The newest Star Wars trilogy has been met with mixed reviews since its conception. While the first film, “The Force Awakens,” showed potential, its sequel destroyed that. “The Last Jedi” gutted fans with some even petitioning to erase it from the Star Wars canon. It seemed to go against everything fans loved about Star Wars, painting Luke Skywalker and the Jedi in an uncharacteristically negative light. The most recent addition to the trilogy, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” was a film fans either highly anticipated or refused to see, with similar varying opinions reflected upon release.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opens on Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) retrieving information from a spy within the First Order with the intention of helping the Resistance’s goal of destroying the First Order. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is shown back at the Resistance base trying to hone her skills with the Force. However, she struggles as she is simultaneously fighting a mental battle concerned with her past, her identity and whether she could one day turn to the dark side and join the Sith. In the ending of “The Last Jedi”, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) offered his hand to her so he could teach her the ways of the Sith. Despite Rey’s rejection of his hand, this memory still haunts her.
The information Finn and Poe retrieve notify the Resistance that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who was thought to have been killed by Darth Vader in the sixth film, “Return of the Jedi,” is actually alive and has been biding his time on a hidden Sith planet called Exegol. This establishes the main plot of this film and the objective for the Resistance: locating the planet and stopping Palpatine — effectively taking down the First Order and saving the galaxy from destruction under his rule. To do so, they need to find a wayfinder which allows one to navigate to the hidden planet. However, there are only two in the whole universe and Kylo Ren is shown to have already located one of the trackers and has made his way to see Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine offers him fame, glory and a legacy akin to his grandfather, Darth Vader, if Kylo simply kills Rey, who Palpatine cryptically says is not who she seems to be.
Throughout the trio’s journey to retrieve the other wayfinder, the main characters have very different attitudes and strategies towards locating the object. Poe and Finn try to be realistic and think through their actions whereas Rey could be considered reckless and impatient. She acts without ever conferring with her friends often wandering off; she causes her friends to worry or places them in danger. With this characterization, Rey is often found in action-packed sequences, effectively sidelining Poe and Finn. This is understandable considering she is the main character of this trilogy. However, the way she acts is so blatantly immature, with her increased screen time only making her more dislikable and annoying. Her mindset of trying to save her friends and take on fights alone can be seen as well-meaning, but her mind lacks stability which leaves her vulnerable and not nearly as powerful with the force as she perceives herself to be.
A major part of the film was also focused on Rey and Kylo’s telepathic bond. The two characters are seen constantly trying to persuade one another that the other’s perspective is wrong, which, after a while, gets repetitive to watch. We see them argue, reject each other and battle it out far too many times. There is always the understanding that they would never want to hurt each other so despite the battles being the only real semblance of meaningful action we get in the film, it also holds no true purpose. Admittedly, the characters are nicely developed foils of each other, both unsure of their own history and path but seen through opposing perspectives. The romantic undertone of this relationship, however, could have been done without. It muddies the direction the film, especially with Finn throughout the movie implying that he may have feelings for Rey, which forever goes unaddressed. Furthermore, whether Rey had feelings for him or Kylo or the complexity of those feelings is never explored. The romantic subplot did not add much to the story and seemed to further entangle emotions and relationships.
Conversely, Poe and Finn’s relationship provides a fresh relief to the heavy turmoil of Rey and Kylo’s. Poe and Finn are often on the same page, aware of each other’s pitfalls and appreciative of each other’s strength. Their relationship consists of great banter and camaraderie, which makes the movie enjoyable to watch. The duo also carries the strategic front of the story dealing with the Resistance, Although they are often sidelined for Rey and the Jedi storyline, their scenes were equally as compelling to watch, especially in the final battle.
On the subject of the main villain though, Emperor Palpatine’s reintroduction felt half-baked. Due to his introduction being in this last film of the trilogy, his motive seems flimsy and his characterization superficial. However, his use in the film is admittedly well-executed with callbacks to the other two trilogies and a conclusion to Rey’s constant internal self-doubt. A common complaint about this trilogy was that its use of the Force felt unnatural, with the Force seemingly being a tool used for plot convenience to solve problems and this film, especially with its ending, was no exception.
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” has a satisfactory ending but the beginning of the film drags on and makes characters seem illogical and increasingly immature. Relationships between the main trio are lacking and are not further developed while Rey and Kylo’s telepathic connection stems into an unnecessary subplot and finds itself exhausting to watch again and again. Although, their bond and kinship allow them to truly discover all sides of themselves, the bond is also the source of much internal turmoil. The film, despite its flaws and eye-roll inducing scenes, is still an enjoyable watch. It closes the trilogy in an acceptable way, but with the journey getting there being far less than perfect, which sadly makes this finale and the conclusion to the Skywalker story mediocre at best.
Ashley Tsang is the Assistant Arts Editor and can be reached at [email protected]