Friday, January 3, 2020

Film Review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - A Phenomenal Conclusion to the Series and Message about Inclusivity Satisfies the True Fan

By Ashton Samson

Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker is a somewhat disappointing entry not without its moments of greatness.

Editor's Note: We get a unique perspective from Ashton, who is a very young Star Wars fan when you consider the age of most movie reviewers.
The force has been strong with me for most of my life, as it has been for many of the true fans of Star Wars. Therefore, there must have been a great deal of pressure placed upon J.J. Abrams to make The Rise of Skywalker a fitting conclusion to the Star Wars Saga. Although A New Hope wasn’t the first film I watched, the classic was one of the only movies at the time that I understood on a deeper level than Peter Pan, Pirates of the Carribean or any other childhood film I grew up watching. I was obsessed with watching Johnny Depp make jokes as Captain Jack Sparrow or Captain Hook dueling with Peter Pan, but when I watched A New Hope for the first time, as the mature little boy that I was, I saw more to the film than lightsaber duels and operatic space battles. 

I saw and understood how the force could be the universal strength and balance, akin to God, which can be found within all of us. I entered the theater years later with a keen awareness of how difficult it was going to be to carry the meaning of the force to a new generation. While there were definitely high points to the film and the ultimate ending brought the saga to a magnificent denouement, the odyssey itself was often lacking in logic and moved too swiftly from one location to the next without much depth, neglecting opportunities for more character development, especially the return of a major villain: Palpatine.


Emperor Palpatine has always been one of my favorite characters in the series, so naturally I was giddy as I learned about his return. I was excited to see that Abrams did his job well with some part of this, because he made Palpatine’s return inventive and even the slightest bit eerie, akin to something out of a horror film. 

However, going back to the overly rapid nature of the film, The Rise of Skywalker spends too much time with its principal characters and moves them quickly from one place to the next, in search of information regarding Palpatine’s return. Instead, time should have been spent catching up with the villain himself, explaining how he suddenly returned from the dead, as well as what plans Palpatine had in store for the principal characters. A multitude of slow, meandering scenes that did not serve to take the audience any deeper into the story could have been summed up in ten minutes. 

Many of these scenes take place with Rey and Finn alongside C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8. The most irritating part about these scenes is that mixed in with some of the cringiest dialogue ever and the head-spinning fast pace is some very much needed, good character development. If only some of these scenes could have been written with better dialogue and more time was given to Palpatine’s important plot, the film would have had a much more satisfactory finale. 

Ultimately, the character that saves the day in more ways than one in The Rise of Skywalker is Kylo Ren, played superbly by Adam Driver. Kylo, who was thought of as the villain of the sequel trilogy has a change of heart, gaining back his former identity as Ben Solo, son of none other than Han Solo, played by the beloved Harrison Ford, who returns in this film to have a brief, but much-needed conversation with his child. Kylo proceeds to save Rey from Palpatine just before sacrificing himself into the force,saving Rey.

Ben’s path to redemption is without a doubt, the most thrilling aspect of the film and saves it from being a complete disappointment. The character has been a personal favorite of mine since his debut in The Force Awakens, even though at the time, he was an evil member of the Dark Side. He was always very charismatic and even as he was drawn further towards the Sith, in opposition to Rey, there was an implication throughout that he had mutual respect for her. The two of them have had a great dynamic from the beginning, something akin to the relationship between Harry Potter and Voldemort, communicating telepathically to strategize their next course of action. The fact that Abrams at least managed to conclude this storyline well makes me glad.
There were two other aspects that truly saved the film. One was the brief return of the characters from the original trilogy and the other is the ultimate ending. Both suffer slightly however, so a discussion of the positive and negative aspects of these scenes is in order. The posthumous return of Carrie Fisher surprisingly was not distracting and her role served a greater purpose to the story. This was not a case where the director simply wanted to squeeze her into the film just for the sake of having her there. Her performance has a genuine place in the story and, despite being miraculously pieced together from previously filmed footage, one of her best since the original trilogy. 

This is all good news considering the fact that Rise was mapped out to be Leia’s film, while The Last Jedi was Luke’s and The Force Awakens was Han’s. While Abrams definitely wanted this to be considered Leia’s return film and she ruled well as a central figure, directing her son, Kylo,  and hence Rey’s final destiny, all three characters of the original trilogy (Luke, Leia and Han) make appearances in the film. Fisher’s return was essential to the story, but I believe that Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, two fabulous actors with historic significance, deserved more screen time. I understand that the whole point of the trilogy was to gradually usher them out and replace them with a whole new generation, but Abrams still could have used them with more pizzazz. 

In spite of the lack of creative dialogue, the inclusion of multiple rushed scenes, without a clear purpose, the failure to explain much of the Palpatine motive or storyline and the underuse of the presence of three Jedi masters, The Rise of Skywalker did give us a fantastic ending. 

Unfortunately, the problems with the film were actually magnified by that satisfactory ending. I could not stop imagining how much better it would have been if the plot with Palpatine would have been more fully realized and less time was wasted with inconsequential characters and locations.  But let’s try to forget about all of the negative things and talk about how great the conclusion to the Star Wars saga really was for a minute. The whole point or overall message that the viewer should be left with after watching these nine films is that anyone can rise to become a Jedi if determined to do so. No matter what one’s status, ethnicity, sex or talents are, you can be a Jedi. No magic is really required, but faith is and belief in something bigger; the Force. 

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Rey is an example of a person who had no great standing in the world, no actual identity at all. She is young, lacking experience and doesn’t come from any special family or lineage, as far as she knows. Yet she can be representative of the Jedi because she earned it through dedication and loyalty to the faith. The Rise of Skywalker is responsible for making this theme abundantly clear. There is no one specific Skywalker in this film; the name Skywalker can now be considered all encompassing.  It’s a beautiful thing that such heartwarming inclusiveness can close the series. 

Is it irritating that a great deal of the film could have been much better? Yes, of course, but a glorious thirty minutes was, in the end, good enough for me. Star Wars will no doubt continue to be a franchise, but this is the end for me, unless there is something that really catches my attention. With that in mind, I hope you all will remember what I will as I look back, every now and then on this beautiful saga. 

“The Force will be with you. Always.”

Ashton Samson is the newest and youngest film critic for 
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