It’s finally over, the Skywalker saga that began in 1977 with George Lucas’s Star Wars (or otherwise known as A New Hope), has finally ended with J. J. Abrams returning behind the camera to bring forth The Rise of Skywalker. One would already find themselves wondering where could the saga have gone following Rian Johnson’s radical approach to the series with The Last Jedi, which had divided many fans for betraying their image of the characters or the approach after having been reintroduced to them in The Force Awakens. In an attempt to hand the series back to those fans following the reception of The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker concludes this long saga on a sour note.
With the stakes having been raised so high up following the conclusion of The Last Jedi, one would wonder how The Rise of Skywalker can carry on that long legacy that the Skywalker name would have left upon those who have been fighting for the Resistance. Yet with the divisive nature of The Last Jedi, trying to find a means to unite those who have stuck so long with the series and had expressed deep love or bitter resentment towards how Rian Johnson toyed around with the mythos that many have stuck around with. Instead of asking the questions that Johnson would have poised, J. J. Abrams doesn’t seem bothered to take many of those creative storytelling risks either – everything feels too calculated, thrown together, but to what gain?
Gone is the sense of adventure that George Lucas once sought out to create when he made the very first Star Wars movie, and what comes forward is empty nostalgia for the greatest moments of the previous Star Wars movies, whether they be in the original trilogy or even in the prequels too. It’s hard for me to tell whether or not J. J. Abrams was truly invested in concluding the Skywalker saga in a satisfying manner, but all I can see out of what he brought us in The Rise of Skywalker is a clip show. It isn’t the satisfying kind, one that takes you back and reflects upon how impactful the journey has been, it just jumps around from moment to moment without any sense of flow – resulting in even more incoherence that only further alienates the viewers, blinding them by what they love too.
All of this seems to come crashing down on itself too, from the way it taps into Rey’s origins or Kylo Ren’s central conflict with the Dark Side, there’s never a moment when any of this feels like it adds up into manners that would highlight the rise of Skywalker’s legacy. It seems all too cleanly wrapped up for the sake of fan convenience too, especially with the rushed return of Emperor Palpatine as the antagonist following his exit from Return of the Jedi, sidelining many characters who played big parts in previous entries and trying its best to linger onto the past. With it already having been established that “the past must die” in The Last Jedi, the tendency to cloy into the past is what makes The Rise of Skywalker suffer to greater depths as it tries to bring out old legends who feel so out of it too, whether they be the late Carrie Fisher (who isn’t “really” in the film either) or even Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.
Though I think what ultimately brings The Rise of Skywalker down comes to the fact that there’s never any time to explore Rey’s own internalized conflict regarding her potentially destructive powers as one with the Force. It seems like it should play out so simply, as shown through the preceding films with herself being established as another member of the Resistance, but Abrams and Chris Terrio seem far more concerned with tying her growth to many far-fetched connections to the previous series to that point everything that made Rey’s journey so captivating has been sucked away. But with everything else feeling so expository, it adds more to how rushed the emotional beats all come out, because there’s not a moment where I feel like any of it ever leaves an impact.
So, this is how the Skywalker saga concludes. Not with a bang, not even with a crash, but with a whimper. I’m more than willing to give a pass to The Force Awakens for reintroducing a new generation to what had already made people who loved the original Star Wars films feel so nostalgic in the first place, but after being presented with the semblance of an actual journey in the making in The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker feels like a slap in the face. Sure, it may still have the look and the music of a Star Wars movie, but it also lacks the adventure, soul, and heart that made the Star Wars name resonate for so long – even the prequels would be ashamed to have concluded with a bitter aftertaste being left in the mouth. If I wanted to be reminded how much I loved the original films, I could simply be watching those instead.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Screenplay by J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams, Michelle Rejwan
Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Running Time: 142 minutes