If the title didn’t give it away, let this first line be your fair warning… THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.
I don’t mean to blatantly spoil a movie that has only been in theaters for a week and a half, but it’s going to happen. I don’t think I can openly write my thoughts down without revealing a handful of important details to the plot of the final film in the Skywalker saga. Thus, you have been warned.
Still here? Good… Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
So, yeah, I took my mom to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She liked it! But the only crucial discussion that she felt the need to have at the end of it was, “Why did he [Ben Solo] have to die?”
I don’t think she thought it was fair. This is even after she has recently watched through the entire saga preceding Episode IX. But when a character you like, even a bad guy, has found redemption, it can be easy to forget all the horrible things that they’ve done in the past.
The thought that I shared with Mom is that Ben/Kylo Ren had to die for the same reason that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader had to die way back at the end of Return of the Jedi. Yes, he found redemption when he saved his son and threw the emperor down the reactor shaft… or whatever that was. But if Anakin had survived, how would it have looked for Luke to stroll up into the Ewok party with the Artist Formerly Known as Vader in tow.
Well… I guess he does… but it’s just Vader’s body… so he can cremate his dad.
Anyway, the entire galaxy knows Darth Vader as the emperor’s right hand man. He’s guilty of countless atrocities that span more than 20 years. He took part in the slaughter of most of the Jedi Order. He personally cut down children with his lightsaber. Sure, redemption can be found, but there should still be consequences.
Same goes for Kylo Ren. The guy was responsible for a lot of horrible things. No, he may not have given the order to fire the weapon that was Starkiller Base, but he pretty much oversaw the thing. Planets were destroyed. Plural. Billions of beings killed in an instant. Sure, redemption can be found, but there should still be consequences.
Mom understood at that point. But I still think she thinks it’s unfair. I’m sure she just wanted Reylo to have a happily ever after.
And that was the extent of our post-movie conversation. But I have so many other thoughts!
First of all, let me say that I liked the movie. I didn’t love it, though. It’s good… not great. There is certainly a lot about the movie that I enjoyed, but there are some key things that I didn’t care for, too. In spite of the few things I didn’t really like, I thought that JJ did a great job of wrapping up 42 years of storytelling… mostly.
I’m gonna start with my disappointments because, I hope as I list them, I’ll find that there really aren’t that many. And some of these disappointments include questions that I felt were left unanswered. If you happen to be a Star Wars geek who knows the answers to these questions, please feel free to educate me in the comments down below.
- How the crap is Palpatine alive? All right, the emperor was definitely killed by Vader at the end of Episode VI. I’m sure we can all agree on that. Palpatine himself even has a line in The Rise of Skywalker where he claims to have died before. So how has he been brought back? On a related note…
- I’m not thrilled that Palpatine was “brought back” in the opening crawl. Feels like a story beat that enormous should be something that’s shown or, at least, alluded to on screen. But, I guess when you have nine movies to put a bow on, you only have so much screen time for story.
- When did Palpatine have a kid? Doing the math, it can be assumed that Palpatine’s son would have been born at some point near the end of the Clone Wars… right? My math could be off. At this point, he’s still the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic on the fast track to solidifying his power as Galactic Emperor. I guess my question is, did he take a young wife off screen in his old age? Or is he just one of those high ranking political figures who can pull some strings and have a girl brought to his quarters late at night? Gives new meaning to being “seduced by the Dark Side,” am I right? I’m okay not getting this story in detail, BTW… But an off-hand mention at some point would be nice.
- We still don’t know how Maz Kanata came to possess Anakin/Luke’s blue lightsaber. This is a question we’ve had since The Force Awakens hit theaters four years ago. Rey comes across the classic blue lightsaber that was last wielded by the young Luke Skywalker in his duel with Darth Vader in the bowels of Bespin’s Cloud City. It was lost when Vader cut off his son’s hand, sending both the saber and the hand falling into oblivion. Who retrieved it? How did Maz get it?
- Rose Tico was basically turned into a background character. I’m sorry, but Rose got the shaft. I really do understand that there are a lot of people that didn’t like The Last Jedi. They were very vocal about what they didn’t like. Just because I’m one of the seeming few who did like Episode VIII doesn’t mean I’m blind (or deaf) to what people didn’t like. And I feel like there were some things that occurred in The Last Jedi that the studio wanted to walk back in The Rise of Skywalker. Seeing how small Rose’s part became in the new film looks an awful lot like someone somewhere wanted to pretend that the relationship that developed between her and Finn just didn’t happen.
- I don’t think JJ Abrams blatantly tried to ignore The Last Jedi, but… there are a lot of things that make it look that way. I know that he has given interviews stating that he consulted with Rian Johnson (director of The Last Jedi) as Episode IX was being developed. But I can’t help but wonder if the powers that be at Disney/Lucasfilm had an overreaction to fan backlash from The Last Jedi.
- Force ghosts were under utilized. The only Force ghost that we got to see on screen was Luke, which was a really great scene. Oh… wait… we saw Leia at the end, too. But it would have been so great to see other past Jedi in their glowing blue forms: Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda, Ahsoka Tano… But we did get to hear their voices. And that was almost good enough.
Like I said… this movie packed a lot in. And I’m already over a thousand words on this post. But it’s not fair to share my disappointments without sharing my… uh… appointments.
- Lando Calrissian is back! It was great to see Billy Dee Williams return to the iconic role. I do wish he’d been more involved in the sequel trilogy overall, but his appearance here was very well done. He stepped in and helped the Resistance when his help was needed most. A smooth talker like Lando is definitely what you need to rally the good people of the galaxy to rise up against the First Order.
- Luke’s appearance as a ghost. I mentioned above that Luke’s scene was great. At first, when he stepped out of the fire after catching his old lightsaber stating that a Jedi’s weapon should be treated with more respect, I thought it was a backhanded insult to The Last Jedi. And, yeah, it was a reference, as in that movie we saw Luke callously toss the lightsaber over his shoulder as soon as Rey handed it to him. But it’s important to remember that Luke was in a very different place when Rey found him than he was at the end of the film. In a way, Luke found his own redemption throughout the course of Episode VIII… which is something I feel like a lot of the fans who don’t like The Last Jedi miss. I could be wrong… Anyway, his attitude is different now that he is one with the Force. Rey’s influence at the end of Luke’s life pulled him out of his funk and inspired him to step up and embrace his legendary status one final time. Oh, and the thing where he lifted the X-Wing out of the water, mirroring Yoda’s actions in Empire Strikes Back? Perfection.
- The memory of Han Solo. No, Harrison Ford did not come back as a Force ghost. But his scene with Kylo Ren was incredible. It perfectly mirrored their scene together in The Force Awakens, which ended with Kylo killing his father. This time, Ben Solo finds redemption, turning away from the Dark Side of the Force and tossing his red lightsaber into the sea. It’s a powerful scene. One I don’t mind admitting I cried through.
- Leia’s death… She used the last of her strength to reach out to her son, guiding him back to the light. A fitting farewell to the princess/general. I cried there, too. Oh, and, sidebar, I love that we got a flashback to Luke training Leia with her own lightsaber years ago. Knowing that she received real Jedi training just makes sense. “Space Mary Poppins” doesn’t look so stupid now, does it?
- Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter? Okay… I can live with that. That’s actually a theory I bought into after The Force Awakens, based solely on her innate ability with the lightsaber. Go back and watch the way she fights and compare it with the way Palpatine fights in Revenge of the Sith. Very similar… Anyway, one of those messages that I loved from The Last Jedi was that you didn’t necessarily need to be born of a special bloodline in order to be Force sensitive. I know that Rey’s true lineage being revealed my counteract that message, but…
- Finn is Force sensitive, too. It’s something they’ve hinted at since The Force Awakens. His conversation with fellow First Order deserter, Jannah, helps solidify that he broke from his stormtrooper training because of a feeling… the Force led him to Poe… to Rey… And throughout The Rise of Skywalker, we see that he is able to use his Force sensitivity to sense when Rey is in danger or to make certain tactical moves. JJ has even confirmed that, when he was about to confess something to Rey, it wasn’t a declaration of love, it was that he had that Force connection. So we still get to carry on with the idea that you don’t have to be a part of a certain family to use the Force.
I do want to say that I was impressed by the actors, Adam Driver in particular. I know that so much of this movie was about Rey’s journey to confront the emperor. But Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo made this just as much his movie and his journey as well. Don’t get me wrong, Daisy Ridley was fantastic as Rey. As far as I’m concerned, both of these actors have pretty much nailed their performances throughout the sequel trilogy.
That may be about it. Except to point out… Did anyone else feel like the climax was eerily similar to that of Avengers: Endgame? I mean… first you have this fleet of good guys appearing out of nowhere and Lando on the radio saying, “We’ve got more…” May as well have been Falcon telling Captain America, “On your left.” Then when Rey and Palpatine are having their final showdown, Palpatine says, “I am all the Sith!” Sounds a lot like Thanos claiming, “I am inevitable.” Rey’s response of, “I am all the Jedi!” I mean…
I’m just sayin’…