“Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is out, and man, do I have mixed feelings about it, and it’s going to take a few days to process what I saw before I’m ready to write my full review on it.
Seriously, this film is at least three films crammed into one.
In the meantime, here are 10 mistakes I felt Disney made when making this film. Take note that this post will include spoilers.
10. Bringing back J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams is a competent director, but his best work in the realm of sci-fi has been by far remaking other people’s films (i.e. “The Force Awakens,” “Star Trek” 2009 and “Into Darkness”).
Abrams is also someone who is good at setting up creative scenarios, but is legendarily bad at resolving them, as he is obsessed with mystery box plots whose questions are far more interesting than any possible answers to them.
Remember “Lost”? A show with one of television’s all-time worst finales, that Abrams created and had heavy involvement in?
He is not a man you bring on to end your trilogy, and should not have been charged with directing the final episodic Star Wars film.
No one at Disney should be surprised how incoherent, convoluted and anticlimactic “The Rise of Skywalker” was.
9. Bringing back Emperor Palpatine
I love Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine. By far, his performance is the strongest of the Star Wars prequels, and he’s been in the role since 1983. It’s really hard to imagine anyone else as Palps.
But Palpatine didn’t belong in this movie, and the way he was shoehorned in can only be described as extremely embarrassing.
It’s been confirmed in interviews with “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson and Abrams that there was never a clearly developed plan for the sequel trilogy, and Johnson and Abrams had two completely different visions as to where to take the trilogy, with Johnson focused on striking down the past and clearing the way for new stories, with Abrams wanting to play it safe and subtly remake Episodes IV, V and VI.
Palptine is in Episode IX solely because Johnson killed off all other major big bads but Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Adam Driver) in the previous film, and Abrams just didn’t want to make the film Ren-centric. Palpatine serves no purpose other than being a stand-in for Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and as such, only serves as a device to repeat plot elements already done in “Return of the Jedi” and “The Last Jedi”, while adding novel but ultimately useless force lore.
Episode IX should have been mostly about Ren’s relationship with series protagonist, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Everything else is essentially window dressing.
8. Giving Lando Calrissean nothing to do
It’s great that Billy Dee Williams is back in a Star Wars movie. But he needed to have a role that made sense for him.
With the mandatory lessening of Leia Organa’s presence in this movie following the real-life death of Carrie Fisher, and the on-screen deaths of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Lando is essentially the only senior officer left in the Resistance.
And he essentially gives advice, gets out of the way, and let our new heroes take the lead, when they really could’ve benefited from someone who knew what they were doing.
Sure, he leads a rag tag fleet of fighters off-screen that appear in a crowd pleasing moment at the end. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that he wasn’t in the film enough to really justify him being in this movie.
7. Bringing back the already resolved feud between the Jedi and the Sith
At the end of “Return of the Jedi”, the last Sith died with Darth Vader. When Luke Skywalker died in “The Last Jedi”, the last Jedi died.
This trilogy promised to explore force users beyond the Jedi and the Sith, hence why Rey was never formally called a Jedi and why Kylo Ren was never formally called a Sith, which I’ve called out before, as they function the same in all but name.
But if they were to go back and revisit the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, they needed to add something else to the dynamic. Instead, at the end of “The Rise of Skywalker,” we end up at the exact same place as “The Return of the Jedi.” There is balance to the force. One force user is left alive. No lessons are learned. History repeats.
6. Killing off Palpatine the very same way he was almost killed in “Revenge of the Sith”
Major spoiler: Palpatine is killed by having his force lighting reflected back into his face, ripping the flesh from his bones and completely obliterating the Sith lord in a way that is all too similar to how Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) did so in “Revenge of the Sith.”
It not only devalues Palpatine as a villain (come on, has he learned nothing?), but it serves as a major anticlimax that feels lazy.
5. “All of the Jedi” versus “all of the Sith”
“The Rise of Skywalker” tries to mine nostalgia points by having all of the past Jedi flow through Rey — including Yoda (Frank Oz), Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Mace Windu, and some characters from the canon cartoon shows — as she battles Palpatine, who has all of the Sith flowing through him.
It’s meant to be a feel-good moment where Disney finally acknowledges the legacy of the films and other properties that came before, but the concept is poorly integrated into the story, never explained, and makes little sense.
The concept of having force ghosts guide and lend Rey their strength could have elevated the story, especially if Disney committed to having full on force ghosts in the film to incrementally teach Rey different things she needed to know — such integration would serve as more than an apology for their unceremonious killing off of Luke Skywalker in “The Last Jedi”, leaving Rey without a proper teacher.
What we instead got was a still relatively untrained protagonist who is just good at everything, and a distracting fetch quest that adds nothing to the story the film is trying to tell.
4. All the MacGuffens
There are MacGuffens for MacGuffens in this movie. This movie is just a series of finding one object to get to the next object that will finally let them fly to the secret planet Palpatine is on — which Kylo Ren had since the beginning of the movie.
None of it is necessary, and it is a big indication of lazy writing.
3. Giving the Knights of Ren nothing to do
After two films building up the Knights of Ren, whom Kylo Ren gets his name sake from, his supposed dark side order ends up being pretty pathetic, tossed aside like the red guards in “The Last Jedi”, and we learn nothing new about them.
The Knights of Ren was Kylo’s main claim to fame, and it’s disappointing that his order had nothing to show for itself.
2. All the wasted talent
“The Rise of Skywalker” has a lot of wasted on-screen talent, especially Domhnall Gleeson and Richard E. Grant, who play two First Order generals who have nothing better to do than to portray poorly-written cartoon villains.
Both are top notch actors that should have had larger parts in this film, especially Gleeson, whose character has been in all three sequel films and could have finally gotten a chance to make a large impact. Instead, he was unceremoniously disposed of, treated like a joke, and killed off by Grant’s General Pryde, who himself ends up being just another disposable tool for Palpatine.
There have been great tales in the Star Wars universe written after Palpatine originally died, and they center around an Empire run by people, some brilliant and cunning like the Expanded Universe’s Admiral Thrawn, and others more practical and level-headed, like Admiral Gilad Pellaeon, who signed a peace treaty with the New Republic and established a friendly relationship with the new government.
Not all Star Wars tales need to be scrappy rebels versus an evil empire, and when Abrams included the character of Finn (John Boyega), a storm trooper deserter who proved that not everyone in that government’s structure was a bloodthirsty fascist, it seemed like that was the direction they were leaning towards.
The Empire is a means to an end, and it can be used for good and reformed from the inside, and it would have been nice to have given the top caliber actors who portray both Resistance and First Order members something more to work with than the generic perfect good guys versus the comically evil bad guys.
Real life governments are complex, as are their subjects. There are bad people who work for relatively good governments. There are good people that work for terrible governments. And who is on the right side of a conflict is often a manner of perspective.
“The Rise of Skywalker” explore none of these questions, despite the fact that they were clearly introduced in the previous films in the trilogy. Disney decided to play it safe, and by doing so, they wasted our time.
1. All the unnecessary junk
This is pretty all-encompassing. It includes every new character that didn’t need to be in this movie (i.e. Keri Russell’s Zori Bliss and Naomi Acki’s Jannah), every thing that leads to a things that leads to a thing that progresses the plot, and the over sized Final Order fleet with planet-destroying tech and the over bloated third act that came with it; basically every thing that didn’t need to be in this movie.
Star Wars is known for special effects and exotic worlds, but that doesn’t mean you can do the bare minimal from a story and character perspective to shoehorn those elements in. As we’ve learned from “Jedi: Fallen Order” and “The Mandalorian,” you can ditch all that fanfare and focus on character-driven stories in a galaxy far, far away, and people will still flock to experience it in droves.
This movie is over two hours long, and it did not use its time well.