‘Rise of Skywalker’: A Pedestrian, Nostalgic Farewell ☆☆☆

By its very name,  “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker,” it is no spoiler to say that this supposed last episode in the Star Wars saga is about a Skywalker. At this point, we know of two: Luke and Leia. We have been left wondering if our new heroine in white, Rei, is a Skywalker and we know that the villain in black, Kylo Ren,  is part Skywalker. This episodes gives nods to the original three episodes and even the prequel trilogy, but watching the prequels isn’t essential. 

Co-written (with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” writer Chris Terrio) and directed by J.J. Abrams, you can expect action and not a lot of character development and a plot that is more than once saved by Deus ex machine.

The start of this trilogy (which ends the “Skywalker Saga”) was the 2015 “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” which begins 30 years after the last of the original trilogy (the 1977 “Star Wars,” the 1980 “The Empire Strikes Back” and the 1983 “Return of the Jedi”). The original series was about Luke Skywalker and his struggle against his father, Sith Lord Darth Vader, as Skywalker fights with the Rebel Alliance against the Empire and learns the way of the Jedi. At first saving Princess Leia, he discovers she is his sister and his friend Han Solo falls in love with Leia for a happy ending. In “The Force Awakens,” the First Order rises from the remnants of the Empire wages war against the New Republic. General Leia Organa leads the Resistance against the First Order, but her brother, Luke Skywalker can’t be found. Essentially, this episode introduces our new villain Kylo Ren and is about our new heroine, Rey, finding Luke Skywalker.

The Force Awakens

Resistance pilot Poe Dameron receives a map of Luke’s location, but is captured by Kylo Ren’s Stormtroopers. His droid, BB-8 escapes, and is found by Rey (Daisy Ridley). A deserting Stormtrooper FN-2187 helps Poe (Oscar Isaac) escape and Poe gives him the name Finn (John Boyega). Finn, Rey, and BB-8 escape using a junked Millennium Falcon. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca assume control of the Falcon and explain that Luke tried to build the Jedi order, but one of his disciples betrayed him by turning to the dark side, destroying the temple and killing the other apprentices. Luke has been in self-exile. Rey finds Luke’s old lightsaber, but due to some frightening visions, is afraid of it. Finn becomes its guardian. BB-8 finds R2-D2 and reactives the droid. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)  is confronted by his father, Han Solo, who uses his birth name, Ben, but Kylo Ren kills Han Solo. Defending Finn, Rey takes up the lightsaber and defeats him, but a great fissure in the planet separates them. Rey and Chewbacca use information from R2-D2 to find Luke on a remote island.

The Last Jedi

In “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Luke admits that he contemplated killing Kylo Ren when he discovered the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) had corrupted him and led him to the dark side, but begins to teach Rey how to use the Force. Rey and Kylo Ren slowly start communicating telepathically with each other, but this startles and puzzles both of them. Luke hesitates to destroy the Jedi library, but Yoda appears and destroys it for him, advising Luke to learn from his mistakes. Kylo Ren kills Snoke instead of killing Rey, but asks Rey to rule the Empire with him. Rey refuses and escape. Kylo Ren, having once hesitated to destroy a spaceship that contained his mother, General Leia, now attacks her forces. The Resistance forces are able to escape on the Millennium Falcon when Luke projects himself there to defend them. From his remote island, Luke disappears, becoming one with the Force and Leia and Rey sense his death.

In short, Luke teaches Rey about the Force and dies. Kylo Ren becomes Supreme Leader and ask Rey to join him.

The Rise of Skywalker

What we know from the last encounter between Kylo Ren and Rey is that they have a special psychic connection and this acts like a neurological GPS, allowing Kylo Ren to find Rey later on. We start out on the heavily forested planet of the Rebel forces. Princess Leia is there, training Rey. Rey can’t quite feel all of the past Jedi Knights but she can meditate suspended in the air while keeping other objects afloat. As with any heroic saga, you know that in the end, Rey will be able to channel the Force. Right now, she’s in training, and her greatest super power is being able to drop, roll and sweat on the dark earthly floor of a forest in a white garment and return without a sweat, green vegetation or mud stain. 

Soon both Rey and, in another part of the galaxy, Kylo Ren, are seeking the Wayfinder, something that Luke Skywalker had been looking for. Only two were created. To find the Wayfinder, Luke must first find the person in possession of a sword.  Luke sought to meet with someone on a distant planet, but the other party never showed up.  For now, although she wants to journey alone to find the Wayfinder, but is joined by Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, C-3PO and BB-8. Finn seems to have something he wishes to tell Rey, but that is delayed by circumstances.  They land on a desert planet where they find themselves in the midst of a festival that occurs only once in 42 years. A young inhabitant gives Rey a necklace.

Although they find the wreck of the old ship, they are caught in the equivalent of quicksand and all are submerged. Abrams give us a beat to think that all of our heroes have died before revealing that they are spit out into caverns underneath the surface. They find that not everyone has been able to escape the caves and that includes the creature Luke wanted to meet. Besides his skeleton, they find the sword. Chewbacca takes it for safekeeping. The friends then discover the giant, toothy worm-like creature that created the caves. Rey discovers that the creature has been wounded and heals it. The creature then moves, revealing a passage out.  The team then goes to check out the vehicle and see if it still works when Rey leaves them and walks into the desert sensing something. Kylo Ren has found her using his internal GPS. (He appeared to Rey while she wandered the festival and grabbed the necklace from her. His people identified the origin of the necklace.)

While Rey is distracted, Chewbacca who has gone to fetch her is captured by Stormtroopers and loaded on to a transport. That means the sword is no longer in possession of out heroes.  Rey and Kylo Ren use their Force to attempt to control the transport, but in her final attempt, Rey causes the transport to explode, killing all on board. Shocked, she rejoins Poe, Finn, C-3PO and BB-8.

Somehow, Chewbacca has survived is on board the mother ship. Rey, Poe, Finn and BB-8 set out to rescue him but again are separated as Rey seeks the sword. Kylo Ren isn’t at first sure where Rey is, but as he fights her in a lightsaber duel, she crashes into the remnants of Darth Vader’s head and Kylo Ren realizes she’s in his own quarters.

After some false starts, Poe, Finn and Rey are able to escape, but now, in order to decipher the Sith writing on the sword, they need to find someone who can override C-3PO’s programming which prevents him from telling them what it means. That leads us to another planet where Poe had dealings that didn’t end well. One of his former colleagues, a woman, ends up helping our crew but that means C-3PO’s memory will be wiped out and he’ll start anew.

On the dark side, Kylo Ren has joined Sith Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) who plots to join Kylo Ren and Rey because she isn’t who Kylo Ren thinks. But…can Palpatine, who escaped death somehow, trust Kylo Ren?

What you need to know from here?

  • Rey, like Leia, likes bad boys and there will be a kiss.
  • Princess Leia will reach out to her son, Ben/Kylo Ren.
  • We’ll learn who Rey’s parents were and even see them.
  • Rey will meet one of her relatives and it won’t end well.
  • Some oldsters will appear and being dead won’t stop them.
  • You might snort at the thought of horses in space.

As a stand-alone film, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is something of a mess, but takes us all over the galaxy, using light speed skipping and Force enhanced transportation and no one ever suffers from jet (space) lag. Some of our heroes will not survive, but we’ve already seen Han Solo and Luke Skywalker die so that should come as no surprise (and because fans all know that Carrie Fisher is dead and this is her last appearance), the fate of General Leia should not be a spoiler. The Skywalker Saga ends with a middling effort but your feelings about Fisher may make this one a sentimental journey, making it a fond farewell to Fisher.


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