The following review contains spoilers for The Rise Of Skywalker.
On December 19, the world collectively held its breath and silently pondered a single thing: the fate of the Star Wars universe. With the entirety of the sequel trilogy–as well as the future of the franchise–resting on the shoulders of a single film, it’s safe to say the stakes have never been higher. That being said, I am pleased to inform you that The Rise Of Skywalker delivers on all fronts, putting on a masterclass in visual effects, creating incredible character performances, and providing a satisfying conclusion to the sequel trilogy.
The Rise Of Skywalker picks up several months after the events of The Last Jedi but wastes no time getting straight into the action. Audiences are immediately thrust into the immersive galaxy, following the foreboding Kylo Ren(Adam Driver) on his rampage of a quest to find the elusive Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The brief but crisp action sequences, dark set pieces, and promise for a big reveal kick this film off properly, leaving audiences on the edge of their seats within the first ten minutes. Foreshadowing the didactic relationship between the two, our focus is shifted from Kylo Ren to everyone’s favorite Jedi prodigy, Rey(Daisy Ridley). Rey’s opening sequence reveals that she has been training under Leia Organa(Carrie Fisher) for some time now, and is now incredibly well versed in both the force and lightsaber combat. Other main cast members such as Poe Dameron(Oscar Isaac), Finn(John Boyega), Chewbacca, and even C3PO(Anthony Daniels) are brought to light and quickly reintroduced, but it’s clear from the very beginning that this is Kylo and Rey’s story. With the star studded cast of characters accounted for, a galactic level threat set, and fans bursting at the seams with anticipation, the epic struggle between Dark and Light was ready to commence.
If critics are to be believed, The Rise Of Skywalker is one of the most objectively horrible Star Wars films in history. Dropping an abysmal 54% on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic before its release date, it appeared that the final installment of the Skywalker saga was destined to disappoint. Fans around the world entered their local theaters with low morale, mild interest, and a spark of hope. That spark would not go unpunished, as it burst into a flame of excitement as soon as the movie began. Gone were the days of slow speed chases, senatorial meetings, and disappointing sequels; from top to bottom, The Rise Of Skywalker delivered nothing but sheer heart, fantastic character moments, and nothing short of a galactic level of nostalgia.
Objectively, this film may not have been bulletproof— but that was never the point. Director J.J. Abrahams isn’t known for his storytelling or divisive plots, but his unmatched ability to create unforgettably emotional moments. Whatever plot discrepancies or storytelling inconsistencies occurred, The Rise of Skywalker is the perfect ending to the Skywalker saga and an absolute celebration of everything that is Star Wars.
As previously mentioned, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley carry this film—and the entire sequel trilogy— on their backs. The character development between these two young and tumultuous characters has been intricately intertwined since their reveal more than four years ago—and now we finally get to learn why. Ludicrously powerful force abilities, uncanny amounts of natural talent, and a strangely confusing connection to one another have all been building to their didactic relationship. The two share a connection in the most powerful way possible: through the Force. Kylo, prodigal son of the Skywalkers, turned to darkness. Rey, warrior Empress of the sith master Palpatine, drawn towards the light. Darkness rise, and light to meet it, just a Snoke foreshadowed in The Last Jedi. Impossible legacies to live up to, unfathomable inner turmoil that spurred on development, and the ultimate redemption. This is the story of Rey and Ben Solo(Kylo Ren), this is the vector that spurred on the sequel trilogy, and this is the backbone of The Rise Of Skywalker.
That being said, so many other factors contributed to the appeal of this movie. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac’s performances were completely compelling, putting out their best performances of the trilogy. The heavy inclusion of Chewbacca, C3PO, and the Millenium Falcon—while obviously nostalgia bait—did well to warm the hearts of long term fans. A surprise reprisal performance by Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian had original trilogy fans jumping out of their seats. Character performances aside, the visual effects were utterly breathtaking. A lava-torn Mustafarian hellscape, a series of death-defying lightspeed jumps into uncharted territories, a completely mystifyingly ominous Exogal pocked with phantom lightning—is there nothing visual effects can’t do?
In classic Star Wars fashion, each breathtaking set piece was filled to the brim with a diverse cast of characters, CGI monsters, and puppeteered creatures alike. Not a second of screen time was wasted on side-quests; each and every scene was dedicated to answering long sought after questions and rapidly progressing the plot to its ultimate end.
I could go on and on about countless Easter eggs, character moments, and fan service callbacks, but I think my point has been made: what The Rise Of Skywalker lacks in logic, it makes up in heart. This story is about 42 years of fans, and their love for a series that has captivated their hearts. It’s a love letter to stories of the original trilogy, an improvement to the visual effects of the prequels, and a celebration of everything that is Star Wars.