Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Review

Rise of Skywalker pissed me off.

Which sucks, really, because I grew up on Star Wars. My dad is a major sci-fi geek and we watched everything with the word “Star” in the title: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica. I grew up on all of it. I have seen every new Star Wars movie with my parents at the movie theatre – yes, even Phantom Menace at five years old. Jar Jar Binks is a lot less cringey when you experience him at that age.

That being said, I’ve never read any of the comics or watched the cartoons. I can’t speak Wookie or Droid, nor do I have a death star replica hanging in my bedroom. I’m a fan, but not quite a fanatic about Star Wars. I enjoy the movies, but I don’t really have any vested interest in the outcomes. I went into Rise of Skywalker with an open mind, excited to see where they would take the story.

Because, first and foremost, a movie is a story. This new trilogy was meant to expand on the stories that came before it. The writers had to build upon the information the other movies had established as canon in this world. They couldn’t give Luke and Leia a new father. They couldn’t suddenly make Chewbacca fluent in English. They couldn’t change what the other movies had established as fact. Force Awakens followed the rules, and so did Last Jedi (which I liked, by the way, Finn’s useless fetch quest notwithstanding), but Rise of Skywalker? It said FU to what came before it.

Yes. I’m talking about the god damn fact that Rey is a Palpatine. Where did that even come from? Maybe if you squint your eyes real tight and have a little imagination, you can see hints in Force Awakens. Vague allusions to Rey’s parents that could be applied to this third act twist, but nothing tangible. When you watch New Hope, there are definite hints that Vader is Luke’s dad, little comments here or there that you can look back on and go “Ohhh.” Because George Lucas knew what he was writing towards.

And maybe J.J. Abrams did too, but he didn’t make the whole trilogy. The Last Jedi played off of what had already been established in previous movies, but Rian Johnson also put his own particular twist on things. I really loved the idea that you didn’t have to be from a special lineage to be special in this world. It was refreshing when he announced that Rey’s parents were nobody; that Rey was unique not because she came from a certain family, but rather on her own merits. In an entire galaxy, how can only a few families be important?

You can’t retroactively change canon. It undermines your entire story. It’s wishy-washy, messy, and is honestly the sign of a bad writer. It’s one thing to make changes before you publish it, but you cannot throw a giant twist into the third act of a trilogy without any lead-up, especially when the previous canon has made the twist nonsensical. What did it add to the story to make Rey a Palpatine? The entire plot still works without it. Palpatine’s reasoning for wanting Rey was mumbo jumbo as it were, and they could have easily come up with something else.

There are things that I genuinely enjoyed about this movie. The way they handled Carrie Fisher’s death. The redemption of Kylo Ren with the Han Solo  reappearance. The Rey and Ben dynamic. Finn and the other stormtroopers. That thing where Rey drops the lightsaber and Ben pulls it from behind his back. I loved all these things because they were a pay-off for things that came before it. They weren’t concepts I was just introduced to a half-hour before, but rather moments I had been hoping for since the previous movies. 

I cannot wait until someone much more tech-savvy than me makes a fan-edit excluding the parts about Rey’s lineage. While that movie still wouldn’t be perfect, at least it would be better storytelling.

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