“The Rise of Skywalker”: classic turned catastrophe

Kaavya Butaney, Staff Writer

I know I’m not special when I say that I grew up with “Star Wars.” I first watched it when I was four years old, then rewatched it over and over and over again, mimicking the dialogue, recreating the lightsaber battles and theorizing over everything that happened. I never expected more than just two trilogies. But then came “The Force Awakens,” another seemingly perfect new trilogy to obsess over. But oh, how I was wrong.

I was excited going into “The Force Awakens,” but four years and two disappointing movies later, I was dreading “Rise of Skywalker.” While “The Force Awakens” regurgitated the plot of “A New Hope,” “The Last Jedi” left me feeling like it was a puzzle that hadn’t been put together quite right. So when “Rise of Skywalker” came to the theatres, to finish the “Skywalker saga” that made my childhood and to finish the sequels that enthralled and confuzzled me in equal parts, I was more scared than anything. Rightly so.

“The Rise of Skywalker” begins with the sudden revival of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who has a massive army capable of galaxy-wide domination, and he offers it to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) if he kills Rey (Daisy Ridley). But Palpatine’s fleet is discovered (although not located) by the Resistance, causing Finn (John Boyega), Rey and Poe (Oscar Isaac) to embark upon an adventure to find and destroy his fleet, in a journey that takes them across the galaxy. At the same time, Kylo begins a frantic search to find Rey and bring her to Palpatine.

Regardless of “Rise of Skywalker” in the grand scheme of “Star Wars,” watching the sequels was difficult because the three movies barely connected at all. “The Force Awakens” somewhat linked to “The Last Jedi,” but “Rise of Skywalker” carried zero plot lines from “The Last Jedi”, making it confusing to watch.

Star Wars Youtube Channel
“Rey, the protagonist of the trilogy, is joined by Poe Dameron and Finn, along with C-3PO, BB-8 and Chewbacca in the finale, “Rise of Skywalker” as they embark on a journey to find Emperor Palpatine and defeat the Sith once and for all.”

This lack of continuity from “The Last Jedi” led to a holistically bad movie in terms of plot. While the trilogy had a tiresome excess of plotlines, “Rise of Skywalker” worsened the issue with awful plot holes and new plot points that made watching it more confusing than enjoyable.

For example, throughout the movie, there’s the idea of the Jedi being “with” Rey as if their spirits embody her. But that doesn’t make sense in the context of the prequels, where it was established that this required intense training (that Rey lacked), and only one person out of hundreds of Jedi was capable of this skill. It was extremely unlikely she could learn it with minimal training and zero exposure to the practicals.

One of the main issues with the plot is that “Rise of Skywalker” didn’t properly complete many of the plot arcs from “The Last Jedi,” giving it an unsatisfying and annoying feel. For example, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who has a large role in “The Last Jedi,” only gets an excruciatingly small 70 seconds of screen time in “Rise of Skywalker.”

Another major issue is all of the plot surrounding Palpatine. While fans speculated his return, there was no meaningful indication in the earlier movies. Further, his return overall made no sense, just in terms of how definitive his death was in “Return of the Jedi.” There was zero background on how he returned and no foreshadowing overall, making his plot lines through “Rise of Skywalker” feel puzzling and almost stupid.

Sadly, the characters in “Rise of Skywalker” didn’t add to the experience. While Kylo Ren has had an interesting arc through the trilogy, his redemption in “Rise of Skywalker” felt rushed. If there was more lead up instead of the “one step forward, two steps back” plot in “The Last Jedi,” I would’ve enjoyed his character. Further, Finn’s character decidedly declined, who should be aware of how capable Rey is given earlier movies, victimizes her in the movie as he pointlessly runs after her time and time again, seeming to have zero confidence in her all-too-obvious abilities. However, some of the characters did develop well. Poe matured in this movie through his struggle to grow into a leader. Rey also improved as she was finally given a strong characterization as someone with consistent choices and rationale rather than a wishy-washy set of personality traits, although the end to her arc was unsatisfying at best, as it seemed as though she couldn’t accept herself for who she is.

While “Rise of Skywalker” had a disappointing plot, the movie itself was visually stunning, with plenty of CGI, something that has definitely improved since “A New Hope.” Throughout the movie, there is a huge variety of visuals, which often refer to the aesthetics of older movies, such as returning to the remains of the Death Star and Luke’s home on Tatooine.

While I found “Rise of Skywalker” an inadequate movie to end the trilogy, what disappointed me the most was in its status as the ending to this chapter of the Star Wars universe. 

Compared to earlier Star Wars movies, the trilogy felt as though the directors added layers and layers of useless plot to make the movies artificially complex as if it would make up for how idiotic each plot is on its own. Take“The Empire Strikes Back”, which had plot twists aplenty, but it was still simple enough that a six-year-old could understand it. In comparison, a student with a Ph.D. in film studies needs a 100-page scene-by-scene plot breakdown to understand “Rise of Skywalker.” Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is that the trilogy, over time, became so unnecessarily convoluted that it grew to be irritating rather than enjoyable.

But while the truth is that I may be biased towards the original trilogy—it’s what I grew up with—“Rise of Skywalker” disappointed me in almost every capacity.

Ultimately, though, I can rest knowing “Rise of Skywalker” isn’t the end of Star Wars—there will inevitably be more movies as Disney continues to milk their cash cow. Although I don’t have faith in Disney, I hope they’ll ditch the complications in favor of a clear and clean plot progression. Your move, Disney. Don’t screw up again.