The ninth film of a ninology and the third in a trilogy has the massive task of concluding the space opera epic of Star Wars — a task harder than any that has come before in the world of film.
Spoilers ahead. I also recommend watching the movie before reading this.
Unlike Avengers: Endgame or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — other franchise-ending mega blockbusters — there is no comic book or novel to follow or be inspired by. When Disney rightfully destroyed the pre-2014 chaotic, but much-beloved canon, they set out alone in the galaxy to, for the first time in forty years, create new Star Wars films that could go any direction and take on any form.
Disney wanted it fast. Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president, as well as many others, admitted as such. George Lucas handed the Star Wars IP to Disney and it was go time. So here we are four years later with another trilogy and the end of the Skywalker Saga. Did we get what we wanted?
The best part about the ending is that it exists. Now, Lucasfilm is free to move on without being held to the bedrock of a franchise and explore new stories, places, beings — untethered to the expectations of legions of fans worldwide. It’s an exciting time, the future has arrived.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve read other reviews already as well as seen the film and made your own decision. This was originally intended to be a spoiler review of Episode IX — and while below you’ll find a summary with some commentary — it’s mostly a look to the future and what will come next, because that is the best part of this film.
Sure, the redemption and sacrifice of Kylo Ren — who turned out to be the most interesting character of this trilogy — and the eventual defeat of Emperor, were quite predictable. But it was the relationship of Rey to the Emperor and the truly fun adventure of Poe, Rey and Finn that were pleasant surprises.
Some critics are taking issue with Rey being related to the Emperor as it takes away from her independence as a woman and her identity as a “nobody” that could still have impact in a galaxy where everyone powerful is related to someone.
I dispute this for two reasons.
One is that, yes, this is the Skywalker Saga and these movies are about the Skywalkers and the influence of Palpatine. It’s not like you need to be related to someone to be powerful. Yoda is arguably the most powerful and wisest being and is not related to the two families. Ashoka is a woman, independent and strong as well as unrelated to the families.
Secondly, Rey, after growing in herself in the last two movies and casting aside doubt to fight the First Order without hesitation because she knew what was right, found out she was from the worst possible thing — a dark Sith who had committed atrocities across the galaxy — and yet still held strong to defeat him, giving her own life in the process.
It was Ben Solo, played by Adam Driver, that was the most interesting in the end. Despite a movie that aimed to fix the middle of the trilogy — which only happened because of poor advanced planning and not because of the risks Rian Johnson took — Kylo was one of the few characters that felt like a complete, coherent story arc from start to end.
And he was interesting. His turn from the dark side back to the light was sparked by a sacrifice of Leia — a powerful, respectful end to her character if there ever was one — and a memory of Han Solo.
All-in-all, The Rise of Skywalker was a strong, vibrant conclusion that, for me, remained true to the Star Wars I loved — fun, adventurous, new and epic — and presented a satisfying conclusion to a story 42 years in the making.
You can read our entertainment editor’s review for a more robust critic of the film, along with our official rating of 7/10, but it was here that I wanted to make the point that the final film was good, but it is the excitement of a new frontier in this galaxy far, far away that I already have begun to anticipate.