Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review - The movie for nobody

There's no shortage of action, adventure, and suspense in the end to this epic trilogy, but don't go into this film looking for much of anything else

Rey in Star Wars Rise of Skywalker

Source: Disney (Image credit: Disney)

One of my favorite things about watching a movie on opening night is knowing the crowd I'm watching with is just as amped to see the story unfold as I am. I loved it when the whole theater erupted as Captain America swung Mjolnir in Avengers Endgame, or the deafening silence as Admiral Holdo ripped through that First Order Destroyer in The Last Jedi. Those moments where it feels like every person in the theater is on the exact same wavelength is electrifying, and I can't get enough of it.

I experienced that moment once more in my viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but it was different this time. Instead of overwhelming excitement or genuine awe, my theater full of nerds squirmed in their seats as a genuinely awkward kiss played out on the screen. And from the conversations following as everyone filed out of the theater, that feeling of awkwardness permeated the entire film.

Rise of Skywalker

Source: Lucasfilm (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker What I love

I have come out of the last two Star Wars movies filled with genuine wonder for how the next movie could possibly exceed the last one in visual spectacle. Regardless of how you feel about the stories or themes in Force Awakens or Last Jedi , they are visually stunning and positively stuffed with unparalelled action and suspense. Yet, somehow, Rise of Skywalker surpasses that prior excellence with ease.

Watching the Falcon perform these stellar gymnastics set to so many backgrounds is a genuine delight, and every combat sequence is more spectacular than the last. We've known for two movies now that both Kylo Ren and Rey are capable Force-wielding warriors on a scale not previously observed on screen, and Rise of Skywalker removes their restraints and lets them wield that nearly godlike power to spectacular effect. From a purely visual perspective, this is the most fun you can have in a theater without chemical stimulation.

There's always a risk that a new silly character introduced in the Star Wars universe will become the next Jar Jar Binks, but every new personality we experience in Rise of Skywalker is genuinely deligthful. The quirky droid D-O is an entire mood on one wheel, and I don't want to know people who wouldn't give their life to save the adorable genius that is Babu Frick. Meanwhile, can we get an entire show about Zorii Bliss or Janah? Because you can pump both of them straight into my veins right next to The Mandalorian .

The bottom line is each new face was great, and left me wanting more. A lot more. This movie could have included an entire extra hour of just them and I'd have been delighted.

My final thought here is below, which I'm going to talk about without spoilers. I love the concluding theme, the idea that you choose your family; it's something near and dear to me and it was both well delivered and warmly received. It's a great way to create a positive path forward for characters we may never see on screen again, and that was nice.

Rise of Skywalker

Source: Lucasfilm (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker What was missing (WARNING: Spoilers)

Remember those last two Star Wars movies? Because the writers of Rise of Skywalker sure don't.

We're first introduced to FN-2187 in The Force Awakens as a Storm Trooper who can't stand the atrocities he is observing and breaks from his training. It's a whole thing, we see the wave of emotions rush over him and in that moment he realizes he can't go on like this. It's touching, and literally humanizes this character into the Finn we know and love.

Turns out Finn didn't reject his training because he had a strong constitution or a genuine heart or anything like that. According to The Rise of Skywalker , Finn becomes a good person because of the Force. And honestly, that's just lame. Why create a deus ex machina for Finn to turn good, destroying the notion that people can choose to be good when presented with extreme evil?

All of that character development you saw with Kylo Ren back in The Last Jedi ? Yeah, that didn't happen. And all that stuff about Rey's parents? Just kidding. These characters are going to grow beyond the damage of their past on our terms, to hell with the stuff that already happened.

Rose Tico who? Doesn't ring a bell, sorry.

Every Jedi is supposed to go on this whole emotional journey when assembling their own lightsaber, but we don't get to see any of that on screen. Just BAM yellow saber surprise and alright let's move on . Lame again.

Honestly, making Palpatine a key part of this movie is just the laziest, most empty thing the writers could have done. Supreme Leader Snoke was shrouded in all of this amazing mystery and suspense, a new villain in a universe full of exciting but familiar themes with an unknown background. There was a real opportunity to pull from the source material and not focus on this trilogy being yet again entirely about the same handful of bloodlines.

But instead, we now have a Star Wars universe which has had the same archenemy for nine movies. And the plot surrounding his machinations was so rushed it just comes off as sloppy, with Palpatine basically looking at every twist and turn with a scoff at how everyone has fallen right into his trap. And in the moment where he was to be proven weak and once again shown he's wrong about what makes rebellions strong, the puppeteer pretense is just dropped and it turns into an empty power fight.

Ultimately, there was no original storytelling here. Instead, The Rise of Skywalker is a milquetoast fanservice event with very little substance and even less connection to the stories told in the first two parts of the trilogy. The pacing is all over the place, the dialogue is frequently inconsistent, and there's no message. This was safe and familiar. And in trying to be something to everyone, it became bland and unsatisfying.

Should you go see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Sure, maybe

More than perhaps any other franchise in history, fans feel like they own Star Wars. When you tell a story in the Star Wars universe, there's a certain amount of care needed to ensure the people who have been obsessed with these stories for decades are taken care of while also appealing to new audiences. It's a difficult balance to strike, and as we've seen with both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi , it's basically impossible to truly please everyone.

Having seen the way fans reacted to the first two movies in this trilogy, JJ Abrams and crew had to choose between delivering a new story and delivering a non-stop fanservice thrill ride mostly devoid of meaning or connection to the other two movies. The Rise of Skywalker is clearly the latter, and while the end result is visually stunning, it's mostly pointless and that's a shame.