Disney made a big splash when they purchased Lucasfilm film earlier this decade and quickly announced plans for another Star Wars trilogy. Cut to the end of 2019, and we’re all scratching our heads a bit, wondering what to make of those films, especially its finale, The Rise of Skywalker. Was it ultimately successful? What do we make of Rey? And, most importantly, does Palpatine fuck?
Members of the MovieBabble staff break down some of the more noteworthy parts of the film in our Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Exit Survey.
Describe your overall enjoyment of the film with an appropriate GIF.
Does The Rise of Skywalker rewrite everything that came in The Last Jedi?
Sebastian Sanzberro: For the most part, yes. Not being the biggest cheerleader for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, I was perfectly okay with that, too. You could almost skip directly from The Force Awakens into The Rise of Skywalker and barely get your feet wet.
George Kapaklis: Pretty much. Despite the onslaught of hate from fans barrelled towards Rian Johnson for his work on The Last Jedi, it’s even worse when that distaste comes from fellow creators, and the writers for The Rise of Skywalker did a major disservice by straying away from practically all elements of TLJ. Regardless of their opinion on his work, their actions made TROS a clunky and anticlimactic finale, devoid of character development (Rose who??) while downright opposing many of the core thematic ideas present in Johnson’s film.
Callum Britter: Oh, absolutely. Finn and Rose? No idea. Kylo killing his master and taking his place as the big bad of the trilogy? Don’t think so. Rey’s parents are nobodies who sold her for scrap? Well, yes but technically no. The only thing I can think of that was introduced in The Last Jedi and paid off in The Rise of Skywalker was Rey and Kylo’s force connection and boy did it get paid off in a major way.
Sean Coates: Rewrite? Not at all. This didn’t rewrite anything. The Last Jedi still exists in its original form and it rules.
Semantic snarkiness aside, Rise of Skywalker was all but doomed from the start. The Last Jedi was a much-needed departure for Star Wars that challenged the mythology that had built up over three decades, but we all know how certain Star Wars “fans” reacted. This film had the impossible task of making a film that would not only satisfy those who loved The Last Jedi and appease the “fans” who hated it. It was never going to work out. And unfortunately, Abrams and co. steered further away from the interesting direction established by Rian Johnson and creates a product that parades itself as being a “True Star Wars film”, but actually feels like a soulless, market-driven imitation of one.
Cammy Madden: I guess it did in a sense. At the very least it simply ignored The Last Jedi. Issues such as Rey’s parents, Snoke, etc. were sort of shrugged off in The Last Jedi, whereas The Rise of Skywalker brings those issues back into focus. However, I feel like The Last Jedi sort of did the same thing for The Force Awakens. We had all these questions set up and ready to answer, and Rian Johnson chose to simply shrug them off. In a way, these two events sum up the overall problem with this trilogy: it’s fractured, unorganized, and doesn’t flow in the way a trilogy should. Rather than each piece of the trilogy being a start, middle, and end, we got 3 connected stories that seem to tell a more separate and individual tale.
Steven Ruiz: In a way, it feels like it did. The scene where Luke catches the lightsaber from going in the ship’s fire felt like it was rewriting Luke’s over the shoulder toss in TLJ.
Collin Willis: The Rise of Skywalker disregards not only The Last Jedi but The Force Awakens as well. I don’t know who these characters are because everyone is so drastically backwards.
Blake Ison: I don’t think that Rise of Skywalker necessarily ‘rewrites’ everything that came in The Last Jedi, but I do think that it ignores a lot of things set up in that film. A prime example is the lack of Rose’s character in the film.
Nick Kush: Absolutely. Personally, the most glaring example is how each film views the Force. Rian Johnson added a sense of egalitarianism to the Force, making it a far better proxy to spirituality — an idea that the other Star Wars movies had only paid lip service to in the past. While everyone was stuck wondering who Broom Kid was, Johnson was making the Force for everyone in this universe, not just a select, royal few. The move took steps to lock down what the Force actually means and what it can do while starting a new, exciting path for Star Wars in future movies. The Rise of Skywalker disbands this idea totally, and now I have no idea how the Force works once again.
Did bringing back Palpatine feel justified?
Sebastian Sanzberro: The assassination (literal and character) of Snoke in The Last Jedi left the Star Wars universe in dire need of a strong central villain, and no one fills that particular bill quite as theatrically as Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine. Yes, it takes a bit of hand-waving to make the resurrection work, but I did so willingly, as McDiarmid’s presence adds that final bit of cohesion to all three trilogies.
Ordinarily, I’d nitpick the hell out of his deus-ex-machina resurrection, but that overly nitpicking part of me took a nice, two-and-a-half-hour nap while the emotional side of me was fully engaged. I’m a very sentimental old fart when I choose to be.
George Kapaklis: Nope. It’s one of those choices that never justifies itself, and so you’re sitting there wondering why for the film’s entire runtime, which is never a good sign for the closing film of a trilogy. TLJ essentially sets Kylo up as the main villain, with a clear contrast between his emotional conflict and that of Darth Vader’s. Yet, by bringing Palpatine back, it essentially undoes his character development and brings the film back to ticking off the same beats of Return of the Jedi, which removes TROS of any original material in its main plotline.
Callum Britter: Clearly Rian Johnson left JJ in a poor position to pick up the story. Especially when you consider that, from Episode VII, he probably had an idea of how it would end but never got the second movie to build on what he’d started and lead into his epic finale. JJ wanted Kylo Ren redeemed and when you want to turn your antagonist to the light side halfway through the movie, you need a greater evil force to take their place. Palpatine fits that bill pretty nicely. And if you’re asking whether it was justified to bring back Ian McDiarmid to ham it up again as Emperor Palpatine, the answer is yes, of course, it was.
Sean Coates: NOPE!
And if you are going to bring him back, YOU HAVE TO give a better reason than “somehow he survived”. This line is evidence that the writers truly believed that this dumb script literally wrote itself and they just forgot to explain how Palpatine survived. It exemplifies how much of Rise of Skywalker feels like it’s on auto-pilot.
Cammy Madden: If you had asked me this question before the new trilogy or even after The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, I would have said no. But I had very little hope after The Last Jedi and actually had zero plans to see The Rise of Skywalker as bringing Palpatine back felt like an incredibly forced attempt to bring fans back to the franchise. In the end, however, while definitely feeling unnecessary, forced, and like a cop out, I did find some enjoyment in seeing Palpatine as being the mastermind of the events of the trilogy; in a sense, it seems like the only real explanation as to why this trilogy exists at all. After all, Luke was supposed to have brought balance to the force and defeated the Empire, so having large-scale evil come back as The First Order felt just as unjustified as bringing Palpatine back. The inability to leave Palpatine dead feels like a fitting comparison for the franchise as a whole.
Steven Ruiz: From the moment we heard that laugh in the teaser trailer, I thought it was going to be something big and something J. had planned from the beginning. In the end, it just feels like they brought him back because Rian Johnson killed Snoke.
Collin Willis: Not in the slightest. He was completely disconnected from Rey and Kylo’s emotional journey but was forced into the plot.
Blake Ison: Bringing back Palpatine, to me, did not feel justified. I feel like his return was a bit of a cop out and felt like a very easy and safe route to take the film. However, I am still not entirely sure about my thoughts about his return as I have only seen the film once.
Nick Kush: This choice ruins the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I adore seeing Ian McDiarmid ham it up with glee as Palpatine, but bringing him back and positioning him as the true author to all the evil that we’ve seen in the last two movies is an outlandish writing choice that hinges totally on nostalgia.
It also begs the question: why does Star Wars need the threat of a big bad in every movie? Why couldn’t we have Kylo as the main villain of this story? The fact that he’s fallible makes him that much more interesting and relatable as a villain. (Not to mention that The Last Jedi set him up as the villain of this movie, but I digress.)
Sebastian Sanzberro: Very difficult to narrow it down to just one, but if I had to pick, I’d say it would be that final, haunting scene on Tatooine.
Something about Rey’s return to where it all started, her acceptance into the Skywalker ‘family,’ and John Williams’ Force-theme music swell tied the whole 42-year-old saga up in a big, gorgeous bow for me.
General Leia’s final exit into the Force would be my runner-up. Leia’s seamless integration into the story was accomplished with exceptional skill, tact, and grace (despite Carrie Fisher passing over two years ago).
George Kapaklis: Anytime Babu Frik was on screen.
Callum Britter: That magic behind-the-back lightsaber pass was particularly spicy. Even more so was Adam Driver’s little shrug before dispatching the Knights of Ren.
Sean Coates: The Rebirth of Ben Solo. Kylo Ren has been the most interesting character in this entire trilogy and seeing him finally turn back to the light side of the Force is so incredibly satisfying and is what I’ve been waiting to see for three movies. It is one of the handfuls of moments where Rise of Skywalker truly delivers.
Cammy Madden: There were a lot of great moments in the movie, but one moment really appealed to me above the rest. When Rey is trying to summon the power to defeat Palpatine, we hear the voices of all the Jedi. While it would have been awesome to see more force ghosts, I think this approach actually worked a lot better. It wasn’t flashy and yet it still acknowledged the idea that the Jedi still exist, in some form. All of our favorites, from Windu to Yoda to Luke to Obi-Wan can be heard saying words of support to Rey, and having grown up with these movies, I found that to be a rather touching moment.
Steven Ruiz: Rey giving Ben the extra lightsaber to fight off the Knights of Ren as well as Rey fighting Palpatine.
Collin Willis: Palpatine quoting some Prequel lines. He was a terrible addition as a villain, but I love me a good meta meme reference.
Blake Ison: Easily the lightsaber duel on the Death Star ruins; however, this is closely followed by anything with Babu Frik in it.
Nick Kush: Babu Frik, or any other goofy animal puppet that shows up throughout the film. These little touches are some of the things that will always escape my ever-growing cynicism towards this franchise. They’re always fun, and they turn straightforward or underwritten scenes into lively moments.
Sebastian Sanzberro: Less a single moment per se, but rather a lack of meaningful moments for Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).
While I’m not exactly the biggest cheerleader for The Last Jedi, that film’s storytelling flaws had nothing whatsoever to do with Tran’s performance, and her almost nonexistent participation in this film felt as though she was being deliberately sidelined.
George Kapaklis: The rest of the movie.
Callum Britter: I’M THE SPY! It definitely earns its place among the worst lines of dialogue in history.
Sean Coates: The Chewbacca death fake-out. “hE mUsT hAvE bEeN oN a DiFfErEnT tRaNsPoRt” — ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Have the guts to kill him off or don’t use this woeful attempt at a misdirection that even the dumbest member of your audience can see coming 1000 Parsecs away!!! IT. ADDS. NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!
Cammy Madden: For me, the whole idea of chasing a map on a pyramid that leads to a Sith planet was absolutely ridiculous. If this had been tied into the first two movies, it certainly could have worked, but due to the disjointed feeling of the trilogy, there clearly wasn’t that much planning carried out, to begin with. It just felt like an unimaginative way to give the characters something to chase for a large part of the movie, but it felt incredibly hollow.
Steven Ruiz: The Reylo kiss. A hug would’ve been better. The kiss felt awkward and forced. Almost like it was put there to please Reylo shippers.
Collin Willis: Everything between “The Dead Speak!” and “DIRECTED BY JJ ABRAMS”. In all seriousness, this movie has so much bad that I’m having a hard time finding things I enjoyed about it.
Blake Ison: It would probably be the poor introduction of Keri Russell’s character. It felt a bit out of place to me.
Nick Kush: Each tired, eye-rolling piece of fan service. So what is that, 9470 different moments?
What are your thoughts on Rey being revealed as Palpatine’s granddaughter?
Sebastian Sanzberro: Palpatine’s role in this movie serves to undo Rian Johnson’s drop-of-the-ball regarding Rey’s lineage in The Last Jedi.
Yes, it does retcon her ‘commoner’ origin story from the previous two movies, but then again, so did Luke being Vader’s son in The Empire Strikes Back.
I also liked the message that we are not the sum of our genetic programming and parentage; we are who we choose to be.
George Kapaklis: Pointless. The beauty of Rey is that, despite what TFA initially presented, she had the opportunity to grow and flourish as her own being. By repeating Luke’s twist with a slight variation, Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio essentially bind Rey’s character arc to his character, which is not only a sign of sloppy writing, but it’s also just cruel. Luke isn’t synonymous with Yoda, so why must Rey be easily comparable with the one who trained her? On top of that, the beauty of Rey not being related to anyone from the Star Wars mythos is something that directly affects her as a person, and adds so much emotional weight to her journey, pushing her to make a name for herself on her own times. TROS robbed her character of that opportunity and delivered a tactless finale to her arc — with an ending that does more harm than good.
Callum Britter: Well, if she wasn’t going to be a Skywalker, then there was hardly any other family name that would’ve made for a good reveal. Windu? Adi-Mundi? I think it’s a great way of keeping all the new characters tied to the previous trilogies and if it finally stems the flow of ‘Mary Sue’ comments, I’m all for it.
Sean Coates: Short Answer:
Long Answer: It’s such a silly and outright lazy revelation that adds absolutely nothing to Rey’s character and raises so many more questions than it answers about both characters. On top of being so mind-bogglingly uninspired, this hackneyed twist that exists for no other reason than for a failed moment of shock from the audience makes of the vastest and expansive universe we’ve ever been exposed to in cinema and in pop culture, feel so small and meaningless outside the mega-popular characters. Really sums up the narrow-mindedness and creative bankruptcy of the people involved with this film.
Cammy Madden: Similarly to having Palpatine be alive, it felt forced. If we had seen more of a battle between the light side and the dark side for Rey, I would have been more onboard, but other than Luke commenting on “darkness” in The Last Jedi, Rey never really displayed signs of leaning towards the dark side. She always wanted to help people, she rarely acted out of anger (at least not any more than say Obi-Wan). It also raises a lot more questions, I mean, wouldn’t Palpatine’s potential lineage have been mentioned before? Who was the grandmother of Rey?
I had heard rumors about Rey being a clone of Palpatine, and I feel like that would have made a lot more sense than her being his actual granddaughter.
Steven Ruiz: I liked what Rian Johnson did with having Rey’s parents be nobodies. It added to this fact that the Force can be in anyone and come from somewhere other than parents. JJ kind of crumbled everything with having Rey be his granddaughter. In a way, I feel it messed up her arc. Also, this just put the thought of Palpatine doing it back in the day in my head. Did he do it when he looked normal or when he was old and crusty?!
Blake Ison: My thoughts on Rey being revealed as Palpatine’s granddaughter are still quite mixed. It felt a little bit unwarranted to me as the previous two films were all about becoming somebody from nobody. I’ll need to see it again to make up my final thoughts, however.
Nick Kush: Not only is it obnoxiously dumb at a surface level for a variety of reasons that make me tired just thinking about them, but it’s also another example of how the Star Wars universe is very, very small. For a universe with seemingly limitless possibilities, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with ideas that are nostalgia plays rather than interesting choices that deepen the lore.
Also, the idea that Palpatine fucks — either through the force or in the biblical sense — is extremely unsettling.
What is your opinion of the new Disney trilogy as a whole?
Sebastian Sanzberro: Two out of three ain’t bad. That ratio is more or less my rating of the original trilogy as well (with Return of the Jedi being my least favorite of that bunch).
JJ Abrams may not be the most refined or intellectual storyteller, but he chooses to paint his films in a warmer emotional palette that you feel more than scrutinize. For the final sentimental journey in the Skywalker story, that warmer approach was very much needed. That Abrams was able to check off so many boxes and hot-wire together so many loose ends is nothing short of a minor filmmaking miracle.
Disney’s handling of the Star Wars legacy may not be as experimental or bold as some might wish, but at the end of this particular trilogy, I’d say Disney punched all the right buttons, and they did so with aplomb.
George Kapaklis: Even though the entire trilogy was initially created to make money, sell action figures, and remind people of that thing they love from ’77, I have mostly positive feelings towards the trilogy. Abrams’ nostalgic introduction, The Force Awakens, worked as a film that was narratively synonymous with A New Hope because it was the first in the new trilogy, so it could re-introduce audiences to the saga they’ve known and loved while bringing new fans in. It also does a superb job at introducing new characters and passing the torch down from the legends of old to the up-and-comers. The Last Jedi plays out like The Empire Strikes Back from the original trilogy: daring, controversial, and a complete tonal juxtaposition to the fun adventure flick that came before it. TLJ was entirely character-focused and set things up enormously for the finale. Clearly, as per my previous answers to these questions, I don’t think TROS nailed the landing, leaving a sour taste in my mouth towards the conclusion of the trilogy. JJ Abrams’ signature knack for nostalgic storytelling alongside Johnson’s narrative and tonal subversion for the good of character development could’ve bolstered something truly spectacular, but what we got was flat and lifeless. That said, 2/3 isn’t a bad job, ay?
Callum Britter: That depends on what angle you’re taking. Monetarily, Disney made back their money by the time The Last Jedi finished it’s run in theaters. That’s a success. There’s a very vocal minority of, shall we say passionate, fans of the original trilogy who lament that Disney killed Star Wars, that their childhood is ruined, that Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy should be strung up. That’s not a success. But if the plan was to produce some quality, well-made products that can appeal to all ages and introduce the Star Wars saga to a new generation of excitable kids so that they might be able to support it for the next 5 decades as their parents did before them except this time through Fortnite instead of action figures and collectible cards? Well, I think Disney has, yet again, done a damn fine job of it.
Sean Coates: This Star Wars Sequel Trilogy has followed in the footsteps of The Godfather, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and (to an extent) the original Star Wars trilogy. A grand tradition where the first film is great, the second film is even better and the third and final installment is much anticipated, but overall very disappointing. And despite ending on a rather meek and unflattering note, this trilogy (for better or worse) has been a huge success. It revitalized Star Wars and has given a new generation of fans an entry point to this incredible universe and unlike last time, they did it with Star Wars films that were actually good. So what if Rise of Skywalker was a little underwhelming? As Meatloaf once said, ‘Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad”.
Cammy Madden: I think that Star Wars is always going to create rifts. It has existed through several generations, each of which takes a different type of enjoyment from the movies. That being said, I was never really on board with a new trilogy, to begin with. If it had been completely separate from the original and prequel trilogies, then I think that would have worked better, but obviously, the desperate need for Hollywood to use nostalgia to sell movies wouldn’t have allowed that. As a fan of the franchise, I think that the way Return of the Jedi ended was perfect, and bringing characters back to life or simply changing the personality of characters completely, feels like a real disservice. The Force Awakens was entertaining enough, The Last Jedi simply emphasized the fractured nature of the trilogy, and The Rise of Skywalker simply highlights to fans that if this trilogy had been done properly from start to finish, we could have witnessed something truly epic.
Steven Ruiz: I love The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi and I was really looking forward to a grand finale with The Rise of Skywalker. But it just came off as Hollywood-written fan fiction. So I would say the first two are great, but the finale takes a tumble.
Collin Willis: Overall, this trilogy is nothing special. The Last Jedi stands out as the only truly unique and ambitious movie among the sequels. While I enjoy The Force Awakens, it doesn’t have enough life of its own to be something great. The Rise of Skywalker should burn in Hell for its soulless incompetence.
Blake Ison: This Disney trilogy feels a bit strange to me with this conclusion (at the moment), however, I do think that it is successful as a whole. Every film feels inclusive of the others, some more so than others, and I feel like most of the character arcs felt authentic and appropriate. The tie-in of Rey being a Palpatine felt weird at first, but the resolution of her character felt appropriate to me. I will need to see The Rise of Skywalker again to make up my mind on that film alone, but as I trilogy I think that they all work relatively well together, albeit a rather unnecessary trilogy.
Nick Kush: I left The Rise of Skywalker without a clear understanding of what was accomplished in the trilogy, if anything at all. Contrary to what you may think from reading my previous answers, I don’t love The Last Jedi. It has quite a few flaws, but it also has a TON of exciting ideas that may have led to many more great Star Wars movies in the future. After The Rise of Skywalker (and also Rogue One and Solo), Star Wars is now stuck in a constant feedback loop, recycling the same characters and story threads over and over again. As a culture, we rejected changes to this formula in The Last Jedi that would have promoted long-term success for the entire franchise. Now, as fan complacency begins to settle in, someone will have to shock the system even more to redirect the course of the franchise. At this point, I’m not sure the totality of Star Wars fandom will be able to handle it. I don’t think I’m overreacting when I say I’m genuinely nervous about the future of Star Wars.
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