Review of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Spoilers)

I am not really capable of a proper film review, as I know so little of the process of film-making… but my friend Clint is busy, and this blog isn’t going to let the final Star Wars film pass without acknowledgement.

I’m also not as good as Clint as keeping it spoiler-free, and I’m assuming that most readers, if interested, have already seen “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”.

So here goes.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is an entertaining, lively and fast-moving (sometimes too fast-moving) film. The effects are spectacular, of course. The trio of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are watchable and fun.

In addition, it daringly kills off a beloved major character; it deals adequately (in my opinion) with the loss of Carrie Fisher before filming; it introduces not one but two new female characters; it has interesting new ideas (that Rey might do better using the Force for healing rather than killing, and that other storm troopers before Finn might have thought to defect); and it gives C3PO a long-overdue moment of heroism.

There is exactly the right amount of Ewok, and I cannot deny the nerdish thrill of spotting Denis Lawson returning as Wedge Antilles for the final fight.

You are sensing a “but”.

Oh boy, this film is disappointing.

Possibly unlike most people, I liked both “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”, but it certainly can’t be denied that they seemed to be coming from different places – that questions and issues raised in TFA were cavalierly thrown aside in TLJ.

Most obviously:  Who is Snoke? (Who cares – let’s just kill him) and Who are Rey’s parents? (Nobodies, although frankly how could Kylo Ren know?) The only question raised by TFA that TLJ answered – and answered well – was Why did Luke run?

The two films did however both set up the Big Conflict: Rey on the Light side, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on the Dark. His journey to the Dark/Sith seemed complete at the end of TLJ.

Given that Star Wars is what it is, there seemed only two ways this could go. Kylo stays bad and is defeated; or he is redeemed like his grandfather. I really hoped they could find a third, interesting, option.

The two films together, for all their differences, had given us a powerful picture of the creation of a new Sith lord, ending up with a great villain (with a second-in-command promisingly ready to mutiny.)

The one thing “The Rise of Skywalker” did not need was another villain. But it gave us two: one appeared from nowhere, and his personality could be summed up as “Ruthless Evil Commander”, and the other…

SPOILER (unless you’ve seen the trailer)

For no reason, and with no explanation… Emperor Palpatine, back from the dead, with a whole new fleet from nowhere!

This shows a lack of confidence and imagination that is breath-taking, although admittedly it follows the traditional franchise rule that the good side can never catch a break: there is always, suddenly, a bigger Death Star.

In other respects, “The Rise of Skywalker” took TLJ’s trashing of its predecessor to new levels. TLJ had brought in a strong female character, a very likeable one (whatever one may think of what the plot gave her to do). She had about two scenes in this film, seen poring over a computer. It was as if “The Return of the Jedi” had opened with Lando Calrissian dropping Luke off on Tatooine and saying “You’ll be OK now, I suppose?”

TLJ had Rey “learning” that her parents were unimportant, thus sending a hugely valuable message that you can be a Jedi without being born to it – the new film gave her the most preposterous aristocratic Jedi backstory possible.

TLJ gave us that sad moment of a call for help which no one answered. The new film…


didn’t even have the grace (or the nerve) to say something like “Well, we were all on the way. It takes time to organise a rescue mission.”

Who other than me spent the film waiting for Rey to tell the two bad men who were giving her A/B choices – “I don’t have to do it your way. I’m choosing C”? We waited in vain.

And… it killed off a major character but immediately undid the death; it introduced interesting new ideas in order to do nothing with them; and as for C3PO… I guess the old question is finally answered: yes, droids are sentient moral beings, but no, we’re still not required to think twice before mind-wiping them for our convenience. (Poe otherwise had a good film, but that was a low point.)

I haven’t even mentioned the “I’ve got something to tell you” moment that was referenced later, but never explained.

After all this ranting, however, I can’t help remembering a young idealistic boy who was told (long, long ago) that someone called Darth Vader “betrayed and murdered your father.” When Luke discovered that Darth Vader was his father (or did he? Vader said so, and Luke’s “feelings” confirmed this, without seemingly the need for birth certificates or blood tests) he sought an explanation for this manipulative and self-serving lie. Obi-Wan Kenobi claimed that his original statement was true “from a certain point of view.”

This either demonstrates that Kenobi, like other Jedi, isn’t nearly as nice, honest or wise as he likes to think he is… or that George Lucas hadn’t got around to planning the plot of “The Empire Strikes Back” when issuing “Star Wars Ep 1.”

I find it utterly astonishing and indeed deplorable that some team or other released “The Force Awakens” as the first of a new three-part saga… without apparently anyone having any idea where the story was going to end up. But, well, maybe it has happened before.

In any case, the makers of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi” did, on the whole and in the end, craft an overall arc that was fairly coherent and memorable.

Sadly, I don’t think this is true of the next generation. The adverts said “The saga will end”. I think it probably should.

(Wow, that was fun. I probably needed an excuse to rant today. Anyone wanting to push back?)

Love from the PPI Blogger


  • Clint Redwood

    31st January 2020 at 7:07 pm Reply

    Dear PPIB,

    I’m glad you didn’t ask me to review this, because… you did it so well.

    However, you missed a couple of relevant ranting points, and you may be interested that you absolutely discerned the change in direction between ANH and TESB.

    If you read the prologue of George Lucas’s novelisation of the ANH, it kind of summarises the plot of TFM (may it never have been filmed), but actually makes clear that Palpatine was never supposed to be a Sith Lord, but was a consummate politician who then found themselves isolated by a even more consumate civil service and military, which left him an isolated figurehead. This is obvious from Grand Moff Tarkin’s comment about Vader’s reliance on this sad old religion. The Death Star was supposed to be the technological replacement for the Sith. Clearly, the Sith was a) interesting and b) lucrative, so in TESB the Emperor became a Sith master, and Vader the pupil. I think that Vader was always supposed to be Luke’s father, as I believe that the overall story ark was always about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker.

    Apparently, the reason that Lucas never made 7-9 himself, was that he’d sold off the novelisation rights years between 6 making and 1. Therefore, what Disney produced probably does not reflect the original Lucasian storyboard for 7-9.

    So what did I think of TRoS? Well, I recognised that J. J. Abrams is very good at giving people what they want, but actually perhaps less good at telling a really good story. When it came out, I enjoyed TFA, but by the time the 3d blu-ray came out, I had decided that it was just a remake of ANH, bigger, nastier, but without anything going for it but John Williams’s excellent soundtrack. It remains on my shelf unopened.

    What most annoyed me about TLJ was, as you mentioned, that all the interesting hooks left open by TFA were unceremoniously closed. Nevertheless I didn’t hate TLJ.

    However, whereas TFA had taken months for the “joy” of a new Star Wars film not contaminated by Lucas’s fan loathing to wear thin, TRoS felt like a “dirty pleasure” almost before I’d finished watching it.

    Commenting on the “assault on the capital ship” scene, my wife said she was waiting for the “heroes” to dress as Stormtroopers and get stuck in a garbage dump.

    There really was no need to resurrect Palpatine, and what were the chances of just bumping into Lando?

    Overall, I think J. J. Abrams, the king of the “reboot”, was the wrong choice to direct the new Star Wars films. His Star Trek films were excellent, and way better than most of the original films. However, for Ep7-9 they needed someone who could, as you suggested, take it forward, not just recreate a new version of the old with better CGI.

    I think this is where TLJ stood out well – it was trying to do something new, but it was hamstrung with the legacy of TFA. Had they given the trilogy to the team who did TLJ, although I’m sure few would agree with me, they would have made a really good set of films.

  • Clint Redwood

    31st January 2020 at 7:08 pm Reply

    Apologies for any spoilers in my comment, but the original post does say spoilers so I think it’s allowed.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    2nd February 2020 at 2:52 am Reply

    Good reviews by both of you Penelope and Clint. And both show me I was right not to waste time watching it and giving Disney any hard-earned cash. Watching 1917 with my daughter was a much better use of time and money.
    At its best I found Star Wars could be great fun, but I only ever found A New Hope really engaging. The rolling intro to the Phantom Menace had me cackling in hilarity when it turned out that the cause of the separatist uprising was an alteration in tax regulations. Was that George Lucas making some kind of amusing reference to the causes of the American Revolution? Additionally the Jabba scenes were great in Return of the Jedi; and the Palpatine versus Yoda battle in the Senate in Revenge of the Sith is sterling stuff, when they telekinese those giant platforms at each other. Palpatine has the most camp cackling laugh as he does it and you think “that’s a man who really loves his work”.
    I have only seen the first two of the sequels and I found them massively disappointing for the following reasons:
    1) No explanation for how the First Order arose and why the Republic is not fighting them directly, rather than using “the Resistance”.
    2) No explanation for what Snoke is (a Sith, something else?) or how he emerged and then he just turns out to be rubbish and easily killed along with his massively malco-ordinated guards.
    3) The events of episodes 4 to 6 and the existence of the Jedi are apparently “legends and stories” – yet they only occurred 30 years before The Force Awakens! That’s like saying World War 2 would only be a myth to people living in 1975! I mean was the rest of the galaxy on a massive booze bender during this time and suffered collective memory loss?
    4) Rey starts off as a really promising character, struggling to survive in a really hostile environment as a scavenger. But then suddenly she turns out to be super-powerful in everything she does without making any effort or having to learn from mistakes (for instance, she masters the Millennium Falcon instantly and knows things about it that Han and Chewy didn’t discover in decades of using it). She becomes boring because she has no real challenge.
    5) Kylo Ren is a rubbish opponent, because he just keeps losing against Rey in the first two films. His temper tantrums are amusing, but you get no sense that he presents any real threat to her.
    6) Captain Phasma is an interesting idea, but randomly discarded like Snoke? Surely Gwendoline Christie deserves better.
    7) In The Last Jedi, all of the previous space battle consistency is wiped out, by allowing a jump to light speed done in certain way to create an easy kamikaze wipe-out. On that basis why wasn’t everyone doing it in the previous 7 films?!!
    8) The previous heroes (particularly Luke) are just treated as useless has-beens, who failed in their purpose in life and we are given no explanation why.
    9) Both of the first two films just stole lots of plot lines from the original trilogy in an unoriginal attempt to recycle things that Disney though fans might like, rather than thinking up something new. And they tons of material to use from the expanded universe books and the treatment for the new trilogy which Lucas gave them when he sold the company.

    As you say Penelope, Disney had no agreed story arc, so Abrams took it one way; then Rian Johnson took it another way; that made a lot less money for Disney, so Abrams had to come back and cobble together something that brought the fans back and had to resort to Palpatine as Snoke had been dumped. Bringing back Palpatine just renders Episodes 4-6 pointless and all the struggles of those films as meaningless.

    All of this is a perfect illustration that Hollywood is only interested in making money in the laziest ways possible and failing to realise that they will make more money with a more popular product and that means really good writing, directing and acting. It is rather depressing that Disney has such a stranglehold on entertainment, when they are so lacking in creativity. As Yoda says “There is do or not do, there is no try”.

    I guess when Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, his conversation with Bob Eisner went on the lines of:
    “Its rich.”
    “How rich?”
    “More than you can possibly imagine.”
    “I don’t know, I can imagine quite a lot!”

    Sadly, these weren’t the sequels we’re looking for and I guess Disney will find our lack of faith disturbing. Oh well back to my post.
    Love from TK421 🙂

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