“This is not going to go the way you think.” In the words of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, the line could be interpreted by many as a meta-commentary regarding the highly controversial film. Dedicated to subverting the expectations of the audience, the film’s divisive creative decisions split the fandom down the middle — with a line drawn in the sand (Anakin be damned). Some argue that the sequel trilogy has an overarching narrative, whereas others accuse it for its lack of vision as well as being derivative of the original trilogy. Following the release of The Rise of Skywalker, an answer finally presented itself.
Following a threat by the revived Emperor Palpatine, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) obtains a Sith wayfinder, leading him to the Sith home planet of Exegol. There, he finds Palpatine, who reveals that he created Snoke (Yes, really) as a puppet to control the First Order and lure Kylo to the dark side. Palpatine unveils a secret fleet of Star Destroyers and tells Kylo to find and kill Rey, who is continuing her Jedi training under Resistance leader Leia Organa. Finn and Poe Dameron deliver intel from a spy that Palpatine is on Exegol; Rey has learned from Luke Skywalker’s notes that a Sith wayfinder can lead them there. Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO depart in the Millennium Falcon to Pasaana, where Luke’s search for Exegol ended.
Yes, that really is the plot of the film. Upon reading the premise of the film, it is apparent that The Rise of Skywalker is walking back on many of the creative decisions made by Rian Johnson in the previous film. In an effort to appease the viewers by giving them what they want in a Star Wars film, it seems that director JJ Abrams forgot to deliver a, well, good film. Suffering from a serious lack of imagination, the final film of the sequel trilogy offers little-to-no payoff.
Being the eleventh live-action film of the franchise, The Rise of Skywalker is uncomfortably safe when it comes to its storytelling choices. Whether it’s its tendency to rely on forced nostalgia or reusing storylines from the previous films, the final instalment in the Skywalker Saga fails to break new ground with its narrative. Episode IX disappoints by returning to familiar ground. (Which is precisely what The Force Awakens did two movies ago)
Amidst the many bland narrative choices, the conflict between Rey and Kylo Ren shines through like a shining beacon. The chemistry between the two is easily the best part of the entire movie, overshadowing the various other storylines. Paying off the relationship that was first established in Episode VII, and then advanced in Episode VIII, the dynamic between the two is perhaps the only thing that’s unique in the entirety of the sequel trilogy.
As disappointing as The Rise of Skywalker is, fans of the franchise shouldn’t give up on their beloved saga just yet. While there’s certainly a sense of emptiness and lack of fulfilment in the way that the four-decade saga concluded, there’s still a glimpse of hope regarding the future of Star Wars. Following the immense critical and commercial success of both The Mandalorian and Jedi: Fallen Order, it seems that Star Wars is far from over. As for the big screen, we believe that in time, a new hope will emerge.