There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
The evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is alive and he has broadcasted his return across the galaxy. It is unclear how he has survived, or why he has only returned now, but it is clear that he plans to restore the Empire and the Sith's dominance over the galaxy. However, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)—the Supreme Leader of the First Order—sees this as a threat to his rule. He knows he needs to eliminate the Emperor, but he knows that he is not powerful enough to do so on his own.
The Resistance is desperate to locate the Emperor as well. While they have been struggling to survive in their war with the First Order, they know they cannot allow the Emperor to resurrect the Empire. While the majority of the Resistance continues the fight against the First Order, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) assigns Rey (Daisy Ridley) to the task of finding the Emperor. Rey has yet to complete her Jedi training, but she has come a long way since her time with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the Jedi Temple on Ahch-To. She is powerful and she has learned a lot, but she is not ready for this assignment on her own. Thus, with Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suatamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and BB-8 at her side, Rey sets out on her mission to locate the Emperor.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Emperor & The Plot (+5pts)
Rushed Start (-3pts)
Rey & Kylo Ren (+8pts)
Chewbacca & Luke (-4pts)
The Action & Visuals (+8pts)
The Lightsaber & The Swap (-3pts)
Pro: The Emperor & The Plot (+5pts)
Without giving anything away, I enjoyed what the filmmakers did with the Emperor in this movie. They did not explain how he survived, which I thought worked well for this story. He explained that “the dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”, and that was really the extent of it. This worked for me for a few different reasons.
The first reason was that it did not make sense for the character to have a big monologue explaining every detail of his return to any other character in this movie. I just saw no reason to think that the Emperor would feel the need to explain himself to anyone else, and I liked that we did not have more information about his mysterious return than the main characters did. The second reason was that I always hate when villains, or really any characters, deliver large chunks of exposition, just to vomit a bunch of information to the audience. The third reason was that it just made the Emperor seem more mysterious, and more powerful, which worked for the plot of this movie. The plot was a simple scavenger hunt plot, but the return of Emperor elevated the seriousness of that hunt. All the main characters knew was that he was back, that he was powerful, and that he needed to be stopped, and I liked that the filmmakers did not try to over-explain his return just for the sake of justifying to the audience why they brought the character back.
Con: Rushed Start (-3pts)
The beginning of this movie was definitely hurt by the last movie. I did not think Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi was a bad movie. I actually liked it, but it was clear that the writer and director went in a different direction than what was originally planned for this trilogy. With that in mind, the beginning of this movie was spent correcting the ship's course, so to speak. While there was clearly a very specific plan for this movie, the filmmakers needed to try to fill the gap, as best they could, between the last movie and their plan for this one.
This meant that the first 30 to 40 minutes were spent rushing to undo a bunch of things that the last movies did. From Rey's training and the Emperor's return, to what Finn and Poe have been up to and the current state of the war between the Resistance and the First Order. It ended up making the beginning of the movie feel rushed, and it made it feel like one random sequence after another, in an attempt to get all of the undoing out of the way as quickly as possible. I get the predicament that the filmmakers were in, and I get that the filmmakers of this movie did the best that they could, but spending the first chunk of this movie undoing the decisions of the last movie was definitely something that hurt this movie.
Pro: Rey & Kylo Ren (+8pts)
The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren was an interesting one, as they were both still figuring out who they were and they both had great potential when it came to the force. Kylo Ren was rooted in the dark side, while Rey was rooted in the light, but the two characters had an interesting connection with one another. These two characters each wanted to pull the other to their side of the force. Rey saw the good in Ben Solo, and she hoped to save him from the dark side. Kylo Ren saw Rey's potential, and he knew that if she joined him, the two would be unstoppable.
I do not want to give away how this storyline went, but I liked the relationship between the two characters—except for maybe that last scene that the two characters shared, which included a moment that was definitely not earned yet. While this storyline was similar to the Luke and Darth Vader storyline—in the sense that both characters were trying to pull the other to their side of the force—the difference here was that Kylo Ren and Rey were both young and still trying to figure out who they were, and neither character had anyone to answer to. With Luke and Snoke out of the picture, Rey and Kylo Ren were peers to some extent, and they were trying to fill the void that their former masters left behind. I liked the storyline between these two characters and I thought their dynamic—of being both peers and enemies simultaneously—was an interesting one to see play out on-screen.
Con: Chewbacca & Luke (-4pts)
There was something that happened regarding Chewbacca in this movie that felt unnecessary. The filmmakers basically wanted the drama of doing something, but they did not want the consequences of doing it. Their solution was to go ahead and do it anyway, only to undo it almost immediately, without giving the characters involved any real time to reflect on what happened. It made the whole thing feel cheap, shallow, and pointless, and I thought the filmmakers would have been better off skipping the whole thing all together, or designating more time for the other characters to reflect on what happened before undoing it.
I understand the intent was for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens to be focused on Han Solo as a mentor, while Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi would be focused on Luke Skywalker as a mentor, and that this movie would see Leia Organa in that role. However, with the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, that obviously could not happen to the extent the filmmakers wanted. With that in mind, I do not understand why Luke Skywalker did not play more of a role in this movie. There were a number of times throughout the movie in which Luke could have shown up and helped Rey quite a bit—similar to what Obi-Wan Kenobi did for Luke throughout the original trilogy. It just felt like there were a number of opportunities for Luke to help, and there was no good reason for why he did not—other than that it would have made things too easy for the main protagonist.
Con: The Action & Visuals (+8pts)
This was a Star Wars movie, so you should expect the action to be frequent and exciting, and you should expect the visuals to be excellent. With this movie, the filmmakers delivered just that. There were not any lightsaber duels as epic as the Duel of Fates, but there were some pretty decent ones. There were also plenty of force abilities being used, and there were plenty of exciting Star Wars action sequences. You go into a Star Wars movie expecting great and exciting action—among other things—and this movie had just that. On top of all that, the visual effects were excellent, keeping with the sequel trilogy trend of masterfully balancing the practical and digital effects. While this was definitely not the best Star Wars movie, this movie benefited from all of the Star Wars movies that came before it, which made it—visually—Star Wars at its absolute finest.
Con: The Lightsaber & The Swap (-3pts)
These two issues get into pretty heavy spoiler territory, so I will keep this really vague. First, the fate of Kylo Ren's lightsaber was pretty dumb as all logic seemed to be abandoned in order to give the movie a dramatic moment. Then there was the swap between two characters toward the end of the movie. It was not the end result that I had issue with, or the actions by either character leading up to it, but there was a moment at the end of the movie between two characters that felt wildly unearned by the filmmakers. I do not want to say any more about either issue, but both moments seemed either illogical or unearned, all in order to force a couple of dramatic moments into the movie.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker was the culmination of the eight movies—ten if you count the spin-off movies—in the Star Wars franchise, and I thought it was pretty good. One of the film's issues was that the filmmakers devoted a good chunk of screen time undoing a bunch of stuff that the last movie did. I think the filmmakers of this movie did a pretty good job of doing so, but it still resulted in the first 30 minutes feeling rushed. Then there was the whole Chewbacca, which felt like a cheap, lazy, and pointless attempt at injecting unnecessary drama. There was also the absence of Luke Skywalker, which made no sense other than to make the protagonists journey more challenging.
I also thought the thing with Kylo Ren's lightsaber was dumb, and a moment between two characters at the end of the movie felt very much unearned. The movie had plenty of minor issues, but I truly believe they were all relatively minor issues. At the end of the day, this was a Star Wars movie with plenty of exciting and entertaining action sequences, and a ton of excellent visual effects. I really enjoyed the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey, with each character trying to pull the other to their side of the force. Finally there was the return of the Emperor which I thought worked really well for this movie, while also tightening the connection between this trilogy and the two trilogies that came before it. The movie had its flaws, let me make that perfectly clear, but there was plenty to like about the movie anyway, and I had a good time watching it.
Best of the Star Wars Franchise
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Movie Beasts (author) from MA on December 31, 2019:
Hey Sam, I appreciate the comment. Yeah, scoring can be challenging, especially when you are ranking movies in comparison to one another. I let my pros and cons list guide me, for the most part. That being said, I’m a big fan of even the worst Star Wars movies, which might have something to do with the higher scores ;) — although I did try to keep my bias out of it and rate solely based on entertainment value.
Sam Shepards from Europe on December 31, 2019:
A fair review of the last movie of the trilogy. I agree with a lot of your remarks although I think the scoring itself is on the high side. But that's probably because on average I would have nearly 20% - 25% lower scores for most of the movies in the ranking. Scoring is a difficult thing to do for me. I overrated a lot of movies that way, because they were ok in the genre and because I used a on 5 rating which doesn't leave that much room.