Since the release of The Force Awakens in 2015 followed by The Last Jedi in 2017 and now The Rise of Skywalker, Disney's take on the Star Wars franchise has been a rather mixed bag. For Disney, director J.J. Abrams, and producer Kathleen “the Force is Female” Kennedy, it was a chance to reboot an iconic American movie franchise for a new (and more woke) generation. For the hard-core and long-time fans though, it was seen as yet another attempt to rewrite past movies and shows (especially one as culturally and historically influential as the Star Wars franchise) in order to satisfy the sensibilities of the current woko-haram-media-collectivist-complex.
The biggest source of all this friction between the old and the new fans of the rebooted trilogy can in part be traced back to Disney purchasing the rights to the Star Wars franchise back in 2012. As of 2014 Disney announced that only the original trilogy, the three prequel films, the Clone Wars show and movie, and the three films in the Skywalker trilogy were to be considered canonical. Everything else, including all the novels, comics, video games, the old radio dramas, and all the DK visual dictionaries that provided supplemental information on the Star Wars universe were branded as Star Wars Legends material.
What this did was allow Disney, via Abrams and Kennedy (as well as director Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi), to make a movie that had the look and feel of a Star Wars film but which nonetheless contained elements that were either alien or sometimes even at outright odds with three decades worth of characters, events, and information from what had originally been the Star Wars universe.
Things that come to mind were all of the social justice trappings found within all three films, blatantly recycling scenes and situations from the original movies, and just really strange oddities that didn't seem all that Star Warsish, like the “Holdo Manuever” or Princess Leia using to the Force to survive unprotected in space in The Last Jedi.
Disney somewhat listened to the long-time fans and put Abrams back at the helm to direct The Rise of Skywalker so that he could address some of the issues that rankled fans with the previous two films. The most important being the true identity of Rey and why she was so powerful with the Force that she could pick up a lightsaber for the first time and quickly defeat Kylo Ren who had trained in its use all his life.
However, that's not quite what we got.
So Much Story with So Little Plot
What we get instead are mostly the same problems from the previous two films in terms of the plot's pacing. There are simply too many characters involved with too many subplots within the main plot, giving the entire movie a kind of “thrown together” feel. In the midst of all that is Abrams' attempt to assuage his guilty feelings for the all the unfinished story lines in the Lost TV series (of which he was a producer), by jamming in all these plot reveals that seem to come out of nowhere in an attempt to tie up all the loose plot ends.
The biggest of course is (warning: spoilers ahead) that Emperor Palpatine is still alive and is hiding out on an uncharted planet called Exogol. The only way to find the planet is with a special wayfinder device or by translating some Sith writing on various Horcrux-type objects.
Kylo finds the planet first and finds out that it was Palpatine who has been behind the First Order all this time, behind Snoke (of which he had various clones of), and has been constructing a huge fleet of star cruisers that he calls the Final Order with which he will once again rule the galaxy.
He tells Kylo to kill Rey (who we learn is Palpatine's granddaughter) so that she doesn't become a Jedi, but in reality Palpatine is just trying to see who will defeat whom so that he can transfer his spirit into the victor's body and become emperor again—talk about a one-track mind.
And yet that is how it is with all of the characters. There is little or no development with any of them; they are who they are and they do what they do. Thus, Poe and Finn are still the same bumbling dude-bros they were in the other films. In fact, as they were being chased by First Order troopers on a yet another desert planet and Rey was doing all the driving and most of the shooting, I kept thinking, “I'm watching Scooby and Shaggy driving through Mad Max Fury Road.”
Rey, whose character prompted a re-edit in the Wiktionary page for the term “Mary Sue” and coined the term “Rey-like,” carries on the same way. The spontaneous mastery of everything she does that has made her unlikeable among some fans, continues just as before as there is no task she cannot figure out or no potential ally she cannot persuade.
Thus, when she, Poe, and Finn arrive on the planet Kef Bir to find another wayfinder device in the remains of the second Death Star which is lying in the shallows of a sea, they are told by the locals that they have to wait until a storm subside before they can get there. Not Rey though, for despite growing up on a desert planet, she is able to operate and maneuver a sailing craft through a stormy sea to get to the Death Star all by herself.
Eventually enough of the plot points are drawn together to bring the movie to a close, and it’s Rey who is not only the one to finally destroy Palpatine and but also is there to give Ben Solo a little smooch when he chooses to give up being Kylo Ren and his Sithy ways. Of course, as the old adage from 80's Highlander movie goes “there can only be one” (and it just can't be a man), so Ben Solo fades into the Force along with Leia at the end of the movie.
So it is Rey alone who is to carry on the “Skywalker” name by adopting it herself, as she reveals that she has constructed her own yellow lightsaber—a color that had not appeared in any of the other movies but as Clone Wars or longtime fans will tell you was the color used by the Jedi guardians of the old Jedi Temple.
Does this mean she will be starting a new order of Jedis or that Jedis will now be referred to as “Skywalkers,” hence the title “The Rise of Skywalker”? Not only are we not told, but in terms of the whole rebooted saga I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people just don't care at this point.
The End of a Trilogy, but What About the Saga?
All things considered, The Rise of Skywalker is not a bad film but it is far from being a good one. It is a Star Wars film after all. which means that it is filled with action, fantastic special effects, and of course a climactic battle at the end where the Resistance defeats the Final Order against all odds at the very last moment with some unexpected help.
Furthermore, it was great to see the trilogy wrap up with the appearances of various Star Wars veteran actors such as Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as Lando Calrissian, Denis Lawson returning to play rebel X-Wing fighter Wedge Antilles, and Warwick Davies making a short appearance as Wicket the Ewok one last time. Even Merry Brandybuck (oops I mean Dominic Monaghan) has a small role as the resistance fighter Beaumont Kin, as well as the film's famed composer John Williams, who after 42 years of scoring these films, finally gets a cameo as a bartender on the planet Kijimi. And then there are all the other actors that have played Jedi knights or masters in any of the films or shows, whose voices are heard by Rey in a scene near the end of the movie.
However, whether taken alone, as the summation of the Skywalker trilogy, or as part of the overall saga (the canonical part of it at least), it is doubtful that The Rise of Skywalker will stand the test of time. The film leaves as many unanswered questions as it was supposed to answer, so much so that you have to buy a visual dictionary or watch any number of videos online to find the answers.
The real problem with the The Rise of Skywalker though is in how Abrams retconned the more embarrassing plot elements from the two previous films. Bringing back Palpatine is a perfect example of this. Not only does having him survive his plunging death in Return of the Jedi cast shadow over Darth Vader’s heroics and his redemption, but if his spirit could survive and even pass into another body, then is he really dead now? Will he come back when Disney runs out of even the recycled ideas for the franchise? We have now way of knowing.
Therein lies the problem that Disney created when they bought the franchise and started tinkering with it. No sacrifice or triumph, no cowardice or defeat can ever be seen as being definitive, and if that is the case, then what value do any of the characters' actions have?
Disney acquired the most successful film franchise in history, but started making one change after another in some hubristic attempt to improve it (to “woke” it up a bit). In the end they essentially destroyed it, while no doubt Disney will keep trying to keep its vision of the saga going with shows like The Mandalorian or future origins movies may work, the sad fact is that for this generation at least, the saga has passed its prime. Whether it will be invigorated at some point in the future, is a tale for another time and for someone else to tell.