Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019): a spoiler-filled review

SPOILER WARNING: The movie review below reveals major plot points, including the ending. If you don’t want to know what happens in Rise of Skywalker, stop reading now!


For many, the big moment is here. The final story of the Skywalker saga officially hits theaters this weekend. But I for one wouldn’t be surprised if there were more film entries in this series, with or without Skywalkers. After all, Star Wars does have the backing of some studio that uses a mouse as its mascot.

But onto the movie itself.

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Although never explicitly stated, the film begins one year after the events of the previous film The Last Jedi. The opening crawl says that there’s a radio transmission being heard in certain parts of the galaxy and it’s the voice of the Emperor (Ian McDiamid), who somehow survived when Vader tossed his hammy ass down that shaft in Return of the Jedi. Leia sends people out to investigate the matter, while her son Kylo Ren does the same with the intention of destroying the Emperor, which isn’t surprising since Ren killed his master Snoke in the previous film.

Ren has what’s called a Sith wayfinder device and traces the Emperor’s signal to the planet of Exegol. He hears the Emperor’s voice, along with Vader’s, saying they’re the voices Ren has heard all his life. The Emperor is indeed here, although somewhat physically beaten (Vader’s toss was obviously hell for the Emperor’s fingernails). He tells Ren that he’s the reason Snoke existed at all, and has been biding his time creating a new fleet of Star Destroyers. Ren is promised this fleet if he kills Rey.

Speaking of Rey, she’s on the latest Resistance base, honing her Jedi skills with Leia’s help (Carrie Fisher, thanks to deleted footage). She’s a bit pissed, though, when the Millennium Falcon returns and it’s on fire. This was because of Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca using the gas pedal erratically after escaping bad guys while getting info on Ren’s wayfinder device from a spy inside the First Order.

But the group does manage to tell the Resistance that the Emperor has returned. One of them (Dominic Monaghan) says that the Sith have been known to dabble in cloning (which is actually how the Emperor was able to return in the comic Dark Empire). Rey realizes that Luke’s notes refer to a Sith artifact which could help them out. His notes state that it may be on the planet Pasaana. After hugging Leia goodbye, Rey is off, with Poe, Finn, Chewbaccca, BB-8, and C-3PO. Rose declines because Leia needs her help if First Order ships arrive.

They arrive on Pasaana and quickly get in a skirmish with First Order troops, but get help from Lando Calrissian. The group is honored to meet him, and Lando says that he and Luke searched for the artifact on the planet years earlier and takes them to the spot where they last heard it was located. Meanwhile, Ren and Rey’s Force telepathy is activated and he’s able to determine where she is.

Our heroes are soon engulfed in what seems to be quicksand. But instead of killing them, it basically tosses them into an underground cave. They find a dagger with Sith text inscribed on it. However, 3PO states that his programming forbids him from translating it. They’re all suddenly startled by the sight of a huge serpent-like creature. But Rey sees that the creature is wounded and she uses the Force to heal it, before the creature darts off.

Poe suggests that they could get the info out of 3PO’s head at a planet called Kijimi, which he’s familiar with. They find another ship to take them there, as the Falcon is too recognizable. But before boarding, Rey senses Ren and goes out to confront him, doing an awesome Force somersault over his TIE Fighter. During this fight, Chewie gets captured by First Order troops, along with the dagger. Rey uses the Force to prevent the transport holding Chewie from leaving, while Ren does the same in order to release her hold on the ship. This leads to Rey shooting Force lightning, destroying the ship and apparently killing Chewbacca. The shattered heroes quickly leave, while Rey briefly tells Finn about her fears that she’s now getting about herself.

Alas, the next scene is on Ren’s ship, with the audience realizing that Chewie is still alive, and he’s brought before General Hux.

On Kijimi, Poe is able to make contact with his old acquaintance Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). Rey, Finn, and the others are startled to learn that Poe was a smuggler, while Zorii wastes no time telling Poe how pissed she is at him for basically going off to join the Resistance. But she agrees to take them to a place where the info can be gotten out of 3PO’s head. This operation results in his memory being wiped. But before he can get reacquainted with everyone, Ren and his troops arrive. Rey senses that Chewie is still alive and she and the others board Ren’s Star Destroyer, thanks to a special ID badge that Zorii gives Poe.

As Poe and Finn rescue Chewie, Rey and Ren have another telepathic Force chat while she secretly makes her way to his quarters. Ren tells Rey that the Emperor is her grandfather and that he killed her parents and wants to kill her because he fears Rey’s power. She’s torn over this, and the two exchange lightsaber blows. Rey knocks over Ren’s burnt Vader mask, which leads him to realize that she’s on his ship.

Elsewhere, Poe, Finn, and Chewie are captured, but discover that Hux is actually a spy when he kills the troops about to gun them down. He arranges their escape, even asking Finn to shoot him to make it seem like they overpowered him. When they ask why he’s doing this, Hux basically says he hates Ren.

Ren confronts Rey in the hangar, but she’s able to escape with the others on the Millennium Falcon. Hux himself is killed by Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) for treason, and I hate when movies kill annoying characters just when they start to become interesting. The Star Destroyer then destroys Kijimi using its Death Star-esque laser.

The Sith dagger leads our heroes to Kef Bir, specifically the remains of the second Death Star which blew up near Endor. Once there, they encounter a group led by Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who like Finn was once a Stormtrooper. The violent ocean tides are separating them from the Death Star wreckage, but that doesn’t stop Rey from going there herself. As Finn and Jannah follow, Rey finds the wayfinder, and briefly fights a vision of herself as a Sith lord. Ren appears and fights with Rey after destroying the wayfinder. Rey pushes Finn aside with the Force when he attempts to help her.

But Ren is briefly distracted when a dying Leia contacts him via the Force. This allows Rey to impale him, but when she senses that Leia has died, an anguished Rey uses the Force to heal Ren. She’s so shaken that she takes his ship and departs to Ahch-To, where she trained under Luke. After Finn and the others leave, Ren is on the Death Star remains and sees a vision of his father Han. Han says that, while his mother is now gone, what she fought for is still alive. This convinces his son to toss aside his lightsaber, reclaiming his true identity as Ben Solo.

Rey is burning all her links to the Jedi, but Luke’s Force ghost appears and prevents her from destroying her lightsaber. He tells her where Leia’s lightsaber was kept, and that she deliberately put it aside after getting a vision of her son’s eventual death, but that it would one day be used again. With Luke’s encouragement, Rey goes off to face the Emperor, using Luke’s X-wing to get her there (I guess it can fly without an R2 unit?).

Poe and Finn are now the Resistance leaders, although the former has doubts that he can honor Leia. But Lando gives him encouragement just as Rey transmits Exegol’s location to the Resistance, and all the available ships are soon airborne. The Emperor encourages Rey to kill him in order to transfer his spirit into her. As the Resistance arrives, they face a crap-ton of Star Destroyers, all with Death Star weaponry.

Ben arrives and fights off his former troops to help Rey. But the Emperor neutralizes both of them with his Force lightning. He then uses it on the Resistance ships. But after he tosses Ben down a cliff, Rey slowly but surely gets to her feet, hearing the voices of Luke and the other Jedi. She deflects the Emperor’s lightning with both Luke and Leia’s lightsabers, which ends up killing him. This stops the attack on the Resistance, which is soon joined by reinforcements led by Lando and Chewie in the Falcon. Zorii is also part of the cavalry, as is Wedge (Denis Lawson).

The super-duper Star Destroyers are soon all taken out, but the destruction of the Emperor destruction kills Rey. This prompts Ben to use the Force to revive her. They briefly kiss before Ben quietly dies, vanishing like Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Luke did before him. After our heroes celebrate (with glimpses of Cloud City and Endor), Rey goes to Tatooine. At the farm where Luke was raised, she buries Luke and Leia’s lightsabers. A passerby asks her name, and seeing the spirits of Luke and Leia, Rey says “Rey Skywalker.”

Like The Last Jedi, this film has some plot holes. For instance, I hate that we’re just meant to assume that the Emperor (I know his name is Palpatine, but that name always sounded like a generic mouthwash to me) is alive again. I would’ve preferred it if Ren would try to contact him, just as Rey tries to contact the other Jedi at the film’s beginning. The revelation that Rey herself is the Emperor’s granddaughter has turned off some people, and I can see why, although I’d take that over George Lucas’s midichlorian crap any day. Also, having a fleet of Star Destroyers that can blow things up like the Death Star was definitely pushing it.

But, again like The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker is watchable thanks to the interaction between our heroes. While we get a cliched “I have to tell you something” moment between Finn and Rey (which is never resolved, by the way), there’s the same wonderful sense of comraderie that the heroes in the original trilogy had. I liked that we learn that Leia did, in fact, train as a Jedi and it was cool that Rey built her own lightsaber that’s yellow, since the original Luke action figures Kenner put out came with a yellow lightsaber. It’s great seeing Williams as Lando again and Ford’s brief cameo was a nice surprise.

Hence, like The Last Jedi, this isn’t a great film per se, but it is definitely enjoyable and exciting enough to watch more than once.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is The Thoughts of a Proud Nerd: A Story of Hope, available now from Amazon.

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  • maarvarq

    That sounds … busy.

    • Murry Chang

      Oh it is.
      The editing in the beginning is like Rogue One bad, it slows down and lets the scenes breath a bit more as the film moves on but boy oh boy is it busy. And it doesn’t even show things like how Lando and Chewie recruit about a thousand anti First Order ships offscreen in something like 2 hours.

  • oohhboy

    “A few plot holes” is quite the understatement especially when it comes to JJ.

    This doesn’t feel like a review, more a synopsis as it’s quite thin on analysis.

    • I was disappointed with Lois & Clark episodes, because the articles seemed less like the trademark AB snark (that’s the reason we visit the site, no?) and more like synopsises. This article is likewise.

      • oohhboy

        I like the Miles O’Brien suffering episodes. It’s got bite, unafraid to make a joke, to find the humour in eating a phaser.

        • Versimancer

          Tyler Peterson, he is funny, smart. Gives Winston a run, if you can laugh at some politics.

    • Versimancer

      Kirchgassner, he writes well, but he’s dry.

  • Greenhornet

    “Rose declines because Leia needs her help if First Order ships arrive.”
    From what we’ve seen, that probably involves her disabling the flak batteries, putting sleeping pills in the defenders’ coffee and laying down covering fire for the first order.
    “Ben arrives and fights off his former troops to help Rey”
    With WHAT? The light saber he threw away?

    “As the Resistance arrives, they face a crap-ton of Star Destroyers, all with Death Star weaponry.”

    PICTURE CAPTION:

    “I wet ’em.”

    “I wet ’em TWICE!”

    Not going to watch it. The reviews give plenty of information.

    It seems to me that the makers of the movie heard what the fans were saying, but screwed that up, too.

    “Holdo should have been a traitor.”

    The make Hux a double agent for the Resistance out of the blue and kill him.

    “Rey should be Snoke’s daughter.”

    They make her Palpitane’s granddaughter; which would have made a good movie in itself.

    “Where did the First Order get all that military stuff?”

    Hey look! The not-dead emperor has an even BIGGER military!

    Decades ago, I got so mad at Hollywood for making half-assed sci-fi movies in order to be like Star Wars that I swore off sci-fi for several years. Now the owners of Star Wars are guilty of doing the same.

    Then again, the studios can hardly make a decent movie without saying “This made money twenty years ago, let’s remake it!”.

    And don’t tell me they are doing it for a new audience that wasn’t born before the original came out, that’s just an excuse for marketing.

    At least they didn’t bring back that loser Phasma.

  • Jordon Davis

    The hateful thing about this movie is that it undoes every “sacrifice” ever made since IV. Vader sacrificing himself to save Luke? Meaningless. Palpatine’s alive and has an army. Luke sacrificing himself to help the resistance one last time? Nope. Luke just comes back a little glowy. Han sacrificing himself to bring humanity to his son? Never mind. Han’s back and he doesn’t even glow. Ren killing Snoke to end this light/dark nonsense? Forget it. He’s all in on Palpatine’s plan (until he isn’t). Chewy dies because Rey can’t control her dark-side powers? Nope. He’s fine. Rey was a nobody because the force can live in anyone? Nah. She’s related. Everyone’s related. It turns the whole thing into a bunch of things that happen – loud things. Couldn’t stand it. If I’d accidentally wandered into Cats, I’d have had a better time.

    • Michael Weyer

      I find it amusing how so many fans moan and groan on “Disney getting rid of the great Expanded Universe”…..where Palpatine comes back to life (just five years after ROTJ) with little explanation beyond “I’ve died before, the Dark Side has powers,” and half the plots are “revived Empire returning with new super-weapons bigger than Death star.”

      BTW, have heard early test screenings had some major character deaths but audience hated them so altered. Which just proves how, for all their talk on wanting something fresh, a lot of Star Wars fans truly hate change.

      A great exchange at one review site where a guy says “Star Wars fans don’t care about familiarity, just good writing.” To which about a dozen people replied “What franchise have you been watching?”

  • Michael Weyer

    I liked it but I can see why others didn’t. I get the feeling there was a lot of character bits cut down to keep it under two and a half hours so I’m sure when Blu-Ray hits, a bunch of deleted stuff filling in some holes.

    Also, I am annoyed that they bring up the idea of the First Order conscripting Force-sensitive children to avoid them becoming Jedi but drop it, that would have been fun. Maybe if Abrams had done TLJ, it’d have been put in there and built in more, shows how keeping the story tighter would have been better.

    I am fascinated at how there are camps dividing as those who liked TLJ hate this undoing the stuff from it while those who hated TLJ are going “at least this is true to the characters.” I have to cut Abrams slack there since (as an uber-fan for 40 years), I can attest nothing would have been able to fully appease a fanbase as fickle and demanding as Star Wars is.

  • Murry Chang

    Just saw it yesterday: You can tell losing Carrie Fisher screwed them pretty hard. The film just doesn’t really hang together.
    So now that the third trilogy is done, best post prequel Star Wars film so far(in my opinion): Solo

  • Greenhornet

    A few of things occurred to me recently, so I’m getting out the whip and abusing that ol’ dead horse again.
    FIRST. I have no problem with Leia (Who had already been reveled as “force sensitive”) doing Jedi training. I can also agree that she would drop the Jedi stuff because her talents would better serve the New Republic in the Senate and militia.
    BUT… That creates ANOTHER problem with The Force Awakens.
    Ben/Kylo trained under Luke, right? But it’s almost a given that he would have gotten some pointers from HIS MOTHER as well. At the very least, they would have fenced together. It’s also probable that he learned some things from Chewbaca and Han “Shoots First” Solo, his father! So Ben would have learned from a force-user, a Jedi master, two war veterans AND a Sith lord!
    Even injured, he should have been able to take on Rey and Finn at the same time and kicked their asses!
    SECOND. Rey’s stupid, stupid bedpost.It’s not a “fighting staff” or a walking stick, it’s a BEDPOST!
    I was trained in riot tactics while in the Air Force and learned to use the riot baton. Staffs and batons are smooth to allow the user to easily shift his grip for different strikes and blocks. All of those bumps and knobs would have made this difficult, if not impossible.
    THIRD. The Resistance.
    That is a STUPID name for a military force! What or who are they “resisting”? Were they “resisting” their own government? That would mean they were going to war with their own people! It can’t be the First Order because according to background material, they organized BEFORE the First Order attacked. Why not call themselves “Leia’s Legions”? “The Galactic Guard”? “Akbar’s Armada”? Hell, even “Holdo’s Heroes” would be a better name to inspire morale.
    There are plenty more, mostly involving the “space horses”, but I’ll let it go because I don’t want to write a full review.