Star Wars

In the newest film, Rey’s ability to use the Force is inconsistent. 

After the disappointment of “The Last Jedi,” there was plenty of groundwork to make up for a satisfying ending to the Skywalker Saga. “The Last Jedi” tried to change too much of the franchise while disregarding some of its base material. Fans were hoping the course would be corrected without becoming a carbon copy of “Return of the Jedi.” Unfortunately, “The Rise of Skywalker” is a painful movie that fails to deliver a compelling story, lacks any form of excitement or cohesion and brings back old characters for cheap hype.

The sliding text at the start of the film takes away excitement from the Emperor's (Ian Mcdiarmid) reveal. The text states that the Emperor showed himself to the galaxy between films, ruining the chance to see how the Resistance or First Order might’ve reacted to such news. While the Emperor is used to build hype for a massive conclusion, he’s hardly in the movie and feels weak and worthless. Much like in “Return of the Jedi,” he waits for the hero to be brought to him. He fails to do anything meaningful himself without as much as an explanation as to why he can’t get Rey (Daisy Ridley) himself, instead sending a distressed Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) out to kill her.

The first half feels rushed. Sudden cuts happen partway through a chase or fight scene that hardly makes sense. This includes Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) asking Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) whether they can smash the Millenium Falcon through an ice wall before they jump to lightspeed. It suddenly skips to the jump, ignoring the wall just addressed.

Rushing also occurs during all of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) scene. While archival footage of the late actress is used, the dialogue and scenes surrounding her feel clunky and forced since every other character’s lines are worked around what Leia said. An unsatisfying ending for the beloved character occurs with no impact on the main story beyond one crudely placed scene late into the film. 

While attempts are made to appease fans upset with “The Last Jedi,” “The Rise of Skywalker” ignores it beyond a few minor references. With “The Rise of Skywalker” being the end of a trilogy, it seems odd that only the beginning and finale are necessary to understand the plot beyond a few details since “The Last Jedi” is mainly ignored and every character from it reappears.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is too convenient for the heroes throughout that it comes off as lazy. Rey spends the entire film with Poe, Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca searching for a device to locate where the Emperor is hidden. Although Kylo Ren has one, it just so happens that two of the devices were made. 

Speaking of convenience, Rey’s ability to use the Force is inconsistent, to say the least. She can suddenly float around while moving several rocks and attempts to use the Force for communication like she and Kylo Ren have done before. In the same scene, however, she struggles to deflect blaster shots from a training droid. Depending on the situation, her ability to use the Force wildly fluctuates, as she’s sometimes able to hold a transport ship in place as it tries to escape or hold her own against the more experienced Kylo Ren. However, it always grows in strength at just the right moment for Rey. 

A complete lack of originality makes the film one long bore. Kylo Ren continues his angsty journey, trying to make Rey a Sith while she tries to make him a Jedi for the third film in a row. The Emperor once again reuses assets for his grand scheme, having somehow amassed a fleet of star destroyers much larger than any military force may be able to combat. Even the Force is being used again for the Resistance’s final hope as a scapegoat for people justifying last-ditch efforts or finding necessary information on their quest.

The twists in the film come off as confusing rather than shocking. No subtle hints are given before throwing something in that makes no sense beyond trying to surprise people. For instance, force ghosts appear at points in the film for certain emotional turning points, including one character that’s never showcased any signs they could use the Force at all.

The only positive parts are the film’s superb special and practical effects. While there’s still a beautiful blend of them throughout every scene, this is just expected of “Star Wars” and does nothing to improve the actual meat of the film its atrocious story.

“The Rise of Skywalker” fails to do much on nearly every level. While the film is better than “The Last Jedi,” it barely makes it over that substantially low bar. Rather than experimenting, the movie goes through the plot too safe, resulting in a lack of excitement. With the Skywalker Saga over, hopefully “Star Wars” takes a long break to fix itself so more people than the one person who clapped in my theater enjoy it.

Contact Caleb Barbachem at barbaccf@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.