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Movie Review: "Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker"

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.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2019

Theatrical Release: 12/20/2019

Synopsis

The evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is alive and has broadcasted his return across the galaxy. It is unclear how he has survived, or why he is only returning 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 knows that he is not powerful enough to do so on his own.

Meanwhile, 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 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.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe 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)

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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 worked really well for this character in this movie. He explains that “the dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”, and that is really the extent of his explanation. 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 in, 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. All the audience needed to know was that the Emperor was back, because the main characters had no reason to have any more information than that. The third reason was that it just made the Emperor seem more mysterious, and more powerful, which worked really well for the plot of this movie. The plot was simple, but the return of Emperor elevated the seriousness of the scavenger hunt storyline. All the main characters knew was that he was back, he was powerful, and that he needed to be stopped, and I liked that the filmmakers did feel the need to over-explain his return.

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Con: Rushed Start (-3pts)

The beginning of this movie was definitely hurt by the last movie. I do not think Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi was a bad movie. I actually liked it quite a bit, 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. While there was 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 this one.

This meant that the first 30 to 40 minutes were spent rushing through this, in order to leave enough of the film's run-time open to tell the story that the filmmakers of this movie wanted to tell. 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. There were plenty of other moments in the movie that were meant to be corrections from what the filmmakers of the last movie did, but the first chunk of this movie was definitely spent trying to correct this ship as quickly as possible. It ended up making the beginning of the movie feel rushed, and made it feel like one random sequence after another, in an attempt to get it all out of the way as quickly as possible. I get the predicament that the filmmakers of this movie 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 correcting the decisions of the last movie was definitely something that hurt this movie.

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Pro: Rey & Kylo Ren (+8pts)

This is one thing that I think each of the movies in the sequel trilogy has done well. The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren is an interesting one, as they are both still figuring out who they are and both have great potential when it comes to the force. Kylo Ren is rooted in the dark side, while Rey is rooted in the light, but both characters have an interesting connection with the other. I liked what the filmmakers did with these two characters in the last two movies, and I liked how the filmmakers of this movie followed through with this storyline. These two characters each want to pull the other to their side of the force. Rey sees the good in Ben Solo, and hopes to save him from the dark side. Kylo Ren sees Rey's potential, and knows that if she joins him, the two will be unstoppable.

I do not want to give away how this storyline goes in this movie, but I liked the relationship between the two characters (except for maybe that last scene that the two characters shared; that moment was definitely not earned yet). While this storyline is 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, as opposed to Darth Vader who very much knew who he was. With Luke and Snoke out of the picture, Rey and Kylo Ren were peers to some extent, trying to fill the void that their former masters left behind. I do not want to say much more as I risk getting into spoiler territory. Just know that 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.

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Con: Chewbacca & Luke (-4pts)

Okay, I am going to keep this pretty vague to avoid spoilers. There was something that happened regarding Chewbacca's storyline in this movie that felt unnecessary. It was also weird because even if the filmmakers wanted to do it, that would have fine, but they did not follow through with it well. There was no time for the characters involved to reflect on the events that transpired. If the filmmakers really wanted to go in this direction, there should have been time for the characters involved to sit in it. However, the way the filmmakers just sort of threw it out there, then moved on from it immediately, made the whole thing feel like a waste of time.

Then there was the filmmaker's use of Luke in this movie. I understand that the original 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 that the filmmakers initially intended. Thus, 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 where 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).

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Con: The Action & Visuals (+8pts)

This is a Star Wars movie, so you would expect the action to be frequent and exciting, and you expect the visuals to be excellent. With this movie, the filmmakers delivered just that. Was there any lightsaber duel as epic as the Duel of Fates? No, but there were some pretty decent ones. There were also plenty of great Jedi moments, and force abilities.

There were also plenty of ship battles, and there was a pretty epic battle between ground troops on top of a star destroyer. You go into a Star Wars movie expecting great and exciting action, among other things, and this movie had just that. The visual effects were also 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 movies that have come before it, which made it (visually) Star Wars at its absolute finest.

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Con: The Lightsaber & The Swap (-3pts)

These two issues get into pretty heavy spoiler territory, so I will keep this point 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 seemed were either illogical or unearned moments that only happened to force a couple of dramatic moments into the movie.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (86pts)

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker is the culmination of the eight movies -- ten if you count the spin-off movies -- in the Star Wars franchise. Was it the best of all Star Wars movies? No, but it was pretty good. One of the film's issues was that it needed to devote a good chunk of screen time to correcting the ship after what the filmmakers did with the last movie. 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 pretty rushed. Then there was the fact that the whole Chewbacca thing felt like a missed opportunity. The filmmakers setup a really impactful storyline with Chewbacca, then kind of just dropped the ball with it. There was also the absence of Luke Skywalker, which made no sense other than to make the protagonists journey more challenging.

Then there was the thing with Kylo Ren's lightsaber, and a moment between two characters at the end of the movie that 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 is a Star Wars movie with plenty of exciting and entertaining action sequences, and a ton of incredible visual effects. I also really enjoyed the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey, and really enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters -- with each trying to pull the other to their side of the force. Finally there was the return of the Emperor which I think worked really well for this movie, while also tightening the connection between the sequel trilogy and the two trilogies that came before. The movie had its flaws, but there was plenty to like and I had a really good time watching it.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise

RankMoviePoints

1

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

95pts

2

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

93pts

3

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

92pts

4

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

90pts

5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

89pts

6

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

87pts

7

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

86pts

8

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

83pts

9

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

79pts

10

Solo: A Star Wars Story

78pts

11

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

77pts

Comments

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.