So it finally happened. At long last, the conclusion to Disney's highly controversial, arguably terrible or arguably legendary Star Wars movie line has presented itself. A final word in the story of Skywalker. Does it act as the nail into Star Wars's coffin, or the respite its movie line so desperately requires? Well, come along with me, and let's investigate that for ourselves. Spoilers ahead.
Taking place a year after Last Jedi, the Rise of Skywalker centers around the cobbled-together remnants of Leia's paramilitary organization, the Resistance, engaged in continuous battle against the First Order. However, a mysterious broadcast allegedly dispatched by Emperor Palpatine, the Sith Leader, alerts the Galaxy to a possible final strike by a gargantuan military force beyond even the First Order's wildest legions. Indeed, Palpatine lives, and in the movie's opening act when Kylo investigates Exogol, the planet he's fled too, the Emperor explains he's been masterminding Snoke, the First Order, and all of their actions against the New Republic government from the beginning...
So, how did Palpy survive an exploding Death Star core? Oh, sorry, that's never said. I'm not joking. The movie tries to connect Palpatine's survival to his innate connection and control of the Force, which doesn't make any sense considering his Force powers streamed from him like a blue wave after his perishing. Right, in Star Wars's Expanded Universe, the entire tableaux of stories Disney rendered non-canon through their power of franchise ownership, Palpatine returns as well, transporting his consciousness into different host bodies stored on a private planet. While that storyline is contentious among the fanbase, with some enjoying and some hating it, it at least provides a cemented, definite explanation for how the wrinkly old villain was able to further his lifetime and continue haunting the Galaxy.
Well, resurrected Palpatine instructs Kylo to kill Rey, thus earning command of the colossal Sith Fleet that has now emerged from the ice sheets and hovers within the planet's atmosphere. So, massive Star Destroyers need a wealth of crewmen and compliments of soldiers to manage, right? Where did Palpatine get such immense reserves of manpower that probably dwarf the entirety of his armies combined during the Galactic Empire's days? This 'Final Order' embodies everything people had problems with regarding the First Order. Instead of seeing tattered collectives of Imperial war veterans, hired mercenaries, and brainwashed children, which would realistically constitute the Empire after their official political dissolution, and the utter annihilation of their military might; we see a fully rejuvenated Sith Fleet capable of absorbing every free system in the Galaxy under the Emperor's unflinching will. That's cool, I guess Palpatine just Ctrl+C'ed his forces like one-thousand times or something. Oh, regarding Snoke? Also a machination of Palpatine, evident by vats containing a bright yellow liquid harboring demented clones of the former First Order leader. So, was Snoke an avatar possessed by Palpatine? A loyally bred creature stemming from a genome? A custom species cultivated by the Imperial Remnants or Sith Cultists to serve the Emperor's purposes? Ah, it'll probably be in a supplementary comic book anyway, it doesn't matter.
So Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca are doing standard Resistance stuff, getting some intel from an informant, and apparently there's a mole in the First Order feeding the Resistance strategic knowledge. Uh... okay? Our intrepid trio escape First Order hands and destroy their TIEs in an admittedly visually stunning Lightspeed chase through different worlds, before arriving on the Resistance's new jungle homeworld. So, you'd think after all this time, the Resistance would be accepted by whatever remains of the New Republic for their heroic actions against the First Order, destroying their planet-buster and crippling their primary fleet and all. Nah, apparently they still need to hide out on rancid, isolated dungheap backwaters. Oh, Rey's doing Jedi training, knowing a plethora of new abilities I'm guessing she discovered offscreen during the one-year timeskip from TLJ to now. I'd like to see Rey actually learn these Force abilities she uses so effortlessly, but that privilege is never bestowed.
Rey's angry since she can't hear voices in her head, the voices of past Jedi before her. So in anger she throws her saber and nearly kills BB-8, Leia is disappointed but offers her Luke's lightsaber for some... reason? Rey's clearly earned that token of appreciation after disregarding her Jedi boundaries and nearly slaughtering a friend in a hissy fit, despite being an intrinsically powerful demigod, leagues above most Jedi in history.
After convening with Finn, Chewie, Poe, and friends, embark on an epic adventure to find the next Wayfinder, apparently connected to a cursed Sith dagger once utilized by Oochie, a Sith Loyalist, a weapon used to murder Rey's parents. After escaping some more bad guys, having some more dramatic moments, etcetera, it's revealed Rey is Palpatine's granddaughter. Did the Emperor knockup someone, or produce Rey artificially? Who agreed to procreate with a humanoid raisin if the first is true? Not explained. Rey and Kylo fight one more time on the hallowed husk of the second Death Star, only for Han Solo's ghost to convince Kylo to abandon the Dark Side. The plot converges onto a climatic final war waged against Palpatine's combined arms, versus the Resistance's scattered forces. Ultimately, the Resistance finds salvation in a Galaxy's worth of ships and armaments ready to fight Imperial tyranny one last time... Are these New Republic vessels? No, because apparently Starkiller Base eradicated the New Republic's political leadership, militaristic capability, and cohesive union years ago, so this is probably just a union of ships without any rhyme or reason facing off against the most organized fleet in Galactic history. Palpatine pulls off some cool moves, like summoning a Lightning storm and destroying ranks of Resistance forces, and cackling maniacally as he prepares to conquer the entire Galaxy. Of course, Rey easily dispatches of the villainous Sith Lord by crossing her lightsabers and reflecting the Force energy back at him, causing the Emperor to dissolve into heated nothingness. Kylo and Rey kiss for some reason, Kylo saves Rey by granting her Force powers, Kylo disappears along with Leia, Rey is accepted by Luke and Leia as a Skywalker, the end.
Aside from voracious plot-holes which rip at this movie's narrative fabric, the continuous agitating questions which rip at viewers, and the hastened justifications made to cover for the movie's inconsistencies, you have a pretty solid visual and musical adventure. The soundtrack for this movie is solid, compounded with amazing CGI that brings to life these battles of epic destiny and galactic control. It's merely unfortunate these battles have the backdrop of a messy and often unsustained plot. Near the movie's climax, one of the Resistance fighters suggests to pull an Admiral Holdo suicide run, only for Finn to deny that possibility, because it's "one in a million." WHAT!? Similar to most elements of this film, characters often make no sense in their dialogue and end up confusing the story further by trying to explain situations. Poe was formerly a spice-runner, and apparently abandoned his gang to join the Resistance, which screwed over the gang... somehow. A woman named Nora, Poe's old flame, I think... cites this, only to warm up and immediately become buddy-buddy with Poe again. Alright, nice.
There's really no end to this movie's unanswered question. Each major unanswered plothole branches out into dozens of different inquiries. If Snoke was cloned, did the First Order leadership know of it and not inform Kylo? If the First Order was formed from Imperial remnant groups, did they know Palpatine survived? Why would Palpatine need to secretly manipulate a group of people whose allegiance is already fanatically held to him? How did Palpatine form the Sith Loyalist cult? If he was confined in the Unknown Regions, why does the cult have reach on an Inner Rim planet like Jakku? Why did Hux betray the First Order? His excuse in the film is flimsy. "To see Kylo Ren lose." I know Kylo and Hux despise each other, and Kylo would've realistically ended the bratty, petulant excuse of a general the moment his leadership was declared, but still, is that reason enough to collapse the First Order? The very organization which Hux's father tirelessly worked to cultivate, the faction which brought him up? Wouldn't he just try to gain support for a popular revolt against Kylo's reign, or work cleverly behind the scenes, instead of brazenly feeding his enemies information? NAHHH, it'll be explained in a supplement book or something.
I didn't set high expectations for this movie, I didn't have any overt demands, nor based my perception of this film on past installations. Rather, I tried to enjoy it as a standalone experience, but merely couldn't because of the vast accumulation of unanswered questions, confusing character choices, and what seems a simply rushed plot that wasted amazing actors such as Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Ian McDarmid... Sorry to say Star Wars, but this is the final word in the legacy of Skywalker.
4/10 - Excellent visuals and effects are a poorly cobbled smokescreen for an incoherent plot, maddening character choices, lazy Macguffins, and ultimately, the sad culmination of a trilogy that has faced nothing short of intense fanbase polarization.