Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker concludes new “Skywalker” trilogy but divides fans

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in theaters worldwide as the final movie of the new "Skywalker" trilogy.

Viktoria Wulff-Andersen, Co Editor-in-Chief

To say I’m a fan of Star Wars would be an understatement. I own all of the Extended Universe comics, even if they aren’t canon. I have an annual tradition of watching every single movie (in the correct order, of course: Episodes One, Two, Three, Rogue One, Solo, Four, Five,  Six, Seven, Eight) on the week of May the Fourth. I’m even sure my first words were “Han shot first.”With such a love for Star Wars, I was both excited and nervous to see the reprisal “Skywalker” saga come to an end on the big screen in J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker, which came out on December 20th, continues the adventures of Resistance members Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) as they set out to lead the Resistance’s final stand against Kylo Ren and the First Order, now assisted by the original trilogy’s Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), surprisingly alive. While Rey struggles with the growing power inside of her, she follows Finn and Poe to find the rare Wayfinder, locate Emperor Palpatine, and crush the First Order once and for all, all the while being chased by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) attempting to coerce her to the dark side.

With the plot in mind, I still couldn’t help but question the quality of the film. Would the finale be worthy enough to finish a trilogy that reunited Star Wars fans? Or would it fall to the likeness of the Phantom Menace and tarnish the Star Wars’ name?

It seems the answers to these questions are polarizing, as critics and the Star Wars community are torn on the success of Episode Nine. On one hand, critics believe the film erased much of what was good about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode Eight) and relied too heavily on overused Star Wars tropes. On the other hand, supporters believed Abrams’s exploration of the emotional vulnerability and story of the main protagonist Rey to positively reflect much of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) from the original trilogy’s arc in Episode Six. 

The best example of how controversial the movie is: The Rise of Skywalker has currently pooled in $724.8 million worldwide and $361.8 million domestically over its ten-day run, all while sporting a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 54 percent and an IMDb rating of 69 percent, the lowest for any Star Wars film of the reprised “Skywalker” trilogy (Episodes Seven, Eight, and Nine). 

I don’t agree with the critics of the movie, and would personally rate give the film at least an 85 percent. The visuals were stunning as usual: the stark contrast of the light of the Jedi and the darkness of the Sith helped remind us of which side each character was on, and particularly helped during Rey’s arc. I especially appreciated the cinematography and scenery, which consisted of gorgeous wide shots of crashing waves, rich green jungle, and the vast darkness of the Sith Temple. 

In terms of the storyline, I found it to be much more coherent than its prior episode The Last Jedi. The Last Jedi separated the characters as if it were a television episode with A and B plots. The Rise of Skywalker saw the characters work together, recognizing the strength of the characters’ camaraderie. Rey’s arc was especially riveting; I much appreciated how Abrams tapped into Rey’s anger and hurt over her past and who she is. The scenes between Kylo Ren and Rey were well-done, and some of the best lightsaber fights in Star Wars history happened between the two telepathically connecting. With all of the focus on the new story of the “Skywalker Trilogy,” however, Abrams still didn’t forget to utilize the vast universe Star Wars has made. The movie is filled with festivals, species, and planets that show just how unique and large the galaxy the characters are in is.

That’s not to say I liked every part of the movie. For one, Rey acted predictably for most of the film: she stared off into the distance and she did what others told her not to do. For another, I thought that many of the characters (Rose and Finn) were thrown off to the side to focus on Rey and Kylo, and I wished Abrams would have given them a bit more screen time. The digital recreation of the deceased Carrie Fisher as Leia was cool, but her character was also limited and seemed very off-putting. I also thought the film was rushed and would have appreciated more screen time at the very least to smooth out all of the abrupt cuts in the film. A lot of my main critiques involve spoilers, but I think the aforementioned should satisfy those looking for what was lacking in the film.

Overall, I thought the film was well-made and worth seeing in theaters. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite Star Wars movie, but I wouldn’t say it falls to the level of the prequels either. I thought it was visually amazing, the action was fast-paced, and the emotional exploration of the characters was well-done, even with all of its flaws. I felt the power of the force with this film.

The Rise of Skywalker is currently playing in theaters now.