May 27, 2020
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.