Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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(SPOILER WARNING:  For those who have not seen The Rise of Skywalker, I strongly advise that you stop reading this review.  This review will contain numerous spoilers from the movie.  The rating will be spoiler-free, so skip to the end if you want no spoilers.  You have been warned.)

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

Have you ever been told a really good story?  And then, in the middle of the story, the one telling you it suddenly stops.  It may have been a bedtime story from when you were little, or one that a really good friend has told you.  They start telling you the story, and then stop.

After that, for what seems like ages, they finally continue with their story.  As a kid, waiting a whole day to hear the next part may seem like ages.  Or your friend may have been out of town for a while.  When they finally get back, they continue with the story.

You get the point.  This story I’m referring to is a story of good versus evil.  The light side versus the dark side of the Force.  Jedi masters versus Sith lords.  It started in the middle.  It continued with the beginning.  And now, after two years, the story finally comes to an end.  This is the wonderful and amazing story of Star Wars.

And if it’s been a while since you have seen a Star Wars movie, here’s a brief refresher.  Actually, I’m not going to rehash the first six episodes plus the two continuations from four years ago and two years ago.  If you want the refresher, click here to read it from my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that I did four years ago.

 

And after two years, the story ends.  Palpatine has spoken and has threatened revenge on the galaxy from a mysterious broadcast that he sent to it.  Kylo Ren is determined to find Palpatine’s whereabouts kill the one threat that stands in his way.  Rey is continuing her Jedi training while Poe is escaping danger on the Millennium Falcon with Finn, trying to deliver the shocking message of Palpatine’s return.  This is the premise of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the next sequel released by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Walt Disney Studios.

To start things off, Star Wars is an epic space opera centered around a film series created by George Lucas.  From its humble beginnings and phenomenal success, it has become an iconic franchise.  In just the merchandising sector alone, the Star Wars brand is worth more than $60 billion,  with $7.72 billion coming from the eight main films alone.  It is a cultural phenomenon that has started with the first film and has continued to this day.

But with George Lucas selling the franchise to Disney in 2012, a wave of uncertainty has come across many of the fans.  I for one am curious as to what move Disney is going to make.  Where is Disney going to take the franchise?  J.J. Abrams returns as the director of the final Star Wars installment for the Skywalker Saga.  With the way that he handled The Force Awakens with the “mystery box” concept, I felt more reassured about his treatment of this movie.  But how does Abrams handle Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?  The very last movie in the Skywalker Saga that George Lucas put together 42 years ago?  Is the Force strong with this movie, or has this third and final movie in the new trilogy turned the franchise over to the dark side? Let’s find out.

The movie begins with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fighting Alazmec Colonists on Mustafar.  He was after a relic called the wayfinder.  This belonged to the long-deceased Darth Vader, and he was going to get this relic at all costs.

Once he had the wayfinder, it led him to the Exegol System.  He enters a giant cube and takes the elevator down to the bottom.  As he precedes downward, he hears Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) speaking to him.

When Kylo Ren meets Palpatine, he is determined to kill him, as he did with Snoke.  But Palapatine revealed that he created Snoke and that every voice in his head came from him.  He then promises to offer Kylo Ren with everything.  A new empire and a new fleet.  The First Order was only the beginning.  The new Final Order fleet would help Ren in his new campaign to rule the galaxy.  The only thing that Palatine needed to be annihilated was Rey, the very last Jedi in the galaxy.  With that order, he promised Ren that he would rule the galaxy.

Meanwhile, on the Millennium Falcon, ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance fighterpilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) engage the Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) in a rousing game of dejarik (a holo-chess game played on a round board).  The team gets a message from a Resistance informant with orders to deliver to Leia (Carrie Fisher).  They insert the message into R2-D2 (Hassan Taj and Lee Towersey) just in the nick of time before they were assaulted by TIE fighters.  Finn destroys most of the fighters and Poe lightspace skipped to escape the squadron.

On the jungle moon of Ajan Kloss,  Rey (Daisy Ridley) meditates, floating in the air with many rocks.  Unable to maintain her composure and balance, she falls to the ground.  Leia then tells her not to give up and that nothing is impossible.  She hands her the Skywalker lightsaber, which she grabs before she takes off running.  She continues her training, knocking away every bolt from her training droid.  A vision begins that was induced by Ren via Vader’s helmet.  This upsets Rey, which causes her to hit BB-8 (Dave Chapman and Brian Herring) by mistake.

Later on, Rey studies holocrons and wayfinders in one of the ancient Jedi books she found at the First Jedi Temple.  The Millennium Falcon returns on fire, due to Poe’s lightspeed skipping.  This angers Rey, since she knows that the Falcon cannot support that.  At a Resistance briefing, Poe delivers the shocking news.  Palpatina has returned, and in 16 hours, attacks on all free worlds would begin.  Palpatine was hiding on Exegol, which C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)  explains that it can’t found on star charts and is known as the Hidden Land of the Sith.  Rey, deep in thought, shows Leia from the Jedi book that she can get to Exegol.  From what she found from Luke, he had searched for and nearly found the mysterious planet.  From what Rey found, she considered a Sith wayfinder to be necessary to find Exegol.  Leia refuses, but Rey insists, arguing that Leia would do the same thing if she was in her place.  With that, the team is sent to the desert of Pasaana, to find her contact that would give her the wayfinder.

And so the mission begins.  Will Rey find the wayfinder?  And what about Kylo Ren, who is seeking Rey’s life?

And what about Palpatine and the Final Order that he has given to Kylo Ren to use at his disposal?  Are all the free planets doomed?  And what was so upsetting about Rey’s vision?  Watch the movie and find out.

In looking at the length of the movie, I thought that it was pretty balanced and well-paced. The typical Star Wars movie is about this length, with the pacing being just right.  The plot progresses at a smooth pace, helping us to take in all the new scenery and characters.  And with the ending of the movie, you know that another story is going to continue beyond the Skywalker Saga.  Star Wars is going to take a hiatus for a few years while they figure out the direction for the new story.  The classic Star Wars score was great to hear again.  After all, it is the same one that scored all the other Star Wars movies.

In looking at the characters, I loved the variety. A number of new characters made a return.  I loved seeing Rey and Chewy from the last movie.  Seeing Leia was again amazing, and RIP Carrie Fisher.  This movie was a tribute to you and you will be missed!  I loved Luke’s role and it was fun seeing more of him.  There was also Finn, Poe, and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) from the last movie as well.  Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) also made a cameo appearance.  And let’s not forget the phantom emperor Palpatine, the villain beyond every Star Wars movie in the Skywalker Saga. And how can we forget Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams)?  He was a wonderful surprise and I’m glad that they put him in the movie.

There were also a couple of new characters that were portrayed quite well.  We have Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), which was a wonderful addition to fill in Poe’s story on Kijimi.  There is also TZ-1719, or Jannah (Naomi Ackie), which was the perfect companion for Finn.  There is also the new droid named D-O (J.J. Abrams).  With the new characters, they’re a wonderful addition to this sequel and I liked the place that each one had in telling this wonderful story.

And what can I say about the nitpicks?  The one thing that I wished was that we had a little more closure.  I felt like they crammed in everything pretty quickly and if they had any cut content, they should’ve kept it in as it would’ve done a better job at closing up the 42-year saga.  And while we’re closing up things, I would like to revise my criticism on The Last Jedi.  I felt that Johnson hurt the movie in the direction that he took it.  With today’s ratings, I would give it a 3 out of 5.  For this current installment, Abrams did a good job at patching things up but having two ruined films in a row should be a wake-up call for Disney.  If you’re going to make a Star Wars movie, take your time and don’t rush production.  Lucas never did and that’s why his films were a phenomenal success.  With those nitpicks aside, I thought that Episode IX was pretty solid overall.

How did Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker do?  Having reviewed the recent box office results, it’s performing below the standards that I expect it to.  To put things into perspective, it’s performing worse than The Last Jedi! Two years ago, that movie grossed $104,684,491 on opening day.  The Rise of Skywalker, however, is falling short at $89,615,288.  The sixth highest opening day total of all time.  On top of that, it grossed $40 million for the Thursday preview. With it currently being the eleventh highest grossing movie of the Star Wars series, I am confident that it will get up there.  Maybe at least secure the number three spot behind The Last Jedi.  In rounding up the numbers from the past trilogy,  Episode I grossed a $64.8 million weekend gross.  Episode II grossed $80 million and Episode III grossed $108.4 million.  For The Last Jedi, the weekend domestic gross is a disappointing $177.3 million, behind The Last Jedi‘s $220 million and The Force Awakens $248 million from four years ago.  The current domestic gross is $177.3 million.  In adding the foreign gross of $198.7 million, the worldwide gross stands at $376 million.  With a production budget of $200 million, it has made more than that in just one weekend alone.  And that’s not even domestically.  It would need another $23 million to make back it’s budget domestically.  This movie has a long ways to go to even reach the top ten.  Casting my few nitpicks aside, I really loved this movie.  I loved the way that it ended.  I only wish that they spend more time on making closure to such a wonderful story that George Lucas began 42 years ago.  The force with this movie is lukewarm, in very much the same way that it was with Rey during the new trilogy.  Her fear kept her moving between Jedi and Sith, and I feel that the performance of this movie at the box office is doing the same.  I still encourage many other others to see this movie, as we all need to see how this story ends.  I can say that there is a big shocking surprise in the movie, and that is enough to make this movie worth seeing.  I would see it again, thus adding $7 more dollars to its total gross.  Star Wars is Lucas’s baby and Disney knows this. They just need to give it the respect that it deserves for a good ending.  And with the franchise in Disney’s hands, I am confident that they will successfully continue the legacy that George Lucas has started, with all the sagas continuing after the Skywalker Saga.  I graciously applaud the finale to the 42-year long saga of Star Wars and I give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a 4 out of 5.

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