‘The Rise of Skywalker’ review: It’s pretty good, actually — but also kind of bad
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
After days of looking up spoilers (yeah, yeah, shame on me, so what?), I went into The Rise of Skywalker with the lowest of expectations. I was expecting to walk out of the theater with sheer disappointment. I mean, sure, I was, because honestly? The ending could’ve been better, to say the least. The rest of the movie, though? I’ll be damned. It was, well, fine.
I was ready to write this review and blame everything on J.J. Abrams. It felt as if he’d erased Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi from existence. (Kind of like what Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely did with Avengers: Endgame — how they made Captain America go back to Peggy Carter just for fan service. Ahem.)
But I know, I know. I really shouldn’t be pointing fingers, especially when I really have no idea who to blame. Too many involved in the making of. But I’m pointing my finger, anyway.
J.J. has disappointed me before, with Lost. (It’s ironic that Dominic Monaghan is in this movie.) That show was my shit…until it wasn’t. I stopped watching halfway through the series because, well, what the fuck was going on? Sure, my ships sailed in the end, but apart from that, I wasn’t all that impressed with it. (Says the girl who rewatches when in the mood.)
And judging from what I had heard about The Rise of Skywalker prior to actually watching it, I was already expecting similar feelings to resurface. Imagine listening to the audio of The Return of the Jedi in your mother’s womb and, 31 years later, the conclusion to the story that you grew up with, sucked. I’m glad that I was (mostly) wrong.
Let’s start with the bad, and work our way through to the good, shall we?
Unnecessary new characters (and unnecessary plot)
I learned about Keri Russell’s Zorii Bliss during the D23 Expo, and back then, I was all about it. I remember her introducing her character to us attendees a bit, hinting that she and Poe had a romantic history of sorts. I was excited for Poe to finally get some, until he finally got some. Or was trying to get some but didn’t? I don’t know, there was a lot of flirting going on. I’m sure he got some.
But whether or not he did, it didn’t feel earned. If she had been around during the other movies, maybe? She felt so out of left field, and clearly was just a love interest just so he can have one. Lame.
Another unnecessary character to me? Jannah. Was she meant to be Finn’s third love interest? Because he’s had two prior and both failed. I get that she was also a stormtrooper-turned-rebel and, clearly, Finn found solace and felt kinship with that. But again, apart from playing a role in the Final Rebellion, she was nothing but another objectified female who will seemingly have an uninteresting spin-off with Lando where they find out who her parents are. (My money’s on Lando himself because how fucking random was it that she approached him of all people and asked him where he was from?)
Kelly Marie Tran has already gone through enough hate. Does Rose Tico need to go through it, too? It’s pretty fucked up that her kissing Finn at the end of The Last Jedi was all for nothing, because now they’re just buddies, pals, who’re acting as if they’d never had a romantic connection.
She had such a big role in The Last Jedi that it pains me to see her so sidelined in this one. The Rise of Skywalker could’ve just spent more time developing her character further since she already had an important card to play.
Speaking of Finn, he’s actually Force-sensitive? So much fail. What’s the point of him being Force-sensitive, anyway? So that FinnRey shippers can celebrate something? (I’m sorry. That was harsh.)
Also, I’m tired of him and Rey wanting to tell each other things and we never find out what they are. Can someone just please tell me already?
And then there’s this new droid, D-O, which I don’t find cute. At all. Have any of you ever played Plants vs. Zombies? Doesn’t he remind you of the plants? But the plants are actually kind of cute. D-O looks like they just threw a bunch of shapes together and called it a day. I would’ve rather R2-D2 and BB-8 graced my screen more and hung out with each other instead of with that thing.
It felt that way in some of the movie, really: them trying to fit so many things in the two-hour cut and doing a shit job at explaining what any and all of it means. They should’ve just pulled an Endgame and made it three hours long. But I think even then, time would’ve been thin.
How does another three movies sound, Disney? I’ll donate money. A kidney. Something. Anything. I want more. Or a redo. Either one will do.
But case in point, this movie was supposed to end the saga, right? Why did it feel so open-ended then? Not that I’m complaining about Reylo being open-ended. But that’s just me.
Also, what about some of the questions that were raised during The Force Awakens? Like how Maz Kanata got a hold of Anakin’s lightsaber? Remember that? We’re just never going to get the answer to that or…?
A gay romance that will leave you begging for more
No, I’m not talking about the five-second kiss in the background at the end. I’m actually talking about Finn and Poe Dameron.
I never actually saw the chemistry between John Boyega and Oscar Isaac on-screen until, during their press tour, Oscar expressed in interviews such as this one, how he wishes that their relationship was explored romantically.
I feel so heteronormative for not seeing them sooner, but it’s so obvious to me now. The PoeFinn dynamic in The Rise of Skywalker was enough to make you wish they had kissed at some point. Or five. It was a fanfic come to life — them becoming co-generals of the Alliance together and fighting over secrets and stuff. Not to mention they both scream each other’s names when one is in danger (a lot, I might add). They’re practically in love already — why not kiss to seal the deal?
The overall story is … actually compelling, you guys
The Rise of Skywalker reveals the return of Palpatine, who not only has been the voice inside of Kylo Ren’s head but — dun, dun, dun — is also the grandfather of Jedi Rey.
And Rey’s been training with Leia and hard, preparing for another sexually tensioned saber duel with Kylo. I’m impressed with the choreography this time around — Rey has some of the most badass moves.
The only (minor) downside to her arc? She never gives in to her dark side — only in one of her visions did we see Dark!Rey. (That double-bladed lightsaber that’s just like Kylo’s? Swoon.) I obviously wish she did, just a bit. I hate that she’s such a Mary Sue.
But who’s happy that we got a Bendemption on top of Ben and Rey being canon? This girl. I cried like a baby when Han showed up and Ben threw “Kylo’s” saber away. Sure, I missed Kylo right then (because he’s a fucking badass character, let’s be real), but we were all rooting for Ben to redeem himself. Adam Driver’s transitions from Kylo to Ben really show how easily versatile he is as an actor. And I love how he picked up Han’s mannerisms.
I expected the dialogue to be cringey, but it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I found myself laughing a lot, especially at C-3PO, because he had the best one-liners. “You didn’t say my name, but I’m all right.” Dead.
The cameos from characters of episodes 4–6, of course, are always a treat. From Lando, to Han, to Luke, to the Ewoks, to that one Rebel pilot — you’ll know him when you see him.
And then there’s Carrie Fisher, who unfortunately passed before the filming of The Rise of Skywalker was wrapped. I think that her character was handled as best as they could, given the circumstance. If anything, the movie felt like a proper tribute to her. Bittersweet, but proper. (Chewie learning about Leia dying broke the fuck out of me.)
Also, I’m not always a fan of facial CGI, but that scene where a younger Luke and Leia were dueling was flawless. As it should be, given that the budget for this movie was, of course, in the millions. They looked so real, as if they filmed that scene back in the eighties.
An unbreakable bond, even in death
I knew that in The Force Awakens, Kylo and Rey were going to be a thing — it was almost too obvious that they were going to be Anakin and Padmé 2.0; a Light and a Dark, binding the galaxy and each other together forever. But it wasn’t until The Last Jedi that I really started shipping Reylo.
Some shippers think that The Rise of Skywalker killed Reylo, but I don’t think so. If anything, it solidified them even more. Kylo and Rey were horny for each other, and when Ben and Rey happened, it was the most romantic thing I’ve seen in all of Star Wars history.
Let me make something clear: as much as I obviously would’ve loved Dark!Reylo (think about how hot it would’ve been to have them be the Bonnie and Clyde of the Sith), at the end of the day, I was all about Rey with Ben Solo.
If I have to state the obvious, yes, it made sense that Rey was the one to defeat Palpatine in the end, given that he’s her grandfather. But then what was the point of Palpatine being in Ben’s head if Ben couldn’t even defeat him with Rey?
Think about how much more powerful it would’ve been if both Ben and Rey deflected Palpatine’s Sith lightning with their sabers crossed over one another’s. Palpatine himself even said, “The life force of [their] bond, a dyad in the Force; a power like life itself, unseen for generations.”
What happened to Kylo being a different character than Darth Vader, when Ben’s fate was basically the exact same thing as his grandfather’s? What was the point of Kylo Ren and Palpatine being in his head if he, at the end, wasn’t the one to defeat him? Whether Ben or Kylo, he’s my most favorite male character in this new trilogy, and he deserved better than this. (I still can’t believe they pulled a Daenerys on him. Don’t even get me started on that bullshit.)
I’m all for strong, female characters, I am — I mean, Rey is my most favorite female character in this new trilogy — and I’m all for the gender bending narrative flip of Ben being the damsel here. But what I wasn’t all for, was Ben’s death, and his underutilization.
What would’ve been different is letting Ben live, letting him carry the Skywalker name and what it stood for with Rey. Rey adopting the Skywalker name didn’t feel earned or satisfying, and Rey seeing Luke and Leia’s Force ghosts in the horizon didn’t help, either. It was as if Rey was implying that Luke and Leia are her “parents” (gross in more than one level) and that Ben is her “brother-cousin” (again, gross).
But as a hardcore Reylo, I want to believe that Ben is a Force ghost, and the only reason why we didn’t see him as one was because it was Luke and Leia’s moment. I also want to believe that her romantic/soulmate love for Ben is why Rey chose “Skywalker” as her last name, because Ben is a Skywalker, after all.
For those who either denounced or haven’t seen The Last Jedi, the Reylo romance may seem out of place in this movie. But thanks to the perfect acting of Adam and Daisy Ridley, the final leg to their love story in The Rise of Skywalker is actually more in place than you realize.
Sure, it may seem like all they wanted to do was kill each other, but when it came down to, they couldn’t go through with it. You see Rey still hoping to bring Kylo back into the light, all the while you see Kylo hoping that Rey takes his hand and becomes his empress (she later tells him she wanted to take his hand — as Ben, not Kylo).
The worst part about The Rise of Skywalker was Ben’s death, yes, but I have to admit: how and why he died, and the sequence leading up to it, were beautiful.
Face-to-face with her grandfather, Rey was obviously full of emotion — scared and raged — and to top it all off, she was alone. Until Ben came.
She felt him there. She saw him there. And then they nodded at each other, reassuring her that he’s with her.
Through their bond, Rey transports the saber in her hand to Ben’s (let’s not forget his sexy, Han-like shrug before he swings the shit out of his saber), and Ben uses it to defeat his Knights of Ren before running to Rey’s side. Cue the most beautiful score, ever.
And then they wield Luke and Leia’s sabers at the same time.
If that’s not beautiful, then Ben climbing out of that pit and Force healing Rey is.
I know, it’s stupid that Force healing was introduced and it couldn’t even be used on Ben twice, but flaws aside, he used every last bit of what was left in his life force to transfer life back into Rey. (Do you remember when we all thought that Black Widow was pregnant with Cap’s baby in Avengers: Infinity War? What if when Ben touched Rey’s belly, he—)
And when she woke, she smiled a genuinely happy smile, called him Ben, and kissed the man that she had fallen in love with.
You know, right before he dies in her arms and his body becomes one with the Force and disappears.
And Rey? Well, she ends up alone, much like how she started. Which is bullshit. But, if you look at the bigger picture, she’s now one with Ben, even more so than she already was, and that’s probably why she seemed at peace in the end rather than crying over losing the love of her life. Or, at least, that’s how I choose to see it.
I’m seeing a lot of “Reylo is canon, but at what cost?,” but honestly? After watching this movie, I think the cost isn’t as bad as I once thought. Yes, their bond is technically broken now that Ben is dead — but the thing is, the bond won’t ever go away — “it would simply be empty, a wound.”
No “I love you?” Pfft, we didn’t need to hear it. Their actions really spoke, and loudly. And will continue to, even with Ben gone.
Yes, Rey is wounded for life, but we all know Ben is with her, and that they’ll reunite in the Afterlife. Because no one is ever really gone.
We actually won, guys. We actually, really did.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing in theaters. Let us know what you think at @capeandcastle!