‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Review: Your mileage may vary

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of the Skywalker story that’s been told over the course of 42 years. Throughout the saga, Star Wars has had a massive cultural impact, and as such, people have lots of opinions about the latest iterations. How well does the final chapter close things out? Here are my SPOILER-FREE thoughts on the end of the Skywalker Saga.

The Rise of Skywalker has some really nice moments, and it’s still a joy to be around all of these characters. Kylo Ren and Rey are still at the center of the story, and their dynamic is still the most interesting part of this new trilogy. Much like The Force Awakens, there are moments when the movie borrows whole cloth from Star Wars films past, and there are other, more poignant moments when the film echoes Star Wars lore in a thematic way, which is nice. I think on my second rewatch, I definitely appreciated this more, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy it as a whole. 

Narratively, TROS absolutely does not do it for me. It moves way too quickly from action to set piece to action set piece, introducing so much exposition along the way that you might not fully understand it all until your second viewing. By then, however, the film felt more exhausting than it did exciting. There are definitely scenes and character interactions that I genuinely enjoyed, but the journey to get those scenes often felt half-baked.

TROS is a movie that I desperately want to like more than I do, which makes sense because it walks and talks like a movie that desperately wants to be liked. The full 2 ½ hour film is packed to the brim with just about every character, icon, location, line of dialogue, creature, and droid that Star Wars fans have ever claimed to enjoy. As is the case with all Star Wars nostalgia, your mileage may vary depending on how many of these things actually speak to you on a personal level.  

However, I found that the level of “likability” the movie aims for is its greatest weakness. It relies on too much on iconography and familiarity to move the emotional core of the story forward. Beats that should feel impactful are often undercut mere scenes later for the sake of keeping the legacy of Star Wars intact, and for all of the great “moments” in this movie, not all of them feel earned. 

Ultimately, my biggest problem with TROS is that in the absence of structure and good storytelling, the film is left to stand on its themes alone, and that’s a big problem because it isn’t really “about” much other than Star Wars itself. All the best Star Wars movies have underlying themes and character arcs that are relatable and often moving, but most everything impactful The Rise of Skywalker has to offer is impactful because of Star Wars, and the baggage that each fan carries into the film. For some, that’s okay! There’s a lot of people who will enjoy that! At this point, however, it’s not enough to keep my attention, and it ends the franchise on a self-serving note instead of a victorious or hopeful one.

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