I was busy, sure, but it says something that I only made it to see The Last Skywalker last week. At this point I am pretty sure I had seen The Force Awakens in theaters three times. That does not, though, mean The Rise of Skywalker is a bad movie. It is a good movie and a solid coda to both the new trilogy and the big 9-movie trilogy of trilogies. But it does suffer from Disney’s lack of an overarching vision for the new trilogy and it is oddly lackluster.
Not to be all Marie Kondo about it, but The Force Awakens sparks joy in me. There weren’t many sparks of joy in the theater while I watched The Rise of Skywalker. Intellectually, I appreciate and enjoyed the movie but I, somewhat oddly, don’t feel the same on a visceral level. This is at least in part due to failures in filmmaking, I think. The movie is badly paced, for one, and at one point I almost nodded off in the theater.
Rey, Poe, and Finn spend a lot of time together for the first time in the trilogy. This is to the movie’s benefit.
Kylo Ren was perhaps not a great villain, but he had the strongest arc of any character over the trilogy.
I have . . . mixed thoughts on bringing back Palpatine (nothing that is in the opening crawl is a spoiler).
Maybe make a Stars movie that (1) isn’t a prequel and (2) doesn’t feature one or more planet killers.
Of all The Last Jedi moves that Abrams chucks out the window here, it is reversing course of Rey’s parentage that I hate the most.
There is a ton happening here that the movie itself only sort of hand waves an explanation for. It expects us to fill in a lot of the blanks ourselves. I generally hate critics’ demands that epic fantasy movies hold the audience’s hand, for example, so I ought to be okay with this, but it is a bit much. This is the sort of thing you can flesh out in the novelization, and I understand that The Rise of Skywalker pulls quite a bit from ancillary works, but I am really only interested in the movies and the movies ought to be able to stand on their own.
But we get a decent explanation why Rey and Kylo Ren are so overpowered, why some hard-to-explain things happened in the first two movies, and in a way that integrates with the story.
Hand waving is probably all we can expect, because Abrams has zero interest in worldbuilding. Really, it is remarkable the extent to which the new trilogy doesn’t add to the Star Wars world. This hinders the future of the franchise, in my opinion.
This was supposed to be Leia’s movie. Abrams keeps her appearances to a minimum after Carrie Fisher’s untimely death (using unused The Force Awakens footage, as I understand). This was the right movie, but it surely came at a cost.
With the original three mostly off the table and the new three together so much, you would think this would leave plenty of time for the remaining characters. Rose Tico and Maz Kanata are barely present. Which makes the decision to introduce fairly significant new secondary characters Zorii Bliss and Jannah questionable, even if they are otherwise strong characters.
Babu Frik, on the other hand, absolutely sparks joy and evokes the original trilogy in the way The Force Awakens was so effective.
The Rise of Skywalker is, as I said, an effective coda to the trilogy and to the trilogy of trilogies. Thematically, if no in pure whiz-bang spectacle. Right down to the final scene explaining the title.
The movie really is visually striking. It might be even prettier than The Force Awakens. The effects are superb. The contrasts between those two movies and the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and especially Lucas’ marred update of the original trilogy are striking.