was more disappointed than anything else. There are some great cool moments in the movie but they are all overshadowed by the poor execution of what could have been very interesting ideas. An end to the Skywalker saga is disappointing for me, but I will be optimistic for the projects ahead.

Grade: C-

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