‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’ (Film)

‘STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER’

Please feel free to comment on this review.

Destiny of a Jedi

I found the ‘final trailer’ for this movie more uplifting than the actual movie itself. 😦

‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’ is the ninth film in the ‘Star Wars’ film saga – or specifically known as ‘The Skywalker Saga’. It was the eleventh ‘Star Wars’ film to be made since ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ was the tenth film. ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was released in December 2019.

The film was directed by J. J. Abrams who previously helmed ‘The Force Awakens’, the seventh chronological film in ‘The Skywalker Saga’. The screenplay for the film was by J. J. Abrams and Chris Terrio and was based on the story by J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

I’m glad I saw the third and final movie of the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy at the cinema back in December 2019, especially since I started seeing the ‘Star Wars’ films from Disney from the start in 2015. I went in my ‘Star Wars’ Christmas pullover to watch ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ on the big screen.

There was quite a lot of anticipation for this third film in the sequels trilogy. Many deemed it to fail considering the efforts of ‘The Last Jedi’. I think the filmmakers anticipated this kind of reaction and tried every effort with pleasing the fans of ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’ simultaneously. 😐

Now I like to be open-minded as I was hoping for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ to be a satisfactory film to conclude the trilogy. Maybe it wouldn’t be very bad in the end. I like to find positives and negatives in any film or TV production I see, even if it is considered to be a failure by the critics and audiences.

I still rate ‘The Force Awakens’ to be a great ‘Star Wars’ film whilst ‘The Last Jedi’ was a let-down for me. I hoped the director J. J. Abrams would reassure me in bringing back what he delivered in ‘The Force Awakens’ to ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ compared to how Rian Johnson had handled his ‘Last Jedi’.

But then I remembered that J. J. Abrams also directed ‘Star Trek’ (2009) and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ and that he ruined ‘Star Trek’ for me. I think J. J. Abrams should’ve directed all three movies of the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy to keep up the consistency and the emotional journeys of our characters.

Mind you, as I understand it, J. J. Abrams wasn’t going to direct ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ originally. It was going to be Colin Trevorrow who worked on the story with J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio and Derek Connolly. But Trevorrow left the film due to creative differences with producer Kathleen Kennedy. 😦

It seems Kathleen Kennedy’s got a lot to answer for regarding ‘Star Wars’ as well as Disney. Anyway, J. J. Abrams was back to direct ‘Episode IX’. And who knows? Maybe there’d be surprises in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ to look forward to. I didn’t want to judge the film harshly like others would judge it. 🙂

And after seeing the film at the cinema…I…err…um…found it okay. Yeah, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ wasn’t really a great conclusion to the sequels trilogy in my opinion. It wasn’t good as my cinema experience of ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ in December 2019, but it was way better than ‘The Last Jedi’.

This is a complicated one. There were times where I did want to like the movie. In fact, I think the first half is better than the second. There were plenty of good moments and plenty of bad moments. It’s like a seesaw. The film went up and down from good to bad to good and bad again. Weird that. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. I had a fun time with this movie. But a lot of the character moments fell flat for me and it didn’t seem like a satisfactory conclusion to pay off what the sequels trilogy had been about. The movie was trying to be a sequel to both ‘Force Awakens’ and ‘Last Jedi’ at the same time.

The film takes place one year after the events of ‘The Last Jedi’ (thank goodness it’s not immediately after like the last time). In the film, Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron go on a mission with Chewbacca, BB-8 and C-3PO to provide a last stand against the evil First Order now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.

The mission involves them finding a ‘wayfinder’ in order to get to the location of the evil Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious who has resurrected from the dead (more on this in a bit). Rey meanwhile soon discovers her true identity and will she and Kylo Ren work together to defeat the evil Emperor?

Now here’s the thing about the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy. I would like it if it was a trilogy featuring Rey, Finn and Poe as the main heroes like it was with Luke, Han and Leia in the original trilogy. It would’ve made sense to do that and provide a nostalgic feeling of a ‘Star Wars’ trio like the original.

I think it gets explored in one of the ‘Star Wars’ books tying into ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ called ‘Resistance Reborn’ which I’ll have to check out. Even in the original Thrawn trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ books by Timothy Zahn, you have Luke, Han and Leia as the main focus of characters to connect with.

But sadly, that isn’t in the sequels film trilogy. The whole ‘Star Wars’ trio team-up seems to have been added late in the third movie and not in the second. This seems to be another missed opportunity, like the trilogy wasn’t planned in terms of developing characters and story throughout.

Like I said, the film features the return of Ian McDiarmid as the evil Emperor Palpatine. It’s never explained how Palpatine came back and survived that fall at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’. It’s similar to how Darth Maul survived from ‘The Phantom Menace’ in ‘Solo’ wasn’t properly explained.

Palpatine does look worse for wear, especially with his dead bulgy eyes and his dead hands with crippled fingers. His appearance in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ feels last minute and it doesn’t help that he doesn’t do so much with staying put in his base of operations on the uncharted planet of Exegol.

Oh and get this! Rey’s true origins get revealed in this movie! Are you ready for this? She happens to be…Palpatine’s granddaughter! Hey, what? When did Palpatine have kids? And how come this gets established in the third movie when it should’ve been in the second? This felt rather disappointing. 😦

I had hoped Rey would actually turn out to be a Skywalker – maybe be Luke’s daughter or something. She could’ve been Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s sister and be Han and Leia’s daughter. At least it would justify the movie’s title being called ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. I’ll share more about this later on.

Here’s the thing. I really like Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey! She’s a lovely actress and I would give anything to write her a thumping good character part in the ‘Star Wars’ films. She could have had a strong heroic leading female part, having superb strong male characters to support her here.

But that’s not Rey in these ‘Star Wars’ movies. There are times when she seems interesting, but most of the time she comes across as flat. She’s a nice character but the tagged-on backstory in this movie doesn’t help. She’s like Clara from ‘Doctor Who’ who wasn’t properly developed throughout.

And….here’s another annoying thing regarding Rey. She happens to have ‘Jesus’-like powers when using the Force to heal people and creatures from fatal wounds. I don’t think that’s how the Force works. Now, I appreciate the filmmakers trying to introduce new things with the Force in these films.

Whether you like it or not, Rian Johnson was brave in introducing new things with ‘The Last Jedi’. I think it would’ve worked better if Rian Johnson did his own ‘Star Wars’ trilogy to introduce those new ideas and allow J. J. Abrams to complete the vision he had for the sequels trilogy throughout. 🙂

But this is the problem I have. It feels like the ideas have been added on into these movies without any thought or effort being put into them. It’s like the rules are being broken without making sure whether it’s okay to break the rules. In many ways, it’s an approach that is disrespectful to the fans.

I’m gradually appreciating why ‘Star Wars’ fans don’t like the sequel films so much. This is especially from reading ‘Star Wars’ books including the Thrawn trilogy and learning about their place in terms of continuity. It’s also from watching ‘The Mandalorian’ series on Disney+. I’ve greatly enjoyed that!

A lot of ‘Star Wars’ lore is expanded upon in the books, the audios, the comics and the video games. And I feel the latest filmmakers ignored what was established in the books, audios, comics and video games without considering how the fans would react to that ignorance. It does seem pretty unfair. 😦

The film’s cast also includes the late Carrie Fisher as Leia, the general who leads the Resistance against the First Order. I must say, it was clever how the filmmakers used unreleased footage from ‘The Force Awakens’ to justify Leia’s inclusion into the film, since Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016.

It was still shocking and saddening to see how Leia died in order to preserve Ben Solo/Kylo Ren’s life-force when he was fighting Rey on Kef Bir. It’s also intriguing how Leia trained Rey to learn her Jedi skills, yet she still knew Rey was a Palpatine. Again, this felt so late minute and not thought-through.

There’s also Mark Hamill as the Force-ghost of Luke Skywalker since he became one with the Force in ‘The Last Jedi’. Like ‘Last Jedi’, Luke is less active as a character and mainly appears as a cameo to encourage Rey to fight against Emperor Palpatine when she felt disheartened on the planet Ahch-To.

I think it would’ve been great if Luke as a Force-ghost actually went along to help Rey fight against Palpatine on Exegol. At least then Rey would’ve had a way to prevent Palpatine’s spirit enter into her like he said he would. And it would’ve been better if previous Force-ghosts came along (more later).

There is a brief appearance of Harrison Ford as Han Solo’s ghost in the movie. This is when Kylo Ren/Ben Solo sees him after his fight with Rey on Kef Bir. It’s not clear if it’s a Force-ghost of Han Solo or whether Ben Solo is seeing him inside his head. Leia may have projected Han’s ghost to him.

Adam Driver returns as Kylo Ren a.k.a. Ben Solo in the movie. Kylo Ren starts off as Supreme Leader of the First Order after killing Snoke in ‘The Last Jedi’ and wanting to kill Palpatine at the beginning of the film. But then he agrees to carry out Palpatine’s orders to kill Rey and to deliver ‘the final order’.

It keeps changing in terms of Kylo/Ben’s motivations since he doesn’t actually kill Rey when they meet a couple of times in the movie. Kylo/Ben gradually reveals to Rey that Palpatine is her grandfather and it’s after their fight on Kef Bir that Kylo/Ben starts to become a good guy in the end.

Oh and Kylo Ren has his mask back in the film, which he damaged in ‘The Last Jedi’. I’m glad he had his mask repaired and wore it again in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. He’s more intimidating with the mask on. But in hindsight, Darth Vader is a more intimidating villain compared to how Kylo Ren ended up.

John Boyega returns as Finn in the movie. Incidentally, I saw John Boyega in the ‘Star Wars’ films before seeing him in ‘Attack the Block’ with Jodie Whittaker. Finn does seem to have not turned out to be a great character in the ‘Star Wars’ sequels, which is a shame as he had promise at the beginning.

It gets frustrating when Finn had something to say to Rey when they were almost about to die in ‘quicksand’ or something. I don’t know if it’s he loved her or whether he was strongly connected to the Force. It never gets revealed and I do wish that thing he had to say to Rey was followed through.

Oscar Isaac returns as Poe Dameron in the film. I’m afraid to say this, but I did find Poe Dameron to be a pretty mean jerk in the movie. 😦 This is especially when he has arguments with Rey early on and often tends to tell C-3PO to shut up. I wish Poe ended up becoming more likeable and more a team-player.

There is a backstory hinted at about Poe’s past in being a spice merchant/smuggler before he joined the Resistance. But again, like other things in this movie, it does feel rather last minute and not thought-through. I like how Poe took charge following Leia’s death and had Finn be a part of his team.

There’s Anthony Daniels back as C-3PO in the film. I think C-3PO had a more comedic story going on in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ compared to his appearances in ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’. He’s able to read the language of a Sith dagger but refuses to translate it against his programming. 😐

When he’s about to go offline and have his mind wiped from translating what’s on the Sith dagger, he takes ‘one last look’ at his friends, Rey, Finn and Poe. Mind you, I don’t think C-3PO has known Rey, Finn and Poe long enough to justify them as friends, especially when Poe has been rude to him.

R2-D2 is back, played by Hassan Taj and Lee Towersey and not by Jimmy Vee as in the previous two films. A shame! R2 doesn’t really do much from the film apart from giving C-3PO his memory back after he lost it from reading the dagger. BB-8 had more droid focus compared to how R2 had a focus.

Speaking of which, BB-8 is back in this film. I like BB-8 as a droid character, but he often spends time with Rey compared to Poe. Shouldn’t BB-8 be more Poe’s droid rather than Rey’s? BB-8 is even with Rey at the film’s end when they’re on Tatooine. Did Poe give BB-8 to Rey as a gift at the film’s end?

There is another new droid in this film called D-O, voiced by director J. J. Abrams. D-O is a lot smaller than BB-8 and doesn’t look all that impressive. In fact, it’s more like a ‘Blue Peter’s take on how to make a droid using a hairdryer. 😀 D-O has this information regarding what happened to Rey as a girl.

Naomi Ackie stars as a new character in the film called Jannah. She’s a former Stormtrooper of the First Order (originally called TZ-1719). She aids the Resistance when Rey, Finn, Poe et al find her and her group on the planet Kef Bir. Jannah and Finn have that connection, being former Stormtroopers.

I like Finn and Jannah may be ‘too similar’ in terms of characters. There’s also a hint that Jannah might actually be Lando Calrissian’s daughter when they meet each other at the film’s end. I don’t know if that’s to make up for a missed opportunity since Finn could’ve actually been Lando’s son in the films.

Domhnall Glesson returns as General Hux in the movie. I’ve seen Domnhall Gleeson outside of ‘Star Wars’ since he was in the first ‘Peter Rabbit’ movie and I’m currently looking forward to seeing him in the second ‘Peter Rabbit’ film. His role does get overshadowed with Richard E. Grant in the movie.

General Hux is the First Order’s third-in-command in this film as opposed to second-in-command. I admit; I did not see it coming when he turned out to be a spy for the Resistance in this movie. But again like most things, it felt last-minute and not thought-through, especially once he got killed here.

And as I mentioned, Richard E. Grant is in this film, playing Allegiant General Pryde. Seeing Richard E. Grant in a ‘Star Wars’ movie is pretty surreal. 🙂 This is especially as he’s done ‘Doctor Who’ things like ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’, ‘Scream of the Shalka’, ‘The Snowmen’ and ‘The Name of the Doctor’.

Pryde is a high-ranking general in the First Order who previously served in the Galactic Empire. We don’t know really know much about him as a character. He’s second-in-command above General Hux and soon takes over for Palpatine when Kylo Ren has decided to become a good guy in the end.

Lupita Nyong’o returns as Maz Kanata, the former space pirate and ally of the Resistance. She becomes more involved with the Resistance’s activities compared to her brief role in ‘The Last Jedi’. However, that doesn’t make Maz an interesting character compared to her ‘Force Awakens’ debut.

It’s a shame that since Maz seemed to have something interesting about her when she kept Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in her tavern one time, which doesn’t get followed through in the sequels trilogy. She seems to know what happened to Leia as he died and gives Chewie his medal at the end.

Another new character gets introduced in the film. This happens to be Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss. She’s an old acquaintance of Poe’s when he, Rey, Finn, C-3PO and BB-8 visit the planet Kijimi. Most of the time, we see Zorii behind a mask and it isn’t revealed what she looks behind her mask here. 😐

She only takes her visor off to reveal her eyes when she’s talking to Poe on a rooftop when it’s snowing. Now I’ve seen what Keri Russell looks like in photographs and she was in ‘Mission: Impossible III’. So why she should be hiding her face when she looks great is a bit of a mystery to me.

Joonas Suotamo returns as Chewbacca, Han Solo’s long-time Wookie friend and first mate of the Millennium Falcon. The original actor who played Chewie, Peter Mayhew, died of a heart-attack during the movie’s post-production. Apparently, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is dedicated to his memory.

Mind you, I think I missed that dedication compared to Carrie Fisher’s dedication at the end of ‘The Last Jedi’. Chewie gets caught by Stormtroopers and is taken to an Imperial ship before being transported to another Imperial ship before it explodes. I did think Chewie had been killed in this. 😐

Kelly Marie Tran is back as Rose Tico in the film. Yeah, she didn’t do much. J. J. Abrams could have easily had the option to not bring Rose back from ‘The Last Jedi’ as she divided a lot of ‘Star Wars’ fandom. Most of the time she just stays with the Resistance and doesn’t go with Rey and the others!

The sort-of romantic plot that was going on between Finn and Rose in ‘The Last Jedi’ doesn’t get resolved here. In fact, Finn seems to have had three different love interests in the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy. First it was Rey, then it was Rose and now it’s Jannah. Why couldn’t they settle on one love interest?

And there’s the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. I’m sorry to say this but…even Lando’s appearance felt tagged-on. 😦 After seeing him in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Return of the Jedi’ and even the 1989 ‘Batman’ film, surely Billy Dee Williams deserves a lot to do as Lando here. 😐

I imagine that Lando was brought in to appear in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ to satisfy the ‘Star Wars’ fans who hated ‘The Last Jedi’. The things that Lando does include him meeting Rey’s group on Pasaana to help them out, pilots the Millennium Falcon with Chewie and perhaps ‘reveal’ as a father to Jannah.

Other cast members featured in this film include Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy, as Resistance trooper Beaumont Kin. It was nice to see Dominic Monaghan appear in this film, but like a lot of the characters featured in this film, he barely gets anything to do.

Apparently, Vinette Robinson, who played Rosa Parks in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘Rosa’, plays a pilot in this film called Wrobie Tyce. There’s not enough screen time to appreciate her character however and apparently she’s the wife of Amanda Lawrence as Commander Larma D’Acy.

There was one time I did hear that Matt Smith, who played the Eleventh Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’, was considered to play a role in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. Sadly that didn’t happen which is a shame as I would’ve been thrilled to see him in a ‘Star Wars’ movie. Hopefully I’ll see Matt in ‘Morbius’ soon. 🙂

We do get to see Rey’s mother and father briefly and they’re played by Jodie Comer and Billy Howle. Rey’s father is the son of Emperor Palpatine apparently. Warwick Davis is also in this film, playing Wicket W. Warrick, leader of the Ewoks on the planet Endor who appeared in ‘Return of the Jedi’. 😀

There are supposed to be vocal cameos in the movie such as Andy Serkis as Snoke and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. Now with those vocal cameos I could hear fine and they were recognisable when Kylo Ren was tracking down Emperor Palpatine inside his base on the planet Exegol earlier on.

But it’s the voices of several past Jedi that baffled me when watching the film first time on the big screen at the cinema and second time on DVD. Hayden Christensen is back as Anakin Skywalker, Samuel L. Jackson is back as Mace Windu and Ewan McGregor is back as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the film.

There are also archival recordings of Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi played in the film. There’s also Frank Oz as Yoda and Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn. There’s also Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus, Jennifer Hale as Aayla Secura and many more in this movie.

Honestly, most of the vocal cameos of past Jedi seemed gargled to me. Wouldn’t it have been better to have Rey and Kylo/Ben joined by the Force-ghosts of Luke, Anakin, Mace, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Qui-Gon, etc to help fight against the evil Palpatine. Even the YouTube channel ‘How It Should Have Ended’ did that. 😀

By the way, I’m glad the porgs made a brief appearance in the movie when Rey came back to Ahch-To. The porgs were one of the things I liked about ‘The Last Jedi’, even though they were made to sell toys to kids. I suppose J. J. Abrams didn’t entirely dismiss everything Rian Johnson introduced. 😀

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ did feature quite a lot of strange and stupid moments, mostly based on ‘Last Jedi’ logic, I believe. There’s even a strange moment where Rey and Kylo/Ben kiss each other after defeating Palpatine. Err…I don’t recall a romance between them. More a brother-sister relationship!

Ben also heals Rey with ‘Jesus’ powers. Hey! Perhaps Rey can heal Ben Solo with those powers…oh he dies at the end. Okay. Actually, re-watching the film again, I think it does make sense when Leia had given her life-force to Kylo/Ben after he had been stabbed by Rey when he fought her on Kef Bir.

The movie concludes with Rey burying Luke and Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine before saying to someone that she’s ‘Rey Skywalker’. Err…actually, she’s not. She should say she’s ‘Rey Palpatine’, shouldn’t she? In fact, this movie’s title ends up being a lie as far as I’m concerned when watching it.

Unless you consider Kylo/Ben ‘rising’ up to Force-heal Rey from her mortal wounds at the end (which is short-lived) or if you consider Luke’s Force-ghost coming back and raising his X-Wing fighter jet to help Rey get to Exegol to find Palpatine, the movie’s title does feel weak to justify its existence.

I really wish Rey ended up being a Skywalker as it would justify her main role throughout these films and it would defy Kylo/Ben’s claims about her being a ‘nobody’. The final shot of the film is of BB-8 is with Rey. They both look at the sunset happening on Tatooine. Meant to be beautiful imagery, right?

Once again, John Williams returns to compose the music for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. John Williams always delivers good music in these ‘Star Wars’ films. I don’t think there aren’t that many memorable cues from the film and he does reuse familiar themes during the end credits of the film.

For the final time (for now), there aren’t any special features for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ DVD. I shouldn’t really be that surprised considering the ‘Star Wars’ DVDs have been pretty inconsistent. I’m just thankful I was able to get my ‘Rise of Skywalker’ DVD sent to me via the post during a pandemic.

The special features on the Blu-ray are as follows. There’s ‘The Skywalker Legacy’ documentary, ‘Passana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase’, ‘Aliens in the Desert’, ‘D-O: Key to the Past’, ‘Warwick & Son’ and ‘Cast of Creatures’. You can watch some of these special features if subscribe to Disney+.

So yeah, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ had a lot going on in it. It’s not a great film, but it’s better than ‘The Last Jedi’. I can’t say I’m entirely happy with how the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy ended, but on the other hand I’m glad I saw this movie. And there is no way this is going to be the last ‘Star Wars’ film.

Despite people saying it’s the last one in ‘the Skywalker saga’, it’s never the last ‘Star Wars’ film! There are also plenty more ‘Star Wars’-related stuff to check out. As well as ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘The Clone Wars’ and the ‘Rebels’ shows, there are upcoming projects linked to Boba Fett and Cassian Andor.

Overall, I rate the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy as a mixed bag. ‘The Force Awakens’ was great, ‘The Last Jedi’ was ‘meh’, and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was okay. It’s not a pretty good sign to see that. The sequels trilogy could’ve been so much better had one director and writer put his/her effort into it. 😦

I’m not a dedicated ‘Star Wars’ fan, but even I know how a film or a TV show is supposed to work. I would’ve written the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy much differently compared to how it ended up. The movies were a wasted opportunity for me, but an enjoyable wasted opportunity. That’s…something.

I hope to find out more about the ‘Star Wars’ universe whether it’d be in future films or in the books, comics, audios and ongoing web-shows already established. I especially enjoyed revisiting all the ‘Star Wars’ films whilst reading the original Thrawn trilogy and watching ‘The Mandalorian’ at the same time.

Will there be more ‘Star Wars’ films featuring Rey, Finn and Poe after ‘The Rise of Skywalker’? 😐

‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’ rating – 7/10


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