Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, by Cameron J. Czaja

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect with this Star Wars film (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker) due to the last one polarizing opinions from the fanbase. I’m one of those people, however, that really enjoyed Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, but did recognize the flaws that I didn’t comprehend the first time around. That being said, I was actually really looking forward to The Rise of Skywalker and prior to watching it, I have binged on all the live-action Star Wars films starting from Episode I – The Phantom Menace to The Last Jedi. Was my anticipation justified? Let’s find out. Also, this review will contain spoilers, though hopefully you have seen the film at least once (or seven times).

Set after the events of The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker finds Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in search of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who summons him to track down Rey (Daisy Ridley) and kill her before she becomes a Jedi. Meanwhile, the Resistance learns of the Emperor’s return and forms a plan to not only stop him but save the galaxy once and for all.

Despite being a huge Star Wars fan, I always try and review those films the same way I would review any film. This is so I don’t come across as bias and fortunately my favoritism for the franchise didn’t blind me when discovering the flaws that The Rise of Skywalker presented. The one thing I can applaud The Last Jedi for doing that’s different from Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and this film is doing something different than most fans wouldn’t expect. Was the film perfect? Not really, but it didn’t seem to rely on fan service and that’s what the biggest problem for The Rise of Skywalker. I don’t mind fan service when it’s here and there in the film, but I feel like that’s what J.J. Abrams relied on too much in the film and it definitely shows, especially when Palpatine is brought back as the main villain. If they had foreshadowed him in previous films it would’ve worked, but because they didn’t it just comes across as something that the writers just put in just because. One would argue that another complaint that this film had is how it parallels Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi and there are some if you really think about it. It’s not as bad compared to The Force Awakens as that film has a lot of comparisons to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, but it’s definitely noticeable when Kylo Ren (Ben Solo at this point in the film) rises against the Emperor and becomes a Jedi again.

Now that I have pointed out my criticisms of The Rise of Skywalker, I do want to give you some positive notes that need to be addressed. In all honesty, I actually liked the film quite a bit and as of this review, I have seen the movie twice. The one thing that worked well here compared to The Last Jedi is that the plot here feels more focused and has a clear narrative. Any subplots that they did have here didn’t take up much of the story and served a bigger purpose unlike the last film (i.e. the casino planet subplot). Also, while they didn’t answer all the questions that I had from the sequel trilogy, they did at least answer the important ones that not only felt satisfying but felt earned by the end of the film, especially with Rey.

If there were two things that stood out while watching The Rise of Skywalker, it was the themes of temptation and redemption. To me, Emperor Palpatine has always been a metaphor for Satan himself and he thrives off temptation as shown in Return of the Jedi and in this film as well. As Christ-followers we try and not give in to temptation every day and Rey (who I see as a symbol for Christ in this film) manages to not give in such urges. She is tested, however, when the emperor tempts her to go down the Sith path in order to save her friends. As for the theme of redemption, Ben Solo does have his moment towards the end and that theme is one of my favorite moments of storytelling. It shows a character’s growth and how they want to better themselves, which is something we as Christians try and do every day whenever going through a rough spot in our lives.

I wish The Rise of Skywalker could’ve been a perfect film as it would’ve been a great satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga, but unfortunately, the criticisms I presented keeps it from being an epic finale to the height of something like Avengers: Endgame. That being said, I did have a lot of fun with this film and there are great re-watchable moments such as the epic battle at the end and Rey’s confrontation with the Emperor. Depending on my schedule I may check this out for the third time but if not, then I can’t wait to rewatch it either on home release or on Disney+.

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